Community Blog Leviathan And Godzilla: Mythic Creatures And Jewish Texts

By Daniel Brosgol

I’m a summer movie kind of guy.

I like doomsday, special effects, dramatic corny dialogue and exhilaration.

Case in point: I saw “Independence Day” five times in theaters. (For those of you who are curious, it’s actually not the movie I saw the most times in theaters; that title belongs to “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” which I saw six times back in the ’80s.)

The summer movie season of 2014 is underway, and as usual I am well behind schedule. The only movie I’ve seen is “Godzilla,” which was big, loud, pretty interesting and a nice reboot of the franchise, although it was a movie whose trailer was probably better than the feature itself. No big deal.

Among the clever parts of movie was the revisionist history applied to the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests of the 1950s, which were spun as an attempt to kill Godzilla, as opposed to test the yield of the infernal devices. The radiation, instead of killing the beast, only made it stronger.

Ah, science.

With Godzilla’s collection of MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms) fresh on the brain, this fall we are pleased to offer an exciting new STEM class at Prozdor. It’s called Critters of the Bible, and it’s all about the, well, wondrous and spectacular animal life in our textual tradition.

You are no doubt familiar with the names of many biblical animals, although you might also be fuzzy on the distinctions between them. What is the difference between a ram and a lamb? A fatling and a sheep? An ox and a bull? A yearling and a ewe? That’s worth talking about, and in this class, we will.

But beyond the parade of the animals of the sacrificial cult in the Bible lies something much more primal, spooky, mysterious and sometimes fantastical in our traditional texts.

Sea and land monsters


Rock-chewing worms

Mythic birds

Putting yourself in the place of agrarian Israelites, you can no doubt imagine the fear and awe that our ancestors had for large animals and creatures that they encountered. In this class we will use the text as a guide, and modern biology as our evaluative tool, as we seek to identify, classify and speculate as to what these creatures actually were. To our ancestors, what we now call “crocodiles” and “whales” were large, scary and destructive, and the Leviathan of the Bible isn’t a far cry from the Godzilla of today.

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