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The Early Christians Believed in Dragons and Dinosaurs?

St. Augustine: "Dragons live about the water, come out from caverns, fly through the air; the air is set in motion by them: dragons are a huge kind of living creatures, greater there are not upon the earth."


There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein. (Psalms 104:26)

Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down? (Job 41:1-2)

Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox. Lo now, his strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly.He moveth his tail like a cedar: the sinews of his stones are wrapped together. His bones are as strong pieces of brass; his bones are like bars of iron. He is the chief of the ways of God: he that made him can make his sword to approach unto him. Surely the mountains bring him forth food, where all the beasts of the field play. (Job 40:15-20)

In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea. (Isaiah 27:1)

Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters. Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness. (Psalms 74:13-14)

And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, (Revelation 20:2)

Early Christian Thought

Sozomen, Ecclesial History, Book 7 Ch 16 (A.D. 375-477):

The inhabitants of the country [Epirus] relate many extraordinary miracles which he [Donatus, Bishop of Euroea] performed, of which the most celebrated seems to have been the destruction of a dragon of enormous size. It had stationed itself on the high road, at a place called Chamaegephyrae and devoured sheep, goats, oxen, horses, and men. Donatus came upon this beast, attacked it unarmed, without sword, lance, or javelin; it raised its head, and was about to dash upon him, when Donatus made the sign of the cross with his finger in the air, and spat upon the dragon. The saliva entered its mouth, and it immediately expired. As it lay extended on the earth it did not appear inferior in size to the noted serpents of India. I have been informed that the people of the country yoked eight pair of oxen to transport the body to a neighboring field, where they burnt it, that it might not during the process of decomposition corrupt the air and generate disease.

St. John of Damascus, On Dragons and Ghosts (A.D. 675-749):

Some people contrive that dragons can both take the human form and turn into serpents, sometimes small, sometimes huge, differing in body length and size, and sometimes, as was already stated above, having turned into people, start to associate with them, appear to steal women and consort with them; so we would ask: how many intelligent natures did God create? And if they do not know the answer, we will respond: two – I mean angels and humans… So He created the two intelligent natures; but if a dragon changes its form while associating with people, becoming at one moment a serpent, at another a man… so it follows with all possible clarity that dragons are intelligent beings exceeding men greatly, which has not been true, and never will be.

Let them also say who in particular tells about it. For we trust the teaching of Moses, and, more exactly, the Holy Spirit, having spoken through [the prophet]. This reads: And God brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them; and whatsoever called every living creature, that was the name thereof (cf. Gen. 2:19). Hence, a dragon was one of the animals. I am not telling you, after all, that there are no dragons; dragons exist but they are serpents borne of other serpents. Being just born and young, they are small; but when they grow up and get mature, they become big and fat so that exceed the other serpents in length and size. It is said they grow up more than thirty cubits; as for their thickness, they get as thick as a big log. Dio the Roman (A.D. 155 – 236) who wrote the history of Roman empire and republic, reports the following: one day, when Regulus, a Roman consul, was fighting against Carthage, a dragon suddenly crept up and settled behind the wall of the Roman army. The Romans killed it by order of Regulus, excoriated it and sent the hide to the Roman senate. When the dragon’s hide, as Dio says, was measured up by order of the senate, it happened to be, amazing, one hundred and twenty feet long, and the thickness was fitting to the length.


There is one more kind of dragon; those have wide head, goldish eyes and horny protuberances on the back of the head. They also have a beard [protruding] out of the throat; this kind of dragons is called “agaphodemons” and it is said they have no faces. This dragon is a sort of beasts, like the rest of the animals, for it has a beard, like a goat, and horn at the back of its head. Its eyes are big and goldish. These dragons can be both big and small. All serpent kinds are poisonous, except dragons, for they do not emit poison.

St. Augustine, Exposition on Psalm 148 (A.D. 354-430):

Let him then turn himself to things on earth too, since he has already spoken the praises of things in heaven. Praise ye the Lord from the earth (Psalm 148:7). For wherewith began he before? Praise ye the Lord from heaven: and he went through things in heaven: now hear of things on earth. Dragons and all abysses. Abysses are depths of water: all the seas, and this atmosphere of clouds, pertain to the abyss. Where there are clouds, where there are storms, where there is rain, lightning, thunder, hail, snow, and all that God wills should be done above the earth, by this moist and misty atmosphere, all this he has mentioned under the name of earth, because it is very changeable and mortal; unless ye think that it rains from above the stars.

...Dragons live about the water, come out from caverns, fly through the air; the air is set in motion by them: dragons are a huge kind of living creatures, greater there are not upon the earth. Therefore with them he begins, Dragons and all abysses. There are caves of hidden waters, whence springs and streams come forth: some come forth to flow over the earth, some flow secretly beneath; and all this kind, all this damp nature of waters, together with the sea and this lower air, are called abyss, or abysses, where dragons live and praise God. What? Think we that the dragons form choirs, and praise God? Far from it. But do ye, when you consider the dragons, regard the Maker of the dragon, the Creator of the dragon: then, when you admire the dragons, and say, Great is the Lord who made these, then the dragons praise God by your voices.

St. Augustine on Psalm 74:

What more after the heads of dragons? For those dragons have their chief, and he is himself the first great dragon. And concerning him what hath He done that hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth? Hear: "Thou hast broken the head of the dragon" (ver. 14). Of what dragon? We understand by dragons all the demons that war under the devil: what single dragon then, whose head was broken, but the devil himself ought we to understand? What with him hath He done? "Thou hast broken the head of the dragon." That is, the beginning of sin. That head is the part which received the curse, to wit that the seed of Eve should mark the head of the serpent. For the Church was admonished to shun the beginning of sin. Which is that beginning of sin, like the head of a serpent? The beginning of all sin is pride. There hath been broken therefore the head of the dragon, hath been broken pride diabolical

St. Athanasius the Apostolic, Life of Antony, Book 24 (A.D. 373):

The devil was hooked by the Lord, like a dragon, by the hook of the Cross; and was taken in a drag-net, and was bound like a fugitive slave, and his lips were perforated by a ring and a bracelet, and he is not permitted to devour any of the faithful. Now, like a wretched sparrow, he is made sport of by Christ; now he groans at his companions, being trodden like serpents and scorpions under the heels of Christians.

Julian of Eclanum, Exposition on the Book of Job (A.D. 455):

Through the creation of such a hateful and tremendous beast people are given three opportunities of edification. They can recognize that the power of the Creator did not only make those beasts that would have served human beings but also fashioned those who frighten them; they can understand the goodness of Providence, because it removed those beasts that would have been deadly from the midst [of humans] and placed them in the wilderness. There they can learn how severe he is against vices. These [beasts] that are troublesome to mortals according to their size and strength are also subject to his regulation.

St. Bede (A.D. 735):

[The meaning of] Devil: "Diabolus," is interpreted, "flowing downward." But in Greek he is called "the accuser." "Satan is " the adversary," or " prevaricator." So he is called "the dragon," on account of his malice in hurting; "the serpent," on account of cunning in deceiving; " the devil," on account of the fall of his estate; "Satan," on account of obstinacy in opposition against the Lord.

St. Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Job (A.D. 373):

The Behemoth is a dragon, that is, a land animal, just as the Leviathan is an aquatic sea animal.

St. Basil the Great, Homilies on the Psalms (A.D. 379):

Let us earnestly endeavor, therefore, to flee every crooked and tortuous act, and let us keep our mind and the judgment of our soul as straight as a rule, in order that the praise of the Lord may be permitted to us since we are upright. In the same way the serpent, which is the author of sin, is called crooked, and the sword of God is drawn against the dragon, the crooked serpent, which makes many twists and turns in its progress.… Therefore one who follows the serpent shows that his life is crooked, uneven and filled with contrarieties; but one who follows after the Lord makes his paths straight and his footprints right.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures (A.D. 386):

For since the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise partook of the same (Heb 2.14), that having been made partakers of His presence in the flesh we might be made partakers also of His Divine grace: thus Jesus was baptized, that thereby we again by our participation might receive both salvation and honour. According to Job, there was in the waters the dragon that draws up the Jordan into his mouth (Job 40.23). Since, Therefore, it was necessary to break the heads of the dragon in pieces [Ps 74.14], He went down and bound the strong one in the waters, that we might receive power to tread upon serpents and scorpions (Luke 10.19). The beast was great and terrible. No fishing- vessel was able to carry one scale of his tail (Job 40.26): destruction ran before him (Job 41.13), ravaging all that met him. The Life encountered him, that the mouth of Death might henceforth be stopped, and all we that are saved might say, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory (1 Cor 15.55)? The sting of death is drowned by Baptism.

Pope St. Gregory the Great (A.D. 604):

Whom does He suggest, under the name ‘Behemoth,’ except the ancient enemy? which being interpreted from the Hebrew word, means ‘Animal’ in the Latin tongue...For how is that most wicked race said to have not been made, when the Lord declares that He created that Behemoth, the author, namely, of wickedness, who was rightly fashioned by nature? But because we have heard with whom that Behemoth was made, let us hear what he does, when ruined. It follows; He will eat hay as an ox. If we carefully examine the words of the Prophets, we discover that these and they were put forth by the same Spirit. For when Isaiah observed the life of sinners devoured by the ancient and insatiable enemy, he said, the lion shall eat straw like the ox. [Is. 11, 7]... For clean hay lies, as it were, on the ground, and below, before the mouth of this Behemoth, when both a life is passed, as it were, in innocence through keeping the commandments, and yet in the midst of conduct which is set forth as good, the heart is not raised to seek after things above. What useful purpose then does he effect, who guards purity of life in himself, if by his base intention, he leaves himself on the earth to be found by the mouth of this Behemoth? Because therefore Almighty God informs us what our enemy is doing, let Him now make known to us how he prevails, in order that the more the wickedness of his cunning is known, the more easily it may be overcome

St. George and the Dragon

St. George (Raphel, Louvre)

The historian Ian Mortimer on Saint George:

“St. George stands for the courage to face adversity in order to defend the innocent. The triumph of good over evil, through courage. …The king who adopted him might be almost forgotten today, but for centuries Saint George represented the idea of courageous leadership and, with it, the unifying popular will to be governed well and protected.”

"According to folklore," the Culture Trip writes, "St George rescued a princess who was about to become dinner for a dragon that had settled near the city of Silene – allegedly in modern-day Libya. As luck would have it, St George was passing through and saved the princess by beheading the dragon. His bravery is said to have inspired people in Silene to convert to Christianity."

The legend recounted by Project Britain:

St. George travelled for many months by land and sea until he came to Libya. Here he met a poor hermit who told him that everyone in that land was in great distress, for a dragon had long ravaged the country.

'Every day,' said the old man, 'he demands the sacrifice of a beautiful maiden and now all the young girls have been killed. The king's daughter alone remains, and unless we can find a knight who can slay the dragon she will be sacrificed tomorrow. The king of Egypt will give his daughter in marriage to the champion who overcomes this terrible monster.'

When St. George heard this story, he was determined to try and save the princess, so he rested that night in the hermit's hut, and at daybreak set out to the valley where the dragon lived. When he drew near he saw a little procession of women, headed by a beautiful girl dressed in pure Arabian silk. The princess Sabra was being led by her attendants to the place of death. The knight spurred his horse and overtook the ladies. He comforted them with brave words and persuaded the princess to return to the palace. Then he entered the valley.

As soon as the dragon saw him it rushed from its cave, roaring with a sound louder than thunder. Its head was immense and its tail fifty feet long. But St. George was not afraid. He struck the monster with his spear, hoping he would wound it.


He smote the beast with his sword, but the dragon poured poison on him and his armour split in two. Once more he refreshed himself from the orange tree and then, with his sword in his hand, he rushed at the dragon and pierced it under the wing where there were no scales, so that it fell dead at his feet.


The Works of St. John Damascene, Martis Publishing House, Moscow, 1997


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