Q: What does Nephilim mean?
Answer: The word has been translated as “giants” or “Sons of God.” They were the offsprings of the sons of God and the daughters of men before the flood. Genesis 6 speaks of their intermingling with daughters of humans who bore children for them. Many scholars have discussed this topic, and they tend to find that the questions are not answered to everyone’s satisfaction. I accept the fact that the world has been populated whether I fully understand the details or not. We are pilgrims on a path to understanding the mysteries of God.
After I teach a religion class, preach a worship service or write this 750-word column, I am aware that more information should be included. The abundance of material found in sacred texts and religious scholarship is powerful. Readers remind me of the things that I did not cover. I go to school by reading the interesting and challenging emails. One reader writes passionately about his beliefs and knowledge of Catholic Church history. Another reader has many translations of the Bible with the goal of finding the most accurate translation for clarity and understanding. With great joy, a reader has been inspired by recent scholarship about God, religions and salvation. My world of religious thought is much wider and deeper than what can be written here because readers share their ideas and interpretations.
It was only after I completed undergraduate and Duke divinity degrees, and received a doctoral degree from the University of Manchester that I realized I did not even know all the questions. My post-graduate studies at University of Edinburgh opened my mind and heart to a lifetime of seeking answers.
Thinking about the reader’s Biblical question brings to mind other verses that have captured my thoughts and feelings over the years. Some comfort and inform me and others require study. With gratefulness, I start days with John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” I repeat the verse from John 14:18 on troublesome days, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” For times when I am having difficulty finding the words for prayer, I read Romans 8:26-27, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” “The way” clarifies that the path to salvation is through Jesus. In addition to acceptance of Jesus as a means to salvation, I, also, read the passage to mean that I must walk in his footsteps and help those in need of physical and spiritual care. This thought leads to the message found in James 2:26, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”
Jesus was divine and human. He wept with Mary and Martha for their brother in John 11:35. Jesus lamented about his sadness for Jerusalem in Luke 13:34, “O Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing.” These two passages give me pause because Jesus had the power to bring Lazarus from the dead and the power to change circumstances, but he also responded as a human, and I am moved.
Countless people have found comfort in the Psalm 23. From the first three lines, one can feel the comforting love of God who provides physical and spiritual food, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” God guides His sheep through difficult times and provides the cup which “runneth over.” The Psalm ends with the crowning comfort, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”