In his commentary on this verse, the English Bishop Richard Challoner (1691–1781) first explains who the “sons of God” were. According to an ancient interpretation, there were two major genealogical lines, one originating from the descendants of Adam, Seth, and Enos, and another from Cain – the “Cainites.” Only the former were worthy of being called “sons of God” due to their piety, while the latter were “sons of men,” not of God, as they were dominated by “their carnal affections.” Tempted by the beauty of the Cainite daughters, the “sons of God” took them as wives. From these marital unions, the race of giants is said to have been born. Saint Ephrem the Syrian is one of the classic Christian authors who followed this interpretation:
“Moses called the sons of Seth ‘sons of God,’ those who, like the sons of Seth, had been called ‘the righteous people of God.’ The beautiful daughters of men whom they saw were the daughters of Cain who adorned themselves and became a snare to eyes of the sons of Seth.” (In Genesim Comentarii, 6.3.1)
Bishop Challoner sees in this story recorded in the book of Genesis a grave warning regarding the marriage of Christians, who are urged “not to suffer themselves to be determined in their choice by their carnal passion, to the prejudice of virtue of religion.”[i] While we certainly appreciate this interpretation, what we will remember is the bishop’s conviction regarding the actual, historical existence of giants. Here are his own words:
“It is likely the generality of men before the flood were of a gigantic stature in comparison with what men now are. But these here spoken of are called giants, as being not only tall in stature, but violent and savage in their dispositions, and mere monsters of cruelty and lust.”
In recent centuries, our entire history has been rewritten – “revised,” they say – with complete indifference to what Saint Augustine loved and defended the most: the error-free Truth of the texts of the Holy Scriptures.
As we can see, a Catholic bishop from the 18th century had no problem accepting the veracity of the Bible. Such an attitude is not without basis. It is the result of certain specific verses from the Holy Scripture of the Judeo-Christian Tradition that provide surprising details. For example, in the Book of Deuteronomy, very specific terms are used to describe the height of King Og of Basan:
“For only Og king of Basan remained of the race of the giants. His bed of iron is shewn, which is in Rabbath of the children of Ammon, being nine cubits long, and four broad after the measure of the cubit of a man’s hand.” (Deut. 3: 11)
According to the most common equivalencies, the bed would have been approximately 13.5 by 6 feet (4.1 by 1.8 meters), which allows for the deduction of Og’s height to be around 9 feet (3 meters). Considering the more recent existence of exceptionally tall individuals like Robert Pershing Wadlow (1918–1940), who stood at 8 ft 11.1 in (2.72 meters), such a fact does not seem implausible at all. However, the biblical text is unequivocal: giants existed. By the way, Goliath – gloriously killed by the young David – was a Philistine giant. Furthermore, folklore and ancient story collections provide numerous testimonies in this regard. In both English-speaking culture and collections from Eastern and European countries, giants consistently appear. Anyone familiar with the famous story of Jack and the Beanstalk (aka The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean) knows of this, which has been adapted into numerous films, with the most famous being the Japanese animated version produced in 1974 by director Gisaburō Sugii.[ii] However, more important for us are the commentaries of the Holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church.
Saint Augustine, the paleontologist
Saint Ephrem (306–379) describes the entire situation of the descendants of Adam and Eve based on the distance between their lands and the lost Paradise. The descendants of Seth lived near the wall of fire that surrounded the garden of delights. Due to this beneficial proximity, their lands produced abundant and powerful vegetation, full of vital energy. This is why their children would have grown exceedingly! By consuming such food, their development was proportional to its exceptional quality.
Saint Ambrose (339–397), on the other hand, does not follow the line that identifies the “sons of God” with the descendants of Seth. Taking into account an almost strictly literal interpretation of the Bible, he states that giants are described by Moses, the author of the Pentateuch, as “those whom he defines with such a name because of the extraordinary size of their body were generated by angels and women.” (On Noah, 4.8) The discussion of a strange union between angels and women represents another extremely challenging and intriguing subject of the Bible. However, what we gather from Ambrose’s interpretation is the harmony established between the sacred text of Genesis and certain stories from pagan poets, especially those from ancient Greece, which Saint Ambrose sees as examples of physical power and dimensions incapable of replacing the activity of the mind, especially in the form of contemplation. This is the only thing that truly elevates a person, giving them a spiritual stature that their physical size and strength can never attain.
Any old deposits of giant fossils are assimilated to dinosaurs that would presumably have roamed the Earth before the cataclysm that supposedly led to their extinction.
Saint Augustine (354–430), the brilliant disciple of the saintly bishop of Milan, would revisit the issue of giants in his most famous work, De Civitate Dei (The City of God):
“There is therefore no doubt that, according to the Hebrew and Christian canonical Scriptures, there were many giants before the deluge, and that these were citizens of the earthly society of men, and that the sons of God, who were according to the flesh the sons of Seth, sunk into this community when they forsook righteousness. Nor need we wonder that giants should be born even from these. For all of their children were not giants; but there were more back then than in the remaining periods since the deluge. And it pleased the Creator to produce them, that it might thus be demonstrated that neither beauty, nor yet size and strength, are of much moment to the wise man, whose blessedness lies in spiritual and immortal blessings, in far better and more enduring gifts, in the good things that are the peculiar property of the good, and are not shared by good and bad alike. It is this which another prophet confirms when he says, ‘these were the giants, famous from the beginning, that were of so great stature, and so expert in war. Those did not the Lord choose, neither gave He the way of knowledge unto them; but they were destroyed because they had no wisdom, and perished through their own foolishness’(Baruch 3: 26–28).”[iii]
In this substantial fragment, he follows the same line of interpretation as Saint Ambrose with maximum accuracy, emphasizing the teaching regarding the frailty of human nature and the limits of its physical capacities. Probably today, in an era that idolatrizes physical qualities – strength and beauty – the words of Saint Augustine are even more relevant than in his own time. Remarkable, however, is his engagement in disputes with those who contested the possibility of the physical (i.e., historical) existence of giants. Without any knowledge of the “scientists” affected by the evolutionistic perspective, he nonetheless attacks exactly this type of skeptical interlocutors who cannot admit the faulty perspective they have fallen victim to. Therefore, here is what Saint Augustine conveys to those who doubt the possibility of the physical existence of giants:
“They do not believe that the size of men’s bodies was larger then than now, though the most esteemed of their own poets, Virgil, asserts the same, when he speaks of that huge stone which had been fixed as a landmark, and which a strong man of those ancient times snatched up as he fought, and ran, and hurled, and cast it, ‘Scarce twelve strong men of later mould, that weight could on their necks uphold’ (Virgil, Æn., XII: 899, 900), thus declaring his opinion that the earth then produced mightier men. And if in the more recent times, how much more in the ages before the world-renowned deluge? But the large size of the primitive human body is often proved to the incredulous by the exposure of sepulchers, either through the wear of time or the violence of torrents or some accident, and in which bones of incredible size have been found or have rolled out. I myself, along with some others, saw on the shore at Utica a man’s molar tooth of such a size, that if it were cut down into teeth such as we have, a hundred, I fancy, could have been made out of it. But that, I believe, belonged to some giant. For though the bodies of ordinary men were then larger than ours, the giants surpassed all in stature. And neither in our own age nor any other have there been altogether wanting instances of gigantic stature, though they may be few. The younger Pliny (Hist. Nat., 7: 16), a most learned man, maintains that the older the world becomes, the smaller will be the bodies of men. And he mentions that Homer in his poems often lamented the same decline; and this he does not laugh at as a poetical figment, but in his character of a recorder of natural wonders accepts it as historically true. But, as I said, the bones which are from time to time discovered prove the size of the bodies of the ancients, and will do so to future ages, for they are slow to decay.”[iv]
Transformed into a paleontologist, Saint Augustine supports the physical existence of fossilized bones of giants found in various areas. Some he saw himself, others were documented by authors from different eras. All of these serve to prove one thing for the author of the City of God: the error-free truth of the Holy Scriptures of the Judeo-Christian Tradition. This is why he argues that, nonetheless, we should believe in the existence of the beings described in the Bible not because of such indisputable evidence but because the Bible cannot err. This point was dogmatized by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Providentissimus Deus, published in 1893.[v] However, if the pontifical teaching is clear to us, where are the concrete traces – that is, the bones of the giants – of which Saint Augustine said, “They are slow to decay”?
Why wouldn’t “the grand tale” of the ancients and the medieval – revealed in the Holy Bible – of giants, dragons, and angels be truer than “the ‘scientific’ grand tale” of dinosaurs, ETs and monkeys?
Casual detectives. Confronting the Darwinist historical revisionism
With or without Indiana Jones, we are obliged to become true historical-paleontological detectives to unravel the mystery. As already seen in some TV documentaries, one of the best directions to search is precisely the one indicated by Saint Augustine. Thus, the identification of ancient remains of giants began with a search through the archives of publications from recent centuries to see if there are any reports of such discoveries. And, indeed, such discoveries exist. The first major problem, however, is the deception in the press. Eager for sensation from its very beginnings, the press did not hesitate to circulate dubious “discoveries” or even fabricate such stories to attract the public. That’s why some researchers rush to state that such discoveries are “all hoaxes, hyperbole, or misattributed.”[vi] Additionally, as you would expect or may have already seen, the internet is full of such deceptions that seek sensationalism. However, the real major problem is something else.
Influenced by the tenets of Darwinian evolutionism to see only what confirms the controversial hypothesis of the author of the contentious work On the Origin of Species (1859), the majority of paleontologists are not willing to risk considering any evidence that might contradict their purportedly “scientific” opinions. This is especially true when they have had the opportunity to observe repeatedly that any substantial criticism of Darwinism, such as that put forth by the eminent Hungarian philosopher of mathematics and science, Imre Lakatos, immediately draws the censure of the community that behaves not as researchers but as defenders of unassailable dogmatic truths. Beyond all these considerations, the situation I described earlier remains: embracing the evolutionary perspective, most contemporary researchers wear mental “glasses” that allow them to see only what their lenses permit. Thus, if their worldview involves chronologies of millions and billions of years, with humans descending from monkeys and evolving into who knows what fantastical creatures, they will do everything in their power to confirm this “mental framework.”
This is confirmed even by a recent article in which the author of the investigation “debunks” an account about the Giant of Castelnau.[vii] More specifically, it concerns old news reporting the discovery in 1890 of three giant bones believed to belong to a giant. The article we mentioned argues that, in fact, these bones belonged to a species of bears that lived precisely in the area where the discovery was made. What caught my attention was not the argument itself but the language used by the author, who states, “I found it hard to believe Lapouge’s assertion that the bones belonged to someone over 11 feet tall.” The key word here is “believe.” It tells us that the author’s personal belief clashed with the belief of those who reported the discovery of giant bones. What the article does not unveil is the author’s belief – i.e., the personal view that hindered the acceptance of the possibility of the existence of the (hypothetically) giant’s remains. Or, very likely, this “belief” is influenced by Darwinist-oriented texts that dominate – regardless of the new forms they have taken – the current academic and scholarly world. I emphasize that I am not questioning the research itself, nor am I claiming that the bones of the Giant of Castelnau are necessarily those of a giant. Maybe, yes, maybe, no. However, the fact that someone who has never seen the actual bones but only photographs of them rejects this possibility because she found it hard to believe tells us a great deal about what “science” means.
In recent centuries, our entire history has been rewritten – “revised,” they say – with complete indifference to what Saint Augustine loved and defended the most: the error-free Truth of the texts of the Holy Scriptures of the Judeo-Christian Tradition. And that’s not all! Numerous testimonies from remarkable pagan authors, from Cicero, Diodorus of Sicily, and Herodotus to Josephus Flavius, Pausanias, and Pliny the Elder, are all reinterpreted through the “lens” of evolutionism.[viii] Any old deposits of giant fossils are assimilated to dinosaurs that would presumably have roamed the Earth before the cataclysm that supposedly led to their extinction. This is the prevailing perspective (or “mental framework”) of most historians and scientists. We ask them: why wouldn’t the ancients and the medieval – those who believed in the possibility of giants or dragons – have been right instead? Why wouldn’t “the grand tale” of the ancients and the medieval – revealed in the Holy Bible – of giants, dragons, and angels be truer than “the ‘scientific’ grand tale” of dinosaurs, ETs and monkeys?
Even if we sometimes lack both the means and the necessary academic training to discuss the origin of these fossils “scientifically,” it would be good to constantly remind those too quick to embrace modern theories that sacred texts of the Holy Bible are much more than mere “myths” intended to provide pseudo-explanations for people who were not yet enlightened by the positive science of recent centuries. For us, Catholics, this is not an optional matter but a sacred duty. And not just one among many duties, but the most important one.
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[i] The Holy Bible. Douay-Rheims Version, With Annotations and References by Bishop Richard Challoner, and Biblia Sacra. Juxta Vulgatam Clementinam, Plurimis Consultis Editionibus Diligenter Praeparata a Michaele Tvveedale, Baronius Press, MMXVII, p. 10.
[ii] Many details can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_and_the_Beanstalk_(1974_film) [Accessed: 09 September 2023]
[iii] The full text can be read here: https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf102.iv.XV.23.html [Accessed: 09 September 2023]
[iv] It is really worth reading the whole text: https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf102.iv.XV.9.html [Accessed: 09 September 2023]
[v] Here is the dogma of inerrancy: “The books, all and entire, which the Church accepts as sacred and canonical, with all their parts, have been written at the dictation of the Holy Spirit; so far is it from the possibility of any error being present to divine inspiration, that it itself of itself not only excludes all error, but excludes it and rejects it as necessarily as it is necessary that God, the highest Truth, be the author of no error whatsoever.” (cf. Henry Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, Translated by Roy J. Deferrari, Preserving Christian Publications Boonville, New York, 2009, art. 1951, p. 493).
[vi] The source of the quote: https://www.quora.com/Are-there-serious-sources-on-the-findings-of-giant-human-skeletons-that-newspapers-reported-about-back-in-the-19th-and-the-beginning-of-the-20th-century [Accessed: 09 September 2023]
[vii] The interesting article, titled “Anthropology, Historic Preservation, and the Bones of Giants” and authored by Katherine Hacanyan, can be read in: Post & Lintel. A publication of the Historic Preservation Program at Eastern Michigan University, Fall 2022, pp. 27-28. Available online here: https://commons.emich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1066&context=postlintel [Accessed: 09 September 2023]
[viii] To see how this happens, we can read the remarkable work authored by Adrienne Mayor, The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times, published by Princeton University Press in 2000. The researcher also provides us with a collection of well-chosen excerpts from the texts of classical Greek and Latin authors about such deposits and discoveries of giant bones.