One of the enduring religious myths of all cultures is the myth of giant humans. Jack and the Beanstalk is just one of the great folk tales that frequently have religious roots. There is great confusion concerning biblical giants and fake giants.
The truth is that nowhere in the Bible is there a reference to humans two or three times the size of modern humans. Furthermore, there is absolutely no factual find of a giant human skull or body. There have been fakes, scams, hoaxes, and money-making frauds but no factual support for giant humans.
Concerning biblical giants, here are the Hebrew words that the King James Version translated as “giant”:
“Gibbor” Job 16:14
“Rapha” Deuteronomy 2:11, 20; 3:11,13; Joshua 12:4; 13:12; 15:8; 17:15; 18:16; 2 Samuel 21:16, 18, 20, 22 ; 1 Chronicles 20:4, 6, 8.
“Nephilim” Genesis 6:4; Numbers 13:33.
A careful study of these three words shows that none of them refer to the stature of the individual. Any Hebrew dictionary will explain what the words meant when they were written. I use The New Bible Dictionary published by Eerdmans. Here are the meanings:
“Gibbor” Refers to a mighty man or hero. It is translated that way in most cases, such as in Genesis 6:4, Joshua 1:14, and 1 Samuel 9:1. However, as you can see above, the KJV also translated it as “giant,” which is misleading.
“Rapha” Usually refers to descent from Rephaim of Deuteronomy 2:20 etc. Historical and archaeological records show humans that were roughly the size of humans today. The average height of humans at that time was close to five feet. In Jesus’ time, a man five feet three inches tall is referred to in some literature as a man of great stature. Goliath, by the way, is never described as a “giant” in the Bible. First Samuel 17:4 give Goliath’s height, but there is some confusion as to whether it 6 feet 9 inches (2.06 m) or 9 feet 9 inches (2.97 m).
“Nephilim” Literally means “fallen ones” and the context of Genesis 6:4 is clearly referring to people who had rejected God and were pagans who violated God’s laws and guidance. Israel’s constant drift into paganism and idolatry is what the passage deals with, not aliens or spirit creatures.
As to fake giants, there have been many. One of the most famous was the Cardiff Giant in 1869. George Hull was a scammer who repeatedly went after religious people. He took an eleven-foot block of gypsum from a quarry and sculptured it into a giant that looked like a petrified human. He buried the “giant” on a farm and over a year later hire some people to dig a well at that spot. The diggers uncovered the “giant,” it got widespread media attention, and eventually, it sold for what would have been $600,000 today.
There are biological reasons why an 11-foot human couldn’t survive. A man named Robert Wadlow grew to eight feet eleven inches, but only lived to age 22 and was in very bad health. The Bible does not talk about giants of 12 feet or so, and there is no evidence that giants have ever lived. We need to study the text to see what the Scriptures say about biblical giants, and fake giants should arouse our skepticism.
— John N. Clayton © 2019
Reference: Skeptic magazine. Volume 24 #2 2019, pages 64-73.