Last week, I introduced you to apostle Adam Stokes from the Church of Jesus Christ – The Assured Way of the Lord. Adam has degrees in divinity from Duke and Yale. He seems to embrace both biblical scholarship and literalism.

GT  11:26  Okay. And then I want to ask you about the Book of Esther as well. It’s my understanding. You’re the Divinity expert, not me. So please correct me where I’m wrong. But some people have said that the Book of Esther specifically is anachronistic. And it’s almost a novel instead of historical. Was Esther a real person? I guess I want to ask that.

Adam  11:58  That’s a really good question. I guess, in the tradition, if I’m giving a restorationist answer, yes. If I’m giving a biblical scholar answer, no. So, most people would say that Esther is a historical novel. It’s the same with Ruth. Ruth probably didn’t exist either. Ruth is an apologetic against the policies of Ezra and Nehemiah, in the early fifth century. So, Ezra & Nehemiah practiced this policy of racial exclusivism. They kick anybody out who’s not Jewish, who’s not from the lineage of Israel. And the Book of Ruth is written to show no, anybody who follows God is to be accepted by God. You have Ruth, this Moabite, this foreigner, but because she submits to God and does what God commands, she is accepted in the community. And in fact, King David is part of her bloodline.

GT  12:57  As is Jesus, right?

Adam  12:59  As is Jesus. Yep, exactly. So, Esther is probably historical novel. A couple of books in the Old Testament are like this: Daniel and Job. I don’t want to get too controversial here.

GT  13:11  Oh, come on. We like controversy here.

Adam  13:13  [Chuckles] These are probably novels written much later, kind of like I always give the example in my class of Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind.” It set in Civil War times but written in the 1930s. So that’s what we have an Esther, written much later than the time portrays.

GT  13:33  Is that a conflict that you have with your restoration [position.] You’re an apostle. I mean, do you find that as a conflict? Like, “I have to say, Esther’s historical for my restoration [position], but from my biblical background, No, she’s not.”

Adam  13:49  It’s sometimes a conflict. I mean, I don’t. This is going to sound weird, Rick. I don’t do as much with the Old Testament as I used to, on a personal level. So it doesn’t really bother me that much. But yes, that conflict sometimes exists there. It’s like in evangelical circles, where you have to say that Moses wrote the first five books of the of the Bible of the Old Testament, even though biblical scholarship, kind of refutes that idea.

GT  14:18  So where do you stand on that issue? Are you a documentary hypothesis guy?

Adam  14:23  I think the documentary hypothesis, and I tell my students this. It’s kind of messed up. I mean, it’s been chopped into little itty bitty pieces. I don’t even know if it really stands anymore. I do think that you can identify some later sources, like the D source and possibly a P source. Most biblical scholars will say that there’s no such thing as a Yahwist source anymore. For me, it doesn’t matter. For me, I feel like even if you have these later sources, they might go back to an ur-Moses tradition. So some of this stuff might come from Moses, and there’s certainly a lot of legal material that traditionally biblical scholars have dated late, but seems to be pretty early. So a lot of legal material in Exodus and Leviticus seems to conform with Hittite treatises and stuff that are actually really, really early. So go figure. I don’t think biblical scholars will ever quite figure out what the Pentateauch is.

GT  15:24  Yeah. So what is your overall opinion of the Bible? Would you consider yourself a biblical literalist, or not?

Adam  15:34  I think I definitely lean more in the literalist direction being a biblical scholar notwithstanding. I mean, when I read the Inspired Version of the Old Testament, I believe that Adam, and Noah and the giants and Abraham, I believe these guys existed. So I come to it, believing that this is history. This is how God spoke in the past, and the restoration has restored how God helped this way that God spoke in the past for the present.

Now you’ll notice he mentioned giants. We came back to that.

GT  00:24  Well, let me ask you this, because I read this today, From Egypt to Ohio. And I know you’ve got the picture right behind your head there. I think that’s the same cover. Right? The subtitle is a Semitic Origin for the Giants of North America. Let’s talk about that. Because I know you talk about Goliath, and I just talked with Trevan Hatch recently about Goliath.

Adam  00:55  Yeah.

GT  00:55  Well, and this is another thing. Because you even told how tall you are in this book.

Adam  01:01  Yeah, I’m only five [foot] four [inches.] I’m short.

GT  01:03  Okay. And I’m six [foot] four [inches.] So am I a giant?

Adam  01:12  In a pre-modern context, I think in the 1700s, you would have been.

GT  01:16  Yeah, yeah. And so, I mean, I guess I can get behind that a little bit if we’re talking about giants. Because I know Trevan said [that.] I’m curious about this. Sometimes I read too fast, and I don’t maintain [what I read.] So this is why it’s good to ask questions. Because Trevan Hatch, we were talking about how tall Jesus was. And he agreed with you that Jesus was probably like 5’2″ to 5’4.” [Jesus was] pretty short for our modern day, but that was like average back in Jesus’s day. And that Goliath was probably 6’5″, 6’6″, 6’7″, somewhere around there.

Adam  01:57  Yeah.

GT  01:58  And, you know, I mean, if we were to stand next to each other, I’m a foot taller than you. And so I guess you could claim that I’m a giant. That makes a lot more sense than a nine-foot giant because basically, Trevan said that story got embellished over time. And so the Goliath went from six and a half feet to nine feet tall. Would you agree with that interpretation, first of all?

Adam  02:21  No, I think, I think Goliath was huge. And I think that he came from [a large race of people.] if you look at their larger biblical tradition, he came from a race of people, from a group of people who were above normal human stature. So I argue, and this goes back to his thinking that humanity has de-evolved. I think that if you look at the earliest biblical traditions, there were these giants, these rafa, these gigantes in the Latin and Greek if you want to call them that, who were around and they were of extraordinarily high stature. And they seem to have a very sophisticated culture, which is basically what I argue in From Egypt to Ohio.

GT  03:07  So you think Goliath was nine feet tall?

Adam  03:10  Oh Yes, yeah.

GT  03:11  Okay, because it seemed like you did reference that some of the early traditions said he was shorter.

Adam  03:18  He’s shorter than some of the other giants that we have mentioned in the Bible.

GT  03:23  Okay, because I thought you had said he was like six and a half feet tall.

Adam  03:27  Everybody talks about Goliath. But Goliath is kind of on the short end, compared to some others. So there’s an Egyptian giant that’s defeated by the Israelites. And he was he was pretty tall, at least, like, you know, 10 feet, 11 feet or so. And the Nephilim, however we interpret that term, the fallen ones, they seem to have been pretty tall as well.

GT  03:53  Okay, so you’re taking a lot of these, what most scholars would say would be, legends and saying that they’re literal?

Adam  04:06  Yeah, I think that there’s a historic [origin.] So I know that seems like I’m trying to balance out a two different views, and maybe I am. But one of the things that I would criticize biblical scholarship about is not taking the Bible literally enough. And that comes from biblical scholarships roots. So people like Herman Gunkel, German biblical scholar, he is one of the founding fathers of biblical scholarship. One of the big things that German biblical scholars did was to argue that Bible was basically metaphor that it was so etiological, that these were mythical stories meant to explain things. They weren’t meant to be taken literally. I don’t think that takes the Bible, in my opinion, seriously enough.

Adam  05:02  Remember, this is the ancient world. People are only going to write down what they think is of utmost importance, what they think actually happened. However, we may interpret what their what their worldview was like. But I think that a lot of times, when the biblical authors wrote stuff down, they were writing what they perceived to be indeed what actually happened. Now, do they embellish it sometimes? Yes. And that draws a tricky line into what’s embellishment? What’s not? That can apply to the giants as well. But I think that in a lot of cases, this wasn’t just metaphor. This wasn’t just an etiological story explaining how something came to be. It was what happened.

Adam  05:55  So for myself, a lot of the biblical stories for me, they have a historical root. And this is the case with a lot of stuff that we deem mythology, in modern times. So if you look at the classical stories, for example, for many years, up until Schleimann, we didn’t believe that the Trojan War actually happened. He uncovers Troy. He finds Troy. And now we know the Trojan War actually happened. So again, apart from their own worldview and their cosmology, I think that historically, these stories are telling stuff that actually happened. And that the traditions of giants, at least in my view, go back to something that’s historical. So hence, again, my view, why I think we’re kind of de-evolving rather than evolving.

GT  06:48  Because I’m trying to remember. I don’t have the reference off the top of my head, but somewhere I believe it’s in Genesis it says that the sons of God and the daughters of men married, or something.

Adam  07:00  Intermarried. Yeah.

GT  07:01  And so in our modern lens, we’re like, that doesn’t really make sense. So how would you explain that? Because it sounds like we’ve got humans and non-humans mating with each other, which sounds very Greco-Roman mythology, Hercules.

Adam  07:18  Yeah, it depends on how you translate them, how you understand Nephilim. So Nephilim traditionally, have been taken as spiritual beings, kind of fallen to the earth. There is a whole Ancient Aliens-type of subplot to this. So Vandana canon people say that the Nephilim, or remnants of this crashed spaceship that came and mated with humans. So in that case, it’d be something supernatural or paranormal mating with human beings, interacting with the natural world. I just tend to view the Nephilim as above average stature. So these giant behomoths…

GT  07:21  Could we argue it’s like Neanderthals and Homo sapiens getting together maybe?

Adam  07:51  I think it’s possible, yeah. That’s how I would say it.

Do you have an explanation for Nephilim in Genesis? Are Esther and Ruth real people? If not, are there implications for Jesus’s ancestry that use them in his ancestry? Are you a biblical literalist? Can one hold that books like Esther and Ruth are mostly fictional but other things like giants and Nephilim are real?