It was Jason Colavito who first alerted me to the notion that Grendel may have been conceived by the Anglo-Saxon author of Beowulf as a descendant of the Nephilim. Colavito encouraged me to pick up my copy of Beowulf for once (translated with a commentary by JRR Tolkein). What I discovered is fascinating.
Before I start I should clarify my position on the biblical narrative of the Sons of the gods and the Daughters of men in Genesis 6:1-4. I do not think this has anything to do with angels, gods, neanderthals or aliens. I think the passage is speaking of human rulers from the line of Cain, who forcibly took multiple wives and begat men of great renown. The post flood giants were of a different lineage of fallen heroes, hence the pre-flood nephilim were not necessarily inhuman giants. This story is contained in Genesis 4:17-22.
As I stated above, Grendel was very likely intended to be one of the Nephilim giants. As Grendel is explicitly stated to be a descendant of Cain, and the text identifies the giants of Genesis 6 (gigantas) as descendants of Cain also (v89-91). Grendel is stated to be demonic, as well as human, perhaps alluding to the Enochian belief that demons were the ghosts of the Nephilim. Most of the commentators who persist a connection assume that the author of Beowulf took the view that the sons of the gods were men from the line of Seth (the view taken by Bede), with the daughters of men being women from the line of Cain. I beg to differ, I see in Beowulf a view very similar to that of mine.
Later on in the text, we read that Beowulf finds a fabulous sword in the possession of Grendel’s mother. It is said to be the ‘work of giants’ according to Tolkein’s translation (and Tolkein was considered an authority on Beowulf, a work which he helped to popularise), and in Old English it reads giganta weorc. The word gigant is elsewhere in Anglo-Saxon literature only ever used of the giants of Genesis, It is very likely that the ‘giant’ in question was Tubal-Cain, son of Lamech, who is (correctly) identified as one of the giants of Genesis 6:1-4 elsewhere in Christian literature of the time. We should also point out that the gigantas like Tubal-Cain, are said to be descendants of Cain in the poem. All this evidence suggests that it is very likely that Tubal-Cain forged the sword found by Beowulf in the mind of the author, and was perceived of as one of the Nephilim of Genesis 6.
In short, rather than taking the view that the sons of the gods of Genesis 6 referred to the Sethites, it seems as though Beowulf, and some other Christian literature of the time took the view that the term referred to the line of Cain, with the ‘giants’ being Jabal, Jubal and Tubal-Cain (though most took the Sethite view). It is great to see that the writer of Beowulf knew his Bible, and used surprisingly good exegesis to craft a well told story.
Such a view also appears to be taken by Muslim writer Al Kisai, who states:
When he was 40 years old, God sent him (Enoch) as a messenger (rasul) to the descendants of Qabil (i.e., Cain). The descendants of Qabil were giants on the earth, occupied with amusements, singing, playing reed instruments, and strumming string instruments to the point that none of them exercised caution with regard to this (behavior) among the people. A gang of them would crowd around a woman and have sex with her, and the satans who were with them would commend them for their deed. They would have sex with (their) mothers, daughters, and sisters, and they mixed indiscriminately with each other. Badgered by the satans, they acquired five idols for themselves (fashioned) according to the likeness of the descendants of Qabil, and they were (named) Wadd, Suwa’, Yaghuth, Ya’uq, and Nasr, these being the names of the descendants of Qabil.
Note the fact that the Cainites were giants, and were engaged in promiscuous behaviour, like the sons of the gods, ‘and’ also are said to be associated with musical instruments, like Jubal, son of Lamech.
It would seem as though my view does in fact have a historical basis.
… One final thing. It would seem as though Ben Stanhope has a new video out on the Nephilumps.
As I predicted, he does little more than parrot the work of Dr Michael Heiser to support the divine origin of the Nephilim. I have already set out my positive case for a human reading above, as well as here, so I will focus on responding to one particular argument used by Stanhope here. The argument that ‘Nephilim’ means giants, instead of fallen ones.
This is simple, uncritical parroting of Ben Stanhope’s idol, Heiser. The issue with this view is that all the Aramaic texts where naphil means ‘giant’ are very late, and postdate Genesis 6:-4’s composition. Furthermore, the word repha’im, used for spirits of the dead, is used to refer to biblical giants, supporting the reading of fallen (as in ‘slain’) ones.
I also recommend you read this blog post by Deane Galbraith for more information:
When I showed this blog post to Stanhope, he (I suspect deliberately) confused this blog post with an earlier blog post by Galbraith, which Heiser responded to, and claimed Heiser ‘ate his lunch’. But he evidently didn’t read this blog post, which is actually a ‘response’ to Heiser’s response. Heiser failed to give an in depth response. So no, Heiser did not ‘eat his lunch’. Stanhope evidently cannot deal with the possibility that Heiser is wrong.
There is simply too much parallelism between Genesis 4:17-22 and Genesis 6:1-4 to be mere coincidence. Considering how both passages use kingly language (Cain founds a city, and kings in the ancient world were believed to be begotten by the gods) to describe beings who ‘take’ (laqach) wives freely, and most importantly, begat offspring of great importance.
So I see Stanhope’s view point as being somewhat weak.
I bear no ill will against Stanhope, in fact I enjoy his content. I just feel the need to critique him when he gets it wrong.
rkb ‘rpt, out!
Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary – JRR Tolkein
Beowulf’s Monsters: Comparing the Mythology of Grendel, Cain, & Satan – Sean C. Hadley
Peltola, Niilo. “GRENDEL’S DESCENT FROM CAIN RECONSIDERED.” Neuphilologische Mitteilungen, vol. 73, no. 1/3, 1972, pp. 284–291. JSTOR, JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/43345359.