The classical story of the rescue of Andromeda from the sea monster gave birth to numerous subsidiary beliefs, and is itself dependent upon earlier myths. In consequence of the maiden's mother having boasted that she was fairer than the Nereids, Poseidon sent a sea monster to lay waste the country of her father, Cepheus, King of Ethiopia. Happily the oracle of Ammon promised deliverance if Andromeda were surrendered to the monster, and thereupon, Cepheus chained her to a rock. While in this dreadful plight, she was seen by Perseus, who, having secured the Gorgon's head, shewed it to the monster, and thus turned it into stone. Perseus then married Andromeda.

The motif of this story is very widespread, for fairy tales far and wide tell us of the hero who kills the dragon in order to save the captive maiden. Nevertheless we must recognize that the "woman in the case" is a later, though natural, importation into the dragon saga. In more original versions the hero arrives in a locality devastated by the dragon, and at the entreaty of the king of the land slays the monster, and thus ends the reign of terror.1

Naturally, in the fairy tales the dragon and the warrior are of this world, but after the work of Gunkel it is now clear that such stories have their origin in the Babylonian type of saga in which the celestial warrior overcomes the primeval monster.2

In order to understand clearly the further development of the Perseus myth we must note that this contest was localized, and the neighborhood of Arsuf or Joppa marked as the traditional scene of the episode. This localization transferred the encounter from Africa to the Holy Land.

We must now leave Perseus for a short time in order to pick up another strand of our investigation. St. George, the patron saint of England, Aragon and Portugal, is stated to have sprung from Cappadocia, a division of Asia Minor. George was driven by the anti-Christian policy of Diocletian to a confession of faith before the emperor, which led to his torture and death at Nicomedia on April 23rd, 303. A tradition existed, however, which made Lydda the home of the saint and martyr. This town is only some ten miles distant from Joppa, and it so happened that in due course the local legend was transferred from Perseus and credited to Saint George. Later this act was commemorated by a bas relief in Lydda Church, which duly depicted St. George fighting the dragon.

Sir George Adam Smith accounts for the identification by remarking that the martyr's rise to fame coincided with the triumph of Christianity over Paganism.3 If this was the motive of the legend makers, we are at least compelled to admit that the symbolism is not only fitting, but also strangely in line with the original Babylonian form of the myth.

Under these circumstances it cannot surprise us that the Moslems, not recognizing in the bas relief a picture of St. George and his adversary, saw instead the struggle between Christ and Anti-christ. Hence arose the Moslem tradition that Christ will slay Anti-christ outside the gate of Lydda.4 An interesting suggestion has been made by modern scholars, who see in the name al-Dajjal (Anti-christ) a corruption of Dragon. "If the derivation be correct, then it is indeed a curious process by which the monster, symbolic of heathenism conquered by Christianity, has been evolved out of the first great rival of the God of Israel."5

Canon H. E. Hanauer provides us with another link with the more widely spread Anti-christ saga when he informs us that according to current Moslem eschatology the Bab el Khalil (i.e., the Jaffa gate at Jerusalem) will be the gate of Lydda where Jesus will destroy Anti-christ. This departure from the earlier Moslem tradition in localizing the event at Jerusalem, and in looking for a non-existent gate of Lydda there, is due to the direct influence of the pre-Islamic form of the myth.

In Christian tradition it was held that after Anti-christ had overthrown the three kings he was to take his seat in the temple at Jerusalem.6 The parallelism to the dragon myth is plain. For as the dragon storms the abode of God in heaven, so his earthly counterpart ejects God from his sanctuary on earth. But as the heavenly hero casts the dragon headlong from the celestial heights, so, in like manner, will Christ throw down the pretender from his throne in Jerusalem.

In order to square their own tradition, then, with the Christian view, the gate of combat was transferred by the Moslems from Lydda to Jerusalem.7

Let us now direct our attention to Al-Dajjal, as he is represented to us in Moslem tradition. "According to Arab legend he dwells in one of the islands of the Empire of the Maharaj, or the Zabaj (Java). The sailors of Siraf and of Oman say that in passing this island, beautiful music is heard, produced on the lute, the oboe, the tambourine and other instruments, accompanied by dancing and the clapping of hands."8 This is an unexpected development, and introduces a factor entirely foreign to the dragon saga. It is nevertheless not quite inexplicable, since the Mohammedans have ever been eclectic in the construction of their mythical personages.

According to the Chronicle of Tabari Al-Dajjal was a giant; and a constant feature of the Anti-christ legends is the assertion that Anti-christ will be blind in one eye. The Moslem tradition also asserts that he will have one eye. This last peculiarity is ultimately derived from the description of the foolish shepherd in Zech. 11:17b: "His arm shall be utterly withered and his right eye utterly blinded."9 If we combine these two characteristics we can readily account for the residence of Anti-christ on an island. The Moslems have simply confused him with Polyphemus, who also had one eye, was a giant, and lived on an island.10 The contempt for the gods displayed by this figment of Greek imagination also fits admirably the case of Anti-christ.

Another trait attributed by Tabari to Dajjal; namely that he is to be king of the Jews and rule the whole universe, is quite in line with the regular Anti-christ tradition. For instance, we read in version of Ephrem Syrus, "And forthwith is set up his kingdom, etc." The extent of his domination is referred to in many sources, viz. Irenaeus 5.30.4, "But when this Anti-christ shall have wasted everything in this world – he shall seat himself in the temple."11

The Jewish belief was the Anti-christ should be from the tribe of Dan, and arose out of the Rabbinical exposition of such passages as Deut. 33:22; Gen. 49:17; and Jer. 8:16; and is everywhere in patristic literature supported by references to these passages.12

So far we have noticed that Tabari credits Dajjal with being a giant, and a Jewish ruler of the world, but he goes even further, and applying the prophecy of Zechariah to Anti-christ makes him imitate our Lord by making him appear riding on an ass as large as himself, when Gog and Magog break through the wall of the city. This last touch comes directly from the genuine saga, which is demonstrated by the fact that Gog and Magog are almost invariably the forerunners of Armillus (Anti-christ) in the later Jewish apocalypses.13

In the Abrège des Merveilles (p. 150) we are told that Dajjal is tied to a rock on an island in the sea, and demons bring him his food. He is said to have been visited by Tamim al-Dari, a contemporary of the Prophet.14 The binding to the rock recalls Prometheus bound; but if this should prove to be the source of the feature, we must remark that here the Moslem tradition makers have slipped up badly, since far from being an Anti-christ, Prometheus is a typical "Heilbringer." The reference may be, however, to the binding of the old serpent.15

In Ephrem Syrus we have the tradition that Anti-christ has demons as messengers and ministers, and Pseudo-Hippolytus xxix.iii.10 relates that "For his demons he shall represent as angels of light, and hosts of bodiless (spirits) he shall lead forth." Other texts might be quoted to the same effect, which reveals once again Islamic indebtedness to the original legend.

In all the Moslem accounts, Anti-christ is represented as a monster. In this, once more, they have been borrowing from earlier Christian and Jewish sources.16 The confusions and contradictions of the Moslem traditionalists regarding the struggle against Anti-christ is revealed by the circumstance that by some it is the Mahdi and not Christ who is to overthrow Dajjal. This Mahdi is supposed to be a descendant of the Prophet, and the last of the Imams, who, according to Sunnite Moslems, is to come to earth at the last day, and in victorious warfare makes Islam to prevail throughout the world. This last is the completely Moslemized version of the saga: the intermediate stage being defined by the idea that the rule of the Mahdi will be overthrown by Dajjal, in order that Anti-christ may in turn be overthrown by Jesus at his second coming. This last form of the story may owe something to the doctrine of the two Messiahs as expounded by Justin Martyr. It is to be noted, however, that there is a persistent tradition that, "There is no Mahdi except Jesus." Snouck Hurgronje speaks of the use of this tradition in Turkish official classes, to prove that the true Mahdi must descend from the clouds, thus tending to discredit all pseudo-Mahdis arising from human society.17

In concluding this brief sketch of the history of the Anti-christ in Moslem tradition we may note that while the Moslems have, in a sense, adopted him into their religion and theology, not a few Christian divines have identified the gentleman in question with either the Prophet himself or with Islam in general, and can we say that they were entirely mistaken?18

Byculla, Bombay


1 In the apocryphal story of Bel and the Dragon the motif is transformed in accordance with the Hebrew religious genius, and thus stands somewhat apart from the general run of such narratives.

2 Cf. Gunkel Schöpfung und Chaos, passim.

3 Historical Geog. of the Holy Land.

4 Other traditions say that Anti-christ will appear either in Khorasan or at Kufa or in the Jewish quarter of Ispahan. Cf. Ency. Islam. art. Dadjdjal.

5 Historical Geog. of the Holy Land.

6 2nd Thess. 2:3; Iren. 5.30.4: 5.25; 1; Hipp. 70.27.12: Sibl. Orac. 12 (X); Pseudo-Ephrem "And entering that (temple) he shall seat himself as God"; Pseudo Joh. Apoc. 6. Codex E; Hilarius on Matt. 15; Eph. (Syr) 8: Pseudo-Meth. 99 etc. Cf. Also Bousset, Anti-christ Legend (Eng. Trans.) pp. 160ff.

7 Cf. my Unwritten Sayings of Jesus, Appendix B.

8 Ency. Islam. Al-Dadjdjal.

9 Cf. my Unwritten Sayings of Jesus. pp. 66ff.

10 Cf. Homer, Odyss. Bk 9.

11 Cf. also Iren. 5.251: Hipp. 52.27.12: Sibl. Orac. 12 (X): Pseudo-Johannine Apoc. 6 (Codex E).

12 Cf. Bousset, Anti-christ Legend for full references. Engl. Trans. p. 171f.

13 Cf. Sibl. Orac. 3.319:322: Mishna Eduyoth 2.10: Bousset Anti-christ Leg. (Eng. Trans.) p. 191; Hastings Dict. Apost. Church Art. "Gog & Magog": Ency. Bib. Art. Anti-christ II 12. Col. 182.

14 Art. Dadjdjal in Ency. Islam and Prairies d'Or. 4.28.

15 Rev. 20:2.

16 Cf. my Unwritten Sayings of Jesus p. 66ff. M. R. James, Lost Apocrypha of the Old Testament. p. 57ff; Test of the Lord, etc.

17 Mohammedanism p. 108: Walter, Ahmadiya Movement 37ff.

18 Koelle, Mohammed and Mohammedanism. For an earlier identification cf. Arabic and Ethiopic Book of St. Peter's disciple Clement, and the Apoc. of Apostle Peter by Clement. Dilman first pointed out in a full survey of the Eth. Text the prediction about Islam. First comes a reference to twelve rulers of the Umayyads (Mohammed to Abu Bakr) after which follows an account of the battles fought against Merwan II, after which the author speaks of four Empires: the Eagle – Babylonia; the Panther – Greek; the Lion - Roman: and a beast Arni (Dragon, snake) – the Children of Edeyo, which represents the Empire of Islam.

The Muslim World, vol. 19: 1930, pp. 50-55.

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