The Serpent In Myth And Scripture -- By: Edward Ulback

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 090:360 (Oct 1933)
Article: The Serpent In Myth And Scripture
Author: Edward Ulback

The Serpent In Myth And Scripture

Edward Ulback

Los Angeles, CA

The Bible may be said to begin and end with the story of a Serpent. In the Book of Genesis a serpent, more subtle than any beast of the field, tempted the woman in Paradise; in the Book of Revelation a dragon stood before a woman to devour her child. This dragon is spoken of as “the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan.” Mythology is full of serpents, and in these days it is often found that an Egyptian or a Babylonian myth is suggestive of some new meaning in Hebrew Scripture. Books of serpent-worship have been written, and suggestions as to its origin are not wanting. But the serpent is a deceiver, and I think the central meaning of the mythic serpent, at least, has escaped identification. The serpent with its tail in its mouth—as the Phoenicians represented it—seemed so apt an emblem of eternity, or at least of time-cycles, “never ending, still beginning,” that any search after a meaning was induced to rest there. There are, I think, several important serpents of mythology, which are indeed connected with time and years, but mean something a little different from this.

First, there is the Polar Dragon, represented by the constellation Draco. Around the present pole as a center all the stars apparently revolve in circles—and the curves, in fact, do not differ perceptably from circles, while our observations are confined to short periods. But in reality they are cycloidal, like the curves made by any point in the circumference of a carriage wheel, for the polar axis, like the carriage axle, is in motion. It makes a circle around the pole of the ecliptic. The result in the case of any particular star is an infinite succession of cycloidal curves, crowded close upon one another, but clearly distinguishable if we take, let us say, twelve equidistant positions of the polar pivot in going its round. Any diagram made to represent the twelve curves might suggest the coils of a serpent. Such a serpent has neither head nor tail. But if any point of time be taken as a date to reckon from, the

pole belonging to that date becomes the head of the serpent, and, of course, the tail must meet the teeth. Our astronomical charts, or celestial spheres—which are derived from ancient zodiacs—actually show a dragon coiling around the north pole; and this precessional motion would seem to be a feasible origin for it. The present polar dragon, however, is shrunken and lies within the circle of poles along which we should have expected it to lie; and its tail, if it ever was between its teeth, has escaped. In the classical description of the Shield of Hercules, which Mr. Richard A. Proctor, with such great probability, ...

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