Beasts that Perish...
By John Ramsden. LONDON.
The connection between Bible prophecy and Britains epidemic of Mad Cow Disease may seem a little remote at first, but the latter phenomenon has resulted in some very significant developments of interest to the Bible reader.
But first, a word of explanation to readers outside the European area. In March this year, the UK Government publicly admitted there might be a positive link between Mad Cow Disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy or "BSE") and recent cases among young people of its human form known as Creutzfeldt Jakobs.Diseaseor "CJD". It is alleged that BSE originated from contaminated cattle feed, which to everyones amazement, was known to contain offal from diseased sheep. This admission caused not only a major slump in domestic beef sales but also a state of virtual panic throughout Europe which is a major export market for British beef. The European Commission promptly banned the export of British beef and ordered a wholesale slaughter of the U K.s cow populationa financial disaster for the agricultural industry. Whatever may be the strictly scientific, medical and veterinary issues involved, political cynics saw this decision as yet another attempt by Europe to punish the UK for its opposition to many other aspects of the growing federalization of the European Union. (1) Although we are not concerned with the political or agricultural issues involved they have served once again to demonstrate the great political and perhaps even cultural rift that separates the U.K. from the rest of Europe. It supports the views of many students of Bible prophecy that sooner or later (and we just cannot be sure whether it will be before or after Christs return) that in order to fulfill the Divinely appointed role for Tarshish, Britain must come out of a papally influenced Europe which will become part of that Grand Alliance of nations (described in Ezekiel 38 ) which will descend upon Israel. (2)
Europe shown as a Beast
Either way, Mad Cow Disease has provided a field day for cartoonists and media each to portray this European wide crisis in a truly remarkable way. Why, we wonder did Britains Daily Telegraph and Germanys "Der Spiegel" magazine both in early April predict the situation as a sick looking beast being ridden by a woman? And, more to the point, why was this so incredibly exciting to the Bible student? To answer these questions requires that we turn to the Bible itself where we will soon discover that animals are often used to represent individual nations and sometimes multi-national political alliances.
We shall not stop to relate how, ever since the garden of Eden, animals were sometimes a way of conveying Gods messagesoften propheticto mankind. Space does not permit us to refer in detail to the serpent in Eden or to the event of Balaams talking donkey.
Instead, let us consider the way the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah portray the Assyrio-Babylonian Empire as lions. These combined powers were used by God to bring about his punishments upon the nation of Israel for their defiance of Gods commands. The Assyrians scattered the people of the Northern Kingdom, Israel, and the Babylonians took the people of the Southern Kingdom, Judah, into captivity in what we now call Iraq.
An Assyrian "Winged Bull" discovered in its original setting
"Israel is a scattered sheep, the lions have driven him away: first the king of Assyria hath devoured him; and last this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon hath broken his bones." Jeremiah 50:17.
Exhibits in the British Museum in London provide amazing archaeological confirmation of the biblical descriptions of the Assyrian lion-type animals complete with wings. This reminds us of Isaiah 8:7,8.
"The Assyrian...shall come up...and shall overflow...and, stretching out his wings, shall fill the breadth of thy land."
The prophet Daniel in chapter 7:4 describes the transition of power from Assyria to Babylon in even more graphic terms:
"The first was like a lion and had eagles wings (Assyria); 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 (Babylon), and a mans heart was given to it."
The head of the Babylonian Empire, Nebuchadnezzar, was shown by Daniel to be the head of an image of a man which represented subsequent world empires. The lion was also used as a symbol of the city itself and until the Gulf war was a trade mark on every packet of dates imported into the U.K. from Iraq!
No Preeminence Above a Beast - Insert
Rams and Goats
As any history book will confirm the Babylonian empire was succeeded by the confederate Medo-Persian empire. This was exactly as prophesied by Daniel who saw this power as a ram with two hornsa smaller one representing the original minority empire of the Medes, and a larger one representing the stronger power of Persia which assumed the more dominant role, (Daniel 8:3). About 200 years later there arose the Greek nation under Alexander, which the Bible represented as a one horned goat. When Daniel prophesied (ch.8:4-7) of the forthcoming conflict between the Persians and the Greeks he did so (may we say in cartoon style?) by picturing the ram fighting against the goat, which the Grecian Goat power, under its single minded leader Alexander, eventually won. There is no need to speculate as to who these animals were: the Bible tells us explicitly, and furthermore tells us equally clearly of the ultimate downfall of Alexander the Great and of the division of his empire among his four army commanders.
"The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and persia. And the rough goat is the king of Grecia and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king. Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power."
One important point to make in passing is that, as can be shown from the ruins of the palace at Persepolis in Persia and from the mythologies of ancient Greece, the prophet Daniel was using symbology which would have been relevant to situations hundreds of years before they materialized and which would have been correctly understood when they did.
Logo of the Europa Publishing Company
A Woman on a Beast
So why then do the cartoonists and media men of today use the symbol of a woman riding upon a beast to portray the fortunes or otherwise of the European Union? One thing for sure is that they do not do so out of a desire to conform to Bible prophecy concerning times which were first written about almost 2000 years ago!
As with the symbols of the Ram and the Goat their origin lies in ancient Greek mythology and untangling the many conflicting strains in that subject is no easy task. However the story goes roughly like this:
Many of the features of the ancient Phoenician god Baal ( of which the Bible has much to say) were absorbed into Greek mythology where they became embodied in the form of the Greek god Zeus. He became something of a great virility symbol and was regarded as the father of the Olympian gods. The ruins of the most famous temple in his honour are at the tourist site of Olympia in the Pelopenesse, which was destroyed by the Roman Emperor Theodosius in the 4th Century AD. His son, by the way, was Apollo who presided over the activities of the Oracle of Delphi and whose high priestess gave directions to the Greeks concerning their symbol of the goat.
Zeus had love affairs with both sexes and on his amorous pursuits disguised himself as a bull-type creature. One of his escapades took him back, naturally enough perhaps, to Phoeniciathe land of Baal. There he duly seduced the daughter of King Agenor of Tyre. She was Princess Europa, who being deceived by the charms of the animal (remember Eve and the serpent?) was carried away by him to the island of Crete where she bore him three sons, one of whom was Minos. Today, holiday tourists visiting the Minoan Palace of Knossos near Heraklion in Crete will be struck by the representations they see of many bulls. This legend is further corroborated by a remarkable mosaic design on the floor of a Greco-Roman house at the main archaeological sight on the Greek holiday island of Kos. (One wonders whether the Apostle would have seen it: it seems quite possibleActs 21:1). The precise origin of the geographical description "Europa" is uncertain but the Greeks apparently applied that term to the "land of the sunset" which was away in the west, in the direction Zeus had taken Europa from Lebanon.
Use of the Symbol
By Roman times the idea of associating the princess-on-the-beast with the area of Europe was apparently well established. The Encyclopaedia Britannica shows the famous picture of Europa being abducted by Zeus which is now in the Tarquinia National Museum in Italy.
TIME Magazine's United Europe!
In recent years there have been some truly remarkable uses of the woman-on-the-beast symbol to represent Europe.
In May 1984, the British Post Office introduced a special design to commemorate the second elections to the European parliament.
In the early 1990s the same symbol was used on the new ECU coins of Gibraltar and was subsequently incorporated in proposed designs for ECU banknotes, although they have not yet been formally approved.(In any case, if ever there is a common European currency unit it will now be called a "Euro").
Time Magazine in August 1991 chose to illustrate the state of the European Union by a woman sitting on a bull waving the flags of many nations ( but clearly not, it will be noted, the Union Jack!)
In April 1996, Der Spiegel (3) describes a distressed Europe as a self-evidently Mad Cow ridden by a woman who, significantly enough, now carries the one flag of the European Union.
Bible Prophecy Fulfilling
So why then is Mad Cow Disease so interesting to the student of Bible prophecy? In the book of Revelation chapter 17 we are presented with the symbol of a latter day apostate religious system. For centuries past this has been identified by Bible students as the Roman Catholic Church whose involvement in the Inquisition and similar medieval persecutions is amply described in verse 6.
A 19th Century artist's depiction of Rev. 17.
What absolutely astonished the Apostle John (4) was how such a church could possibly regard itself as "Christian". He tells in verses 3 and 7 how a womana biblical symbol for a churchrides along on a beast which elsewhere in this prophecy was used to portray a multinational power. It is not our current purpose to attempt a detailed exposition of Revelation Chapter 17 but it will be seen from v 17 of that chapter that individual nations described as "horns" ( in the area of the former Holy Roman empire i.e. predominantly Central Europe) voluntarily give their allegiance to an organization described as a beast. The record then proceeds to describe the woman as a "great city" (or Rome itself). This eventually comes to dominate the thinking of those "kings" in the former parts of the Roman empire.
In just the same way therefore as lsaiah and Jeremiah saw Assyria and Babylon as lions, and Daniel saw the then future conflict between Persia and Greece as a fight between a ram and goat, so the book of Revelation prophesies that at the time of the end a great power will arise in Europe represented as a beastthe European Union! As is already so obviously the case, this is a collection of states whose leaders owe their spiritual allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church. Indeed there is now much talk about the Roman Catholic Church actually electing to sainthood those leaders of the European movement of 40 years ago, such as Robert Schuman of France and Konrad Adenaeur of Germany.
So Whats New?
Let us be clear about one thing. The idea of a united Europe is not a new one. Several dictators have tried to impose such a structure upon Europe in the past. But this time things are markedly different: It is a voluntary union. So let the Encyclopaedia Britannicaand the Biblehave the last word.
"Unity in Europe is an ancient ideal. In a sense it was implicitly prefigured by the Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages it was imperfectly embodied first by Charlemagnes empire and then by the Holy Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church. Later a number of political theorists proposed plans for European and both Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler tried to unite Europe by conquest."
But today ?
"For God hath put it into their hearts to fulfill his will and to agree, and give their kingdom to the beast."Rev 17:17
The leading German newspaper "Die Welt" actually said that if the beef crisis had originated elsewherein Ireland or Portugal for example(both Catholic countries) there would have been far greater understanding.
For a full description of the possible role Britain as part of the Tarshish alliance, has to play in the latter days, see the editorial in the January 1996 Bible Magazine (see also Vol. 6, #4 and Guardians of Israel and Arabia by the editor).
Der Spiegel is the leading responsible and influential German news magazine, rather similar in style to Time magazine.
The word "admiration" in Revelation 17:6 is better translated as "astonished" as in the NIV or "amazed" as in the Good News Bible. The RSV has John "marvelling" at what he saw in vision., but he certainly would never have "admired" it!
Return to Magazine Front Page | Bible Magazine Home | Email Feedback | Internet Edition Information