Josephus and the Giants

June 5th, 2009


A huge pile of machining stuff will arrive today. Enco shipped the vise separately, so I don’t know when it’s coming, but at some point during the day, I will find myself in possession of things like parallels and 1-2-3 blocks. I can’t believe I did this.

There has to be a reason for this. It’s so strange; it doesn’t seem natural. I hope the purpose eventually becomes clear. In the meantime, I can’t wait to get started.

I started reading Josephus yesterday. He wrote a short autobiography, a history of the Jews, and a history of the wars between the Jews and Romans. The bio was like something Barack Obama would write. “I first realized I was a gift to the world when my mom told me the nurses in the maternity ward had used my halo as a reading lamp.” I skipped it and went to The Antiquities of the Jews.

This is interesting stuff. Josephus was the son of a priest, and he was born at around the time of the crucifixion. He had to be familiar with the Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud, as well as any other bits of history and wisdom the priests passed down to their sons.

Josephus says the angels had sex with women and gave rise to a race of evil people.

The modern Jewish position is that angels can’t do things like that. Most Christians agree. The book of Enoch, Josephus, and the book of Jasher contradict the current view. So who is right? Maybe the answer can be found in a principle of Jewish theology, which says–I hope I’m stating this correctly–that older authorities generally outweigh new ones.

Josephus presumably had some reason for making his assertion. A Jewish priest who was proud of his scholarship wouldn’t throw an item like that out without some basis. He must have received his information from those under whom he studied.

The Talmud is supposedly nearly impenetrable without experienced guidance, and presumably, a lot of orally relayed information that was known in ancient times has been lost. But it makes sense to assume that it can be accessed indirectly through the writings of people like Josephus.

I have to wonder what he left out.

Anyway, this tends to confirm my own suspicions, and it certainly helps the Bible (both testaments) make sense.

I better get started, wiring up the garage for the mill.

9 Responses to “Josephus and the Giants”

  1. aelfheld Says:

    I actually enjoyed the utter self-absorption of Titus Flavius Josephus; it reminded me to take his accounts with more than a grain or two of salt.

  2. davis,br Says:

    Oh, it’s not only in the apocrypha, Josephus and the Talmud that there are references …in Genesis the verse “There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown” is pretty much a reference to these unnatural children …and one of the primary reasons for the destruction of the First Age.

  3. pbird Says:

    Sounds like the basis for the Greek and other culture’s “gods” to me. Since they were so badly behaved and all.

  4. km Says:

    Those unnatural children were the Nephilim -were they not? THe Genesis text (in a good translation) seems fairly clear as to them.

  5. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    All true, but as far as I can see, this has no effect whatsoever on anyone’s spiritual condition. A belief in this actually could lead someone (especially a TALL someone… Hey how tall is Obama/Sotero?) to conclude that they were irredeemable because they might be of that strain. That’s really where stuff like this goes off message. It might all be true and interesting to talk about, but no firm conclusion is necessary, or profitable.
    Genesis is the only canonical book that refer to it, except that Jude refers to Enoch, but not the Nephilim.
    It reminds me of what was said by a former pastor of mine. He mentioned in a sermon that Adam and Eve might have had children before the Fall. I later told him that that wasn’t something to speculate about from the pulpit, since if taken seriously, someone could claim their lineage to the pre-Fall time with no record of there being sin in their lineage. William Branham taught this. He thought I was being picky. I was convinced I should leave that church.

  6. Aaron's cc: Says:

    Josephus being the son of a priest is no basis to assume scholarship. One of the jobs of the Levites was to ensure that the priests were doing things correctly. The mishna concerning the Yom Kippur service in the Holy of Holies discusses what to do with an ignorant High Priest.
    By 2000 years ago, neither Temple was “kosher” and the priesthood was corrupted and the leaders of the priesthood were usually political appointees of the Roman rulers or apostate Sadducees. It wasn’t much different from “Life of Brian” in those days with all the sects.
    The Talmud wasn’t written down for nearly 4 centuries after Josephus, though its teachings predate Josephus. Without printing presses, copies of the Talmud would not have been common and would have been difficult to communicate between the Babylonian community and the community that remained in Israel. Talmud knowledge then was entirely oral. It was only after the massacres of so many scholars and the threats of Constantine and other temporal anti-Jewish rulers that forced the writing of the Talmud in order to prevent the permanent loss of its knowledge.
    It is nearly impenetrable without a guide. Many suggest that it was written expressly not as a textbook but to compel Jews to wrestle over its content, thereby giving it purpose and ensuring a continuous line of scholarship.
    My rabbi is among one of many Orthodox rabbis who can directly list the provenance of his scholarship, rabbi to rabbi, over 3000 years. Don’t want to overemphasize this, as the math is similar to the Oracle of Bacon, and we wouldn’t want to discuss bacon too much in this area, but the way to game that game is to have learned at a major center or from one who learned at a major center. If one has an Ashkenazi rabbi who can trace his scholarly lineage to the Vilna Gaon, for instance, or to one of the major learning centers of Lithuania, Poland or Russia, there were many there who could go back to Maimonides or Rashi or similar major-leaguers.
    Yes, Josephus had a massive ego. His exaggeration rate was large and intended to keep him safe and gainfully employed. A historical novel is based on history and Josephus should be seen as maybe a little closer to history than to a historical novel, but one shouldn’t forget the context in which he wrote and who could afford to pay him in those difficult days.
    The Jewish diaspora has been materially difficult but it has ensured that despite efforts to eradicate the continuity of Jewish scholarship*, it prevails and more are learning Talmud today than ever in history. Josephus couldn’t have begun to imagine that the Jews would outlast the Romans, the Babylonians, the Spanish & Portugese, the French, the Ottomans and the British. Sadly, someone may have to write a postscript, adding the USA to Mark Twain’s observation “The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then . . . passed away. The Greek and the Roman followed. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts. … All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”
    Think the Jews can’t outlast Obamanation? History of the last 2000 years shows the flotsam and jetsam of once glorious nations that expelled their blessings: 250, Carthage; 415, Alexandria; 554, Diocese of Clement (France); 561, Diocese of Uzzes (France); 612, Visigoth Spain; 642, Visigoth Empire; 855, Italy; 876, Sens; 1012, Mainz; 1182, France; 1182, Germany; 1276, Upper Bavaria; 1290, England; 1306, France; 1322, France (again); 1348, Switzerland; 1349, Hielbronn (Germany); 1349, Saxony; 1349, Hungary; 1360, Hungary; 1370, Belgium; 1380, Slovakia; 1388, Strasbourg; 1394, Germany; 1394, France; 1420, Lyons; 1421, Austria; 1424, Fribourg; 1424, Zurich; 1424, Cologne; 1432, Savoy; 1438, Mainz; 1439, Augsburg; 1442, Netherlands; 1444, Netherlands; 1446, Bavaria; 1453, France; 1453, Breslau; 1454, Wurzburg; 1462, Mainz; 1483, Mainz; 1484, Warsaw; 1485, Vincenza (Italy); 1492, Spain; 1492, Italy; 1495, Lithuania; 1496, Naples; 1496, Portugal; 1498, Nuremberg; 1498, Navarre; 1510, Brandenberg; 1510, Prussia; 1514, Strasbourg; 1515, Genoa; 1519, Regensburg; 1533, Naples; 1541, Naples; 1542, Prague & Bohemia; 1550, Genoa; 1551, Bavaria; 1555, Pesaro; 1557, Prague; 1559, Austria; 1561, Prague; 1567, Wurzburg; 1569, Papal States; 1571, Brandenburg; 1582, Netherlands; 1582, Hungary; 593, Brandenburg, Austria; 1597, Cremona, Pavia & Lodi; 1614, Frankfort; 1615, Worms; 1619, Kiev; 1648, Ukraine; 1648, Poland; 1649, Hamburg; 1654, Little Russia (Beylorus); 1656, Lithuania; 1669, Oran (North Africa); 1669, Vienna; 1670, Vienna; 1712, Sandomir; 1727, Russia; 1738, Wurtemburg; 1740, Little Russia (Beylorus); 1744, Prague, Bohemia; 1744, Slovakia; 1744, Livonia; 1745, Moravia; 1753, Kovad (Lithuania); 1761, Bordeaux; 1772, Deported to the Pale of Settlement (Poland/Russia); 1775, Warsaw; 1789, Alcace; 1804, Villages in Russia; 1808, Villages & Countrysides (Russia); 1815, Lubeck & Bremen; 1815, Franconia, Swabia & Bavaria; 1820, Bremen; 1843, Russian Border Austria & Prussia; 1862, Area in the U.S. under Grant’s Jurisdiction; 1866, Galatz, Romania; 1880s, Russia; 1891, Moscow; 1919, Bavaria (foreign born Jews); 1938-45, Nazi Controlled Areas;
    1948, Arab Countries.
    As I wrote in an earlier comment, to me it is unlikely that God is going to graduate any of us to a glorious Messianic era until we learn the fundamental lessons we’re supposed to.
    *King Louis IX of France compelled Jews under pain of death to surrender their Talmuds (March, 1240). The Talmud was put on trial and in 1242, fire was set accordingly to twenty-four carriage loads (ten to twelve-thousand volumes) of hand-written works.

  7. Steve H. Says:

    I guess I am getting senile, because I thought the Talmud was first reduced to writing in the captivity under Nebuchadnezzar.

  8. Aaron's cc: Says:

    The idea of angelic free will and divine/human intercourse is foreign to Judaism and seen as a reversion to paganism. There are many reasonable apologetics that explain Nephilim.
    Knowledge of Hebrew and the process of exegesis is exceedingly helpful in the dispelling of myths.
    While an observer (Josephus, Enoch, et al) may contribute useful details to a narrative, there is solid evidence that their many mistakes are why their works do not merit canonization as authoritative.

  9. Steve H. Says:

    Christians (and the author of the book of Enoch) have a very different view. I know Jews believe Satan works for God as a sort of personal trainer, accusing and generally pestering humans in order to improve them. Something like that. We believe Satan and other angels are capable of defiance, so the idea of rebellious angels impregnating women against God’s will is not hard for a Christian to accept. And it would solve a number of scriptural problems, some of which are found in the New Testament. To me, it also explains prominent features in the landscape of Israel.
    I would not go so far as to call Enoch or Jasher Christian scripture, and Josephus is not even in the same category of writings. Enoch seems to have some foreign material in it, and Jasher has bits in it that remind me of Talmudic stories of which I am skeptical. For example, Judah smashes a boulder with his rear end to impress Joseph. But it may well be that a good deal of the material in these books is sound. Scripture can be adulterated, as at least one lesbian kook is proving at this very moment.