The Most Horrible Stories in the Bible
The Bible is neither a catalogue of horrors and violence, nor an unctiously sweet book of morality; it is a People's history and a sacred text to many. For this reason I have made every effort to treat the following subject matter with respect, to avoid being cavalier with the stories. Nevertheless, this is a one-sided presentation of the most horrific, frightening stories the Bible has to offer. Many of these are not widely known for obvious reasons. It is therefore my pleasure to present a side of the Bible we don't normally see, a side that is frankly quite entertaining.
The Destruction of the Plains Cities
There were actually five cities on the plains that incurred God's wrath, but the best-known of them is Sodom. One wonders what is more horrific, the mass-destruction of five whole cities or the state of the cities that warranted such destruction. Abraham tries to prevent God from the destruction and God is willing to not destroy the city if anyone just can be found inside. So God sends an angel to the city. The Sodomites find the angel attractive and decide to try capture and rape the angel. Raping angels is always a bad idea, incidentally.
Lot, Abraham's cousin, tries to save the angel and even offers his daughters to the Sodomites, but no, they want the angel. They're at the gates. They're threatening to break down the door and seize the angel. They've picked up rocks to beat Lot out of the way. Then the Angel blasts them blind with angelic powers and drags Lot and his family out of the city just in time. As they leave, fire and brimstone rain from the heavens and reduce the cities to rubble. As if all this weren't enough, Lot's wife is turned into a pillar of salt for simply looking behind her, either out of curiosity or out of missing her home.
A passage most people aren't aware of immediately follows the destruction of Sodom. Lot and his daughters--the virgin daughters he was trying to give to the Sodomites--go to live in the mountains. Lot turns to drink after all that's happened. While he's drunk, his lonely and perverted daughters take to raping him to get pregnant, which they do.
The New Testament is a relatively safe document compared to the brutality of the Old Testament. However, it is not without its tales of terror. Peter, for instance, curses a couple to death for lying about not giving him all of their money; they drop dead instantly. The most frightening New Testament story, though, must be Herod's end. The God of the Bible has always taken exception to anyone claiming themselves or anything else but him to be divine. Herod made the grave mistake of declaring himself the voice of God. The Bible recounts that he was "eaten by worms and died." One would think the dying comes first, but no, Herod is eaten alive by some parasitic infestation of sorts.
By way of adding morbid detail to the above story, I should relate that this method seems to be one preferred by the Christian God. It is mentioned in Sozomen's Ecclesiastical History occurring to another blasphemor. The Roman Emperor's uncle Julian stole some treasures from a Christian church and, adding insult to injury, rubbed his butt over the treasures while cursing Christ. This turned out to be an unwise move. Julian soon contracted an infection in parts of his body--presumably parts chosen for poetic justice--and this infection became infested with 'enormous quantities' of worms that reproduced so quickly physicians could do nothing. He was eaten alive from within.
Samson Goes Crazy
Samson has inspired countless atrocious Italian peplum films and the imaginations of children everywhere with his familiar tale of superpowers dependant on the length of his hair. The first superhero Samson may well be, but what is easy to forget is that he was an insane butcher. One of the 'Judges,' he was the leader of the Hebrew people while he lived and he took his job very seriously. The Hebrews, you see, were ever in battle with a group of people known as the Philistines (of whom Goliath, another peplum fixture, was one). The Philistines were held in check by Samson's superpowers and were ever trying to figure out his secret and kill him. Samson happened to be married to a Philistine woman who served as their spy. So on top of being a superhero story, this is also a spy story. Delilah, as her name was, would ask Samson how to disarm his superpowers. Samson simply lied to her and she reported the lie to her people as fact. They found out the hard way it's a lie.
Expecting Samson was their prisoner, they were stunned when he broke his fetters and grabbed the nearest weapon he could find, which happened to be the jawbone of a donkey. Samson used this jawbone to brutally slaughter a thousand men singlehandedly. As if bludgeoning a thousand men to death with a jawbone were not horrible enough, Samson coolly sang an impromptu song about it,
"With the jawbone of a donkey,
heaps upon heaps,
with the jawbone of a donkey
I have slain a thousand men."
The Crucifixion of Jesus
On account of the Christian belief that the sufferings of Jesus were to atone for all sin committed and to be committed, the Gospels, later spiritual writers and liturgical practices have gone into extensive detail on the sufferings Jesus endured. In the 20th century, Christian physicians began to take an interest and gave medical explanation, guided piety, to all of the sufferings and in the process made it that much more horrific.
Jesus first began sweating blood, which is a condition known as hematridosis. It only occurs in situations of extreme stress, which causes capillaries, generally in the face, to break and blood to come out of the pores with sweat. He was later flogged, for which the Romans used whips with lead balls and sometimes sharp bits like fragments of bone. These whips would tear into the skin initially and begin to tear deeper into the flesh and muscle tissue after, causing considerable blood loss and leave the tissue hanging in shreds. The soldiers placed a robe on him, onto which the blood began to coagulate. They then removed the robe, probably ripping off bits of tissue along with the coagulated blood, reopening the wounds. The crown of thorns was forced on his head at this point, piercing the veiny tissue around the brow, causing yet more blood loss.
And on it goes. The point is that it's a horrible story of torture that culminates in crucifixion and death from a damaged heart (hence the water that pours from the wound). Is it any wonder Gibson's The Passion of the Christ has been classified by some as a horror film?
The Haunted Vagina
There are a few passages and even whole books only to be found in Catholic and Orthodox editions of the Bible. Curiously, these passages and books tend to be the most enjoyable narratives. One of these is the Book of Tobit, which spins a bizarre yarn indeed.
The young Tobias is a man who has just been on an adventure to collect some money owed to his father. Along the way he is aided by the archangel Raphael and battles a giant fish. When he returns from his adventures, Raphael suggests he court a young lady named Sarah. She seems like a nice young lady until one learns she's had seven husbands already!
Tobias is not discouraged, however, for Sarah is yet a virgin. It seems Sarah is cursed by a demon that mysteriously appears whenever her newly-wed husband attempts to deflower her. This demon, Asmodeus, kills the husband and leaves Sarah a virgin widow yet again.
Turns out the one thing that can scare Asmodeus away is a really awful smell. A smell exactly like the burning liver of a giant fish. So Tobias marries Sarah and, before attempting to take Sarah in a manly fashion, smokes the demon out of her and has his lovely wife. A happy ending to a tale of vaginal possession.
A Family Cooked
The book of Maccabees, not included in Protestant editions of the Bible, details the Jewish oppression at the hands of and rebellion against the Greek kings that seized power of the Middle East after Alexander the Great's death. In this case, a genuinely insane man, Antiochus Epiphanes, who believed himself to be a god.
One Antiochus' goals was to turn the Jewish people to the pagan religion, which would include worship of Antiochus himself. He found a woman with seven sons who would not convert, however, and determined to break them. Taking a personal interest in the case, be offered them wealth and power if they would renounce their faith and offer sacrifice to pagan gods. They refused and Antiochus resorted to torture. Antiochus had the arms and legs, as well as the tongue, of the first brother cut off and his body tossed into a skillet in which he was cooked to death. One-by-one Antiochus did this to the brothers as they refused to renounce their faith while the mother urged them just to die (horribly) rather than give up their faith. Finally the mother was killed.
The Book of Revelation
The apocalypse is a scary thing. This is a fact to which many a sci-fi film attests. However, not a single sci-fi film or novel matches the imaginative force of the pious nightmare that is the Book of Revelation. Let us just arbitrarily choose a passage, say, 5:6, "Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing..." This appears to be an innocent passage taken out of context. In context, however, the throne is sat upon by a man made of "jasper and carnelian," meaning he is some sort of colorful, translucent person. There is an emerald rainbow around the throne and it flashes lightning and rumbles like thunder, while in front of it seven torches burn and a "sea of glass", making it sound like some sort of spaceship. The 'living creatures' referred to are singing, six-winged creatures covered in eyes, each in the shape of a different animal, one a lion, an ox, a human, and an eagle. The elders are twenty-four white-robed people sitting around the throne, each in their own thrones. Finally, the lamb, which one would think is the one normal thing present, is revealed to have seven horns and seven eyes. This lamb then proceeds to break seals releasing the four horsemen of the apocalypse, cause a horrible earthquake, blacken the sun, turn the moon red, and initiate a meteor shower of some sort, amongst other things.
After all this occurs some angels blow trumpets causing a whole load more natural disasters such that, "in those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them." Then the beasts begin. A beast "comes up from the bottomless pit," a seven-headed dragon shows up and tries to eat some woman's child, a seven-headed beast with ten horns comes out of the sea looking like a leopard with bear's feat and lion's mouth, and yet another beast pops out of the earth with "two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon"--whatever that means. Plagues, whores, divine justice, destruction of cities, and many more exciting events follow in a horrific extravaganza one can only describe as a nightmare.
The Levite's Concubine
Get ready for this one: put away any food and arm yourself with thoughts of good and happy things--puppies, lollipops, sunshine. Almost inexplicably horrible, this is hardly a story one covers in Sunday School. A Levite, that is a sort of Hebrew priest, has somehow mistreated his concubine and she has fled to her father's home. Keen to get his property back, the Levite visits her father, settles the problem and sets off back home with his concubine in tow.
The Levite decides it's getting too dark to make the whole journey, so they should stop in Gibeah. The concubine warns him it's not the sort of place to stay, that they should find a better town. He does not listen, however. They arrive in Gibeah and find no-one around, so they try to sleep in the town square. Suddenly an old man comes upon them and declares if they value their lives to come with him. They accept his hospitality and enjoy it while it lasts. It seems the old man was afraid they would be molested by the denizens of Gibeah, who had gone the way of Sodom.
Indeed, in a short time the Gibeahites are at the treshold demanding the old man give them the Levite to rape. The old man reasons it would be inappropriate to allow his guest to be gangraped, so he throws the Levite's concubine to them instead. The Bible relates in plain language that she is raped all night while the old man and the Levite sit comfortably inside. In the morning, the Levite finds her lying on the doorstep. He commands her to get up. She does not. She can't. She's dead. She has been raped to death. Unperturbed, the Levite tosses her over the back of his horse and rides back home where he proceeds to cut her into twelve pieces. Each piece is sent to the leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel. The tribes then decend upon Gibeah and kill everyone.
Well, perhaps this justice is the happiest ending for which one could hope, but the story is so viscerally repugnant it does feel like too little too late.
More Fun with the Bible
- Strangest Editions of the Bible
There are some very weird Bibles out there, I tell ya. I've scoured the web and, actually just the web, and found the weirdest Bibles of all for your amusement.
- The Most Horrible Martyrdoms in History
Some bedtime reading about the most agonizing Jewish and Christian deaths.