The Book of Giants

The Book of Giants is a pseudepigraphal book set in the antediluvian time; its characters include Enoch and several giants, and the plot deals with the sinful state of the world before the flood. The Book of Giants was considered official scripture in Manichaeism, but it is not considered God’s inspired Word. Although it draws from the canonical book of Genesis, the Book of Giants is not considered inerrant, nor is it reliable history, the fragments that exist of the writing is incomplete and there are no known complete copies in existence.

The Book of Giants has similar content to another pseudepigraphal Jewish book called 1 Enoch, which predates it. Fragments of an Aramaic copy of the Book of Giants were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, meaning that the book is a bona fide ancient document, having been composed before the second century BC. Portions of the Book of Giants have been found in the Middle Persian, Old Turkic, Parthian, and other languages.

The Book of Giants gives a backstory for the biblical Nephilim by tying them to Enoch, Noah’s great-grandfather. “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.” Genesis 6:4

There’s plenty that the Bible does not tell us about the Nephilim and Enoch, creating the doorway for speculation (and imagination) which is wide open.

According to the Book of Giants, certain angelic beings called Watchmen descended to earth and produced the Nephilim through human women. These offspring were giants who behaved monstrously, killing many humans and also destroying much plant, animal, and sea life. In the story, the giants have disturbing dreams that warn of the coming flood and their own demise, and one of them, a giant named Mahaway, seeks the counsel of Enoch. Enoch warns the giants and a Watcher named Semihaza to repent because the archangel Raphael has taken notice of their misdeeds and their destruction is imminent. In the end, the giants, or Nephilim, and a multitude of demons meet a violent fate. Depending on what version of the Book of Giants is being read, the Watchers are either killed or bound by four angels in a dark prison which is the bottomless pit.

Elements of the Book of Giants found their way into the 2014 movie Noah, directed by Darren Aronofsky. The film portrays Watchers, environmental destruction, and widespread violence, but, as its own director said, the film is “the least biblical film ever made.”

The general public, too frequently assume that entertainment products such as the film Noah relate true biblical narratives. But this is rarely the case with mainstream studio releases, and it would be helpful to think of the Book of Giants in the same way. It’s ancient, but it’s not a lot different from a contemporary movie that takes liberties with the Bible.

There are scores of ancient documents similar to the Book of Giants that have the “feel” of biblical books but are not true history or holy canon. Documents such as the Book of Giants steal from the Bible’s history or sometimes use biblical characters as actors to create what we’d call today historical fiction. Works such as the Book of Giants are imaginative, and they may help us understand ancient cultures and languages.

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