Blade Runner 2049: Boring Soulless Mediocre Atheist Christ Story

Decades after the original, a new blade runner is tasked to hunt down a replicant that was “miraculously” born. Such a birth would justify giving replicants “human dignity,” and thereby stop their slavery to humans.

The original cool movie concept of a hunter of A.I. robots becoming the hunted has turned into another sophomoric attempt to philosophize that bleeds contempt for the audience by delivering no real action and long boring 1980s camerawork that lasts a sleep-inducing 2 hours and 44 minutes.

I don’t even want to waste my time blogging on this, but if I do, then you don’t have to waste your time regretting watching it.

I had originally assumed Ridley Scott directed this, but he only exec produced it. So…

My God, when are these Hollywood “artistes” going to stop trying to subvert the Bible with atheist Christ stories and God hatred? I’m praying that Denis Villeneuve, the director, is doing this because he’s being bothered in his conscience as he faces his own mortality. But I fear a more cynical reality that he is just another filmmaker who thinks he’s being “deep” by adding religious themes he doesn’t even believe in to a story he’s trying to make profound.

What is the line between machine and humanity? Do our dreams constitute our reality?

It seems that this is the era where atheist propaganda movies have achieved the preachy mediocrity of Christian propaganda movies. Now, when they throw out “God’s Not Dead” and “Fireproof,” we can say, “Oh, yeah? What about Alien Covenant and Blade Runner 2049?” And Exodus: God’s and Kings? And Noah?

Give me the hearty paganism of Gladiator any day over this heartless soulless atheism. (It’s paganism is not ultimately satisfying either, but it connects more deeply with our universal hunger for transcendence in a way that BR 2048 cannot.)

Soullessness is Boring

First off, the very premise upon which the entire movie rests is the atheistic evolutionary fairy tale that “souls” or consciousness arises or grows out of material complexity. This is all the rage now in some brain science circles etc. They have no actual explanatory mechanism for this “miracle” of matter sprouting “soul,” they just believe it happens. It “self-organizes.” This is what’s called in science, “just so” stories, or “magical thinking.”

And they laugh at Christians?

Ironically, the movie still operates within a modernist paradigm of Greek dualism that argues that humans are “ghosts in machines.” The Gnostic version says it this way: “the body is a prisonhouse of the soul.” Be that as it may, it’s the same delusion of A.I. movies all over. There is some point at which machines and/or their programming become so complex that they sprout souls.

This is actually a reductionism that reduces spirit to properties of matter. They try to deny that and craft clever ways of “transcending” materiality, but they cannot do so. And we humans know this when we watch these stories. Which means that when such atheist premises are engaged in the course of “love stories” between robots and other such “dignifying” activities, the audience knows as they watch that it’s a contradiction. Even if they don’t know it intellectually, or they can’t put their finger on it, they can sense it as they watch. Robots and programs are not humans, and no amount of verisimilitude can change that. Verisimilitude is a means of deception. And I think the audience can sense that truth.

Now, here’s how the deception tries to mimic truth… Continue reading

War for the Planet of the Apes: Cultural Appropriation and the Battle for the Social Narrative

In this fourth installment of the Planet of the Apes series we watch the next episode in how earth humans became overcome and enslaved by intelligent speaking apes.

This is a perfectly crafted well told epic that focuses on the personal journey of revenge for the leader of apekind, Caesar, played with understated brilliance by Andy Serkis. It is a moving and complex portrait of a leader who seeks peace, is pushed to revenge, but discovers mercy when he faces his own hatred. It’s what makes epics so… well, epic. War has ape characters that you can do nothing but root for, which makes you think twice, since they represent the creatures who will ultimately overthrow humanity on earth.

Are our enemies more like us than we would like to admit? Not always. But is it moral relativism to humanize the enemy? Not always.

Steven Zahn plays a comic relief chimpanzee who almost upstages Serkis with his lovably selfish personality (I’m telling you, Zahn rivals Serkis’ “good” Gollum paws down). The apes who join Caesar are loyal men—whoops—I mean apes of honor. The “humanization” of the apes is smartly captured by having Caesar’s band of assassins end up caring for a little mute human girl who steals your heart with every gesture she makes.

The visual effects are stupendous. Not one moment in the entire film did I ever think I was watching CGI. That is a compliment not only to the quality of the technology, but to the acting. War exemplifies the best of Hollywood visual effects, not in drawing attention to it, but in making it invisible. Bravo!

Unfortunately, War for the Planet of the Apes is also another example of bigoted Christophobia that seems to spill from the talented yet depraved souls of many Hollywood storytellers.

(Though, thank God, not all of them)

Human Exceptionalism: The Image of God

Continue reading

American Gods: Secular Man Still Worships & the Gods are Crazy

The Starz network series, American Gods, based on Neil Gaiman’s horror novel is a supernatural story of the “old gods” who immigrated to America with various people groups rising up in war against the new gods of technology and culture that now rule our society.

It’s a great creative idea that in some ways reflects what I have been doing in my own universe of fictional writing. So I was naturally fascinated by the premise.

Unfortunately, it turns out to be a great idea gone bad. A mixed bag of profound spiritual wisdom and depraved humanist blasphemy.

Disenchantment

American Gods focuses on a convict, Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), just released from prison only to discover his wife, Laura (Emily Browning), and his best friend died in a car accident while in an adulterous affair. On his way to the funeral, Shadow meets a peculiar old man, named Wednesday (Ian McShane), who hires him as a bodyguard of sorts. Shadow soon discovers that Wednesday claims to be a chief of the old gods who once laid claim to America through those who found their way here in the past, willingly or not. And we see vignettes in each episode of these gods arriving on America’s virgin shores—or really, raped shores. Odin with the Vikings, Bilquis and Anubis with some of the slaves, a Leprechaun with the Irish, Jinn with Muslims and others. In the story, these are real beings with real, though limited supernatural powers.

It’s a common fantasy theme about the “disenchantment” of the natural world that science and technology creates in modernity. The “old gods” represent the sense of wonder that the ancients had of the life in a world interpreted as containing a goddess of spring, a god of storm, a goddess of sex, and so on. In modernity, and in this story, these gods have become like neglected elderly homeless who scrounge around in lives of squalor as the new gods of technology, like “Media,” “Technical Boy,” and others occupy us with obsessive entertainment and electronic diversion that amounts to sacred devotion to the profane. We’ve lost the “magic” and “wonder” of life. We think we’ve become enlightened and put behind us the ignorance of religion, but we remain decidedly religious creatures who worship new gods under the guise of secularism. The goddess Media sometimes appears as Lucille Ball, sometimes as Marilyn Monroe, icons of worship no less religious than Bilquis the old god of sexuality who calls upon her sexual partners to verbalize worship to her as they engage in sex with her.

Spiritual Profundity

And that is the brilliance of the story, as in the original book by the same title (Although in this case, the show is better than the book). It brings alive a profound truth that modern secular man seeks to deny, namely that secular modernity is just as much a culture of religious worship as the old world. We humans are homo religicus, worshipping beings. And the world of media that traffics in narrative imagination is just as much an artificial creation of the human craving for the transcendent as are the religions of old. We have replaced one mythology with another mythology and mistaken the latter as progress.

Ah, but therein lies the rub… Continue reading

Alien Covenant: Ridley Scott’s Christophobic Atheism

Alien: Covenant views like an atheist version of a bad Christian movie.

Look, I was a fan of the original Alien, as one of the best sci-fi horror films of all time. Although I can no longer watch it because it’s gimmick of slow build suspense doesn’t work any more. It’s no longer scary, it’s just boring. One dinner scene remains emblazoned on film history, I won’t deny that. But the film no longer stands up for me.

Not so with Aliens. Aliens is the only one that still works in the series. It is the classic that surpasses the original. But of course, it isn’t Ridley Scott, it’s James Cameron, a superior storyteller. But I digress.

The Devolution of Atheist Storytelling

It seems as Scott gets older, his hatred of God burns brighter. Which is not a wise thing, considering how close he is in age to his own demise. And the worse his films seem to get as well. It’s almost as if Scott’s filmmaking is an argument for the existence of God. The more you apply atheism to your storytelling, the more irrational and the less satisfying your storytelling is for the human spirit.

Gladiator (2000) was quite simply a masterpiece of filmmaking. But it was pagan. Okay, a pagan masterpiece. An inversion of the gladiator movies of the past from their Judeo-Christian context into a celebration of pagan “transcendence.” Not because Scott (or his atheist screenwriter, David Franzoni) believes in such silly things, of course, but simply as a mythical embrace of anything other than Christianity. All the persecution of Christians in that era was quite literally cut out of the story.

Hannibal (2001) was a mocking subversion of the Christ story that transformed the cannibalistic serial killer into a Christ figure and the “real villain” was a caricature of a fundamentalist Christian. Satan as hero, worthy of the Scorsese award for antichrist filmmaking. And just a stupid movie.

Kingdom of Heaven (2005), was a humanistic reduction of all religion as morally equivalent and reduced to conquest. Wait. No. Actually, it was the denigration of Christianity to Islam, since the Crusades were depicted without their context of defense against imperialist jihad, and since the Muslims were portrayed as being more noble in their culture than the Christians. The story is about a Christian knight after all, who loses his faith in the face of multicultural experience of the other. (once again, any enemy of Christianity seems to be this director’s friend, even if that enemy hates him and wants to enslave the world) The problem is that this movie is an epic that lacks transcendence, even the pagan transcendence of Gladiator, and therefore becomes uninspiring and forgettable.

Prometheus (2012) (another pagan myth) was the mind-numbingly boring attempt to make the ancient aliens theory look aesthetically acceptable. But it’s still just the ridiculous atheist fairy tale that the gods of religion come from aliens. And they laugh at Christians claiming we believe in ridiculous made-up myths! Oh, and don’t forget, in this one, Jesus Christ was an alien. Gotta love that shot of the artwork of an alien in a crucifixion pose. Just give us some aliens vs. humans, damn you!

The Counsellor (2013) an uninspiring piece of nihilistic trash. When you argue that there is no meaning or purpose in reality, is it any wonder, your stories become meaningless and without purpose?

The abominable Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014) displayed Scott’s apex of vile anger and contempt for the God of the Bible by reducing him to a tamper tantrum-throwing child, a figment of delusion—more a projection of Scott’s hypocritical atheist moralizing (since atheism claims there are no moral absolutes) than a nuanced understanding of complex deity and ancient sacred storytelling. They say your view of God is often a reflection of how you see your father. Well, I can only hope Scott will one day see beyond his own self-righteous hatred of daddy to find the grace that would actually give his hopeless life and absurd universe some meaning and purpose.

It Just Keeps Getting Worse

Now, Alien: Covenant carries on Scott’s legacy of Christophobic atheism. Continue reading

A Clear Lens Podcast: I just can’t shut up about Silence or The Shack.

I love these guys. They love movies and Jesus, and we don’t always see eye to eye, but that’s what makes it such engaging discourse. We talked about how powerful the Shack was, but where it failed in a full picture of the Gospel. And with Silence, we dug deep. Some of them liked it more than I did, but after talking, we did agree on the most important thing of all, and that was quite profound…

Take a listen to us talk about The Shack and Silence on their podcast here.

C.S. Lewis, Sci-Fi and Movies & TV

If you love C.S. Lewis and Sci-Fi, you will WANT to buy this book.

I wrote the foreword to this mind-bending exploration of all things Lewis and sci-fi in media entertainment.

Here is the description:

The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis’s masterpiece in ethics and the philosophy of science, warns of the danger of combining modern moral skepticism with the technological pursuit of human desires. The end result is the final destruction of human nature. From Brave New World to Star Trek, from steampunk to starships, science fiction film has considered from nearly every conceivable angle the same nexus of morality, technology, and humanity of which C. S. Lewis wrote. As a result, science fiction film has unintentionally given us stunning depictions of Lewis’s terrifying vision of the future. In Science Fiction Film and the Abolition of Man, scholars of religion, philosophy, literature, and film explore the connections between sci-fi film and the three parts of Lewis’s book: how sci-fi portrays “Men without Chests” incapable of responding properly to moral good, how it teaches the Tao or “The Way,” and how it portrays “The Abolition of Man.”

You can get it on Kindle here.
You can get it in paperback here.

Captain America: Civil War: American Exceptionalism in a Corrupt World

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There is a passage in the New Testament, Acts 17, that tells the story of the apostle Paul preaching his message of good news to the Greek pagans on Mars Hill. I wrote in an article and in a book about how Paul actually subverts the Greco-Roman culture by retelling the ancient pagan Stoic narrative redefined through a Christian worldview. He was so familiar with pagan beliefs that he could quote them and even retell their narratives. That means he studied his culture in order to connect with it so that he could share with that culture the risen Jesus, whom he had encountered. He read their philosophy and knew their myths and cultural narratives. The passage begins with him telling the Athenians that he perceived they were a religious people, based on their altar for an unknown god amidst the many of the pantheon.

I feel like that when I watch Marvel movies such as Captain America: Civil War.

I perceive that America is a religious people. I don’t mean in the old sense of the “Christian America” origins or even the high percentage of American believers in that God. What I mean is that as Western society has become more secular and more Christophobic, it has correspondingly become, not less religious, but more pagan in its religiosity.

Case in point: Superheroes.*

Pagan religiosity is illustrated in the polytheistic embrace of this new pantheon of gods. It is not news that superheroes are modernized updated versions of ancient gods 2.0. Humanity craves transcendence and deity, and if we refuse the living god, we replace him with new gods, and a new religion. So even the secular reductionism of the modern superhero only serves to perpetuate religious myth in a “secular” pseudoscientific garb. Most superheroes have some kind of scientific origin for their powers. Even Thor is not supernatural, but merely an ancient alien.

Romans 1:21–23
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

The modern world rejects the living God and so it creates substitute gods and religions in order to tell stories that embody its values.

But in spite of this idolatry, and like Paul with the Stoics on Mars Hill, I am often amazed to find some powerful truths in the Marvel universe with which I would certainly want to agree.

One of those values is the American Exceptionalism of Captain America.

Movies are not made in a vacuum. They often reflect the zeitgeist or “spirit of the age” that permeates our culture. We are a polytheistic society that has become increasingly polarized in our political and cultural wars. Thus it is no surprise that our gods now express that internal hostility in such movies as Captain America: Civil War (CA:CW) and Batman Vs. Superman. As one of the characters says in CA:CW, “An empire that crumbles from its enemies can rise again, but if it crumbles from within, it is dead forever.” The villain in CA:CW seeks to get his enemies, the Avengers to kill each other.

But in contrast with the usual multicultural zeitgeist of Hollywood is Marvel’s apparent rejection of the socialist utopian madness that is gripping the minds of our society like the talons of a possessing demon. We have become cynical and nihilistic, thus, the perennially perfect good guy, Superman (Of the DC universe) has renounced his American citizenship in the comics, and turned dark along with the Dark Knight by Frank Miller (UPDATE: Correction on the Batman Vs. Superman movie).

But into this cynical world, comes the superhero from the past, Captain America. Quite literally, he is transported into our modern world from the old days of WWII. So he still has those quaint American values that Superman rejected in a previous movie (“Truth, Justice” but certainly no “American Way”). And that is what makes our modern cynical society willing to watch him, because they see it as outdated anachronistic and ironic in juxtaposition with our modern day. Oh, how cynics and nihilists love “irony.”

But it is just here that Cap becomes the lesson from the “greatest generation.” It is precisely those values of “outdated” left behind American Exceptionalism from a bygone era, an era usually damned as “Ozzie and Harriet” values, that becomes the goodness, integrity and righteousness that could save us from ourselves. The values of chivalry that seems arrogant and presumptuous to modern left wing collectivism and the so-called anti-colonialism of Obama’s America.

I won’t pretend to understand all the mythic trails of the Marvel universe, nor remember all the tedious details of their mythology and characters. But the big picture story of Captain America: Civil War is that the world is blaming the Avengers for all the destruction that has occurred because of the terror activities of Hydra’s bad guys who want to control the world. Hmmmm, does that sound like America being blamed while protecting the world from a certain extreme wing of a certain religion we all know is performing jihad in the name of their god? And while we are at it, let’s throw in the atheist religion of communism that still threatens the globe. So these bad guys are so evil, they cause great swathes of destruction as the Avengers fight to stop them. Entire cities wiped out, innocent lives lost, the usual collateral damage that totalitarian regimes cause when stood up to.

And yet, the world blames the Avengers for it! WTF? The Avengers are accused of “routinely ignoring sovereign borders” as if they are global bullies engaging in macroagressions rather than saving everyone’s asses. (Quick, where is the safe space with playdoh and crayons?!)

As the Vision, who is supposed to be very intelligent AI, very stupidly says, “Our very strength invites challenge, and challenge breeds hostility.” This blaming of the victim is the very heart and soul of the left wing Anti-Americanism that is destroying our country from within. It is a collectivism that doesn’t understand the nature of evil. It is not strength that breeds or invites hostility, it is weakness that does. Bullies don’t pick on the strong, they pick on the weak. Communist countries, and Islamic terrorists “vote for the strong horse.” They will only stop when forced to stop — by strength.

Captain America understands the nature of evil, and the nature of American Exceptionalism. He says, “When you can do the things we can, but you don’t, then bad things happen because of what you didn’t do.” When America pulls out, evil grows to fill that void.

But the world blames the good guys, and seeks to have them sign a treaty of “accords” that would place the Avengers under the authority of the United Nations, to be more collectively accountable. Think of it as redistribution of power. Funny how the greed of envy works, isn’t it? Legalizing theft and crybullying.

It is here that the movie seeks to have a dialectic between collectivism and individualism. Some of the Avengers turn wimps (led by the chief cynic, Iron Man. Hmmmm, any surprise, the most cynical becomes the first fooled?), and they split between two camps of Avengers, those who seek to sign the accords and appease the envy and greed of morally inferior debtor nations, and those led by Cap, who has “faith in individuals,” and a strong moral compass to be leaders in righteous strength.

The appeaser Avengers “do what has to be done to stave off something worse,” and in so doing, actually make matters worse, precisely because that collective authority (the UN) under whom they place themselves is morally inferior.

It is here that the movie becomes fallacious in depicting the UN as a neutral body of nations who just want to have peace and order, when in reality, it is a corrupt body of greedy and immoral criminals (See the documentary U.N. Me). But I get it, they want to show both sides at their best in order to have a “balanced” dialectic.

But the true moral superiority of Captain America and his Americanism shines when he says he won’t sign the accords because it keeps them from fighting evil, which makes evil win. As he says, “When I see a situation going south, I can’t ignore it,” and “Even if the whole world tells you something is wrong when it is right, you say, No.” This is how a righteous man thinks, a moral man, a strong protector of the weak.

But this is not a naïve self image that ignores America’s faults or imperfections. No nation is perfect, and certainly not America, but it’s the best we’ve got. As Cap says, “We may not be perfect, but the safest heads are our own.” American Exceptionalism is not “my country, right or wrong,” but it’s also not the moral relativism of multiculturalism that concludes that our morality is no better than any other country’s morality. Moral fools propound moral equivalence.

The collectivism of the United Nations does not create peace, it creates war, by tearing down the strength of the righteous just like it did to the Avengers. The selfish greedy thievery of socialist redistribution does not create wealth, it destroys it. The oppression of human rights and genocidal impulse of Islamic states is not the equivalent of the Judeo-Christian chivalry and self-sacrifice of the West. There is right and wrong, and some cultures are wrong. Cap believes we must lead by strength and righteousness, which will be the model and example for morally inferior nations to aspire to.

That is what made America great.

And that is what makes Captain America the coolest of all the Avengers and the victor in the inevitable civil war of Avengers at the end.

Nevertheless, like Paul on Mars Hill, I have to say that despite some of these positive truths portrayed in CA:CW, I find myself unsatisfied by the substitute pantheon for the living God. For only with the Judeo-Christian God can there be any intelligibility to the chivalric values of righteous strength. Without God, even American Exceptionalism is hollow idolatry. Without a transcendent God, all values are morally equivalent as the godless and nihilist argue. One man’s superhero is another man’s supervillain. Without God, there is no righteous nation, just nations and their gods vying for power — and the will to power rules.

Without the one God of the Bible, there is no justice, there is only war.

 

* Another example of the spreading influence of paganism is Environmentalism and the Climate Change Cult that is sweeping over nations like a global Crusade. It is a return to pagan earth worship with a fascist religious regime akin to the Inquisition, complete with high priests, punishment for heretics and End of the World threats.

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OSCAR WATCH • Mad Max: Fury Road – Feminist Heroine and Her Dog Max Fight the Evil Patriarchy

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Post-apocalyptic action. Mad Max, a loner in a desert world of male gangs, cars, and water shortage is held captive by an evil dictator. When one of the dictator’s chief drivers, Imperator Furiosa, turns against him and escapes with female sex slaves, Max is pulled into the ride of his life – or death.

Mad Max Reboot with a Gender Transformation

Actually, the logline isn’t really accurate, cause it makes it seem like it’s Max’s story. But it isn’t. It’s Furiosa’s story. She is the real hero of the piece. Which is interesting, since Max, made famous by Mel Gibson (and made famous Mel Gibson), has been the star of the series of post-apocalyptic macho mayhem from the beginning. It looks like this testosterone franchise just got itself castrated with a feminist subversion, a sign of the real war — on boys.

It should have been called: Imperator Furiosa and Her Dog Max.

I gotta hand it to Miller, the filmmaker, it is a brilliant tactic of social commentary to make an action movie that subverts the genre by giving the viewer what they want, but twisting it into an indictment against them. A kinder gentler misandry.

I wrote about the feminist action silliness of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Well, that was NOTHING, compared to this. Read on… Continue reading

Star Wars VII: Star Wars IV Redo with Female Feminist Luke

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The Empire of the galaxy is trying to crush the rebellion and destroy the Republic, unless a droid can get a message to the only one who can help them.

Wait, isn’t that the original Star Wars? (episode IV for you fanatics)

Yep.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is like one big homage to the original Star Wars. Or is it a remake?

Uninspiring.

And that’s coming from a fan of the original and Empire Strikes Back (except for the godless worldview :-).

All the other four movies were horrible boring pedantic wastes of precious time.

Oh, yeah, I know, I’m “an idiot” because this one will be the biggest box office phenomenon in movie history, so what do I know?  But I think there are two main reasons why it is a hit:

#1. And pretty much the biggest reason. All of us want to see Han, Chewy, Luke and Leia again. Period. That alone will draw gazillions. But that doesn’t make it a great story.

#2. The original story was successful, so Abrams ditched the dead end self-indulgent narcissism of Lucas’ prequels and remade the original. Cleverly and ruthlessly calculated for marketing formulas.

The sad and ironic truth is that much of Hollywood’s success in sequels is simply retelling the same exact original story in a new context. People want more of the same, over and over again. And that is why many tentpole movies and other mainstream movies recycle the same stuff over and over again.

It’s not always bad. I mean that’s why genre movies work: formulas. Formula isn’t always bad. And I could give a million examples of great stories in history that are refurbished or rewritten versions of previous stories (Empire is arguably better than IV). So, I’m not saying it doesn’t work or that it’s all wrong. The goal is to reinterpret and add unique twists that clothe that success with a fresh take. Disguise the homage, don’t trumpet it.

In this case, I thought the redux was uninspiring and forgettable. Okay, I loved to see Han and Chewy again. Even though poor Han at his age can barely fight anymore. And a few lines were kinda funny. And I do love a story pitting a Republic against an Empire.

So, this movie replays so many things that were reminiscent of the original. And I’m sure Star Wars religious fanatics could list off more than these:

Spoiler Alert (But not really, because I already revealed everything in the headline)
Enjoy… Continue reading

Of Myth and the Bible – Part 9: Flying Fiery Serpents

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In my novel Joshua Valiant I tell the infamous story of Nehushtan, the bronze serpent, from Numbers 21. As Moses leads the people of Israel through the Negeb desert on their way to enter the Transjordan, the Israelites grumble and complain yet again about their lack of food and water. Yahweh responds by sending serpents to punish them.

Numbers 21:6–9
Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

brazen-serpentAThe Hebrew word for “fiery serpents” used in this text is seraph, which is the same word used for the winged serpentine guardians of Yahweh’s throne in passages like Isaiah 6:2.[1] There are several different Hebrew words that can be used for serpents, so the choice of this word here should clue us into the deliberations of the writer. While the notion of “fiery” can refer to the venomous sting of a desert snake such as a viper or cobra, there may be more going on here than a mere poetic description of snake bites.

The picture of seraph snakes having wings shows up in two other passages from Isaiah.

Isaiah 14:29
29 Rejoice not, O Philistia, all of you, that the rod that struck you is broken, for from the serpent’s root will come forth an adder, and its fruit will be a flying fiery serpent.

 

Isaiah 30:6–7
6 An oracle on the beasts of the Negeb. Through a land of trouble and anguish, from where come the lioness and the lion, the adder and the flying fiery serpent, they carry their riches on the backs of donkeys, and their treasures on the humps of camels, to a people that cannot profit them. 7 Egypt’s help is worthless and empty; therefore I have called her “Rahab who sits still.”

Both of these prophecies against Philistia and Egypt respectively use the idea of a “flying fiery serpent” as a poetic description of the evil or dangerous nature of those nations. Though they are not required to be literal existing creatures for the prophecy to be legitimate, they nevertheless use the same Hebrew reference to fiery serpents that was used in the more historical passage of Numbers describing the “fiery serpents.”

Additionally, the Isaiah 30 passage describes these flying fiery serpents as the beasts of the Negeb, the same location for the fiery serpents of Numbers 21.

Jacob Milgrom argues that the bronze or copper snake that Moses put on the pole was a winged serpent. He concludes this from the link of the Hebrew seraph to the Egyptian uraeus serpent.

UreusEgypt is the home for images of winged serpents. For example, the arms on the throne of Tutankhamen consist of two wings of a four-winged snake (uraeus), which rise vertically from the back of the seat. Indeed, the erect cobra, or uraeus, standing on its coil is the symbol of royalty for the pharaoh and the gods throughout Egyptian history. Winged uraei dating from the Canaanite period have been found, proving that the image of the winged serpent was well known in ancient Israel.[2]

Scholar Karen Randolph Joines adds more to the Egyptian origin of this motif, by explaining that the usage of serpent images to defend against snakes was also an exclusively Egyptian notion without evidence in Canaan or Mesopotamia.[3]
But the important element of these snakes being flying serpents or even dragons with mythical background is reaffirmed in highly respected lexicons such as the Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew Lexicon.[4]

The final clause in Isaiah 30:7 likening Egypt’s punishment to the sea dragon Rahab lying dead in the desert is a further mythical serpentine connection, as the sea dragon represented chaos in the ancient Middle East.[5]

But the Bible and Egypt are not the only places where we read of flying serpents in the desert. Hans Wildeberger points out historical Assyrian king Esarhaddon’s description of flying serpents in his tenth campaign to Egypt in the seventh century B.C.

“A distance of 4 double-hours I marched over a territory covered with alum and mûṣu[-stone]. A distance of 4 double-hours in a journey of 2 days (there were) two-headed serpents [whose attack] (spelled) death—but I trampled (upon them) and marched on. A distance of 4 double-hours in a journey of 2 days (there were) green [animals] [Tr.: Borger: “serpents”] whose wings were batting. A distance of 4 double-hours in a journey of 2 days…”[6]

fiery serpent

The Greek historian Herodotus wrote of “sacred” winged serpents and their connection to Egypt in his Histories:

There is a place in Arabia not far from the town of Buto where I went to learn about the winged serpents. When I arrived there, I saw innumerable bones and backbones of serpents… This place, where the backbones lay scattered, is where a narrow mountain pass opens into a great plain, which adjoins the plain of EgyptWinged serpents are said to fly from Arabia at the beginning of spring, making for Egypt… The serpents are like water-snakes. Their wings are not feathered but very like the wings of a bat. I have now said enough concerning creatures that are sacred.[7]

The notion of flying serpents in the Bible as mythical versus historical is certainly debated among scholars, but this debate gives certain warrant to the imaginative usage of winged flying serpents appearing in Chronicles of the Nephilim.[8]

 

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[1] Timothy R. Ashley, The Book of Numbers, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1993), 404–405.
[2] Jacob Milgrom, Numbers, The JPS Torah Commentary (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1990), 459.
[3] Karen Randolph Joines, “The Bronze Serpent in the Israelite Cult,” Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 87, No. 3 (Sep., 1968), 251.
[4] Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 2000), 977. Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures(Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 795. See also, James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).
[5] “This final clause uses the name Rahab (51:9; Job 9:13; 26:12; Ps 87:4; 89:11), the great sea monster from ancient Near Eastern legends, as a symbol for Egypt. The final cryptic clause, “Rahab the Do-Nothing” (NIV), interprets “Do-Nothing” as a sarcastic name for this supposedly powerful monster. Beuken prefers to interpret this as Rahab “who sits still,” meaning that Egypt will not come to assist Judah in her conflict with Assyria.133 Another possible translation is Rahab the dead one. All these warnings argue for a policy that does not depend on Egypt. It makes no sense to trust in a political policy that is sure to fail. It is futile to follow a plan that God opposes.” Gary V. Smith, Isaiah 1–39, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, The New American Commentary (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2007), 513.
[6] Hans Wildberger, A Continental Commentary: Isaiah 28-39(Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2002), 136. Quoting from James Bennett Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near East an Anthology of Texts and Pictures, 3rd ed. with Supplement (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), 292.
[7] Herodotus, Herodotus, With an English Translation by A. D. Godley, ed. A. D. Godley (Medford, MA: Harvard University Press, 1920) Histories 2:75.1-76.3. Thanks to my editor, Don Enevoldsen, for this reference.
[8] Scholars who acknowledge the evidence for mythical flying serpents, but argue against it: Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 796; R. Laird Harris, “2292 שָׂרַף,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 884.