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In the context of the scriptures and culture that the vision was revealed, what was implied by "the dragon" which is also implied to be a serpent?

At first, one might conclude a simple snake with seven heads. But when a "dragon" is mentioned, perhaps a reader might have envisioned a variation of the hydra.

I doubt this is a simple matter of opinion though: What type of creature is the bible implying? Is it spinning from a mythical icon of the nations, or is it simply scaling up a snake and adding heads?

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Daniel, in his vision in Daniel chapter 7, saw four beasts:

  • Lion: 1 head, 0 horns
  • Bear: 1 head, 0 horns
  • Leopard: 4 heads, 0 horns
  • Fourth: 1 head, 10 horns

These beasts, in total, have 7 heads and 10 horns.

So, the dragon with the seven heads and the ten horns is the culmination of the four beasts that Daniel saw.

When John saw a dragon, he saw the "real" nature of this/those beast(s).

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Assuming you are referring to Revelation 13:1ff, the seven-headed beast and the dragon are two different things. The Greek refers to a seven-headed thērion (θηρίον) - (wild) beast; and a drakōn (δράκων) - "dragon", which gives power to the beast

Revelation 13:1 (1904 Patriarchal Text)

Καὶ ἐστάθην ἐπὶ τὴν ἄμμον τῆς θαλάσσης· καὶ εἶδον ἐκ τῆς θαλάσσης θηρίον  ναβαῖνον, ἔχον κέρατα δέκα καὶ κεφαλὰς ἑπτά, καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν κεράτων αὐτοῦ δέκα διαδήματα, καὶ ἐπὶ τὰς κεφαλὰς αὐτοῦ ὀνόματα βλασφημίας.

And I stood on the sand of the sea, and I saw a beast [θηρίον] coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns ten diadems, and on his heads names of blasphemy ...

Revelation 13:2

καὶ τὸ θηρίον ὃ εἶδον ἦν ὅμοιον παρδάλει ... καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ ὁ δράκων τὴν δύναμιν αὐτοῦ

And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard ... and the dragon [δράκων] gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.

Revelation 13:4

καὶ προσεκύνησαν τῷ δράκοντι τῷ δεδωκότι τὴν ἐξουσίαν τῷ θηρίῳ

And they worshipped the dragon [δράκων] which gave power unto the beast [θηρίον]:

Andrew of Caesarea (563-637 AD), who wrote the first extensive commentary on the Apocalypse, interpreted the beast to be the Antichrist and the dragon to be Satan, who gives power to the Antichrist. (See Dr. Eugenia Constantinou's Ph.D. thesis, "Andrew of Caesarea and the Apocalypse in the Ancient Church of the East: Studies and Translation")

The word drakōn appears 13 times in the New Testament, but only in the Apocalypse. It does appear 36 times, however, in the Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament. Brenton translates the word as sometimes as "serpent" and sometimes as "dragon". Some examples:

Exodus 7:9 LXX
Take thy rod and cast it upon the ground before Pharao, and before his servants, and it shall become a serpent [δράκων].

Psalm 103:26 LXX
There go the ships; and this dragon [δράκων] whom thou hast made to play in it.

Sirach 25:16
I had rather dwell with a lion and a dragon [δράκων], than to keep house with a wicked woman.

There is also this interesting passage in the Septuagint version of Job:

Job 26:13 LXX
And the barriers of heaven fear him, and by a command he has slain the apostate dragon.

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Dragons are never a safe creature to be around, especially the fire breathing variety.

The "dragon" with seven heads in the book of Revelation (Rev. 17: 7-8) is metaphorical idea of the antichrist according to Cardinal John Henri Newman (1801-1890) [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Henry_Newman] in his four lectures on The Patristical Idea of Antichrist. [http://www.newmanreader.org/works/arguments/antichrist/lecture4.html]. The seven heads symbolizing the seven-hilled-city (Rome) from where he shall rule all the kingdom of the earth.

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    Ken - thank you for your response. To gain points for your answers, please amplify your answer with more details. For example, why do the heads of the dragon appear with crowns, and then later the horns have the crowns instead? What we want is your analysis of the passage. For the Book of Revelation, which is full of images, one must adopt some sort of approach to explain the images. Can you provide us more detail of what you see? Please do not cut-and-paste various commentators, but tell us what you see and understand with clear references and logic. Thanks! – Joseph Feb 6 '16 at 17:30
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Psalms 74: 12 But God is my King from long ago; he brings salvation on the earth. 13 It was you who split open the sea by your power; you broke the heads of the monster in the waters. 14 It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan and gave it as food to the creatures of the desert.

"Canaanite mythic imagery was the most impressive means in that ancient cultural milieu whereby to display the sovereignty and transcendence of Yahweh, along with His superiority over Baal and all other earthly contenders. Although the Hebrews did not borrow the theology of Canaan, they did borrow its imagery—here the imagery of Baal’s enemy, Sea/Dragon/Leviathan." [John N. Day, “God and Leviathan in Isaiah 27:1,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 155:p.436. Quoted here.]

Revelations is like the finished jigsaw puzzle of the entire Hebrew bible, borrowing elements from all over to make a single montage. The seven headed dragon is one such element taken from psalms 74.

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    Welcome, @jiohdi_1960, and thanks for your answer. The quote from John Day is a good start, but I think the connection needs to be stronger. You linked to an excellent source, and the discussion there about the Canaanite myth of the 'leviathan with seven heads' is directly relevant. I think this could be a good answer! – Schuh Feb 10 '16 at 6:17
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What type of “dragon” is implied by the seven headed serpent of revelation?

Revelation 13:1-2 (NASB)

The Beast from the Sea

1 "And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. 2 And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority."

The Dragon.

The Dragon is none other than Satan the Devil, John wrote in Revelation 12:7-9 (NET)

The Angel Michael and war in heaven with the huge dragon.

7 "Then war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But the dragon was not strong enough to prevail, so there was no longer any place left in heaven for him and his angels. 9 So that huge dragon—the ancient serpent, the one called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world—was thrown down to the earth, and his angels along with him."

The Beast:

And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and the dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. So what is the beast? The prophet Daniel whilst being a captive in Babylon has a vision.

Daniel has a Vision of four great beasts coming up from the sea. (Read Daniel 7: 1-8)

The first was like a lion and had the wings of an eagle, a second one, resembling a bear, the third was like a leopard , and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.

The fourth beast is very much similar to the beast seen by John towards the closing years of the first century,notice that the beast had similar characteristics of a leopard, a bear a lion and had ten diadems on ten horns.

Daniel informs us that the huge beasts are four kings, or empires /kingdoms : 17 "These great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will arise from the earth. 18 But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come."(Daniel 7:17 NASB)

The Seven Heads.

The seven heads of the beast represent the six major empires that are mentioned in the Bible up to Johns day and the seventh was prophesied to appear later, and are: Egypt-Assyria- Babylon- MedoPersia- Greece - Rome and the other(the seventh) has not yet come.

Revelation 17:9-10 (NASB)

9 "Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, 10 and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while."

Notes: Was thrown (the Dragon-Satan the Devil)) down to the earth, and his angels along with him, refers to the angels that materialized and took human form in the pre-flood days of Noah.

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The dragon is referring to Satan who caused 1/3 of the Angels (symbolically 'stars') to rebel against God and tried to kill Christ as a baby (through Herod's fanticide in Bethlehem) see verse 4

Rev 17:3 talks again of this 7 headed dragon calling him a 'beast' and this time there is a woman sitting on him. A woman symbolically is a church or religion. This is a religion which claims to worship God but is deceived and really worships the devil.

Throughout Revelation the dragon gives power and authority to world rulers and causes people to worship him. The dragon/beast itself is further described in Rev 13 and its four characteristics match the four beasts of Dan. 7 which are four world-dominating powers.

The seven heads are defined for us in Rev. 17:9--they are seven mountains on which the woman (church/religion) sits. These seven heads are of the fourth beast of Dan. 7, and are the seven resurrections of the Roman Empire with 7 kings or emporers, hence the crowns on the seven heads--Rev 17:10. This becomes the Holy Roman Empire when the Pope begins ordaining emperors in 554AD.

The ten horns are ten kings--hence more crowns! (Rev 17:12) which all exist at the same time and give their power to the final resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire for a short time until the return of Christ. This federation of nations will be a sort of United States of Europe united unsteadily to form the greatest world power ever known--hence the feet of iron mixed with clay--which does not mix well br form a strong bond--representing the same world power as in Dan 7. It won't last long but will be overthrown by Christ at His second coming!

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  • I wouldn't go so far and call the roman empire "Holy". – René Nyffenegger Aug 11 '16 at 8:58
  • The beast and the dragon are two different things. See Rev 13:1ff – user15733 Sep 10 '16 at 10:58

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