Documenting the Coming Singularity

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

There Were Giants in the Earth

By 2:26 PM
As I alluded to in yesterday's article, things look a lot different when viewed from an unfamiliar perspective. As former Christian, I read the Bible with a presumption of its veracity, even inerrancy. Reading it from that bias, strange and disturbing stories, assumed to be true, elicited wonder and curiosity. What could that mean? How would that work? Like that. For example:
Gen 6:4 MKJV There were giants in the earth in those days. And also after that, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore to them, they were mighty men who existed of old, men of renown.

Formerly, I would have studied the commentaries to see what learned Bible scholars had to say about these kinds of passages. I would have considered that the sons of God spoken of here might have been angelic entities who found human women enticing, or perhaps they were of a believing people, in contrast to the daughters of men, who were unbelieving. And the giants, they must have been a race of half angel, half human hybrid. But now when I read accounts like this without the bias of unquestioned belief, they seem to be of the same quality as the myths of other religions, utterly far-fetched and unbelievable. (In fact races of giants appear both before and after the flood, even after they were all supposedly eliminated.

Consider another example:

Deu 23:9-14 GNB When you are in camp in time of war, you are to avoid anything that would make you ritually unclean. (10) If a man becomes unclean because he has had a wet dream during the night, he is to go outside the camp and stay there. (11) Toward evening he is to wash himself, and at sunset he may come back into camp. (12) You are to have a place outside the camp where you can go when you need to relieve yourselves. (13) Carry a stick as part of your equipment, so that when you have a bowel movement you can dig a hole and cover it up. (14) Keep your camp ritually clean, because the LORD your God is with you in your camp to protect you and to give you victory over your enemies. Do not do anything indecent that would cause the LORD to turn his back on you.

They had to get rid of their feces and cover it up so that God, who apparently cares deeply about such normal human functions, might not be offended as he walked through the camp. What's that about? I must also mention the Lord's distaste for menstrual cycles. (Or perhaps the distaste was in the minds of the men who wrote the Mosaic laws.)

Lev 15:25 MKJV And if a woman has an issue of her blood many days outside of the time of her impurity, or if she issues it beyond the time of her impurity, all the days of the issue of her uncleanness shall be as the days of her impurity. She is unclean.

It is plain to me now that the Bible represents the culture of its time, of male domination and female subjugation. Even in New Testament times, women were told by the apostle Paul that they must wear head coverings and remain silent in the churches. This phenomenon, this antiquated and demeaning view of women, is found in the Muslim religion as well. Witness the recent story of a Muslim woman in Saudi Arabia who was raped, receiving 90 lashes as punishment for the crime of being alone in the company of men.

Things do look different from this angle, do they not? Again, I welcome your comments on these observations, as well as your own examples of the phenomenon I describe here.


Jarod said...

Concerning your objectivity, it seems that objectivity is hard to find in this post. Just because you do not claim that the Bible is true does not mean that you are any more objective that someone who holds the Bible true because you come with your unbelief and they come to the same passage with their belief. You both have the potential for bringing your own agenda to the passage instead of letting the passage speak for itself. Now the ritual cleanings are clearly for sanitary purposes. They did not have sewer systems and restrooms or antibacterial soap so they had to insure health of the population some how. About the giants, just because they were killed off in the flood does not mean that giants can no longer exist. There are medical conditions that produce giants like an over stimulated pituitary releasing excess growth hormone. The sons of God seem most likely to refer to angels similar to the ones which came down to deliver Lot and his family from Sodom and little later in Genesis. As you can recall from this story, the people tried to have relations with those angels as well. Concerning the roles of men and women in the Bible, God established differences between man and woman so therefore they are equal when it comes to there personhood but different in regards to their roles. God established man to be the leader and for the woman to come along side the man and help him. We can see the consequence of the first attempt of role reversals in the garden of Eden with the institution of sin from disobedience in eating from the tree. The man is not to demean the wife and a merely wearing a head covering does not necessarily constitute demeaning. You will also find whole books devoted to woman such as Ruth and Esther. Also if you read a few verses later in 1 Cor. 11 Paul says, "Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered?" Here Paul is neither condoning it or disapproving of it. I think the last verse of the chapter gives us his intent. "If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God." Paul's argument seems to be not to let trifling things like head coverings bring about contention in the church. God would not condone the lashes given to the woman in Saudi Arabia.

Barry Mahfood said...

When I speak of greater objectivity, I mean coming to the Bible with an open mind, rather than a predisposition to believe. I mean being willing to consider the possibility that it is not true. I was not willing to do that before. Now I am. Ergo, more objectivity.

Yes there are medical conditions that produce giants, but not races of them.

Another discrepancy: The NT says there will be no marriage in heaven because we will be like the angels, implying that sexual intercourse is not feasible among angels, so what are angels doing copulating with humans? And are all angels male? Why aren't there "daughters" of God? And why don't female angels have sex with male humans? It's all very curious, don't you think?

Anonymous said...

"They did not have sewer systems and restrooms or antibacterial soap so they had to insure health of the population some how." - Jarod

Why didn't they have these things?
God clearly is a medical expert, you only have to read his cure for leprosy in Leviticus 14:2-57 to understand this (includes killing a bird and dipping a live bird in the dead birds blood - amazing! who on Earth would have thought of that, clearly our understanding of medicine is severely lacking).

Judging by Gods amazing knowledge of medicine, surely this all-knowing God could have whipped-up a bar of soap...not! cough!

"About the giants, just because they were killed off in the flood does not mean that giants can no longer exist." - Jarod


"There are medical conditions that produce giants like an over stimulated pituitary releasing excess growth hormone." - Jarod

Yes, but since when has this medical condition produced an entire race of 350ft high giants?

Numbers 13:33 And there we saw the giants (Nethilim)... And we were in our own sight as grasshopper, and so we were in their sight.

Why haven't archaeologists found their bones? hmmm

"Angels similar to the ones which came down to deliver Lot" - Jarod

Came down? Angels in this case were Men (messengers). Also odd that this God would save a man (Lot) who offered his daughters to gangs of rapists, yet kill his wife for using her eyes.

"God established man to be the leader and for the woman to come along side the man and help him...The man is not to demean the wife" - Jarod

But it's OK to demean and degrade your daughters (as in Lot). It's even OK to sell your daughters as sex slaves in Exodus 21:7-8 - it appears women have very little say on how they live THEIR lives - so much for free will!

"God would not condone the lashes given to the woman in Saudi Arabia" - Jarod

God condoned the beating of both male and female slaves (Exodus 21:20-21), even Jesus compared God to that of a slave owner who beats his slaves (Luke 12:47). God/Jesus have no problem with corporal punishment.

Can slaves/servants be wives Jarod?
Let's face it Jarod! women have no say of how they run THEIR lives according to the bible. Man is in charge, women are there so serve men (servants/slaves), if the woman disobeys man, he can beat her. The bible clearly has no respect for women. Neither do you!

Jarod said...

Genetics can clearly explain the race of giants. If you have a group of giants reproducing with each other it follows that you will continue to produce giants until you decide to start reproducing with non-giants. There wasn't a lot of interracial marriage going on at this time so genes that the reproducing groups have in common will get passed on from generation to generation just like someone today being bald because there ancesters passing on the genes. Just because there won't be marriage in heaven does not imply that sexual relations would not be possible it just means that it is not taking place. In explaining something that is completely foreign to us as humans such as angels or other beings reproducing with man the authors have to do the best they can with in the limits of the local language. The main point of this passage in Genesis is to describe the corruption of the world at the time and thus give reason for God sending the flood. You can take many passages from the Bible and isolate them and twist them to fit your particular view but when you view the passages in context you begin to see the meaning intended by the authors. Also in coming to the Bible without any predisposition to believing it you are in fact bringing that view point to the passage just like someone who believes it to be true brings that view point to the passage. Your view point does not negate the truthfulness of the passage.

Barry Mahfood said...

Fight on, brother Jarod!

See, you will do anything to maintain your belief that the Bible is true, go through all sorts of mental gymnasicts, asserting things you know nothing about. For example, giantism is not a positive trait that would result in an entire race of giants. They have health problems and inevitably die very young. It's a disease. But you really aren't interested in learning anything, only in defending your belief in the Bible.

It's too bad, really. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Jarod said...

Giantism is a disease like I described in my first post. In the post that you commented on I was talking about something different. Height is most definitely controlled by genetics so therefore genetics could explain the race of giants. 350 ft giants is quite an exaggeration. Goliath for example was roughly nine feet tall. Compared to the smaller stature Israelites these would seem as giants. No where in the Bible does it say there were 350 ft giants. We have some 7+ feet people living today so it is not much of a stretch to believe that there were people at least this tall living back then. 1 Cor. 1:27 says, "But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong." Just because we can't fully comprehend something such as there being giants in the world does not mean that it is false.

Anonymous said...

Jarod! the verse says that in comparison (to the giants) they were the size of grasshoppers. That would make the giants around 350ft tall - lol

If the writers were exaggerating in this verse, how can I trust the rest - what else is exaggerated?

Jarod said...

If you will look carefully it says we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them. The author of this book is giving a narrative telling what the spies told the people when they gave their report. If you see these men around 9-14 ft. tall and you are around 5ft tall you are going to seem like grasshoppers. The spies were exaggerating to intensify their point that they should not go into the land.

Spaceman Spiff said...

How can you claim to be coming at this "open minded" without a position? You have taken a position, you have made assumptions, and you operate from those assumptions just like any other human being. You have traded one perspective for another, but you have not shed perspective altogether.

Your choice about how to read these text is largely shaped by the philosophy of the culture around you. It would be wise, if you're going to make claims about the text, to try to interact with the perspective they arise out of rather than ripping the text apart on your own terms.

You guys are definitely stretching with respect to the giants thing. Why assume "sons of God" means "angels"? I don't see a convincing case for us to be able to figure out exactly what that passage was talking about. Height is clearly a genetic quality, and the best scholars aren't sure what these texts mean. I don't think such a face-value reading is warranted.

About the purity laws, my take is this. A proper understanding of what they meant to the Israelites, what they meant to the people writing them down, is that it was a way for them to remember their story in the mundane details. They are called "holiness" laws rather than "moral" laws because they relate to morally neutral issues.

What you two want to do is to take the Jewish law as some universal suggestion that anybody at the time should have been able to pick up and follow. No Jew would have thought this.

Instead, it was a way to tie their story, having been freed by God and invited into covenant with him, into all the details of life, eating, going to the bathroom, etc. It is easy for liberated peoples lose their memory of captivity and get a sense of entitlement, to forget where they came from. God gave the Israelites these laws so that they would be reminded of their story in everything they did.

Often enough in the Old Testament, these laws weren't followed because necessity dictated something else, and the writers seem to think that's ok. It was right for David and his men to eat the consecrated bread rather than starve. It was wrong for a man to kill his daughter because of a foolish oath.

It is interesting to claim that Jewish and Christian thought was misogynistic when you see women far more around the OT and NT than you would expect, prophetesses and judges and ministers.

In a comment on a previous thread, Paul telling women to be silent was mentioned. But of course, only the simplest face value reading can make this out to mean what you want it to, since elsewhere in the same letter Paul talks about women praying and prophesying in the assemply.

The best interpretation, I think, is one offered here:

Basically, in middle eastern cultures (even to this day), men and women would sit on opposite sides of the room at religious gatherings. The speaker may generally have spoken in the common business language while the women would only know a regional dialect. So it would be understandably common for the women to chatter during the meeting. It is reasonable to infer that this is what Paul is prohibiting.

When he limits women from "having authority over a man" writing to Timothy in Ephesus, in the presense of the priestess cults of Artemis, given the context it makes the most sense that it is limiting women from oppressing men.

In this passage, Paul takes apart both male and female stereotypes. Notice that he says women should be allowed to study and learn, which wouldn't have been suggested in "patriarchal misogynistic" circles. The best way of reading this passage then seems to be ‘I don’t mean to imply that I’m now setting up women as the new authority over men in the same way that previously men held authority over women, but they should be allowed to study and learn in submission to God and the gospel just like men.'

But again, if you start out assuming either that the Bible should be taken at face value and believed or that it should be taken at face value and critically evaluated, you never even ask the question of what the writer might have meant besides the most common modernistic chronocentric readings.

Spaceman Spiff said...

By the way, why is the text specifically misogynistic, when it is just as hard on things uniquely male (wet dreams, which hand you hold yourself with when you urinate, being born with a penis) as it is on things which are uniquely female?

Barry Mahfood said...

I'm only making the point that since I no longer begin with the premise that the Bible is the inerrant, supernaturally inspired word of God, I can see what appear to me to be absurdities and contradictions that I would not have admitted to myself before. I am not beginning with the premise that it cannot be the word of God. That would be the opposite premise and you would be correct. But that is not my position. I am beginning with an open mind. Now, you may not believe that, and that's fine, but I believe it.

You clearly have some alternate explanations of these passages. You are very smart and very intelligent, as are many believers, and I have not tried to say that a believer's belief is unintelligent. To do so would be to insult people (like you) whom I love and respect a great deal.

You are adding a lot to these discussions with your excellent comments! Thanks.

Spaceman Spiff said...

I don't think you're assuming the Bible is false, but I think you are assuming what the Bible should look like if it presents truth.

Also, you assume (as we all do) a way to read the text and find contradiction. I'm not advocating reading it as a fundamentalist would, but I am suggesting that we all come to it with assumptions and predispositions.

Certainly as a practicing Christian I am inclined to find good there. But also as certainly, as "practicing" atheist, you have your own predispositions as well. I accept that you are at least as committed as I am to admitting when you're wrong. I'm not trying to say your motives in reading are worse or better than mine.

But you seem to assume what I'd call a scientistic worldview, and you seek truth in a way consistent with such an epistemology. That colors the way you read ancient texts. This is not the only way to read texts, and I'd also argue not the best one if you're trying to find what it is they have to offer.

And, in accord with the rule of charity (also known as the benefit of the doubt, but I think the rule of charity is a bit stronger) I say that in order to offer a substantive criticism you actually have to step outside your worldview and interact with another one in a fuller way than simply to say "you're assuming the Bible is inerrant and I'm not" as the only difference.

A place to start such a discussion might be how you view the process of knowing vs. how a person of faith does. I don't think it does much good to interact only with the stupidest people of faith, along the lines of "people of faith believe even in the absence of evidence" or as you've said before "I only believe things when there is evidence" (implicitly saying the person of faith believes things without evidence). You'd have to ask what forms of evidence you accept and why, and what forms of evidence the person of faith accepts and why. Assume that because they're human, they are in fact acting on evidence just like you are, and move forward from there.