[Rev 13:11 ESV] (11) Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon.

[Rev 13:11 MGNT] (11) καὶ εἶδον ἄλλο θηρίον ἀναβαῖνον ἐκ τῆς γῆς καὶ εἶχεν κέρατα δύο ὅμοια ἀρνίῳ καὶ ἐλάλει ὡς δράκων

In the lingua franca of the USA a "beast" is simply an "animal". However, "beast" is used in contradistinction to "animal" to refer to particularly large animals, such as oxen.

However, it seems to me to be misleading to call the Lambkin of Revelation 13:8 a "beast". I believe English speakers are being led to believe that this is large, scary animal when the author is trying to describe the meekest of all animals (in appearance).

Without exception, that I can see, not only in the English translations of the scriptures but also in the other Christian literature, we are always hearing about the "beast". Wouldn't English translations and literature be improved/made more faithful to the original text by rendering θηρίον as "animal"?

Here is the BDAG entry for reference:

θηρίον, ου, τό (Hom.+), in form, but not always in mng., dim. of θήρ.
① any living creature, excluding humans, animal, beast
ⓐ of real animals
α. gener. Hb 12:20. τὰ θ. τῆς γῆς (Gen 1:24,  30) B 6:12; cp. vs. 18; GJs 3:2; τῆς θαλάσσης B 4:5 (Da 7:7). W. adj. θ. ἄγρια (X., An. 1, 2, 7; TestSol 10, 3 C) 1 Cl 56:11 (Job 5:22).  p 456  
β. of animals of a particular kind.
א . quadrupeds as such (Ps.-Clemens, Hom. 3, 36): Js 3:7; φυλακὴ παντὸς θηρίου ἀκαθάρτου cage for every kind of unclean animal Rv 18:2.
ב . wild animals (Diod S 1, 87, 3; Jos., Bell. 3, 385, Ant. 9, 197) Mk 1:13 (FSpitta, ZNW 5, 1904, 323ff; 8, 1907, 66ff.—Himerius, Or. 39 [=Or. 5], 5: Orpheus in the Thracian mountains, where he has no one to listen to him θηρίων τὴν ἐκκλησίαν ἐργάζεται=forms a community for himself from the wild animals); so perh. Ac 11:6 (s. Hs 9, 26, 1 below).—1689–92.
ג . w. emphasis on aspect of danger: gener. (Antig. Car. 29 [wolf]; Diod S 17, 92, 2 and 3 [lion]; Maximus Tyr. 20, 2b; Jos., Ant. 2, 35) Rv 6:8 (cp. Hdt. 6, 44, 3); IEph 7:1.
ד . a reptile snake (Diod S 20, 42, 2, alternating with ὄφις; Polyaenus 2, 3, 15 with ἔχις; Aretaeus 159, 8 τὸ διὰ τ. θηρίων φάρμακον; 163, 2; Just., A I, 60, 2; Galen IV 779 K.; θήρ=snake: Simias [III B.C.], Coll. Alex. Fgm. 26, 17 p. 119) Ac 28:4f; Hs 9, 26, 7b; so also ibid. 7a and prob. 9, 26, 1 w. ἑρπετά (cp. Ac 11:6; Jos., Ant. 17, 117). Cp. PtK 2 p. 14, 18.
γ. oft. of wild animals in a controlled setting, namely of fighting w. animals in an arena (Diod S 36, 10, 3; Artem. 2, 54; Jos., Bell. 7, 38) IRo 4:1f; 5:2f; ISm 4:2a, b; MPol 3:1; 4; 11:1f; Dg 7:7; Hv 3, 2, 1; AcPl Ha 1, 28; 2, 4; 5, 5 and 9. εἰς τὰ θηρία κατακρίνεσθαι be condemned to fight w. wild animals MPol 2:4. κατέκρινεν αὐτὸν εἰς θηρία AcPl Ha 1, 29.
ⓑ of animal-like beings of a transcendent kind (Paus. 1, 24, 6 griffins; 2, 37, 4 the hydra; cp. Da 7:3ff) B 4:5 (Da 7:7). Of a monstrous dragon (schol. on Apollon. Rhod. 4, 156–66a the guardian of the golden fleece; Damascius, Vi. Isid. 140) Hv 4, 1, 6; 4, 1, 8; 4, 1, 10; 4, 2, 1; 4, 2, 3ff; 4, 3, 1 and 7 (on the monster in H, s. Joly p. 113 n. 2). The ‘beasts’ or ‘animals’ of Rv: 11:7; 13:1ff, 11f, 14f, 17f; 14:9, 11; 15:2; 16:2, 10, 13; 17:3, 7f, 11ff, 16f; 19:19f; 20:4, 10.—Lit. s.v. δράκων. BMurmelstein, StKr 101, 1929, 447–57; RSchütz, D. Offb. d. Joh. u. Kaiser Domitian ’33; PMinear, JBL 72, ’53, 93–101.
② wicked person, someone w. a ‘bestial’ nature, beast, monster, fig. ext. of mng. 1 (Aristoph., Equ. 273, Plutus 439, Nub. 184; Appian [s. θηριομαχέω, end]; Alciphron 2, 17, 4 al.; Achilles Tat. 6, 12, 3; Jos., Bell. 1, 624; 627, Ant. 17, 117 and 120; cp. Vett. Val. 78, 9; BGU 1024 IV, 5ff) Tit 1:12 (Damascius, Vi. Isid. 301 the wife of Isid. is called a κακὸν θ.). θ. ἀνθρωπόμορφα beasts in human form (Philo, Ab. 33) ISm 4:1.—B. 137. DELG s.v. θήρ. 1689–92. M-M. EDNT. TW.

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Exported from Logos Bible Software, 4:33 PM May 3, 2019.

I'm not working on my regular computer so I'm sorry I can't provide better formatting at this time.

Possibly related:

[Gen 3:1 ESV] (1) Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?"

[Gen 3:1 LXX] (1) ὁ δὲ ὄφις ἦν φρονιμώτατος πάντων τῶν θηρίων τῶν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ὧν ἐποίησεν κύριος ὁ θεός καὶ εἶπεν ὁ ὄφις τῇ γυναικί τί ὅτι εἶπεν ὁ θεός οὐ μὴ φάγητε ἀπὸ παντὸς ξύλου τοῦ ἐν τῷ παραδείσῳ

  • 1
    The translation "beast" comes from a day when "man and beast" and the like was common speech (where "beast" simply means animals as distinct from, or in contradistinction to, humans). Cf. "bestiality," the sexual perversion wherein sexual activity with animals of whatever kind is sought or engaged in. May 1, 2019 at 22:53
  • And apparently there is a lot of "drift" in the usage of θηρίον as well. There may be a play on the fact that John hears about a lion and then sees the Lambkin. Then he sees a lambkin and describes it as a wild animal. I'm not sure. I want to see if we can glean Daniel to get more context.
    – Ruminator
    May 1, 2019 at 23:01
  • 1
    I don't have the resources to comment further on the usage of the Greek word. But it's also important to read these words in context. To take one simple example, if we look for a neutral word such as 'creature', we can immediately say that this creature is described in the language of both a lamb and a dragon. Both elements (plus the rest of the paragraph length description) contribute to our understanding of 'creature'. We can't pick and choose. May 2, 2019 at 0:13

3 Answers 3


Thayer gives the reason for 'beast' being correctly applied to θηρίον Strong 2342:

θηρίον, θηρίου, τό (diminutive of θήρ; hence, a little beast, little animal; Plato, Theact., p. 171 e.; of bees, Theocritus, 19, 6; but in usage it had almost always the force of its primitive; the later diminutive is θηριδιον (cf. Epictetus diss. 2, 9, 6)); (from Homer down); the Sept. for חַיָה and בְּהֵמָה, an animal; a wild animal, wild beast, beast: properly, Mark 1:13; Acts 10:12 Rec.; ; Hebrews 12:20; (James 3:7); Revelation 6:8; in Revelation 11:7 and Revelation 13-20, under the figurative of a 'beast' is depicted Antichrist, both his person and his kingdom and power (see ἀντίχριστος); metaphorically, a brutal, bestial man, savage, ferocious, Titus 1:12 (colloquial, 'ugly dogs') (so in Aristophanes eqq. 273; Plutarch, 439; nub. 184; (cf. Schmidt, chapter 70, 2; apparently never with allusion to the stupidity of beasts); still other examples are given by Kypke, Observations, ii., p. 379; θηρία ἀνθρωπομορφα, Ignatius Smyrn. 4 [ET], cf. ad Ephes. 7 [ET]). (Synonym: see ζοων.)


The word is used of the venomous snake which attached to Paul's hand, Acts 28:4, of the wild beasts in the desert, Mark 1:13, of wild beasts in general, Revelation 6:8 and of the bestial apparitions that signify spiritual evil, here in the Revelation given to John the apostle.


It is true that θηρίον (therion) means an animal or beast, but so does ζῶον (zóon). BDAG and Thayer make this clear. In the book of Revelation ζῶον (zóon) is used of the four creatures (cherumim??) associated with the God's throne.

By contrast, θηρίον (therion) is used of the three "beasts" in Revelation: one of the abyss (Rev 11:7, 12:1-17, 17:8, 20:1, 2), one from the sea (Rev 13:1-10, 16:13, 19:20, 20:10) and one from the land (Rev 13:11-17, 16:13, 19:20, 20:10) who form a kind of unholy "trinity" to oppose God. Theoretically, "animal" could be used to translate all of these but most versions try to make the same distinction between the two classes of animals/creatures as found in the Greek.

Thus, translators need to use a word. "Beast" in English can mean any animal including a wild animal as well as a large animal such as a pet horse. "Animal" can be used the same way. Further, whatever word is used for the beasts from the abyss and the beast from the sea must, for consistency, also be applied to the beast/animal from the land, despite is lamb-like appearance.

  • If you were to draw what John saw, that had the two horns like a "lambkin", what would it look like? What kind of animal what kind of horns? Ultimately of course it is a man and not an animal just as Jesus is the Lambkin but not an animal. My thinking leans toward a sense of a beloved one, ala "Teacher's Pet". Only "God's Lambkin" and "the Adversary's Lambkin". But we may have a better idea once I get an answer to my other question: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/40448/…
    – Ruminator
    May 1, 2019 at 22:46
  • It is true that small, young lambs have proto-horns. These are sometimes burned/seared by farmers to prevent them developing and causing damage later. It is significant that Rev 13:11 does not specify how large the horns were except to say that they were horns like a lamb - presumably very modest.
    – user25930
    May 1, 2019 at 23:06
  • I consider "study" and "meditation" to be different in that study seems to involve "learning words" while meditation seems to involve picturing the scene (at least for me). As I was trying to picture a big scary monstrous "lambkin" with scary horns, etc. I drew a blank. In fact, I didn't see how horns would even exist, but was corrected. The lambkin is a wolf in a lamb's clothing, apparently with very little power and is the "ambassador" of the first "wild animal". Perhaps it is Herod Antipas? Who killed John the baptizer? Again, lots to chew on.
    – Ruminator
    May 1, 2019 at 23:13

The English translations do not always catch the connotations, so the strict definition "beast" is the fall back. The English translation for Strong's Gr 2342 "θηρίον" / "therion" as simply "beast" is not just any animal. The definition is a wild animal, as distinguished from a domesticated animal. The wild animals - lions, leopards, wolves, bears - are predator beasts which prey upon the young and the weak. These wild beasts were always used as metaphors for ruling authorities and kings which tyrannized the people, and profited from their labor.

Picture a wolf stalking its prey, picking out the young lamb or deer, the weak one to take down. The metaphor of the predator beasts is clearly seen in Ezek. 22:25, 27 where God was again condemning Jerusalem's rulers.

"25 There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof." (KJV)

"27 Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain." (KJV)

And, again in Zeph. 3: 1-4,

"3 Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city!

2 She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near to her God.

3 Her princes within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; they gnaw not the bones till the morrow.

4 Her prophets are light and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law." (KJV)

The wild predator animals were the metaphor God used to indicate those who oppressed His people, the lambs or domesticated animals who were defenseless against the stronger, violent killers. God uses this picture again in Ezek. c. 34 speaking of the people becoming meat in the mouths of those who were supposed to be the shepherds of Israel:

"2 Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?"

"3 Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock."...

"5 And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered."...

"7 Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord;

"8 As I live, saith the Lord God, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock;....

"10 Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them." (KJV)

This is the same picture as in Rev. 13:1, and 11. The sea beast was a predator nation feeding upon the weak, killing the newly born saints of the Lord, His ecclesia, and stood for the gentile world power of the day... the Roman empire. The land beast was the predator ruling authorities of the "earth" of Judea -the Sanhedrin, or the Sadduccees and Pharisees who were instigating the persecution of Christ and His saints, the lambs.

The predator beasts were the tyrannical ruling authorities and their prey was the new converts to The Way, those newly born Christians of the first century AD.

Every reference to lions, or tigers, or wolves is used in this way to indicate a ruling authority that is feeding off of the people, converting the people's labor and property to their own use.

"15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." (Matt. 7:15, KJV)

"Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." (Matt. 10:16, KJV)

So, the word "beast" in Rev. 13:11 does not mean a "lambkin" or small animal. It is one that wielded power, that used force and violence against the people.

The picture of the prophesy from Isaiah 11:6ff of wild beasts dwelling with domesticated animals is meant the peaceful state of those who were once outside of Christ coming into His kingdom to be His children, His lambs who look to Him as their shepherd.

See more of the animal symbols of Revelation in my post "The Signs of Revelation - Part V: The Animal Symbols of The Battle" at ShreddingTheVeil.

The English word "beasts" is used improperly in Rev. 4:6 for the living creatures that surrounded the throne of God. I discuss this incorrect translation more thoroughly in my post "The Signs of Revelation - Part IV: Symbols of the Throne Scene..." here.

All bold emphasis is mine.

  • Are you saying that the second beast represents a type of person rather than a particular person?
    – Ruminator
    May 2, 2019 at 12:30
  • No, the second beast was the second persecuting power, the ruling authority that was working along with the 1st beast / world power. The first beast was Rome and the Roman Caesar, a man (Rev. 13:18 -Nero, 666) who persecuted the saints at the instigation / push of the Sanhedrin, the Jerusalem council who was the 2nd beast. Jerusalem was the woman riding the sea beast (Rev. 17:3-6ff). A rider sits on top of the beast (Rome) and directs its path. She was drunk with the blood of the saints (Rev. 17:6). Beasts are ruling powers, or kings tyrannizing the ppl. See my post The Whore of Babylon.
    – Gina
    May 2, 2019 at 13:21
  • Revelation was about the destruction of Jerusalem, and the destruction of the animal sacrificial system which God abhorred (Isa. 1:11), & which became profane after Christ's sacrifice on the cross. So, the sea beast of Rev was a particular world power (Rome) centered in its ruler / king of that day - Nero. The land beast was the ruling power of the time over the "earth" of Judea - the Sanhedrin. Both were working together for a while to accomplish one goal - destroy the Christians and Christ's church. But, as a type - any world power or king that fed off the ppl was a "beast" or predator.
    – Gina
    May 2, 2019 at 13:28
  • Do you identify the second beast as identical to the "little horn" of Daniel 7?
    – Ruminator
    May 2, 2019 at 13:31
  • Keeping the beasts and world powers in context, Dan. 7 outlines the four kingdoms which were identified in Nebechadnezzar's dream (Dan. 2): 1) coming up out of the sea (vs. 3) so they were gentile world powers - the lion with eagle's wings, Babylon; the bear - Medes & Persians; the leopard with 4 wings & 4 heads - Alexander & his 4 generals; and then Rome, the lion w/ great teeth that beat & stamped out all nations b4 it. This 4th beast had 10 horns. Horns were kings, with power to kill. The little horn came up among those 10, was 1 of those 10, came after 3 were plucked up - Vespasian.
    – Gina
    May 2, 2019 at 13:41

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