BeardAid to Bible Understanding
shaving the extremity of the beard. Also, at the time that Jesus was on earth, the Roman custom was beardlessness. Therefore, if Jesus had been beardless, he would have been challenged as either a eunuch or a Roman. Significantly, a prophecy concerning Jesus’ suffering states: “My back I gave to the strikers, and my cheeks to those plucking off the hair.”—Isa. 50:6.
There is no support for believing, contrary to Biblical evidence, that Jesus was beardless, as represented in pictures found in the Roman catacombs and purported to be early Christian drawings of the likeness of Christ. Not only is the earliest drawing effaced to the point of being practically obliterated, but in this and other catacombs there are so many pictures and inscriptions representing pagan or false religious ideas that they cease to have authenticity as being truly Christian drawings.
Likewise, no credence can be given to the claims that Christ is pictured in a figure on the so-called “Chalice of Antioch.” Wide disagreement as to the identity of the figures of men in a silver network of vines on the cup has arisen among archaeologists, and its dating is generally believed to be no earlier than the fourth century C.E.—See The Biblical Archaeologist, December 1941, and February 1942.
Early Christian writers, Justin Martyr, Origen, Clement of Alexandria and others, clearly indicate that no satisfactory record of the physical likeness of Jesus and the apostles existed in their time. They made references to the Hebrew Scriptures when the question as to the appearance of Christ arose. “The earthly image of Christ was buried so completely with those who had seen Him,” says H. Harvard Arnason, in The Biblical Archaeologist, “that Saint Augustine, writing about A.D. 400 (De Trinitate, VIII, 4) could describe each man as having his own picture of Christ’s appearance, and the conceptions as being infinite.”
Beasts, SymbolicAid to Bible Understanding
From time immemorial mankind has observed the characteristics and habits of animals and has applied them in a figurative or symbolic sense to persons, peoples, governments and organizations. The Bible makes good use of this effective means of illustration. Some examples where the qualities residing in an animal or suggested by its characteristics are used figuratively are listed in the accompanying charts.
BEASTS AS SYMBOLS OF GOVERNMENTS
Certain major world powers of history appear directly in the Biblical record, and all of these, as well as other nations, have used animals as symbols of their governments. In Egypt, the serpent figured prominently, the Uraeus, the sacred asp, appearing on the headdress of the Pharaohs. However, Egypt was also represented by the bull, as was Assyria. Medo-Persia used the eagle (the shields of the Medes bore the golden eagle; the Persians bore an eagle fixed to the end of a lance). Athens was designated by the owl; Rome, the eagle; Great Britain, the lion; the United States, the eagle. Besides these powers, China from the most remote times has been symbolized by the dragon. Familiar also are the Russian “bear” and the German “two-headed eagle.”
THE WILD BEASTS OF DANIEL AND REVELATION
That the beasts described in these books represent political kingdoms or governments, exercising rulership and authority, is clearly stated. (Dan. 7:6, 12, 23; 8:20-22; Rev. 16:10; 17:3, 9-12) A consideration of the Biblical passages reveals that, while these political ‘wild beasts’ vary in symbolic form, yet all have certain characteristics in common. All are shown as standing in opposition to God’s rule by the Messianic kingdom over mankind. They are also depicted as in opposition to God’s “holy ones,” his covenant people, first the Jewish nation, then the Christian congregation. Those specifically named (Medo-Persia and Greece) were major world powers, and the great size attributed to the others, or the description of their actions, indicates that these too were not minor kingdoms. (It may be noted that subordinate kingdoms are symbolized by horns in some cases.) All the beasts are represented as very aggressive, seeking the dominant position over the nations or peoples within the reach of their power.—Compare Daniel 7:17, 18, 21; 8:9-11, 23, 24; Revelation 13:4-7, 15; 17:12-14.
Many commentators endeavor to limit the fulfillment of the visions of the beasts in the book of Daniel so that it does not extend beyond the time when Jesus Christ was on the earth, at which time the Roman Empire was the dominant power. The prophecies themselves, however, make plain that they extend beyond that time. The final forms of the beasts are shown as reaching down to the ‘arrival of the definite time for God’s holy ones to take possession of the kingdom’ in the “appointed time of the end.” Then the Messiah destroys such beastly opposition for all time. (Dan. 7:21-27; 8:19-25; compare also Revelation 17:l3, 14; 19:19, 20.) It may be noted that Christ Jesus expressly foretold that opposition to the Messianic kingdom would continue into the time of the end, so that his disciples then preaching that kingdom would be “objects of hatred by all the nations.” (Matt. 24:3, 9-14) This obviously does not allow for any nation, particularly such as are world powers, to be excluded from possible identification with the final forms or expressions of the symbolic wild beasts.
Daniel’s vision of the beasts out of the sea
After Egypt and Assyria had finished their respective periods of dominance, and toward the close of the Babylonian Empire, Jehovah God gave Daniel a vision of “four huge beasts” coming up out of the vast sea. (Dan. 7:1-3) It is of interest to note that “waters” are used at Revelation 17:15 to symbolize “peoples and crowds and nations and tongues,” the body of mankind that covers the habitable earth as the waters cover the sea basins. Isaiah 57:20 records a like simile in describing persons alienated from God, saying: “But the wicked are like the sea that is being tossed, when it is unable to calm down, the waters of which keep tossing up seaweed and mire.”
Bible commentators regularly link this vision with that of the colossal image in the second chapter of