Only in the Markan gospel (1:13) do we find that the Lord Jesus Christ “was with the wild beasts” (ἦν μετὰ τῶν θηρίων) in the wilderness during his temptation by Satan.

13 And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him. KJV, 1769

ΙΓʹ καὶ ἦν ἐκεῖ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ἡμέρας τεσσαράκοντα πειραζόμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ Σατανᾶ καὶ ἦν μετὰ τῶν θηρίων καὶ οἱ ἄγγελοι διηκόνουν αὐτῷ TR, 1550

But, what did Mark wish to convey by that expression? Did he mean that the Lord Jesus Christ was surrounded and endangered by such wild beasts? Or, perhaps the Lord Jesus Christ was at peace with them (i.e., he had dominion over them)?

2 Answers 2


In the Septuagint, θηρίον is used to represent חיה (e.g., Gen 2.19) and similar living things. One also finds it representing בהמה according to Muraoka's two-way index to the Septuagint (Peeters, 2010). In both instances, it references domesticated and non-domesticated animals. In his lexicon of the Septuagint (Peeters, 2009), Muraoka suggests θηρίον is only for wild animals, but I don't know that the data supports this.

In Greek linguistics, θηρίον suggests a diminution of monsters (being the dimunitive form of θήρ. This may be why Muraoka suggests the definition that he does. However, in the Septuagint, it has wider usage as noted.

The θηρίων of 1.13 should best be read as his being with the beasts. But this does not necessarily denote an immediate threat. It is more a "back to nature" description and should be understood in line with John the Baptist's work in 1.4-6. As known from Josephus' time with Banus , there seems to have been a whole "back to nature" movement in first-century Judaea [See http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0150%3Awhiston%20section%3D2]. As confidence in the Jewish leadership waned, people sought spiritual revival in the wilderness (so Qumran).


θηρίον seems to mean wild animal - probably mammal - but not necessarily a dangerous wild animal.

In Genesis, the taxonomy of animals includes θηρίον, κτῆνος (cattle), πετεινόν (bird), and ἑρπετόν (reptile) (e.g. Genesis 8:17-19 LXX). While they sometimes are seen as being dangerous (e.g. Revelation 11:7), this doesn't seem to necessarily be the norm.

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