Does “neither the Son” belong in Matthew 24:36?


by Shawn Brasseaux

In the King James Bible, Matthew 24:36 reads: “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” Strangely, modern versions have: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (By the way, as a tangential comment, notice “my Father” was changed to “the Father,” eliminating a most important personal reference). We want to draw our attention to a stark inclusion. Whereas they usually omit or remove words found in the King James, here is one example of modern translations adding words. Modern versions contain “nor the Son,” but not the Authorized Version. Why does this disparity exist? How do we establish the correct reading? “For what saith the Scriptures?”


There are two reasons why the King James Bible and modern versions read differently. (And, contrary to what you have heard, there are differences—major differences! Here is one such instance, where a phrase is found in the former and not in the latter. That is distinction worth noting, and not to be taken lightly or easily dismissed.)

Firstly, there are two Greek New Testament manuscript families. It is not a matter of “old English” versus “modern English,” but rather competing manuscripts forming respective bases for those English versions. Earlier English Bibles—the last being the King James Bible—relied on one set of manuscripts (commonly called the Textus Receptus). However, about 140 years ago, British “scholarship” began to shift from that set of Greek Bible manuscripts and began to embrace the other manuscript stream. The result was the 1881 Revised Version (RV). Intended to be an “improved” Authorized Version (King James Bible), it was actually based on a different manuscript family. The alterations were extensive, and that was due to the influence of two apostate Cambridge “scholars,” Westcott and Hort, emphasizing Roman Catholic readings (Codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus). In 1901, the American Standard Version—the American counterpart of the 1881 British RV—was released. Over 100 modern English versions have since followed, heavily depending on the “new” manuscript family as translation sources.

Secondly, modern English versions differ from the King James Bible because they were rendered using two divergent translation philosophies. Opinions of men have crept into the modern versions through a technique called “dynamic equivalence” (words can be changed, so long as their “sense” is retained—which is impossible!). The King James is not only based on the proper manuscripts, it was rendered correctly because of its “formal equivalence” (individual words matter, not merely thoughts!). While more could be said, this is enough information to set the background for the matter at hand.


Let us look at the verse comparison once again.

  • King James: “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”
  • Modern versions: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

“Nor the Son” appears in modern versions, but not the King James. Why? This is because modern versions depend on manuscripts that are not the same as the manuscripts on which the King James is based. The modern Greek has “nor the Son” in Matthew 24:36; the King James Greek (Textus Receptus) lacks it.

At this point, the modern version proponent would appeal to the parallel verse, Mark 13:32. Here is the verse in the King James: “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” Now, Mark 13:32 in modern versions: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” So, the phrase “nor the Son” appears in both the King James and modern versions in Mark 13:32. Yet, it appears in Matthew 24:36 in modern versions only. The modern version supporters would argue it belongs in both verses, and the King James and its manuscripts are wrong in “eliminating” it from Matthew 24:36.

To summarize, one of two possibilities is true:

  1. Either…. The King James and its manuscripts removed “nor the Son” (“oude o huios”) from Matthew 24:36. Thus, Mark 13:32 indicates the phrase belongs in Matthew. (Here is what modern-version supporters contend.)
  2. Or…. The modern versions* and their manuscripts added “nor the Son” (“oude o huios”) in Matthew 24:36 to force it to match Mark 13:32. (This is the argument of the King James users.)

(*Modern versions: American Standard Version, Amplified Bible, English Standard Version, Good News Translation, Holman Christian Standard Bible, Living Bible, The Message, New American (Roman Catholic) Bible, New American Standard Bible, New International Version, New Living Translation, New Revised Standard Version, New World Translation [“Jehovah’s Witness bible”], Revised Standard Version, the Voice.)

Who is right? Which position is correct? This will be quite a challenge, huh? How would we even proceed in resolving this technical conflict? Actually, friend, it is not that difficult!

It is generally agreed that the Book of Matthew presents Jesus Christ as King, while the Book of Mark views Him as Servant. A careful comparison of both Books yields this to be true. This would explain why Matthew and Mark do not read word-for-word all the time. The Holy Spirit is emphasizing or stressing various and sundry points in order to portray Jesus from diverse angles. (Luke and John are two other independent Gospel Records, meant to read differently as well.)

John 15:14-15 is useful here: “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” Could the Bible be clearer here? Does the servant know what his master is doing? No! Both the Authorized Version and modern versions agree here. Let us read those same verses in the New International Version: “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” The servant submits to his boss. Stated another way, the employer determines what should be done, then he issues orders to his employee to follow. Jesus’ comments in John actually help us resolve the textual disagreement concerning Matthew 24:36.  


Does “neither the Son” belong in Matthew 24:36? NO! If Mark is stressing Jesus’ servanthood (and that is the overwhelming consensus), and Matthew is underscoring His royalty (and that too no one denies), then Matthew and Mark would not harmonize concerning “knowledge.” Mark would certainly need “nor the Son,” for the Son of God is acting as Servant to Father God. Matthew, however, would not need “nor the Son,” for Matthew is not stressing Jesus’ servanthood. In other words, modern versions discredit themselves. John 15:15 in any and every version demands the inclusion of “nor the Son” in Mark 13:32, but there is no such necessity for its presence in Matthew 24:36 (an entirely different view of Christ!). No, the King James Bible and its underlying Greek did not eliminate “neither the Son” from Matthew. Modern English versions and the modern Greek added “nor the Son” to Matthew, so as to harmonize it with Mark… and they are wrong in doing so.


“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36 KJV). “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32 KJV). No man or angel knows when Jesus Christ will return to Earth at His Second Coming. How could Jesus say that only the Father knew when He would return? Was not Jesus God? Why did Jesus not know when He would return?

Jesus Christ is serving His Father, so He is submitting to His Father when it came to setting dates. Jesus could have openly declared precisely when He would come back, but He would appear to be autonomous (independent). He showed His reliance on Father God by saying that only Father God knew the date of His coming. Remember, Jesus Christ is both God and Man. As God, He knew the future, but, as a Man, Jesus could honestly say He did not know when His Second Coming would occur. Luke 2:40,52 say He learned just like we learn. This is not a detraction of His Deity; it is an emphasis on His Humanity (which we should never ignore either). “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him…. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

Also see:
» Did Jesus ever claim to be God?
» Does God suffer from Alzheimer’s disease?
» Why did God ask where Adam was?

“As the LORD liveth?”


by Shawn Brasseaux

“As the LORD liveth” appears 27 times in the King James Bible (and only in the Old Testament Scriptures). Moreover, there are four variants: “as the LORD God of Israel liveth” (2 times), “as the LORD of hosts liveth” (2 times), “as God liveth” (2 times), and “as the LORD thy God liveth” (2 times). What exactly is being communicated here?

The connotation is a declaration of certainty. There is no doubt or question as to the statement to which the expression is attached. It is the truth, and including God’s name means it is a solemn pledge. In today’s informal English, we would say, “As sure as I am standing here,” “As certain as the sky is blue,” or “As the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.” For your convenience, the pertinent verses have been integrated into this study. Read them carefully, and see how the phrase functions as a guarantee or promise.

  • Judges 8:19: “And he said, They were my brethren, even the sons of my mother: as the LORD liveth, if ye had saved them alive, I would not slay you.”
  • Ruth 3:13: “Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, well; let him do the kinsman’s part: but if he will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee, as the LORD liveth: lie down until the morning.”
  • 1 Samuel 14:39: “For, as the LORD liveth, which saveth Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die. But there was not a man among all the people that answered him.”
  • 1 Samuel 14:45: “And the people said unto Saul, Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel? God forbid: as the LORD liveth, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he hath wrought with God this day. So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not.”
  • 1 Samuel 19:6: “And Saul hearkened unto the voice of Jonathan: and Saul sware, As the LORD liveth, he shall not be slain.”
  • 1 Samuel 20:3: “And David sware moreover, and said, Thy father certainly knoweth that I have found grace in thine eyes; and he saith, Let not Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved: but truly as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death.”
  • 1 Samuel 20:21: “And, behold, I will send a lad, saying, Go, find out the arrows. If I expressly say unto the lad, Behold, the arrows are on this side of thee, take them; then come thou: for there is peace to thee, and no hurt; as the LORD liveth.”
  • 1 Samuel 25:26: “Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, seeing the LORD hath withholden thee from coming to shed blood, and from avenging thyself with thine own hand, now let thine enemies, and they that seek evil to my LORD, be as Nabal.”
  • 1 Samuel 25:34: “For in very deed, as the LORD God of Israel liveth, which hath kept me back from hurting thee, except thou hadst hasted and come to meet me, surely there had not been left unto Nabal by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.”
  • 1 Samuel 26:10: “David said furthermore, As the LORD liveth, the LORD shall smite him; or his day shall come to die; or he shall descend into battle, and perish.”
  • 1 Samuel 26:16: “This thing is not good that thou hast done. As the LORD liveth, ye are worthy to die, because ye have not kept your master, the LORD’S anointed. And now see where the king’s spear is, and the cruse of water that was at his bolster.”
  • 1 Samuel 28:10: “And Saul sware to her by the LORD, saying, As the LORD liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing.”
  • 1 Samuel 29:6: “Then Achish called David, and said unto him, Surely, as the LORD liveth, thou hast been upright, and thy going out and thy coming in with me in the host is good in my sight: for I have not found evil in thee since the day of thy coming unto me unto this day: nevertheless the LORD’S favour thee not.”
  • 2 Samuel 2:27: “And Joab said, As God liveth, unless thou hadst spoken, surely then in the morning the people had gone up every one from following his brother.”
  • 2 Samuel 4:9: “And David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said unto them, As the LORD liveth, who hath redeemed my soul out of all adversity,….”
  • 2 Samuel 12:5: “And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die:….”
  • 2 Samuel 14:11: “Then said she, I pray thee, let the king remember the LORD thy God, that thou wouldest not suffer the revengers of blood to destroy any more, lest they destroy my son. And he said, As the LORD liveth, there shall not one hair of thy son fall to the earth.”
  • 2 Samuel 15:21: “And Ittai answered the king, and said, As the LORD liveth, and as my lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be.”
  • 1 Kings 1:29: “And the king sware, and said, As the LORD liveth, that hath redeemed my soul out of all distress,….”
  • 1 Kings 2:24: “Now therefore, as the LORD liveth, which hath established me, and set me on the throne of David my father, and who hath made me an house, as he promised, Adonijah shall be put to death this day.”
  • 1 Kings 17:1: “And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.”
  • 1 Kings 17:12: “And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”
  • 1 Kings 18:10: As the LORD thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee: and when they said, He is not there; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not.”
  • 1 Kings 18:15: “And Elijah said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely shew myself unto him to day.”
  • 1 Kings 22:14: “And Micaiah said, As the LORD liveth, what the LORD saith unto me, that will I speak.”
  • 2 Kings 2:2: “And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel.”
  • 2 Kings 2:4: “And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho.”
  • 2 Kings 2:6: “And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the LORD hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on.”
  • 2 Kings 3:14: “And Elisha said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee.”
  • 2 Kings 4:30: “And the mother of the child said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And he arose, and followed her.”
  • 2 Kings 5:16: “But he said, As the LORD liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused.”
  • 2 Kings 5:20: “But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, Behold, my master hath spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but, as the LORD liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him.”
  • 2 Chronicles 18:13: “And Micaiah said, As the LORD liveth, even what my God saith, that will I speak.”
  • Job 27:2: As God liveth, who hath taken away my judgment; and the Almighty, who hath vexed my soul;….”
  • Jeremiah 38:16: “So Zedekiah the king sware secretly unto Jeremiah, saying, As the LORD liveth, that made us this soul, I will not put thee to death, neither will I give thee into the hand of these men that seek thy life.”


“As thy soul liveth” is a similar expression, and it appears 10 times (you might have noticed a few in the previous verses). In modern speech, a related phrase is, “As I live and breathe” (an English statement dating back 400 years). Again, it is a promise that the information being relayed is a factual promise and worthy of trust.

  • 1 Samuel 1:26: “And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the LORD.”
  • 1 Samuel 17:55: “And when Saul saw David go forth against the Philistine, he said unto Abner, the captain of the host, Abner, whose son is this youth? And Abner said, As thy soul liveth, O king, I cannot tell.”
  • 1 Samuel 20:3: “And David sware moreover, and said, Thy father certainly knoweth that I have found grace in thine eyes; and he saith, Let not Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved: but truly as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death.”
  • 1 Samuel 25:26: “Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, seeing the LORD hath withholden thee from coming to shed blood, and from avenging thyself with thine own hand, now let thine enemies, and they that seek evil to my lord, be as Nabal.”
  • 2 Samuel 11:11: “And Uriah said unto David, The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing.”
  • 2 Samuel 14:19: “And the king said, Is not the hand of Joab with thee in all this? And the woman answered and said, As thy soul liveth, my lord the king, none can turn to the right hand or to the left from ought that my lord the king hath spoken: for thy servant Joab, he bade me, and he put all these words in the mouth of thine handmaid:….”
  • 2 Kings 2:2: “And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel.”
  • 2 Kings 2:4: “And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the Lord hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho.”
  • 2 Kings 2:6: “And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the Lord hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on.”
  • 2 Kings 4:30: “And the mother of the child said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And he arose, and followed her.”

Also see:
» Is “God forbid” a “poor translation” in the King James Bible?
» Why did Paul write, “I lie not?”
» Does 2 Corinthians 12:16 mean Paul was dishonest?

How does Jesus “live” in our hearts?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Many years ago, this writer posted on the internet, “Jesus lives in my heart by faith.” A scoffer replied with the following: “So, if I were to cut open your heart, would I find a little ‘Jesus’ inside it?” Such is the stupidity of the lost man: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Unless we have the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Scriptures will be utter nonsense to us. Man’s sinful heart prevents him from understanding and enjoying forgiveness of sins and eternal life, but we who have trusted Jesus Christ alone as our personal Saviour can most certainly comprehend and rejoice in such simple truths. Ephesians 3:17 says, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,….” How exactly does Christ dwell in our hearts by faith?

As always, we look at the context. This is part of the Apostle’s Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians in chapter 3 of the Book that bears their name: “[13] Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. [14] For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, [15] Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, [16] That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; [17] That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, [18] May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; [19] And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”

Christ will dwell in our hearts (verse 17) once we are “strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (verse 16). The Holy Spirit will fortify us by using His inspired, preserved Word. In the words of Jesus, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). The Bible is spiritual food; without a daily intake through personal reading and study, our spiritual body deteriorates. Although it frequently happens, we absolutely (!) cannot (!) afford to “skip meals!” Unless we are on a steady diet of sound Bible doctrine—the Word of God rightly divided (2 Timothy 2:15), dispensationally delivered and believed—we will become susceptible to all sorts of spiritual diseases (heresies and apostasies). This is precisely why the professing “Church” is so spiritually immature and impotent now! “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14).

When we realize that Paul is our Apostle (Romans 11:13), God’s spokesman to us, and we understand the Dispensation of the Grace of God was entrusted to him (Ephesians 3:2), then we will pay close attention to the Pauline Bible Books of Romans through Philemon. They describe in great detail Jesus Christ’s very life in this the Dispensation of Grace. It is not merely God wanting us to copy Christ, mimicking or imitating Him. Such would be nothing more than hypocrisy or fakery—and there is already plenty of that in so-called “Christianity!” No, God wants to fill us with the very life of Jesus Christ because He has already given us the very life of Jesus Christ.

Read the Book of Romans, especially the first eight chapters—concentrating heavily on chapter 6. Continue reading on through until you reach Philemon, and you will have covered all 13 Pauline epistles. There is God’s life for you, friend. Once you believe in your heart those verses, the Holy Spirit will take them and use them to work in your heart. “For with the heart man believed unto righteousness,” Romans 10:10 says, in part. The doctrine you read and believed will then flow from your heart (invisible) and out to your daily conduct (visible). If you have truly believed in your heart (and not just your head!), the Word of God’s Grace will be on display in your life… and it will really be Jesus Christ’s life.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe(1 Thessalonians 2:13).

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Also see:
» What is the difference between apostasy and heresy?
» Does doctrine really matter?
» Does it matter which Bible version I use?

Why did John the Baptist behave so strangely?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Consider these two verses regarding John the Baptist. “And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4). “And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;…” (Mark 1:6).

John the Baptist certainly did not conduct himself in any ordinary way, did he? Locusts (grasshoppers) and wild honey were his diet. He wore a garment made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt. The Bible also says he lived out in the wilderness, far away from people. “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel” (Luke 1:80). Some 30 years later, he even conducted his ministry out in the wilderness. “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,…” (Matthew 3:1). “John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4). “Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness” (Luke 3:2).

One cross-reference helpful in understanding John the Baptist’s manner of living and ministry is 2 Kings 1:8: “And they answered him, He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah the Tishbite.” The Prophet Elijah and John the Baptist are very closely related (see Matthew 11:11-15, Matthew 17:10-13, and Mark 9:11-13). (Be sure to note “Elias” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Elijah.”) Perhaps the clearest verse is Luke 1:17: “And he [John the Baptist] shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” This is actually an allusion to Malachi 4:5-6, written about four centuries before John the Baptist: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”

Elijah’s ministry was managed as apostate King Ahab and Queen Jezebel increasingly polluted the 10 tribes of the Northern Kingdom with pagan idolatry (Baal worship). Be sure to read 1 Kings chapters 16–22, with Elijah first appearing in chapter 17. Israel has heathen leaders, and the LORD God confronts them through Elijah’s preaching! If you are familiar with the Four Gospel Records—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—you will immediately see the parallel. Apostates here are in the form of chief priests, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers, Herodians, and so on. They are actively opposed to the Lord Jesus Christ, and do everything they can to malign and discredit Him. Ultimately, it was these “religious” leaders who presided over His trial, deliberately and unapologetically lied about Him, and then demanded Roman Governor Pontius Pilate crucify Him! John the Baptist had rightly titled them “vipers” (Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7)—snakes, deceptive souls akin to the serpent Satan!

That being said, John the Baptist is dressed in such a way as to cause the nation Israel to remember their spiritual condition in the days of Elijah. His camel’s hair garment and leather belt are reminiscent of Elijah’s clothes, are they not? The paganism (false religion) that deceived and plagued the Jews in Elijah’s time is exactly the system Satan is operating so as to oppose Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry! As for John eating locusts and wild honey, locusts are nothing but grasshoppers (and the Mosaic Law permitted their consumption in Leviticus 11:22). The honey likely made grasshoppers “tastier!”

John lived out in the wilderness not only to fulfill prophecy (see Isaiah 40:3 cf. Matthew 3:3), but also to call Israel away from the apostate religious system centered in the Jerusalem Temple. Instead of being a priest like his father Zacharias and serving in the Temple (Luke 1:5-9), John the Baptist was out in the desert places because the Temple had been corrupted and converted into the house—yea, had become the headquarters—of a vain, worthless religion that will eventually lead to the Antichrist’s satanic regime and his Whore of Babylon religion (pictured in Ahab and Jezebel)!

Also see:
» Why was the Temple’s veil rent when Christ died?
» How could John the Baptist question if Jesus really is Christ?
» Was John the Baptist really Elijah?

Who wrote Romans—Paul, or Tertius?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Suppose we are reading Romans in its entirety, from start to finish. It has been quite edifying, to say the least. By the time we get to the end, however, we are surprised. Chapter 16, verse 22: “I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord.” Wait! Just wait a minute! Were we not under the impression the Apostle Paul was writing Romans? Then, who is this “Tertius” fellow? Why does he “audaciously” thrust himself into a “Pauline” doctrinal treatise?

Tertius is simply a secretary, no different from an “administrative assistant” taking dictation from his or her boss. Although the mechanical writing is that of the servant, the thoughts belong to the manager. Be careful to note the authority still lies in the superior individual. In other words, the involvement of a secretary in no way diminishes the importance of the document. We would do well to notice Romans chapter 1, verse 1, begins with Paul as opposed to Tertius: Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,….” The Book of Romans carries Paul’s apostolic authority. Paul is addressing the Roman believers, although he has employed Tertius to actually hold and use the writing instrument.

Who is Tertius anyway? He appears just this once in Scripture, so we cannot say much. His name is of Latin origin and it means “third.” For example, in the series—primary (first), secondary (second), tertiary (third)—his name is related to the number three. He would have also been a Christian, present with Paul at the time of writing Romans (Acts 20:1-3?). Besides these few facts, nothing else is known about him.

By the way, the technical term for Tertius’ job is an “amanuensis,” that is, “one employed to write from dictation or to copy manuscript.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary has the following etymological information: “In Latin, the phrase servus a manu translates loosely as ‘slave with secretarial duties.’ (The noun manu, meaning ‘hand,’ gave us words such as manuscript, originally meaning a document written or typed by hand.) In the 17th century the second part of this phrase was borrowed into English to create amanuensis, a word for a person who is employed (willingly) to do the important but sometimes menial work of transcribing the words of another. While other quaint words, such as scribe or scrivener, might have similarly described the functions of such a person in the past, these days we’re likely to call him or her a secretary, or maybe an administrative assistant.”

Lastly, and most importantly, we remember the Holy Spirit “moved” the Apostle Paul to select words with which He wanted to form the Book of Romans. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:20-21). Paul then dictated those words to Tertius, who subsequently wrote them down to produce the Book of Romans. In summary, the Holy Spirit guided Paul to speak audibly, and He superintended Tertius to write physically. Just as Paul’s connection does not take away God’s authority from Romans, so Tertius’ participation does not detract from Paul’s authority in Romans. Simple!

Also see:
» “Epistle” and “letter”—same or different?
» Can you explain Galatians 6:11?
» What was “the epistle from Laodicea?”

What does “ado” mean?


by Shawn Brasseaux

It is a bizarre little word, found only once in a King James Bible. Mark 5:39 tells us, “And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.” What could “ado” mean?

One way to discover the meaning is to scan the context (previous verse). “And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.” To further amplify our understanding, we turn to Matthew chapter 9 for the parallel account: “[23] And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, [24] He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn.”

The Greek word for “ado” is “thorybeo,” and it was rendered “making a noise” in Matthew (see above). In the wake of Jairus’ daughter’s death, loved ones are crying and moaning, professional mourners are grieving, and musicians (flutists) are playing a sad song. What a “tumult” or commotion! Such “trouble” struck those who witnessed Eutychus’ tragic death in Acts 20:10. The city of Thessalonica was “set on an uproar” because unbelieving Jews stirred it up against the Apostle Paul and other Christians (Acts 17:5). Similar disturbances or upheavals can be found in Matthew 26:5, Matthew 27:24, Mark 5:38, Mark 14:2, Acts 20:1, Acts 21:34, and Acts 24:18.

“Ado” may seem strange to us, but it is really an abbreviated form of two familiar words. In Middle English (1300s), it was the infinitive phrase “at do,” with the original sense being “action, business.” Later, the “t” in “at” was dropped and the expression became “ado.”

Also see:
» What does “subvert” mean?
» What does “implacable” mean?
» What does “fetch a compass” mean?

How was Marcus “sister’s son to Barnabas?”


by Shawn Brasseaux

Colossians 4:10 in the King James Bible tells us, “Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;)….” Marcus is said to be “sister’s son to Barnabas.” Barnabas’ sister is Marcus’ mother; therefore, Marcus is Barnabas’ nephew. Alas, some have complicated the matter by arguing “sister’s son” is inappropriate, since the Greek word for “sister” (“adelphe”) appears nowhere in the verse. What our Authorized Version scholars have translated “sister’s son” is “anepsios” (“a” [article of union] joined to an obsolete word “nepos” [“brood, family”]). How should we go about handling this issue?

Here are the earlier English Bibles (note the King James Bible was published later, in 1611):

  • WYCLIFFE BIBLE (1382): “Aristarchus, prisoner with me [mine even-captive, or prisoner with me], greeteth you well, and Marcus, the cousin of Barnabas, of whom ye have taken commandments; if he come to you, receive ye him;….” (This edition of Wycliffe has modernized spellings, as Middle English is unintelligible to us.)
  • TYNDALE BIBLE (1530): “Aristarchus my preson felowe saluteth you and Marcus Barnabassis systers sonne: touchinge whom ye receaved commaundementes. Yf he come vnto you receave him:….”
  • COVERDALE BIBLE (1535): “Aristarchus my preson felowe saluteth you, and Marcus Barnabasses sisters sonne, touchinge whom ye receaued commaundementes: Yf he come vnto you, receaue him,….”
  • MATTHEW BIBLE (1537): “Aristarchus my preson felowe saluteth you/and Marcus Barnabas systers sonne: touching whom ye receaued commaundementes. If he come unto you/receaue hym:….”
  • GREAT BIBLE (1539): “Aristarchus my preson felowe saluteth you, and Marcus Barnabas systers sonne: touchynge whom, ye receaued commaundementes. If he come vnto you, receaue hym:….”
  • GENEVA BIBLE (1557): “Aristarchus my prison fellow saluteth you, and Marcus, Barnabas’s cousin (touching whom ye received commandments: If he come unto you, receive him.)” (The spelling here has been modernized.)
  • BISHOPS BIBLE (1568): “Aristarchus my prison felowe saluteth you, & Marcus Barnabas sisters sonne, (touchyng whom ye receaued commaundementes:) If he come vnto you, receaue hym….”

Most of them agree with the King James Bible—or, better stated, the King James Bible (published after) agrees with most of them. Only two out of the seven read “cousin.” The King James follows the remaining five with “sister’s son.” (In fact, the King James is largely based on Tyndale’s work, so the two read quite similarly here and many other places.)

In stark contrast, as pertaining to the modern English versions (produced during the last 150 years), “cousin” is the prevailing reading—Amplified Bible, Contemporary English Version, God’s Word, Holman Christian Standard Bible, Phillips, The Message, New American Standard Bible, New Century Version, New English Translation, New International Version, New King James Version, New American (Roman Catholic) Bible, New Living Translation, New Revised Standard Version, New World Translation (“Jehovah’s Witness Bible”), Revised Version, Revised Standard Version, The Voice. The Living Bible takes a more general position with “relative.” Knox’s Translation (Roman Catholic Bible) has “kinsman.”

Unfortunately, the King James translators are no longer alive on Earth (they are in Heaven!), so we cannot ask them why they chose “sister’s son” over a broader term (“cousin,” “relative,” “kinsman,” et cetera). All we have is speculation—and that will get us nowhere. So, what should we do? We take the position of faith and retain their reading. If we are “Bible believers” as we claim, then we will believe the Bible we have. If we disagree with it, and seek to change its text, then it is not (as we assert) our final authority. We should believe whatever Bible we use, or we need to stop playing the hypocrite and find a Bible we do believe. As touching many other passages, the King James translators have proven beyond any shadow of a doubt they were fully competent in handling the Greek, Hebrew, and other manuscripts before them—as well as the English Bibles that preceded their translation work. We trust they made the right choice in conveying the sense of the original Hebrew and Greek into English, and that would include “sister’s son” in Colossians 4:10.


“Marcus” is his Latin and Greek name (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24; 1 Peter 5:13). He is also known as “John surnamed Mark” (Acts 12:12,25; Acts 15:37), “John” being his name in Hebrew. In 2 Timothy 4:11, he is simply called “Mark.” Acts chapter 13, verses 5 and 13, refer to him as merely “John.” John Mark was a servant and ministry coworker of the Apostles Peter, Saul/Paul, and Barnabas. He accompanied Barnabas and Saul/Paul on their first apostolic journey, but abandoned them in Acts 13:13.

According to Acts 15:36-41, when Paul and Barnabas were setting out on their second apostolic journey, Barnabas preferred to take John Mark along with them but Paul opposed the idea because of Mark’s prior faithlessness. (Remember, Barnabas was partial to Mark because Mark was his nephew!) This major disagreement forced Paul and Barnabas to split, and they no longer travel together. Whereas Barnabas took John Mark, Paul picked up a new ministry coworker by the name of Silas. Many years later (15? 20?), John Mark and Paul reconciled, which brings us to Paul’s latter writings of Colossians 4:10, Philemon 24, and 2 Timothy 4:11. “He is profitable to me for the ministry.”

Also see:
» Why does the King James Bible say “nephews” instead of “grandchildren” in 1 Timothy 5:4?
» Were the King James translators justified in adding “women” to Matthew 24:41?
» Were the King James translators justified in adding the word “quarters” in Acts 9:32?

How does the LORD “dwell in the thick darkness?”


by Shawn Brasseaux

We read this expression twice in a King James Bible. “Then spake Solomon, The LORD said that he would dwell in the thick darkness (1 Kings 8:12). “Then said Solomon, The LORD hath said that he would dwell in the thick darkness(2 Chronicles 6:1). In what sense does God “dwell in the thick darkness?”

Back when God appeared to the nation Israel at Mount Sinai, Scripture states the following: “And the LORD said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the LORD” (Exodus 19:9). Also, Exodus 20:21: “And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.” This was repeated 40 years later, in Deuteronomy. “And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness(Deuteronomy 4:11). “These words the LORD spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me” (Deuteronomy 5:22). Finally, Leviticus 16:2: “And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.”

When God manifested His presence to ancient Israel, it was in the form of a shadowy cloud. It may help us to think of it as resembling a fog, mist, or haze. This is the “Shekinah glory” (“dwelling glory”) as found above the Mercy Seat, the lid of the Ark of the Covenant, that sat in the innermost room of the Tabernacle. Go to Exodus chapter 40: “[34] Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. [35] And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. [36] And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: [37] But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. [38] For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.” (See also Exodus 25:22; Leviticus 16:2; 2 Samuel 6:2; 2 Kings 19:14-15; Psalm 80:1; Isaiah 37:16; Ezekiel 9:3; Ezekiel 10:18; Hebrews 9:5.)

Returning to King Solomon’s words as found at the beginning of our study, we understand they are made in relation to his Temple in Jerusalem. You can read 1 Kings chapters 5–7 and 2 Chronicles chapters 2–4 for all the details. After its completion, Solomon dedicated the edifice with a speech to the people and a prayer to the LORD. Whereas the LORD had been abiding with Israel in the Tabernacle, now Solomon besought Him to move into a new house. “Then spake Solomon, The LORD said that he would dwell in the thick darkness. I have surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in for ever” (1 Kings 8:12-13). “Then said Solomon, The LORD hath said that he would dwell in the thick darkness. But I have built an house of habitation for thee, and a place for thy dwelling for ever” (2 Chronicles 6:1-2).

The LORD most certainly approved of Solomon’s Temple, as recorded in 2 Chronicles chapter 5: “[13] It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; [14] So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God.”

Also see:
» Why was the Temple’s veil rent when Christ died?
» How could Jonah flee from God’s presence?
» Can you explain Luke 18:13, “God be merciful to me a sinner?”

Can you explain Psalm 22:20-21?


by Shawn Brasseaux

How should we handle these two verses from Psalm 22? “[20] Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. [21] Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.” Several enigmatic references make this passage a real challenge. How is a “sword” involved? What is “my darling?” Why is there a reference to a “dog?” Are not “unicorns” fiction?

As always, we look at the context to gather some basic clues. Psalm 22:1-19, of course, deals with Christ’s crucifixion. Verse 1 matches Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34, with Jesus crying out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Verses 7-8 are fulfilled in Matthew 27:39-44, Mark 15:29-32, and Luke 23:35-37: His tormentors sit before His cross, staring and taunting Him. Verse 18 corresponds to Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, and John 19:24-25—they took His clothes and parted them amongst themselves.

Beginning with Psalm 22:22, and going to the end of the chapter, we see Christ’s resurrection and subsequent reign as King. “I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.” This, of course, is quoting Messiah 10 centuries before He actually said it in Hebrews 2:12. If you look at Hebrews 2:5-18, you will read about Jesus ruling as King over Israel in the Millennium (1,000 years). Most importantly, He identifies with and fellowships with His Little Flock, the Jewish believing remnant that has come to Him by faith. “For the kingdom is the LORD’S: and he is the governor among the nations” (Psalm 22:28).

When writing Psalm 22 as the Holy Spirit gave him utterance, King David penned in accordance with the other Old Testament Prophets: “Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1 Peter 1:10-11). Although they did not have as much understanding as we do with a completed Bible, they wrote and preached concerning Christ’s First Coming (“sufferings of Christ”—crucifixion) and His Second Coming (“glory that should follow”—kingdom reign). In case you have not detected it yet, Psalm 22 can be divided into these two units.

Psalm 22:20-21 sits between Jesus’ crucifixion to die and His resurrection to reign. They are actually His burial, His activity in the spirit world while His physical body is in the grave. “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). We will take Psalm 22:20-21 phrase by phrase, line by line, and show you how to frame it in context. “Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.” Simply put, it is the Lord Jesus Christ praying to (asking) His Heavenly Father to come to His rescue now that He is dead.


What is the “sword” in “deliver my soul from the sword?” Some would draw a parallel between this and the “sword” of Zechariah 13:7 and Matthew 26:31. However, Zechariah and Matthew are speaking of the Father’s sword attacking the Son’s soul: “Awake, O my sword, against the man that is my fellow [my equal, my associate]….” This is the Father talking about His judgment against the Son. If we consider all of Psalm 22:20-21, the “sword” has to be something else.

Acknowledging the parallelism of Psalm 22:20-21 is the best way to see the passage:

  • “Deliver my soul from the sword,” “my darling from the power of the dog,” and “Save me from the lion’s mouth” are three different ways of saying the same thing.
  • “My soul,” “my darling,” and “me” are all Jesus Christ.
  • “The sword,” “the power of the dog,” and “the lion’s mouth” are three distinctive references to Satan.


Why would Christ refer to His soul as His “darling?” The Hebrew is “yachiyd,” and our 1611 King James translators rendered it other ways too. For example, it is translated with respect to Isaac being Abraham’s “only” son (Genesis 22:2,12,16). It is “only child” concerning Jephthah’s daughter (Judges 11:34). See also Proverbs 4:3 (“only beloved”), Jeremiah 6:26 (“only son”), Amos 8:10 (“only son”), and Zechariah 12:10 (“only son”). It is rendered “solitary” in Psalm 68:6, and “desolate” in Psalm 25:16. When Jesus called His soul His “darling,” He meant something that was dear to Him. It is that which is unique and irreplaceable. This idea is repeated in the parallelism of Psalm 35:17: “Lord, how long wilt thou look on? rescue my soul from their destructions, my darling from the lions.” (Check verse 11, and then compare that to Mark 14:57-58. Look at verse 19, and cross-reference that with John 15:24-25. Like Psalm 22, Psalm 35 is another Messianic passage that King David wrote. It foretells Jesus Christ’s earthly life and ministry.)


According to Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, the Hebrew word for “dog” is “keleb,” from a root meaning “yelp” (barking) or “attack.” Dogs are “rabid” or violent—as in persecuting enemies. “In the East, troops of fierce half-famished dogs, without masters, are often wandering around the towns and villages.” This is supported by such verses as 1 Kings 14:11, 1 Kings 16:4, and 2 Kings 9:10. “Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat: for the LORD hath spoken it.” “Him that dieth of Baasha in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth of his in the fields shall the fowls of the air eat.” “And the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the portion of Jezreel, and there shall be none to bury her. And he opened the door, and fled.” (Also see 1 Kings 21:19,23-24; 1 Kings 22:38; 2 Kings 9:36.)

The Jews regarded dogs not as pets like we do but rather unclean scavenger animals. “And ye shall be holy men unto me: neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field; ye shall cast it to the dogs (Exodus 22:31). Jeremiah 15:3: “And I will appoint over them four kinds, saith the LORD: the sword to slay, and the dogs to tear, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the earth, to devour and destroy.” Hence, despised men are called “dogs” in Scripture (1 Samuel 24:14; 2 Samuel 3:8; 2 Samuel 9:8; 2 Samuel 16:9; 2 Kings 8:13).

When commissioning His Apostles and other believers, Jesus warned of the persecution they would face because they were fighting against Satan working in Israel. “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves (Matthew 7:15). “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). “Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves (Luke 10:3). “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly” (Proverbs 26:11; cf. 2 Peter 2:1-22, especially verse 22). These “wolves” are not actual animals, but rather ferocious, unbelieving men who teach lies in the name of religion. Like physical dogs, they attack opposition with utter brutality.

The Apostle Paul thus advised: “[28] Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. [29] For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. [30] Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:28-30). Also, Philippians 3:2: “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.”

Psalm 22:16 says concerning Christ watching the unbelievers coming before His cross and making fun of Him: “For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.” They are vicious and animalistic in their treatment of Him! Satan is the cruelest and fiercest of creatures, which is why he is rightly called a “dog” in Psalm 22:20.


As for “unicorns,” that requires special treatment, so please see our related “mythological animals” study linked at the end of this article. Keeping the notion in context, it must apply to the spirit world in which Christ was during the three days and three nights He was physically dead.


The parallelism of Psalm 22:20-21 is the best method of grasping the passage:

  • “Deliver my soul from the sword,” “my darling from the power of the dog,” and “Save me from the lion’s mouth” are three different ways of saying the same thing. They refer to Jesus praying to the Father to rescue Him from physical death—that is, resurrect Him (cf. Psalm 16:8-11 and Acts 2:22-36). Satan is trying to keep Him dead, but He will burst forth in physical life most triumphantly (Hebrews 2:12-15; Revelation 1:17-18)!
  • “My soul,” “my darling,” and “me” are all Jesus Christ personally. “Darling” underscores the uniqueness and irreplaceability of His soul.
  • “The sword,” “the power of the dog,” and “the lion’s mouth” are three distinctive references to Satan and his evil deeds that interfere with God’s work. The Devil is also likened unto a lion in 1 Peter 5:8: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:….” Also, notice Paul’s fight with Satan as he conducted his apostolic ministry. Second Timothy 4:17: “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.”

Also see:
» What about the “mythological” animals in Scripture?
» Where was Jesus during the three days between His death and resurrection?
» Can you explain 1 Peter 3:18-21?

What about the “mythological” animals in Scripture?


by Shawn Brasseaux

In a desperate effort to disparage and discredit the King James Bible, skeptics point to these “imaginary” animals as proof that Scripture is not inerrant. They jest as follows: “The Bible is nothing but a book of fairytales because it says dragons, satyrs, unicorns, and cockatrices exist. We should not take it literally because it has no basis in reality.” Can we answer these charges? Yes, we most certainly can—and will (!)—reply with an intelligent response!


According to The Oxford English Dictionary, a “dragon” is “a mythical monster like a giant reptile.” It continues, “In European tradition the dragon is typically fire-breathing and tends to symbolize chaos or evil, whereas in East Asia it is usually a beneficent symbol of fertility, associated with water and the heavens.” The word originated from a Middle English term that also denotes a large serpent. Actually, the name comes to us from Old French, via Latin from Greek “drakon” (“serpent”).

The term “dragon” appears in excess of 30 times in a King James Bible. In Hebrew, it is “tanniyn.” Genesis 1:21 renders it “whales” (as in sea monsters): “And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.” This seems to be the sense of Job 7:12: “Am I a sea, or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me?” Also, Jeremiah 51:34 may be speaking of a sea monster: “Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon hath devoured me, he hath crushed me, he hath made me an empty vessel, he hath swallowed me up like a dragon, he hath filled his belly with my delicates, he hath cast me out.” Psalm 148:7 fits with this idea too: “Praise the LORD from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps:….” Lastly, Jeremiah 51:34: “Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon hath devoured me, he hath crushed me, he hath made me an empty vessel, he hath swallowed me up like a dragon, he hath filled his belly with my delicates, he hath cast me out.”

On three occasions, it was translated “serpent.” See Exodus chapter 7: “[9] When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent. [10] And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the LORD had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent…. [12] For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods.” This would seem to be the sense of Deuteronomy 32:33: “Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.” (An “asp” is a venomous snake.)

The “dragon” in Jeremiah 14:6 is enigmatic; we have no way of knowing what it is. “And the wild asses did stand in the high places, they snuffed up the wind like dragons; their eyes did fail, because there was no grass.” Neither can we say what the “dragon” is in Nehemiah 2:13: “And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire.”

A dozen Bible verses link “dragons” to ruins and desert places:

  • Job 30:29: “I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls.”
  • Isaiah 13:22: “And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged.”
  • Isaiah 34:13: “And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof: and it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls.”
  • Isaiah 35:7: “And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.”
  • Isaiah 43:20: “The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.”
  • Jeremiah 9:11: “And I will make Jerusalem heaps, and a den of dragons; and I will make the cities of Judah desolate, without an inhabitant.”
  • Jeremiah 10:22: “Behold, the noise of the bruit [report, news] is come, and a great commotion out of the north country, to make the cities of Judah desolate, and a den of dragons.”
  • Jeremiah 49:33: “And Hazor shall be a dwelling for dragons, and a desolation for ever: there shall no man abide there, nor any son of man dwell in it.”
  • Jeremiah 51:37: “And Babylon shall become heaps, a dwellingplace for dragons, an astonishment, and an hissing, without an inhabitant.”
  • Micah 1:8: “Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked: I will make a wailing like the dragons, and mourning as the owls.”
  • Malachi 1:3: “And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.”

In the above verses, the Bible writers may have been referring to physical animals they observed in Palestine thousands of years ago. These creatures may have since gone extinct. Some suppose it to be “jackal,” but this author views that as rather absurd. Be that as it may, we must also bear in mind, that some of these passages are prophetic—future. The verses from Isaiah and some from Jeremiah have not been fulfilled yet: they look forward to Christ’s return in fiery wrath, when He judges Babylon. (See our “satyr” remarks later in this study.) Perhaps they are creatures from the spirit world, and resemble the dragons of mythology!

Psalm 44:19 seems to indicate “dragons” are connected to the spirit world or death: “Though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death.” Whatever they are, they are real beings because the Bible says they are. Most importantly, we must not forget to see the spiritual aspect of the dragon in Scripture. As noted earlier, the word originated from a Middle English term that also denotes a large serpent. The word comes to us from Old French, via Latin from Greek “drakon” (“serpent”). Bearing in mind the etymological relationship between “snake” and “dragon,” we better appreciate how the Bible pairs them when applying those titles to Satan figuratively.

  • Isaiah 27:1: “In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.” Here is Satan’s destruction at Christ’s Second Coming, which is also pictured in Job chapter 41.
  • Isaiah 51:9: “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon?” Again, this is Satan’s destruction at Christ’s Second Coming.
  • Ezekiel 29:3: “Speak, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself.” While there is a historical application, this too may be Christ destroying Satan as His Second Coming.
  • Psalm 74:13-14: “[13] Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters. [14] Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness.” Once more, this is Satan’s destruction at Christ’s Second Coming.
  • Psalm 91:13: “Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.” Here is God’s promise to the Little Flock, Israel’s believing remnant, that they will overcome Satan upon Christ’s return. The Devil deliberately omitted this from his quotation of Psalm 91 in Matthew 4:6 and Luke 4:10-11!

Revelation chapter 12: “[3] And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. [4] And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born…. [7] And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,…. [9] And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. [13] And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child…. [16] And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. [17] And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

Revelation chapter 13: “[2] And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority…. [4] And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?…. [11] And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon…. [13] And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.”

As Revelation 12:9 reveals, the “dragon” in the Revelation is none other than Satan, the Devil. Lest we fail to make the connection, it is repeated in Revelation 20:2: “And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,….” Satan is a “serpent” in character, sneaky or duplicitous, as seen in Genesis 3:1: “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made” (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, Ephesians 4:14, and Ephesians 6:11).


As defined in The Oxford English Dictionary, a “satyr” is “[Greek mythology] one of a class of lustful, drunken woodland gods. In Greek art they were represented as a man with a horse’s ears and tail, but in Roman representations as a man with a goat’s ears, tail, legs, and horns.”

“Satyr” appears just twice in King James Bible. “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 13:21). “The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest” (Isaiah 34:14). Some make these verses references to baboons—and translate the Hebrew thusly—but this seems ridiculous and not worthy of our consideration.

The Hebrew is “sa`iyr,” meaning “hairy.” It was used two times to refer to Esau the brother of Jacob (Genesis 27:11,23). Almost 30 times it was translated “kid,” a young goat. Two dozen times it was rendered “goat.” Interestingly, it was twice translated “devils”—a goat-idol the ancient Hebrews worshipped. “And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a whoring. This shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations” (Leviticus 17:7). “And he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made” (2 Chronicles 11:15).

Regarding the two quotes we read from Isaiah at the beginning of this section, “satyrs” are connected to cursed Babylon (cf. Isaiah 13:19) and cursed Bozrah and Idumea (cf. Isaiah 34:6). Like “dragons,” they are found in desolate or ruined regions. Babylon is near present Baghdad, Iraq, whereas Bozrah and Idumea are south of the Dead Sea. These are two areas to be judged with fire at Christ’s Second Coming: “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;…” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

Read Isaiah chapter 34: “[8] For it is the day of the LORD’S vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion. [9] And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. [10] It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever.” Compare this to Revelation 14:9-11.

Could there be some type of real creature that resembles a satyr—a half-goat/half-man being? After all, we read earlier about the goat-idol the ancient Israelites worshipped. Even today, the “Baphomet” idol of Satanists is partly man and partly goat. What could inspire such a horrific image? This should not surprise us, as we see a creature equally disturbing in the Book of the Revelation. Look at these “locusts” of chapter 9, and you will see they are no ordinary grasshoppers!

“[1] And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. [2] And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. [3] And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. [4] And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. [5] And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. [6] And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.

“[7] And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. [8] And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. [9] And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. [10] And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months. [11] And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.”

These beings from the “bottomless pit” (spirit world) have a face like a man, hair like a woman, teeth like a lion, and tails with stingers like scorpions. They can fly, and generate a great deal of noise when swarming. Such a dreadful sight and sound! They indeed are monsters—but exist in the spirit world. We cannot see them with physical eyes yet they exist. Sin has corrupted even these fallen angels, and, one day, they will work with Satan to torment lost mankind during Daniel’s 70th Week. We can consider the “satyrs” as just another group of these deformed and evil beings, to be let lose in the ages to come (after our Dispensation of Grace).


According to The Oxford English Dictionary, a “unicorn” is “a mythical animal represented as a horse with a single straight horn projecting from its forehead.” “Unicorns” appear nine times in the King James Bible. The Hebrew word is “re’em.” Notice them:

  • Numbers 23:22: “God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.”
  • Numbers 24:8: “God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows.”
  • Deuteronomy 33:17: “His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh.”
  • Job 39:9: “Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib?”
  • Job 39:10: “Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee?”
  • Psalm 22:21: “Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.”
  • Psalm 29:6: “He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn.”
  • Psalm 92:10: “But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.”
  • Isaiah 34:7: “And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness.”

Various ideas have been offered to explain what “unicorns” are in Scripture. Some believe them to be a buffalo, an ox, or even an antelope called an “oryx.” A general explanation is a wild bull. Based on the description in the above verses (Numbers and Job), whatever the “unicorn” was, it was a beast of burden. It is associated with a bull or calf. We would do well, again, to notice the spiritual connection. “Unicorns” appear at Christ’s Second Coming (remember Isaiah chapter 34 and the dragons and satyrs?). There may very well be spirit creatures that have just a single horn on their forehead. Never forget: cherubim, in addition to having four wings and a calf’s hooves, have four faces—a man’s face, a lion’s face, an ox’s face, and an eagle’s face (Ezekiel 1:5-10)!

In the case of Psalm 22:21, this is Christ Jesus during the three days and three nights He was dead, and in the heart of the earth. He was with “unicorns”—that is, in the spirit world, where Satan was attempting to keep him and prevent His resurrection. For more information, see the Psalm 22:20-21 study linked at the end of this article.


In The Oxford English Dictionary, a “cockatrice” is “[heraldry] a mythical animal depicted as a two-legged dragon (or wyvern) with a cock’s [rooster’s] head.” “Cockatrices” appear four times in the King James Bible. The Hebrew word is “tsepha`.” Look at those now:

  • 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 14:29: “Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.”
  • 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.”
  • Jeremiah 8:17: “For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the LORD.”

Are these “make-believe” verses? No! It should be pointed out that “tsepha`” was also rendered “adder.” Proverbs 23:32: “At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.” A “cockatrice” in the Bible is a venomous snake, and, as you can see, the context of all these verses is definitely snake-oriented. Beyond that, we cannot be sure what it is. Perhaps it was a type of animal alive on Earth in Bible days that has since become extinct. Once more, the idea is certainly related to Satan (remember “dragon” and “snake”). Go back and check Isaiah 14:29 (see Lucifer/Satan in the context, verses 12-15 in particular).


The Bible sometimes uses “dragons” and “serpents” interchangeably because of their resemblance. In fact, a dragon in Scripture is often used figuratively of Satan to underscore his craftiness (as in the common idiom, “a snake in the grass”). Other times, however, “dragons” and “serpents” are not synonymous. A “dragon” can even be a sea monster—such as the whale or fish that swallowed Jonah. As with every Bible term, let the context restrict the meaning!

Concerning “satyrs,” they are half-man and half-goat beings in Greek mythology. As touching the Bible, they are certainly associated with goats—namely, a goat-idol that is a physical representation of an invisible, evil spirit creature. These are fallen angels, undergoing the deteriorating and disfiguring effects of sin. The “unicorns” are most enigmatic. Scripture speaks of them as strong beasts of burden, which existed in Bible days. Yet, there is a spiritual connection because they are associated with Christ’s death and resurrection. Regarding “cockatrices,” they are a type of venomous snake in Scripture. They have some relation to Satan, the serpent.

These creatures, even if they never existed on Earth, are linked to and exist in the spirit world—namely, Hell and accomplishing Satan’s work. We never want to discount the fact that various animals of the ancient world have gone extinct, and this is just as valid an explanation. Maybe the Bible writers were alluding to physical animals alive in their day. Then again, some were spirit beings God afforded them the opportunity to see in order to write His Word. As Bible believers, we should not and do not see their inclusion as a challenge to the historicity or literalness of the Scriptures. Even when employing metaphorical or figurative language, the Bible communicates literal truth. For example, while Satan is not an actual snake with scales and fangs, he nevertheless is a serpent in character—sly, deceptive, insidious. We use such terminology when describing people, do we not? Why are we so opposed to the Scripture doing the same? (Perhaps we have an agenda to shame it so we have an excuse not to believe it when it speaks of our sin problem?!)

(By the way, if someone should mock a Bible believer for saying “dragons” exist, just politely remind them of “make-believe” “Komodo dragons” and “bearded dragons.” That should reduce them to silence!)

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Also see:
» Can you explain Psalm 22:20-21?
» What about the “talking snake” of Genesis 3?
» What swallowed Jonah—a fish or a whale?
» “But, what if I don’t accept the Bible’s authority?”