Taming the Beast
Leviathan, a manifestation of one of the oldest monsters in recorded history (3rd millennium BCE), and its sidekick, Behemoth, have been the object of centuries of suppression throughout the millennia. Originally cosmic, terrifying creatures who represented disorder and chaos, they have been converted into the more palatable crocodile and hippo by biblical scholars today. However, among the earliest Jews (and Muslims) and possibly Christians, these creatures occupied a significant place in creation and redemption history. Before that, they formed part of a backstory that connects the Bible with the wider ancient Near East. When examining the reception history of these fascinating beasts, several questions emerge. Why are Jewish children today familiar with these creatures, while Christian children know next to nothing about them? Why do many modern biblical scholars follow suit and view them as minor players in the grand scheme of things? Conversely, why has popular culture eagerly embraced them, assimilating the words as symbols for the enormous? More unexpectedly, why have fundamentalist Christians touted them as evidence for the cohabitation of dinosaurs and humans?