Daily Archives: September 4, 2009

Seven heads and ten horns

The Rev. Brendan Powell Smith’s Brick Testament website, which uses Legos to illustrate stories from the Bible, recently (or since my last visit, anyway) added a section on the Revelation of John, including a Lego version of the great beast with seven heads and ten horns. Like many illustrators of the Apocalypse, Smith seems unsure of how to deal with the mismatched number of heads and horns; he arbitrarily allots one horn each to some of the heads and gives two to others.

Now I don’t know if John really had a clear mental image of this beast or not — the fact that he gives the beast seven heads and then refers to its “mouth,” singular, suggests that perhaps he didn’t — but if he did, I suspect he pictured it with all ten horns on a single head. To see why, look at John’s description of the beast (Revelation 13):

And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. 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. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. 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? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.

and compare it with its obvious source (Daniel 7):

Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it. And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.

The ten horns clearly come from Daniel’s beasts, and I think the seven heads do as well. Put the four beasts together, and you get one lion head, one bear head, four leopard heads, and one head with ten horns — for a total of seven heads, only one of which has horns. John probably imagined his beast as looking less like this

and more like this

Actually, on second thought, he probably didn’t imagine the seventh head looking quite so — what’s the word? — ornithischian. That might make a great premise for a thriller, though: Scientists attempt to clone a styracosaurus from blood found in an amber-preserved mosquito, but the DNA is incomplete and, having learned from Jurassic Park that replacing the missing pieces with frog DNA would be a really bad idea, they decide instead to splice in some genes from lions and leopards and bears. (What could go wrong, right?) Little do they realize that what they have just created is — the Antichrist!

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