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.
Deborah Sexton on November 19, 2013:
You said Quote “Peter, for instance, curses a couple to death for lying about not giving him all of their money; they drop dead instantly” Unquote
I don’t believe in the New Testament but I can interpret it.
Peter didn’t put a curse on anyone and the couple didn’t die because they withheld part of the money. It’s because they lied to God
Herod Antipas beheaded John the Baptist, Yahshua’s cousin. He plotted Yahshua’s (Jesus’) death
About Herod Agrippa 1 and why he was punished so greatly
1. Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.
2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
3. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also.
He threw Peter in jail and when the angel let Peter out Herod had those killed who were put in charge of keeping him.
Acts 12:23 And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.
Darryl on October 22, 2013:
I find that despite the raging, yet often intellectual arguments for or against the Christian's pesky book : the Bible, or dialogue about a mean God or merciful Allah, most upon their death bed really struggle with facing the impending answer to their question: "Is there a g(G)od?" And: "did I blow it in life?"
I don't care what you say or how you deem to label me for my comment, but I hear it ALL the time in nursing homes. I dare say it might be even more prevalent out there and more common than just hospice watch conversations, too, but then we really struggle with being honest about our those deep troubling questions in our soul, don't we?
jazmine on May 12, 2012:
Well im an evangelist...What i believe is old testament is 100% brutal...theirs no doubt about it...and HES GOD...ITS HIS WILL...HE CAN DO WHAT EVER HE WANT...AND HIS ANGER IS WHAT WE SHOULD BECAREFUL ABOUT...
The old testament and Quran is almost the same...but christianity is based on CHRIST...
After Christ everything changed.That's why its CHRISTianity....So please dont point fingers on the bases of old testament...the new testament is all about Gods love...
And you my dear fear the deaths after the death here on earth...trust me you dont know what ur standing against...
God bless you anyways
katie on January 08, 2012:
I really think you should where these stories are found in the bible.
asd on June 04, 2011:
actually the couple were cursed not because they did not give all the money but said the one they gave to Peter was all of it. Peter also said that they had complete control of the money.
C Levrow from Michigan on March 05, 2011:
This is a great hub. I learned! :)
MechaStewart on March 01, 2011:
"I have made every effort to treat the following subject matter with respect."
I once wrote a scathing book report on A Clockwork Orange - I was merciless. But thankfully it (along with the book your are critiquing) is fiction. While I am sure that some fans of ACO might be offended, I can bet none of them would tell me I was risking eternity in hell, or the wrath of a god by speaking my mind.
Say what you want and interpret the book as you see fit. That's what everyone else does anyway.
Great post - keep up the good work!
arthurchappell from Manchester, England on January 10, 2011:
Some good dark gruesome stuff there, the persecutions imposed on Job could be added, the plagues on the Egyptians, especially the deaths of all the first born, Abraham's aborted attempt to sacrifice Isaac, - it's all a barrel of laughs really.
Arthur Windermere (author) on October 26, 2010:
Well I'll be. I checked my NRSV and it says the same thing. But y'know what? I'm too stubborn to give in. And here's what I'm gonna cling to: Tobit is written in the first person, right? So there you go, an unreliable narrator. What does this guy know about demon psychology?
I'm pleased to hear you're a classics major, though. I studied Ancient Greek and Latin in the Ottawa U classics department. I've lost the Greek, but I can still get by in Latin. Anyway, this article gets a share of believers (fine by me) who get preachy (not so fine). I thought you might be in that lot. This article is primarily for entertainment, so I try to keep the, heh, gravitas at bay. But classicists are always welcome to 'preach.'
P.S. Sometimes graduate drop-outs have demonic penises as well. ;)
Elly on October 25, 2010:
Oops, sorry that the Hebrew did not appear correctly!
Elly on October 25, 2010:
Luckily for me and my vagina, I did not have to actually experience a vagina-haunting to be capable of reading the book of Tobit. ;) I do know what St. Augustine said, but I also know what the Book of Tobit said. It happened to state that Asmodeus loved Sarah. I did a quick web search and found this entry on the Jewish Encyclopedia site: "Asmodeus would thus seem to be a demon characterized by carnal desire; but he is also described as an evil spirit in general: '????????? ?? ??????? ????????? or ?õ ????????? ???????, and ?????? ????????? (iii. 8, 17; vi. 13; viii. 3). It is possible, moreover, that the statement (vi. 14), "Asmodeus loved Sarah," implies that he was attracted not by women in general, but by Sarah only." (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=8... )
So I'm not the only one that has read the version of the translated text that stated Asmodeus loved Sarah. Whether or not this was something that could actually be possible, well, that is a matter for debate, as is the entire existence of demons and vagina-hauntings. (Though I am must definitely with you in hoping that if there are vagina-hauntings that there are vagina-exorcisms as well.)
Regardless, I enjoyed your article as it was entertaining and that was, I think, one of the goals of the piece. I posted my reply out of the habit of a classics major that has studied biblical texts and various mythologies, not to offend anyone. I'm with you in thinking a demon haunting a vagina sounds far more interesting. I will say that if you want to find a real live case of a demon-haunted vagina, I would advise looking into your nearest college. If it is anything like mine, there are several professors that have haunted vaginas and no shortage of male professors with demonic penises.
Arthur Windermere (author) on October 21, 2010:
You speak like a woman with haunted vagina experience. I therefore defer to your superior knowledge of vagina-haunting phenomena and hope your vagina is now free of demons. For those of us lacking vagina-haunting experience, the case in Tobit seemed to be a clear case of vagina-haunting, though the Bible couldn't come out and say 'vagina-haunting' for fear of alienating prudes and those sensitive about vagina-hauntings. But since you've endured the rigors of vagina-haunting and vagina-exorcism (one hopes, for the vagina's sake), we will, as I say, defer to your vagina-haunting expertise on the issue of Tobit. However, St. Augustine told me demons are incapable of love due to their fallen nature, so I guess your experience with a haunted vagina doesn't extend to demonological expertise. Still, no harm done.
Arthur Windermere (author) on October 21, 2010:
I've plainly shown that the Bible is a source of amusement to atheist scumbags like me. That's all. You can take any lessons away you wish, of course, but I didn't intend them.
Elly on October 20, 2010:
Actually Sarah's vagina wasn't haunted. The demon did kill anyone who tried to sleep with her but the book never specifically says that she was possessed or that her vagina was. In fact it says that the demon Asmodeus loved the woman Sarah and that's why he was killing all her prospective mates.
Pollyannalana from US on October 19, 2010:
Well what a great story and if this don't prove to everyone they better mind their P's and Q's I don't know what would! People sometimes disagree with me but I think you have plainly shown God is a vengeful God and One to be feared if you don't love and mind Him. I walk with Jesus, and He shows me God when I start having thoughts that may go against Him. I would not want to do that.
mjane24 from panabo city on October 17, 2010:
good article nice and interesting.
JJK on October 11, 2010:
I have to say, one story left out was Jezebel's death. Very gruesome.
Arthur Windermere (author) on September 29, 2010:
The Levite's concubine is in the Book of Judges, along with Samson, and some chick who drives a nail into a guy's head. It's easily the most brutal, unsavory text in the Bible.
Arthur Windermere (author) on September 29, 2010:
Thanks for that. The good thing about being a Christian is you can interpret all that Old Testament stuff in the spiritual sense (spirit not the letter, as Paul put it). For we dirty atheists, though, that's a kinda depressing story indeed.
yankeeintexas from Lubbock, Texas on September 29, 2010:
I found your hub very interesting, and agreed with on many points! But, can't you tell me where the story of the Levi, and his concubine id found?
Lori Colbo from United States on September 19, 2010:
If the bible were put out as a movie, it would be R rated.
I love the Bible and in most of the horrible stories I see some good thing or sense of God's justice. But the one story that really disturbs me and leaves me feeling emptiness and despair for he character is the story of Tamar, who was raped by her brother Amnon. You can read about it in 2Samuel 13. Absolam the other brother is enraged and plots revenge, but gave Tamar the lamest line in all of history to comfort her from an incestual rape: Her brother Absalom said to her, "Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet now, my sister; he is your brother. Don't take this thing to heart." And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom's house, a desolate woman. What bothers me most is the last sentence though, that Tamar lived as a desolate woman. Usually in the Bible when a story is left on a negative note, such as someone died, or was maimed or something for life, it has happened to some dastardly evil person who got his just desserts (except in the case of Jesus). But here nothing is written to indicate that Tamar was wicked or in anyway deserving and it has never been in God's character in the Bible for somone to be raped for punishment. And yet, she lived the rest of her days in desolation. There is no indication that God comforted her, or restored her to a status in the community so she might be able to live a normal life in communion with her friends and community.
I love the Lord passionately. But this story always leaves me feeling angry. But I have to believe that God in someway was present with her for the rest of her years. I trust him enough to believe that somehow, someway, God met Tamar in her pain. I believe when we get to heaven that Tamar will have a special place of honor, not as in she will be worshiped, but well esteemed, as Mary will be.
Arthur Windermere (author) on September 14, 2010:
Good heavens, I wouldn't want to be responsible for making any sort of point. I just wanted to entertain. Were I to play Devil's Advocate, I might suggest that merely containing violence is not the same as recommending violence. The violence depicted in the Bible is clearly all intended as aberrant in the extreme. I'm just saying: it's not as simple as you make it sound and these are matters too important for treating cavalierly. Which is why I'm just here to entertain.
Arthur Windermere (author) on September 14, 2010:
Not just my surname, but the whole name is straight out of Lady Windermere's Fan. (The Lady's Lord is named Arthur.)
kat on September 14, 2010:
I am a Christian and I am very upst with Islamaphobics. I came across this page when looking to defend the Quran. I have heard people quote the Quran, stating there is so much violence in it. Look at the Bible, clearly there is violence, hate, and incest. Thanks for helping me make my point. All religions have bizarre stories. It doesn't mean the whole religion needs to be feared.
franknhonest on September 12, 2010:
peterxdunn from manchester uk on September 09, 2010:
Hi Arthur Windermere
You left out the one where King David crucifies somebody's grandchildren.
And might I ask a personal question: your pseudonym surname wouldn't be a reference to Oscar Wilde would it?
Arthur Windermere (author) on September 03, 2010:
I try to avoid lessons whenever possible.
pjk_artist from Turkey Point, ON on July 11, 2010:
After reading this hub it is apparent to me that man including yourself has focused on (and expanded upon) the original stories in the bible. Because of this man is completely missing the lesson the stories were mean't to teach him.
billysgomez on April 26, 2010:
Thanks for the share, liked it and enjoyed it.
Arthur Windermere (author) on March 27, 2010:
Hi, Roya. It's the Book of Tobit. You'll only find it in Catholic bibles. But it is of course available online on one of the many bible sites.
Roya on March 27, 2010:
Hey,do you know where in the bible I can find the story about the haunted vagina?
Francis on March 05, 2010:
I didn't know Jebus looked like Tilda Swinton.
Arthur Windermere (author) on February 21, 2010:
Thanks for your comment, Sanura. That's a good point. I'm afraid I privileged my own prose above the KJV. How arrogant is that? hehe But I'm sure any reference you want is only a google search away.
SanuraJD from Michigan on February 20, 2010:
Arthur, thank you for sharing such a candid collection of scripture. Most of these I had heard except for the one from the Book of the Maccabees.
As one who loves to read references, I would have enjoyed having the book, chapter, and verse. All in all a great HUB. Thanks for posting.
Arthur Windermere (author) on September 01, 2009:
I am aware that there are a lot of deeply religious people on hubpages and that they have their niche here. Naturally this hub is going to attract some of them. But to prevent myself from having to delete any more comments, I will make this statement:
IF YOU feel the need to make any comment that is potentially inflammatory to non-believers and/or believers of other denominations or religions, don't waste your time as I will not allow your comment through. I refuse to allow any soapbox preaching on one of my hubs.
Ivan the Terrible from Madrid on July 29, 2009:
Sounds like Dick Cheney had a hand in writing those tales.
Arthur Windermere (author) on July 28, 2009:
I'm glad you liked it, pgrundy! And thanks so much for the kind words.
I first read the story of the Levite's concubine while I was in the abbey. I had never been through the Book of Judges before. Initially I couldn't believe what I was reading. It disturbed me so strongly I was in a malaise for the rest of the day. I wondered why I had to be privy to THAT. But you're quite right, it reflects the messiness of reality and the blood that stains humanity's struggle to find order in the world.
Yeah, I never got that fig tree story either. As a Christian, one can always turn it into a spiritual allegory; but even then Jesus still did just get angry at a tree.
However ornery the OT God could be, though, at least he's not Zeus, Hera, and Poseidon--those three were NUTS!
pgrundy on July 28, 2009:
This is awesome. The first and last story were recounted to me with great moral indignation and seething rage by my feminist academic advisor when I was in graduate school. She was not Christian, to put it mildly, and always included these stories in her classes to impress upon her students how great Christianity was NOT, at least for women.
As you say, it's a people's history and a sacred text to many, so it's fair to read criticize it on either level I guess, but I always felt like overkill isn't best fought with more overkill. I should be angrier but I'm not. Life is a bloody mess so you'd expect that to be reflected in a text that purports to be sacred (blood). Why does God so often come across as such a DICK though? I mean seriously. The story that always bothered me most was Jesus and the fig tree. It seemed so petulant, so petty, so short-tempered and dumb. Fig trees have bad years too.
Another great read, thank you Arthur. I'm glad you are writing here.