WHAT THE SEA WANTS US TO SEE

A REIGN OF BEASTS WEBCOMIC EPISODE 02 · Commentary by Jared Boggess



 

When you think of the Bible, most of us default to thinking of it as a religious doctrinal text. We think of it as a straight-forward guide for morality or a list of theological statements. And of course we would think that. As a sacred text, it is almost always first experienced in a religious context. But as anyone well-acquainted with their Bible will tell you, it is so much more complex and rich than a list of do’s and don’ts.


Here’s where it came in for me.


A few years ago, I started encountering a literary approach to the Bible. I started to learn that as a work of literature, this collection of narratives, poetry and discourse had design and pattern the same way a modern book or film series might have recurring themes, repeating situations, or intentionally duplicated dialogue. A series like that starts to develop its own narrative rhythm and visual language. The use of pattern and self-allusion is crucial to full understanding.


Some may worry or argue that claiming the Bible’s authors gave it literary design takes God’s inspiration out of the equation. But reading the Bible as a work of complex literary art does not lead us away from seeing its divine inspiration. In fact, it gives us true context to understand why it has been long held as a compelling display of Intelligent Design.


All this is to give some context for what we can unpack here at the beginning of Daniel’s vision.


So to start, from where do the beasts appear? It may seem insignificant or trivial that they rise from the ocean. To the modern reader, it’s just plain cool how it reminds us of the film tropes of Kaiju or Godzilla. But in the biblical context, this setting starts to tell us something of the beasts and the forthcoming arc of Daniel’s vision.


Throughout the Bible, the ocean is often seen as the source of chaos and evil. In the Creation narrative of Genesis, the world’s primordial state is a complete covering of tumultuous waters. In the tale of Noah, it is from a world-consuming flood from which God protects Noah’s family. But even thinking purely in a historical context, the ocean is by nature a vast source of danger. It is a place where a man’s life is only a few wooden boards away from drowning.


So as a literary device, as a setting, it signals that these creatures are anything but good. Apart from their depiction as predatory “beasts”, their very source is meant to illicit terror in the reader.


But just as the formless void of an ocean-covered earth is divided and given boundaries by a sovereign Creator, we are also meant to wonder if that reigning God will put down and control these great and terrible beasts.


Talking about the way the Bible riffs on itself helps me explain why this comic even exists.


A couple years ago, when I was working on New Stations of the Cross, I made an image for Jesus’ trial with the priests. He not only quotes this vision in that trial (Mark 14), but he proclaims his identity synonymous with the “Son of Man” character (introduced later in Daniel 7). Realizing these phrases in Mark have deep roots in Daniel 7 is what sparked my obsession with it, and I’ll cover that more when we get to that installment in this series.


But first we have to deal with the 4 beasts! So next time, Anderson talks about how he designed them.


 

A REIGN OF BEASTS is our comic adaptation of Daniel 7 illustrated by Anderson Carman. Now Available.