THE NEPHILIM: The Legend of Yahweh verses Zeus, Part IV.

March 23, 2010

A Spiritual and Literary Comparison of Biblical and Classical Literature.

“In those days as well as later, when the sons of the gods had intercourse with the daughters of mortals and children were born to them, the Nephilim were on the earth; they were the heroes of old, people of renown.”  Genesis 6:4 (Revised English Bible)


The poets of Greek mythology seemed more concerned with finding a way to explain the origins of phenomena they did not understand rather than seeking to develop religious dogma, but in their commentary on the mysterious world they lived in, they also made a clear statement about their gods: this is who they are, and this is the best way to deal with them. By the time of Jesus, the worship of the Greek gods was adopted by the Romans, and it dominated their entire empire. Only philosophers and intellectuals regarded the myths simply as fantastic stories with little meaning and only worthy as analogies for teaching lessons and for preserving heritage. The Bible is more than a book of rules, more than stories meant to exult the history of a people group, even more than a guide of how to live a moral life. Even with all the different authors of the books of the Bible spread out over hundreds of years, there is a common theme throughout each book to display Yahweh’s glory and his authority over his creation and his love for all mankind. In The Book of Exodus, the author explicitly tells the account of Yahweh’s power over the Egyptian gods. Later, when the Babylonians break the walls of Jerusalem and take the Jews into exile, the various authors of that generation explicitly attribute the fall of Jerusalem to the judgment of Yahweh for their breaking of the covenant they made with him in the beginning of their history. But just as Yahweh spoke of the coming judgment through his prophets, he also spoke of the day these exiles would return to their homeland and be redeemed through a coming Messiah who would cause all the nations of the world to worship Yahweh, the one true God. I doubt the author of Genesis Chapter Six was specifically thinking of heroes the Greek peoples celebrated while he wrote the account of the Nephilim; however, the subtle similarities of these legends are too close to be ignored, and the contrast of the value systems of these cultures that have had so much influence over the Western world is intriguing. No wonder Western thought and culture is full of so much contradiction and complexity.

The Judeo-Christian tradition taught in the Bible exults itself over Greco-Roman mythology in another way worthy of note. In the prophetic book, Isaiah, in the Old Testament, Yahweh proclaims: “I shall put a sign in them and those survivors I shall send to the nations, to Tarshish, Put, and Lud, to Meshech, Rosh, Tubal, and Javan, distant shores which have never yet heard of me or seen my glory among the nations” (66:19). This is exactly what the Christians in The Book of Acts began. After this new religion sprang up out of Judaism and Jerusalem, it spread throughout the region of Judea, then north though Galilee, and into the city of Antioch which housed the first Gentile church. From there, the Apostle Paul and his companions moved it throughout the provinces of Greece where it spread like wildfire. However, Paul’s original plans were to take the gospel throughout the provinces of Asia. Acts 16:7-9 reads, “they tried to enter Bithynia [heading towards Asia] but, …the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them, …a vision came to Paul; a Macedonian [a man of a province of Greece] stood there appealing to him, ‘Cross over…and help us.’” It seems one of Jesus’ first orders of business as the reestablished Godhead of the earth, after dealing with his chosen people, the Jews, was to convert the Greeks. Christianity eventually spread throughout the entire Roman Empire and was a major factor in putting an end to the worship of Zeus and his relatives. However, Yahweh had already pronounced his judgment on the sons of God in Psalm 82:

1God takes his place in the court of heaven
  to pronounce judgment among the gods:
2‘How much longer will you judge unjustly
  and favor the wicked?
3Uphold the cause of the weak and the fatherless,
  and see right done to the afflicted and destitute.
4Rescue the weak and the needy,
  and save them from the clutches of the wicked.’
5But these gods know nothing and understand nothing,
  they walk in darkness;
  meanwhile the earth’s foundations are all giving way.
6‘This is my sentence: Though you are gods,
  all sons of the Most High,
7yet you shall die as mortals die,
  and fall as any prince does.’

8God, arise and judge the earth,
  for all the nations are yours.

Peter L Richardson
Fall ’97

Avalos, Hector Ignacio. “Satan.” The Oxford Companion to the Bible. Ed. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. 678-679.

Esses, D.H.L., Michael. Jesus in Genesis. Plainfield: Logos International, 1974.

Graves, Robert and Raphael Patai. Hebrew Myths, The Book of Genesis. Garden City : Doubleday & Co., 1964.

Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. Boston : Little, Brown and Co., 1942.

Keck, Leander E. and Gene M. Tucker. “Literary Forms of the Bible.” The Oxford Study Bible. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. 12-31.

Ovid. The Metamorphoses. Trans. Horace Gregory. New York: Mentor, 1960.

Sacks, Robert D. A Commentary on the Book of Genesis. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990.

“The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible.” New American Standard Bible. Ed. Spiros Zodhiates. Chattanooga: AMG Press, 1990.

“The Oxford Study Bible.” Revised English Bible with the Apocrypha. Ed. M. Jack Suggs, Katherine Doob Sakenfeld and James R. Mueller. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Thompson, Steve. “The Astounding Authority of a Believer.” The Morning Star Journal 7.1, 1997.


2 Responses to “THE NEPHILIM: The Legend of Yahweh verses Zeus, Part IV.”

  1. Steph Says:

    Hey Pete,
    I have really enjoyed reading this set of blogs. I am fascinated by the idea that the fallen angels were here on earth procreating with humans and create “super” humans. I am sure that folks could debate for eternity about what “really” happened so many years ago. We will find out the truth at some point. Nonetheless, I have enjoyed exploring a new and different idea and still believe that your professor is the one with the confusion!

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