The Book of Giants

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The Book of Giants is an apocryphal Jewish book which expands a narrative in the Hebrew Bible. Its discovery at Qumran dates the text's creation to before the 2nd century BC.

The Book of Giants is an antediluvian (pre-flood) narrative that was received primarily in Manichaean literature and known at Turpan. However, the earliest known traditions for the book originate in Aramaic copies of a Book of Giants in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Furthermore, references are found in: Genesis 6:1-4, 1 Enoch, and visions in Daniel 7:9-14. This book tells of the background and fate of these Nephilim in the flood.[1]

Origins in ancient Jewish tradition[edit]

The Book of Giants has long been known as a work which circulated among the Manichaeans as a composition attributed to Mani. During the twentieth century a number of finds shed considerable light on the literary evidence for the Book of Giants. The discoveries and publications of Manichaean fragments from the Book of Giants discovered at Turfan have substantiated the many references to its circulation among, and use by the Manichaens. Further identification of the Manichaean Book of Giants was revealed in 1971 when J.T. Milik discovered several Aramaic fragments of Enochic works among the Dead Sea Scrolls.[2] These fragmentary scrolls were the primary source utilized by Mani[citation needed] in the compilation of his book and confirmed the Book of Giants as an independent composition from the second temple period.[3]

Among the fragments discovered at Qumran, ten manuscripts of the Book of Giants are identified by Stuckenbruck. These fragments (1Q23 [1], 1Q24 [2], 2Q26 [3], 4Q203 [4], 4Q530 [5], 4Q531 [6], 4Q532 [7], 4Q556 [8], 4Q206 [9], and 6Q8 [10]) were found in caves 1, 2, 4, and 6 at the site.[4] These discoveries led to further classification of the Enochic works. In the third group of classification, ten Aramaic manuscripts contain parts of the Book of Giants which were only known through the Manichaean sources until the recognition of it at Qumran.[5]

There has been much speculation regarding the original language of the Book of Giants. It was generally believed to have had a Semitic origin. Indeed, the discovery of this text in Qumran has led scholars[according to whom?] to believe that the book was initially composed in Aramaic.[6]

Content of The Book of Giants in the Dead Sea Scrolls[edit]

The Book of Giants comprises a group of Aramaic fragments. Because of the fragmentation of the Book of Giants, it is difficult to know the order of the content. This work is related to the 1 Enoch analogue, which tells a story of the giants that is far more elaborate. Further, the Qumran Book of Giants bore resemblance to the Manichaean Book of Giants that followed after it.

The Book of Giants[7] is an expansive narrative of the biblical story of the birth of giants in Genesis 6.1-4. In this story, the giants came into being when the sons of God had sexual intercourse with mortal women who birthed a hybrid race of giants. These giants partook in destructive and immoral actions, which devastated humanity. When Enoch heard of this, he was distressed and asked God to bring judgement to the giants. In his mercy, God chose to give the giants a chance to repent by transmitting dreams to two giants named Ohyah and Hahyah who relayed the dreams to an assembly of giants. The giants were perplexed with the dreams, so they sent a giant named Mahaway to Enoch’s abode. Enoch interceded on their behalf and gave tablets to the giants with the meaning of the dreams and God’s future judgment. When the giants heard this, many chose to act in defiance to God. While the Qumran fragments were incomplete at this point, the Manichaean fragments tell of the hosts of God subduing the race of giants through battle.

Most of the content in the Book of Giants is derived out of 1 Enoch 7:3-6 . This passage sheds light on the characterizing features of the Giants. It reveals that the Giants were born of the sons of god and daughters of man. The giants began to devour the works of men and went on to kill and consume them. They also sinned against the birds and beasts of the sky, creeping things and the fish of the sea. It also mentions that the giants devoured the flesh of one another and they drank the blood. [7] This act of drinking blood would have horrified the people.[8]There is further evidence of this in Leviticus 17:10-16. In this passage there are strict rules regarding the blood of the animal. In verse 10 and 11, it says, “I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood and I will cut them off from the people. For the life of the creature is in the blood.”

The text relates how some giants, named Ohya, Hahya, and Mahway, sons of the fallen angels, have some dreams that foresee the biblical Flood.[9] A brief mention of one of these giants, Ohya, is found in the Babylonian Talmud (Nidah, Ch 9), where it is said "סיחון ועוג אחי הוו דאמר מר סיחון ועוג בני אחיה בר שמחזאי הוו" ("Sihon and Og [from the Book of Numbers] were brothers, as they were the sons of Ohia the son of Samhazai [one of the leaders of the fallen angels in the Book of Enoch])". The version found at Qumran also describes the Sumerian hero Gilgamesh and the monster Humbaba.

Interpretive issues between Qumran and Turfan[edit]

Although we can glean much information out of the fragments of the narrative, there are still many unknowns and issues that scholars heavily debate. Firstly, the authorship of the Book of Giants is still questionable. As mentioned earlier, there was very little usage of this manuscript which leaves scholars with many queries. The Qumran discoveries ruled out the Manicheans as being the composers of the Book of Giants. However the usage of 1 Enoch assumes that the basis of the text would also fall under an unknown author or the idea that it was a pseudegraph text. This leads scholars to question the originality and legitimacy of this book.

The books of Daniel and 1 Enoch both have similarities to Ohyah and Hahyah’s (two giants) visions. Both have writings of the king of heaven sitting on his throne, and the Aramaic text A12 has similar writings. However, the text differs from these two as God comes down from heaven, but the basic premise remains the same. There are different versions of the Book of Giants, which can cause issues. Furthermore, though both versions are said to derive from the same script, both are very different in their content. The Manichaean version has many differences from the Aramaic version and does not have the same visions in it.

According to J.T. Milik, the Book of Giants is believed to have been a part of the Pentateuch of Enoch along with the Book of Watchers, the Book of Dreams, the Epistle of Enoch and the Astronomical Book. All of these would have been significant from the beginning of the first century. However, during the Christian era, this collection was altered and this narrative was replaced by the Book of Parables. The sparse copies of these books could have been due to a lack of overall use after it was replaced by the Book of Parables.[8]



  1. ^ The Book of Giants From Qumran: Texts, Translation, and Commentary by Loren T. Stuckbruck. 1997.
  2. ^ Reeves, J. C. (2016). Jewish lore in Manichaean cosmogony: studies in the Book of Giants traditions. Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press.
  3. ^ The Book of Giants From Qumran: Texts, Translation, and Commentary by Loren T. Stuckbruck. 1997.
  4. ^ The Book of Giants From Qumran: Texts, Translation, and Commentary by Loren T. Stuckbruck. 1997.
  5. ^ 1 Enoch 1 by George W. E. Nickelsburg. 2001. pgs. 8-11
  6. ^ 1 Enoch 1 by George W. E. Nickelsburg. 2001. pgs. 8-11
  7. ^ Schiffman, L. H., & VanderKam, J. C. (2008). Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea scrolls. [electronic resource]. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2008.
  8. ^ The Books of Enoch: Aramaic Fragments of Qumran Cave 4 edited by J. T. Milik. 1976[page needed]
  9. ^ The Book of the Giants, 1943

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