Genesis 6.4 briefly mentions the Nephilim. Among the many ideas about what or who the Nephilim were, one in particular struck me as different from the rest: that the Nephilim were really what we know as Neanderthals.
The "Neanderthals = Nephilim" idea stands out from the rest of the Nephilim theories because instead of claiming that the Nephilim were beings of immense size and power (something supernatural, more akin to a demon), the Nephilim would have actually been much more “realistic” if you will.
But what evidence is there to support this claim?
I’ll start with what we know about Neanderthals. Neanderthals were a subspecies in the genus Homo, sharing nearly our entire DNA makeup, meaning they were a very close relative to modern humans. The earliest we can place their existence through evidence is 160,000 years ago, though they may have existed long before that. Neanderthals disappeared around 40,000 years ago. This time frame would have them coexisting with modern humans (at least in Europe) for approximately 5,000 years.
The reason for the disappearance of Neanderthals is unclear. One hypothesis is they did not adapt to climate change. Another is that they were wiped out by the appearance of Homo sapiens.
The physical appearance of Neanderthals differed from modern humans in several ways. They were slightly shorter on average than we are today, the proportion of their limbs was shorter than ours, their rib cage was more barrel-like, they had a much larger nose and eye sockets, and their cranial capacity was larger than ours. Their physique suggests that they were stronger than modern humans, especially in their arms and hands. They may have also had better eyesight. Also, the size of their skulls shows us that not only were their brains the same size as ours, they may have even been bigger by the time they reached adulthood.
Understanding their physiology and combining that with the discovery of sites that were used by the Neanderthals shows that not only were they hardy, but they were social creatures with the capacity to craft tools and weapons and make fire. Far from mere scavengers, these beings most likely hunted large game as well as engaged in physical conflict among themselves and possibly others.
Science has given us a good grasp on who the Neanderthals were and what they were like. How do they compare to the Nephilim?
Information about the Nephilim comes from biblical texts, the bulk of it coming from non-canonical books. Despite how short it is, the most commonly cited source when referring to the Nephilim is Genesis 6:4. Each translation varies slightly in wording, some use the word “giant” instead of “Nephilim”, but the NIV text is as follows,
“The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.”
This does not tell us much. The Book of Enoch, chapters 6-10, provides a much longer description of where these beings came from and what they were doing on Earth. It tells us that the Nephilim were not benevolent, rather they were responsible for spreading evil on the Earth and corrupting humanity, leading to God’s desire to eradicate them. They were created when fallen angels mated with human women. Described as having colossal size, they had an insatiable hunger that led them to devour all that man produced, man himself, and all manner of creatures that inhabited the world.
What the "Neanderthal = Nephilim" theories have proposed is that the otherworldly malicious beings known as the Nephilim were actually what we believe to be our closest relations in human evolutionary history.
Contradictions are apparent in the simple information I have already provided, such as the glaring fact that Neanderthals were not "giants" as the Nephilim were claimed to be.
But let's start with the chronological issues.
How can the existence of Neanderthals be reconciled with a short biblical timeline? The author of the article “Neanderthal = Nephilim?” spells it out for us: because modern science’s use of radiocarbon dating is entirely wrong.
Here's his argument. In order for carbon dating to be effective, the world has to have reached a “saturation point” of carbon. Scientists have determined that this point of saturation would be reached after 30,000 years of living organisms being on Earth. With our understanding that the Earth is millions of years old, naturally this point is well behind us, but what if the point of carbon saturation somehow has NOT been reached? The author names several scientists who have disagreed with the idea that the saturation point has been reached, based on their own evaluations of the matter, and he cites Melvin Cook, a professor from Utah University who came to the conclusion that the Earth’s atmosphere was only 10,000 years old. This would completely disrupt all estimations made from carbon dating and would place the existence of Neanderthal at around 4,000 years ago, a time when the the Bible says the Nephilim existed.
Let's presume for a moment that he's right and throw out all scientifically accepted ideas regarding the history of the Earth: the Earth is 10,000 years old and that the existence of Neanderthal lines up with the existence of Nephilim. To show how they really are the same the author provides a nice bullet point list of comparisons. Several of his comparisons can be effectively rebutted. I’d like to look at a few that are definitely in the realm of “reaching.”
“Neanderthals were skilled in tool and weapon making. Nephilim learnt physical skills and human culture from human mothers.”
We know the Neanderthals had tools and weapons, and we know the Nephilim brought from their otherworldly fathers knowledge of crafting tools and weapons. But what this fails to mention is that there is a stark difference between the tools of a Neanderthal and the tools of a Nephilim. Neanderthal had basic tools of wood and stone, tools we would consider simple. The Nephilim, meanwhile, supposedly brought to the world tools that required more advanced engineering to make. The Book of Enoch 8:1 says
"Moreover Azazyel taught men to make swords, knives, shields, breastplates, the fabrication of mirrors, and the workmanship of bracelets and ornaments, the use of paint, the beautifying of the eyebrows, the use of stones of every valuable and select kind, and all sorts of dyes, so that the world became altered.”
If Neanderthals were making advanced war equipment and trinkets and body adornments so sophisticated, somehow not a single trace of any of them has been left. Neanderthals were using tools and weapons, but nowhere near to the degree that the Nephilim would have.
“Neanderthals were skilled in language, spoken and written. Nephilim communicated freely with the human populus.”
This claim is a big one. The author asserts that not only did Neanderthals have language, but it was both spoken and written. The scientific world has recently come to the conclusion that Neanderthals most likely could communicate verbally, though it was very unlike our own languages. There is no evidence that they had any form of written language (which doesn't appear in the archaeological record until many thousands of years after the disappearance of the Neanderthals).
And then there's the Neanderthal doctors and pharmacists:
“Neanderthal possibly possessed medical skills, practicing apothecary and, aromatherapy. Nephilim were intelligent, able to develop advanced skills.”
This claim exaggerates the evidence that Neanderthals used plants and herbs in some fashion, possibly as a very early form of aromatherapy. To describe their ability to use plants and wrap a wound as “medical skills” is reaching in my book, however. The Nephilim were claimed to be of very high intellect to add to their repertoire of damning skills, presumably, any medical skills they had knowledge of when therefore be derived from a devilishly high intelligence. I would not consider scents and wraps as highly skilled medical care.
And, then, of course there's the central problem that Neanderthals were not of "giant" height in any sense of the word.
Could the Neanderthals have actually been the biblical Nephilim? No. When comparing the two, it is easy to stretch a little if you separate individual aspects and look for specific qualities out of context. But the time frames don't line up, their physical characteristics do not match, and their behavior and culture do not compare well. There are too many discrepancies for this theory to be true.
These blog posts were written by students in Forbidden Archaeology (Fall 2016)