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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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The word appears with three references.-1. It signifies simply an irrational animal (2 Peter 2:12); a beast of burden (Acts 23:24); an animal used for food (Revelation 18:13), or for sacrifice (Hebrews 13:11); or it is used as symbolizing Nature in its highest forms of nobility, strength, wisdom, and swiftness (Revelation 4:6 ff.; cf. Ezekiel 1 and Isa 6).-2. St. Paul writes that he fought with ‘beasts’ at Ephesus (1 Corinthians 15:32). If these were actual beasts, then the Apostle, who had come off conqueror in the fight, instead of being handed over to the executioner, was set free by the provincial magistrate (cf. C. v. Weizsäcker, Das apostol. Zeitalter, 1886, p. 328 [Eng. translation , The Apostolic Age, i. (1894) 385]; A. C. McGiffert, The Apostolic Age, 1897, p. 280ff.). The uncertainties and difficulties of this position are, however, so serious that it is commonly abandoned in favour of a metaphorical interpretation, and for these reasons: (a) St. Paul was a Roman citizen; (b) neither in Acts nor in 2 Cor. is there any allusion to an actual conflict with beasts; (c) had he so fought, he would not have survived. Ignatius, referring to his journey to Rome where he was to suffer martyrdom, wrote, ‘I am bound to ten leopards, that is, a troop of soldiers …’ (ad Romans 5). Some explain St. Paul’s allusion by Acts 19; but this tumult was probably later, and such explanation disagrees with 1 Corinthians 16:8-9. Ramsay alleges a mixture of Greek and Roman ideas-in the Greek lecture-room St. Paul would become familiar with the Platonic comparison of the mob with a dangerous beast, and as a Roman citizen he would often have seen men fight with beasts in the circus (St. Paul, 1895, p. 230f.). Max Krenkel (Beiträge zur Aufhellung der Gesch. und der Briefe des Apost. Paulus, Brunswick, 1890, pp. 126-152) suggests that Christians used ‘beast’ (cf. Revelation 13) with a cryptic reference to Rome’s power (cf. the four beasts in Daniel 8:3 ff.). We are certain only that St. Paul referred to some extreme danger from men through which he had passed in Ephesus, of which the Corinthians had heard (P. W. Schmiedel, Hand-Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, Freiburg i. B., 1893, p. 198).-3. In Rev. (Revelation 11:7; Revelation 13:1 ff.) two beasts are described, one (Revelation 13:1-10; cf. Daniel 7:17 ff.) symbolizing the hostile political world-power of Rome and the kings of Rome as vassals of Satan, the other (Revelation 13:11-18) the hostile religious power of false prophecy (cf. Revelation 16:13; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10) and magic, enlisted as ally of the political power-a false Christ or Antichrist, by which the worship of the Caesar was imposed on the provinces. See, further, article Apocalypse.

C. A. Beckwith.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Beast'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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