7 Mythical Creatures Mentioned in The Bible

 
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    June 8, 2011 at 6:00 am

    The Bible can be viewed as two different texts. The second half of The Bible is a chronicle of the life of Jesus, who Christians consider to be the Messiah. The first half of The Bible is basically a history of the Jewish people and an exhausting documentation of Jewish history, culture, customs, beliefs, and folklore. Much of that Jewish folklore includes mythical creatures and monsters. Here are 7 mythical creatures mentioned in The Bible:

    Satyrs

    Satyr Isaiah 13:21 – “But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.”

    Isaiah 34:14 - “But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.”

    What the Bible Says:
    Satyrs are hairy, horned creatures with the bottom half of a goat and the upper half of a man. Oh, and they’re also incredibly horny. The Bible describes Satyrs as evil creatures or demons who live in the wilderness, and this is likely because the Biblical use of “Satyr” is actually a misinterpretation of the  Se’irim, a much scarier creature from Hebrew folklore. Se’irim are nasty, hairy demons that are said to inhabit “waste places”, which either means deserts or sewage treatment facilities. Either way, these things are nasty, and Biblical texts suggest that they not only existed, but that people were fairly familiar with them.

    What They Really Were:
    In the olden times, it was pretty commonplace to just go live in the woods. In fact, the Bible makes frequent mention of hermits, lepers, and weird crazy people who just lived out in the wilderness and survived off of the land. It’s safe to assume three things about forest-dwelling hermits during Biblical times: 1) They lived off of the land, so their clothes were probably made from animal hides. 2) They were probably pretty hairy, because everybody was pretty hairy back then (they didn’t discover The Brazilian until they discovered Brazil).  3) They were most likely the horniest men on the face of the Earth. People must’ve occasionally had encounters with crazy, hairy, forest-dwelling rapists in animal hide clothing, and over time those stories evolved into the Satyr myths from Greek, Roman, Hebrew, Arab, and Biblical folklore.

    Cockatrices

    CockatriceJermiah 8:17 - “For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the Lord.”

    Isaiah 11:8 - “And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.”

    Isaiah 59:5 - “They hatch cockatrice’ eggs, and weave the spider’s web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper.”

    What The Bible Says:
    The Cockatrice is a horrific, nightmarish creature with the funniest name ever. It’s a two-legged dragon with a rooster’s head, and it has the ability to instantly kill a human being just by looking at him. The cockatrice is very similar to the mythical Basilisk, with the exception that the Cockatrice has wings. Other than that, they’re virtually the same mythical creature. Cockatrices hatch from eggs that are laid by a chicken and then incubated by a toad or snake. Cockatrice and Basilisk mythology didn’t really become commonplace until the 12th century, so the appearance of the Cockatrice in The Bible is probably a case of mistranslation, or a utilization of 12th century terminology for something that, in Biblical times, may have been more abstract or mysterious.

    What They Really Were:
    The legend of the Cockatrice (and Basilisk) most likely stems from misinterpretations of common, scientifically verified animals. Let’s say that you’re a farmer in Biblical times. You wake up in the morning and go out to the chicken coop to collect your eggs, and to your surprise you’re greeted by a King Cobra. You haven’t ever seen this thing kind of snake before, and you have no idea what it is. Suddenly, it stands up, flips a little cape out behind his head, and stares at you. Before you know it, that cobra has either bitten you at lighting speed or even spit poison into your face. You die shortly after, and the creature seemingly disappears by slithering away. This only has to happen a few times before rumors of a deadly chicken-snake hybrid who kills people just by looking at them starts floating around town, and a few centuries later you’ve got yourself a myth.

    Unicorns

    unicornNumbers 23:22 – “God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.”

    What the Bible Says:
    The Bible mentions Unicorns 9 times (Numbers 23:22, Numbers 24:8, Deuteronomy 33:17, Job 39:9-10, Psalms 22:21, Psalms 29:6, Psalms 92:10, Isaiah 34:7). Some newer translations have replaced “Unicorn” with “Wild Ox”, and some historians speculate that Unicorns were often mistaken reports of rhinoceroses. The Bible’s use of Unicorns usually comes in the form of analogies that use the Unicorn’s reported strength, purity, and good virtue in comparisons.

    What They Really Were:
    The Hebrew Bible makes frequent mention of the re’em (now known as aurachs), which is a type of wild cattle (so the wild ox translation is not far off). Depictions of wild cattle have been around since the Mosopotamians, and most ancient art depicts wild cattle in profile view, making it look like the cow only has one horn protruding from the center of its head. This is most likely where the Unicorn myth came from and it’s explains the Unicorn’s reputation for great strength, although the Unicorn mythos was heavily romanticized during The Renaissance, because Renaissance people always had to make things fancy.

    Vampires

    vampireJohn 6:53-57 - Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live forever because of me.”

    What the Bible Says:
    There are many passages in The Bible that talk about eating flesh and drinking blood. Most of these verses are metaphorical; Jesus often spoke of “eating his flesh” and “drinking his blood” as a metaphor for absorbing his spirit, or being more like him. But there are also a few references to vampirism that were removed from the original Biblical texts during translations, because the passages and stories didn’t fit, according to the text’s transcribers. One such instance occurs in an extended “director’s cut” version of The Book of Genesis. In this passage, Eve has a dream in which she sees one of her sons, Cain, murdering and drinking the blood of her other son, Abel. Of course, Cain later committed the first murder when jealousy drove him to kill his brother Abel, and this dream may have been a prophetic foresight on the part of Eve.

    What They Really Were:
    Vampires, or at least the traditional vampires that we know today, were born from European folklore, and the first mentioning of the classic vampire came in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which was published in the 1800′s. Therefore, traditional cape-clad, pale-skinned, photo-allergic, garlic-hating vampires weren’t even around when The Bible was written, or when it was transcribed under the reign of King James. Blood drinking, however, is an age-old practice that dates back to pre-history, when warriors, warlords, and kings would drink the blood of their fallen enemies to absorb their power. It’s very probable that these blood-drinking practices were well-known during Biblical times (although it would still have been considered inhumane and frowned upon), and it would certainly have been known during the times of Biblical translation, when it may have been used to paint someone as barbaric, crude, and inhumane.

    Sea Monsters

    leviathan

    Job 41 – “Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down? Canst thou put an hook into his nose?…Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out. Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron. His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth.”

    What the Bible Says:
    Unlike the other mythical beasts on this list, the Leviathan originated in the Bible. There are recordings of sea monsters all through history, but The Bible is the first to give one of those beasts the name “Leviathan”, and The Book of Job contains an immense passage (Job 41) that’s solely devoted to describing the Leviathan, a giant sea-dwelling dragon. It’s described as being covered in impenetrable scales and breathing fire. Drawing from this explicit biblical shout out, many other cultures and religions adopted the name Leviathan for their mythical sea monster, a servant to the Devil, or (in the case of Demonology) one of the guardians of the Gates of Hell.

    What They Really Were:
    Since the dawn of recorded history, people have been freaked out by things they saw in the ocean. Sailors thought that manatees were sexy mermaids, and we’re still getting panicked over weird things that wash ashore, so the invention of a freaky giant sea monster was nothing new, even in biblical times. The Leviathan is mentioned about half a dozen times in The Bible (depending on what version you’ve got), and some depictions describe a monster that sounds more like a crocodile monster. In these cases, it’s likely that the mythical creature was borrowed from Egyptian mythology, which heavily features the crocodile as the enemy of the Sun God. Mix that together with some good ol’ fashioned dragon stories and you’ve got an accurate description of the Leviathan.

    Dinosaurs

    jesus dinosaurJob 40 – “Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox…He moveth his tail like a cedar…His bones are as strong pieces of brass; his bones are like bars of iron…his nose pierceth through snares.”

    What the Bible Says:
    Okay, so dinosaurs aren’t technically mythical creatures, but dinosaurs existing in Biblical times definitely qualifies. It turns out Creationists are right: according to The Bible, dinosaurs and people did exist at the same time…maybe. The Bible verse above (Job 40) is the verse that’s most frequently cited by Creationists, and to their credit it really sounds like it’s describing a triceratops dinosaur. The Bible’s “behemoth” is an enormous herbivore who has a tail as big as a tree, huge bones, and horns on his nose. That sure sounds like a triceratops to me.

    What They Really Are:
    Most of this verse could be a description of elephants and rhinoceroses. The enormous size, the grazing, and the horn in its nose could easily be the characteristics of unfamiliar African fauna. But elephants and rhinos have tiny tails that whip back and forth. They certainly don’t sway around like cedars. It’s possible that the biblical description pertains to dinosaur fossils that ancient archaeologists might have found, and then they just assumed that the creatures they pieced together were still roaming around somewhere. But there’s still an inconsistency between this explanation and the description in Job: the verse seems to suggest that people hunt these creatures, and that they can escape from snares with their horns. This discrepancy can probably be chocked up to either a mistranslation or some hunters assuming that a rhino was another version of these huge skeletons they dug up. The jury’s still out, though, which is why the Creationist conversation is still ongoing. On the plus side, it’s a good excuse to keep making pictures of Jesus riding a dinosaur!

    Zombies!

    zombieMatthew 27:52 – “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”

    Zecharia 14:12 – “And the Lord will send a plague on all the nations that fought against Jerusalem. Their people will become like walking corpses, their flesh rotting away. Their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths.”

    What the Bible Says:
    The Bible talks about zombies a lot. In fact, zombies seem to be one of the preferred methods of punishment for Old Testament God, who was all about wrath and punishment and turning cities to salt and, apparently, making dead people’s corpses come back to life and pester the living. Many of The Bible’s zombie shout outs come in the form of end-time prophecies, which predict that the End of Days will be either accompanied  or started by a zombie outbreak.

    What They Really Are:
    Like it or not, the Bible is kind of based around things dying and then coming back to life. Jesus was totally a zombie. Lazarus was a zombie. There are plenty of zombies in The Bible to go around. But with the exception of a few biblical zombie moments, most of the zombie shout outs are bad. Really bad. Many zombie scholars (yeah, that exists) suggest that the biblical prophets may have foreseen some type of zombie bio-weapon apocalypse scenario in the distant future, but they simply didn’t understand the science behind it all.

     

     

     
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    5 Comments
    1. I just took the time to look up one example of these. The book of Isaiah was originally written in Hebrew. The word there is translated as ‘wild ox.’ In the Septuagint, which is the early Greek Translation of the Old Testament, the word is mono-keratos (μονοκερωτος) which is ‘one horn’ but is not necessarily the same as what we think of as a unicorn.

      The early English translators worked literally in this instance. That is where Unicorn came in.

    2. Jeff Goins says:

      Interesting… the Bible really uses the word “unicorn”?

      • The King James version does, but other versions have replaced it with “Wild Ox”, which is probably more accurate. Unicorn is mostly used in metaphors, though. There’s no verse that says “And Jesus rideth away on an awesome unicorn” or anything like that.

      • Name says:

        Don’t put too much stock in this article. It is all really bad translations or as near as I can tell made up. I checked a number of translations including original Hebrew and none of these translations are valid. Some of them also just use stretches of descriptions (such as the zombie thing or the vampire thing.) The supposed dinosaur passage is also truly there but it isn’t really known what it describes.

     
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