This is a preliminary “catalogue” of texts in early Judaism and Christianity (mainly noncanonical) where the dimensions of gigantic angels, demons, or simply monstrous beings are given. This is a work in progress, to which I’ll be adding more material over the next little while. Currently it only contains entries where concrete measurements are given (usually in cubits). It’s also arranged somewhat chronologically, based on the best dating of these texts—although there are some uncertainties (for example, I didn’t quite know where to put the Book of the Watchers, in light of the uncertain textual history of the passage).
In the next post, I’ll be adding rabbinic texts and entries from the ‘merkabah’ literature. I need to find out more about the giant angels in the “Ascension of Moses” (distinct from the Assumption/Testament of Moses?). I might add the giant men in the Gospel of Peter, even though no concrete measurement is given (other than their height extending to the sky).
Og in Deut 3.11 – 9 cubits tall?
“Now only King Og of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaim. In fact his bed, an iron bed, can still be seen in Rabbah of the Ammonites. By the common cubit it is nine cubits long and four cubits wide.” (NRSV)
Beelisah/Belisath in Testament of Judah 3.7 – 12 cubits tall
“And Jacob my father killed Beelisah, the king of all kings, a giant in strength, twelve cubits high.” (Hollander and de Jonge 1985: 190)
The primordial giants in (several recensions) of the Book of the Watchers (1 En 7.2) – 300 or 3,000 cubits tall
Nickelsburg (2001) opts for a reading of 1 En 7.2 that follows the Chronography of Syncellus (9th cent): “And they conceived from them and bore to them great giants. And the giants begat Nephilim, and to the Nephilim were born Elioud. And they were growing in accordance with their greatness.” (2001: 182)
However, here in Codex Panopolitanus (5th/6th cent), the giants’ size is given at 3,000 cubits; and in Ethiopic mss., given as 300 cubits. Black, in his text of 1 En, followed the reading of Panopolitanus, “And they became pregnant by them and bore great giants of three thousand cubits” (28). However, Nickelsburg thinks these readings are secondary glosses (185). The Aramaic texts of the Book of the Watchers from Qumran (4Q201-202) contain virtually nothing of 7.2.
The angels who reveal the Book of Elchasai (Hippolytus, Haer. 9.13.2–3) – 96 miles tall
Hippolytus, in his Refutation of All Heresies (~230 CE), mentions a heretical teacher Alciabiades, who claimed that his ‘book’ of teachings had been divinely revealed:
“It had been revealed by an angel whose height was 24 schoeni—that is 96 miles—and whose girth was 4 schoeni; from shoulder to shoulder he was 6 schoeni; his footprints were three and a half schoeni long—that is fourteen miles—the breadth being one and a half schoenus. With him was a female whose dimensions, he said, accorded with those mentioned, the male being the Son of God and the female was called ‘Holy Spirit.’” (Luttikhuizen in Marjanen/Luomanen 2005: 336)
Beliar in the Questions of Bartholomew 4.13 – 1,600 cubits long
The Questions of Bartholomew is a text (with ‘Gnostic’ hints?) possibly from the 3rd or 4th cent CE. (Elliott, 662). The apostle Bartholomew asks Jesus to reveal to him various “mysteries,” including showing him “the adversary of men.” Beliar is brought up from Hades: “And the length of him was one thousand six hundred cubits and his breadth forty cubits … and his mouth was as the gulf of a precipice, and one of his wings was four-score cubits.” [note: there are textual variants these sizes in the Latin and Slavonic versions]
Adam and Eve in The Book of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ by Bartholomew the Apostle – 80 cubits (Adam) and 50 cubits (Eve) tall
The Book of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ by Bartholomew is a Coptic text possibly from the 5th-6th century, and “may be deemed to come from a different cycle of tradition from the Quaestiones Bartholomaei.” (Elliott, 653). Elliott summarizes this text, based on James’ version of a London ms:
“a series of hymns sung in heaven, eight in all, which accompany the reception of Adam and the other holy souls into glory. Adam was eighty cubits high and Eve fifty. They were brought to the Father by Michael. Bartholomew had never seen anything to compare with the beauty and glory of Adam, save that of Jesus.”
The Antichrist in the Greek Apocalypse of Ezra 4.30-31 and the (early medieval) Apocalypse of John (Apokalypsis tou Hagiou Ioannou) – uncertain size, although very large
The Apocalypse of Ezra is a Greek text preserved in a fifteenth century manuscript. It is of uncertain date, with the only chronological marker suggested in Charlesworth’s OTP being a possible mention of it in the Canon of Nicephorus (9th cent CE). The Antichrist is described here as having a mouth one cubit in length- and “his teeth are a span long, his fingers like scythes, the soles of his feet two span.”
This line is identical to one that appears in the Greek Apocalypse of John – a text possibly dating to the fifth century CE (Elliott 1993: 684), edited by Tischendorf. Its description of the Antichrist is identical to that of the Apocalypse of Ezra (see Tischendorf, Apocalypses Apocryphae, p. 74).