Time for a small, not all that shocking confession. I’m a fan of the TV show Castle. Nathan Fillion, playing a writer? Yes, please! I love the wit and the banter and, while I hope one day Castle and Beckett will ‘fess up about their feelings for one another, a larger part of me hopes that’s a long time coming, simply because we all know that once a smoldering TV romance goes “hot,” it’s pretty much a death sentence for the show.
And yet, as much as I love Castle, I also love reading Lee Lofland’s blog, The Graveyard Shift, after each episode. Mr. Lofland is a former police officer and each week, he dissects the episode for mistakes made in the police procedure. It’s always a fascinating look into how it’s done in the “real world.”
One of the things that Mr. Lofland has done, though, is identify some Castle “tropes” that have been done to death. For example, Lanie, the ME, will always spout off some ridiculous voodoo forensics at the start of the episode. Beckett, the tough and savvy police officer, will usually get kidnapped and/or have her gun taken away from her. And the real killer will always be “subtly” introduced in the early part of the show (but usually in such a hamhanded way that long-time viewers can guess who it is). These are tropes that, I suspect, Lofland would consider “done to death.”
These sorts of “been there, done that A LOT” tropes can pop up just about anywhere, even in Christian speculative fiction. You know what I’m talking about: the plot that’s been done a dozen times over. The character that shows up in too many books. The theme that everyone wants to expound on. It got me thinking: I wonder what the readers at Speculative Faith think has been “done to death” in Christian speculative fiction?
In some ways, I understand why people gravitate toward that short snippet in Genesis 6 that describes the Nephilim. It’s kind of bizarre:
When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend withhumans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:1-4, NIV)
Like I said, weird, right? We’ve got the whole “sons of God” marrying the “daughters of men,” and the men of renown popping up afterwards. Seeing as speculative fiction writers like the bizarre, it’s understandable that so many of us have gravitated toward this passage, crafting tales of fallen angels mating with human women, producing monsters of varying sorts that need to be wiped out by the Flood.
Oh, excuse me. Like I said, in my grubby little opinion, the Nephilim have been done to death in Christian fiction.
Now, to be honest, part of the reason why I’m sick of this trope is because I have theological problems with the angel/human hybrid explanation. I don’t actually think that’s Biblical (notice in the above quote that the author of Genesis never says that the Nephilim were actually the children of the sons of God and daughters of humans!), and the arguments I’ve seen in support of that theory are filled with extra-Biblical texts that people try to bootstrap into pseudo-canonicity.
Or, to put it another way, I don’t buy it.
Personally, I think there’s a more mundane explanation for this passage. I believe that what’s being described here is an intermixing of two different human families, specifically the descendants of Cain (the daughters of man) and the descendants of Seth (the sons of God). Notice in Genesis 4 and 5, when the author shares the family trees, that we have additional data about the seventh son of each branch. In Cain’s family, the seventh son is Lamech, who brags about killing a man for wounding him. The seventh son in Seth’s family is Enoch, who walked with God and then was no more. The way I read the whole “sons of God/daughters of man” business is that the descendants of Cain corrupted the more pious descendants of Seth.
As for the Nephilim, I’m not sure what they are, but they sound human to me. They’re described as “men of old, of renown.” Old heroes. But given that the word nephilim in Hebrew means “the fallen ones,” it makes it clear that what’s heroic to men isn’t necessarily heroic to God.
Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now and turn it over to you. Disagree with me if you want, but I really do want to know: what’s been done to death in Christian speculative fiction?