What was the general opinion of the Early Church Fathers concerning the giants/nephilims, described in the following verses?

Genesis 6:4

4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

Numbers 13:33

33 And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.

Deuteronomy 9:1–3

1 Hear, O Israel: Thou art to pass over Jordan this day, to go in to possess nations greater and mightier than thyself, cities great and fenced up to heaven,

2 A people great and tall, the children of the Anakims, whom thou knowest, and of whom thou hast heard say, Who can stand before the children of Anak!

3 Understand therefore this day, that the Lord thy God is he which goeth over before thee; as a consuming fire he shall destroy them, and he shall bring them down before thy face: so shalt thou drive them out, and destroy them quickly, as the Lord hath said unto thee.

  • Is there something about the nephilim that you are interested in? Like their origin, or their actions, or how tall they were, or what? Nov 30, 2017 at 14:47
  • Nothing in particular. It's mainly about if they considered it alegorically, or not. And if they subscribed to the serpent-seed theory or the angel-breed theory. Dec 1, 2017 at 23:24

1 Answer 1


There's some consternation about this issue, but it's clear that the Jewish writers (Philo and Josephus) confirm their existence and reason (Gen. 6:4). As well, there is some early Christian literature that confirms same.

Here's Athenagoras on the issue:

Some, free agents [angels], you will observe, such as they were created by God, continued in those things for which God had made and over which He had ordained them; but some outraged both the constitution of their nature and the government entrusted to them: namely, this ruler of matter and its various forms, and others of those who were placed about this first firmament (you know that we say nothing without witnesses, but state the things which have been declared by the prophets); these fell into impure love of virgins, and were subjugated by the flesh, and he became negligent and wicked in the management of the things entrusted to him. Of these lovers of virgins, therefore, were begotten those who are called giants.788 And if something has been said by the poets, too, about the giants, be not surprised at this: worldly wisdom and divine differ as much from each other as truth and plausibility: the one is of heaven and the other of earth; and indeed, according to the prince of matter,— “We know we oft speak lies that look like truths.” http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf02.v.ii.xxiv.html

Another early mention was in the Clementine literature:

“But from their unhallowed intercourse spurious men sprang, much greater in stature than ordinary men, whom they afterwards called giants; not those dragon-footed giants who waged war against God, as those blasphemous myths of the Greeks do sing, but wild in manners, and greater than men in size, inasmuch as they were sprung of angels; yet less than angels, as they were born of women. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf08.vi.iv.xi.xv.html

Philo had this to say:

Therefore he [God] utters no fable whatever respecting the giants; but he wishes to set this fact before your eyes, that some men are born of the earth, and some are born of heaven, and some are born of God http://www.ccel.org/ccel/philo/works.xi.xiii.html

And Josephus mentions giants as well:

For many angels of God accompanied with women, and begat sons that proved unjust, and despisers of all that was good, on account of the confidence they had in their own strength; for the tradition is, that these men did what resembled the acts of those whom the Grecians call giants. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf02.v.ii.xxiv.html

Commodianus wrote this about 275 CE:

Then the Highest uttered His judgment against them [angels]; and from their seed giants are said to have been born. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf04.v.ii.iv.html

So, the idea of angels procreating was fairly widespread and believed early on.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athenagoras_of_Athens http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04165a.htm

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