"When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose. The Nephilim were on the earth in those days - and also afterward - when the sons of God went in to the daughters of man, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown." - Genisis 6: 1-4The traditional definition of Nephilim is giant. Some dictionaries describe the nephilim as being giants who also possess super human strength. The Greek Septuagint, an ancient translation of the Hebrew Bible, refers to them as gigantes, which actually means "earth -born". It is believed by some scholars that the word Nephilim comes from the root word "Naphal" which means to fall.
In many biblical circles this definition has quickly put the Nephilim into the role of the children of the fallen angels. Over the years a mythos has developed around the concept of the nephilim. It alleges that these giants were the offspring of the "Sons of God" and the "Daughters of Man". Are the nephilim the children of the untoward relationship?
The connection between the biblical text and this claim, although commonly pointed to as the basis of this belief, is unfounded. The document in which we find statements that support this claim actually comes from the apocryphal Book of Jubiliees.
"And it came to pass when the children of men began to multiply on the face of the earth and daughters were born unto them, that the angels of God saw them on a certain year of this jubilee, that they were beautiful to look upon; and they took themselves wives of all whom they chose, and they bare unto them sons and they were giants." - The Book of Jubilees - Chapter V: 1Is the claim that the nephilim were the offspring of the sons of god and the daughters of men supported by sources outside the Judeo-Christian tradition?
In other words, does mythology worldwide support this belief?
The notion of giants roaming the earth can be found in cultures worldwide. Greek mythology tells us that the Titan Cronos castrated his father Uranus in order to gain control of the Greek pantheon. It is from the blood of the castrated Uranus that fell upon the earth that the giants, the "earth-born", were created. The Earth-born were, when compared to us, were giants. The giants, under the rule of Cronos lived during the golden age, in a time that was free from sorrow or care and everyone lived happy and joyous lives.
It was only after Cronos' son Zeus fought for control of both the heavens and the earth that everything changed. Zeus in his new role, according to Greek myth, put the giants to work. It was just a matter of time before the giants starting ignoring the god's mandates. They were no longer prostrating themselves to the will of the gods. Their lack of complete servitude and their failure to comply with the gods demands incited the "children of god" into a full blown rebellion against the heavenly gods. Heavy losses were taken on both sides, but their revolution was finally suppressed by the gods. A truce was declared. As part of their reparations to the giants it was decided to create a new race to handle the burdens that were cast upon the giants - man.
Based upon these mythological traditions it seems clear that the earth-born giants, the nephilim, existed long before man first inhabited the earth. Thus when you read the line "The Nephilim were on the earth in those days - and also afterward" it seems clear, from this perspective that the authors were not being vague. Instead they were just making a statement of fact - that the Nephilim, the earth-born were on the earth at that time.
Interestingly, a parallel myth to this biblical narrative does exist. It comes to us from the pages of the Hindu epic the Ramayana. The Ramayans is the epic tale of Rama, the 7th avatar of the supreme god Vishnu. Rama lived during the Treta Yuga. It was an age where the world was filled with giants.
Around the same time as Rama's birth, the supreme god Vishnu, knowing what was in store for him, requested that all of the gods descend to the earth and mate with the apes and the bears. This request was made in order to, when the time was right, provide Rama with an army he could use to help him conquer Ravana the giant demon king of Lanka.
The offspring of these unions obtained an array of impressive skills from their divine parents. The mighty Sugríva was the ruler of the Vanara (ape-men). His father was Surya, their chief solar deity. The demi-god Hanúmán is described as being able to travel very fast, while Nala is the Vanara (ape-man) that helps Rama to build a bridge from mainland India to Lanka.
"These thousands did the Gods create, Endowed with might that none could mate,
In monkey forms that changed at will; So strong their wish the fiend to kill."
Are the nephelim the offspring of the sons of god and the daughters of man?
They were the race of earth-born giants who lived before the creation of man. They are the group who revolted against the gods in antiquity, responsible for the creation of mankind.
Additionally, based upon the references that come to us from ancient legends it does seem clear the when the gods mated with mortals, that their offspring were men of renown, heroes who are valiant or brave.