Boletim dos Obreiros

Three Evil Creatures

"He laid hold of the Dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years"

Revelation 20:2


The Dragon 

This short verse takes four words found in the Bible and unites them to describe one only being which a mighty angel will put out of action during the Millennium.

It is also notable because, except for the serpent, an animal known worldwide, the rest is denied by the blind world including many who call themselves Christians. Dragon ... Devil ... Satan ... But God in his Holy Word confirms the existence of these beings, the devil and Satan being one.

The first two words (Dragon and Serpent) refer to a species of animal, and the following two a spiritual being (the Devil and Satan). We therefore wonder: How can this animal serve to illustrate a spirit?

Let's look at the first word: "dragon". Does or did this animal really exist, or is it just a legendary or mythological creation?

Undeniably legends about dragons come from ancient times and are found around the world, from Asia to the Americas, and in all land between the poles. Imaginary representations of it appear even in some national flags. It seems very unlikely that something which might only be an abstract figure of language could have been invented by so many different people. More importantly, it is inconceivable that an abstract figure resulting from the imagination of these peoples were to be used in the word of God as if it were a physical reality.

In the New Testament we find the Greek word drakon, which entered the English language as "dragon". It is only found in the book of Revelation chapters 12, 13, 16 and 20, where the enigmatic animal's name is represented by this word as applied to Satan.

But in the original Hebrew, of which we have several translations and from which the Greek version known as the Septuagint also comes, we find two keywords that are almost the same for styling this scary beast: tan and tanneen. Both were translated as drakon in Greek and derived or equivalent words in other languages. More recently, in the vernacular translations in some languages these two words were replaced by others of more specific known animals that would have the appropriate qualities given in the text, according to the understanding of the translator.

For example, it was considered that the word that reads tan (plural tanneem) in Hebrew could be applicable to certain terrestrial animals such as:

  • An unknown animal that dwelt in desert places (i.e. Job 30:29; Psalm 44:19; Isaiah 13:22, 34:13, 35:7, 43:20; Jeremiah 9:11, 10:22, 51:37; Micah 1:8; Malachi 1:3). Because it was similar to the jackal where it dwelt, modern translators of the Bible have chosen to substitute “jackals” for "dragons".
  • “Serpents” also substituted for “dragons” (Deuteronomy 32:33).
  • A “serpent” of the desert instead of “dragon” (Psalm 91:13).

It was left as “Dragon”, when used as a symbol of the Pharaoh, “the great monster who lies in the midst of his rivers” (Isaiah 51:9, Ezekiel 29:3) and Satan (Revelation 20:2).

The Hebrew word that reads tanneen (plural tanneenim) has been understood as applicable to some aquatic animals such as:

  • A large aquatic monster (Genesis 1:21, Jeremiah 51:34).
  • A crocodile (Ezekiel 29:3-4, Isaiah 51:9).
  • A snake, a serpent of the sea (Exodus 7: 9, Psalm 74:13, Isaiah 27:1).
  • A whale (Job 7:12, Ezekiel 32:2).

Considering all these comparisons, we come to a fairly understandable description of the animal that the Bible calls "the dragon": Huge like a whale, the dragon was a sea and land monster like a crocodile; it was also found in desert places like the jackal, and was poisonous like a serpent.

There is currently an animal called Komodo dragon, (Varanus komodoensis), inhabitant of the islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, and Gili Motang in Indonesia, and it was only discovered by scientists in the West in 1910. Due to its shape and scales it was classified as belonging to the Varanidae family of monitor lizards. It is the largest species of lizard known currently, robust and similar to a dinosaur appearance, it can measure up to 3 m long and weigh up to 100 kg. Its diet is based on wild pigs (wild boar), goats, deer, buffalos, horses, monkeys, komodo dragons, insects, and even human beings. It is poisonous and has a forked tongue like a snake, eats carrion as a vulture and can live for up to 50 years.

It does not have the huge proportions of the dragon of the Bible, nor does it live in water, but in mud. However it suggests that the biblical monster really existed and was known in antiquity, and not only in the biblical account but also in the memory of the various populations in the form of legends. The komodo dragon seems to be its weakened remnant.

In addition, scientists are currently learning much more with the discovery of fossils all over the world. These fossils were named "dinosaurs" in 1841, a neologism of British scientist Sir Richard Owen, but before that, these large reptilian creatures were called "dragons". Among them are the plesiosaurus (a giant marine reptile) and the pteranodon (a flying reptile – see Isaiah 10:29, 30:6) etc. that fulfil much of the description of the biblical dragon, more than the Komodo dragon.

These animals were, for the most part, destroyed during the flood in the days of Noah (2,348 BC) but a couple of each species was saved in the Ark, of which the reptiles and lizards existing today are descendants. Marine animals also have survived, of which the whale is an example.

The Bible describes some fascinating creatures that have already have been described as dragons, for example:

  • The leviathan, "the powerful", an impenetrably scaled sea creature that breathed fire (Job 41). The leviathan was mentioned by David in Psalm 104:26, saying that it had been designed to play in the sea, and presumably lived in his days. It was not a whale, for it had other features such as limbs, neck and scales (Job 41:12, 15, 22). Isaiah 27:1 describes it as a fleeing and twisted serpent.
  • The behemoth, described as a vegetarian which moved its tail like a cedar and its bones were like beams of bronze (Job 40:15-24). These features of the behemoth, along with others in this passage of Scripture, remind us of powerful dinosaurs, sauropods such as the Brachiosaurus. It was not a hippopotamus, as translated in some recent versions of the Bible  (just the insignificant tail of the hippopotamus already refutes this translation).  

Finally, without going any deeper into the original languages, we may conclude that the dragons of the Bible are a group of creatures rather similar to snakes in some respects, some living in fresh and salt water and others on the ground. They are often called dragons, serpents, monsters and even leviathans by translators! It is worth considering the inclusion of what we now call dinosaurs, although their classification systems are not perfect. The characteristics of dragons that we find in the Bible seem to fit very well in some types of dinosaurs, such as the behemoth.

It is not, therefore, just the concept of a non-existent and mythological animal. It is alarming to see the disappearance of any mention to dragons as living animals in some translations of the Bible since the emergence of evolutionary ideas. It is a good lesson for us to avoid accepting translations in which humanist ideas take preference over the literal transcription of the Holy Scriptures, especially the theories of evolution.

The Bible should be used to explain our world on its own terms, because it was inspired by its Creator, and as such knows all its detail, which is immensely more than human knowledge, which is changing all the time as the actual facts are discovered.