Biblical Symbolism in ‘Dune’ (2021)

Michael ParsonsSymbolic World Icon
February 26, 2024
“Our road leads into the desert.”

A walk through the world of Biblical Symbolism on the desert planet Arrakis.

The Language of Creation

“The language of creation can be used as a key to decipher ancient stories, myths, and laws from all over the world.”
– Matthieu Pageau, The Language of Creation 1

What Biblical Symbolism Is and Is Not

In this exploration of Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune, I’ll be using concepts found in Matthieu Pageau’s book The Language of Creation, the work of Fr. Stephen De Young and the Lord of Spirits podcast, as well as Jonathan Pageau’s The Symbolic World podcast. These ideas will permeate the article and help me apply and incorporate the movie’s particular symbols into a larger and more general biblical framework. Since the context for this interpretation is the movie itself and not the books by Herbert, there may be points of divergence from how things play out in the books in their totality and this interpretation.

As expressed by the title of Matthieu Pageau’s book, symbolism is a language. One could say that it is the language of perception itself — i.e., the context in which all language is embedded. To say it another way, it is the gate that all languages must pass through in order to come into existence. The structure of language in general is predicated on things like “up” being associated with goodness, purpose, light, air, and cleanliness. By contrast, “down” is generally associated with badness, confusion, darkness, weight, and being dirty. It is direct primal experiences like these which undergird the symbolic categories of the Bible, and it is through them that we can better understand all stories, regardless of their format. Therefore, they can help us better understand the storied world in which we live. 

Today we often associate symbolism with confusion and projection because our understanding of it isn’t grounded in these experiences but rather in passing temporal circumstances. This is because we are humans living in a fallen world. Our biggest obstacle to understanding what the Bible and other stories are communicating is that we want to understand them through our own present context. Consider two simple examples: “Jesus was a socialist!” and “The eye means the illuminati!” Both of these statements reinterpret the subjects by imposing the present context and bias on them rather than allowing them to speak from their own. These associations project backwards. Socialism didn’t exist during Christ’s earthly ministry, and the eye is first and foremost the organ of sight. In this case hindsight is not 20/20. Current affairs and groups can be understood using symbols, but they do not define the symbols. 

Even though the Bible is foundational to our culture, it in many ways comes across as foreign to us now. The biblical writers thought and wrote with categories very different from our own, in a time when secularization, modern political ideologies, and scientific-materialism had not yet entered into human consciousness. As alluded to, these have confused our understanding and yet, this impulse to reinterpret or project our own biases into the text seems natural to us.2 In the ancient world, natural meant that a thing or creature was serving its God-given purpose, not merely what a thing is when observed scientifically. From a Christian perspective, this “natural” impulse to reinterpret and project biases is precisely the problem; it is natural to the Fall. It is not as God intends it and is therefore unnatural. In contrast, our state had not yet been corrupted when we lived in communion with God in Paradise, that is, until the expulsion of Adam and Eve.

Mosaic of the Expulsion from Paradise, Monreale Cathedral, Italy, 12th century.


“And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man he had formed.”
– Genesis 2:8

“The Story of Adam and Eve,” by the Boucicaut Master (French, active approx. 1390–1430).

Paradise, paradeisos in Greek, is from a Persian loan word which means a walled garden.3 A walled garden is a place that has definite borders and is cultivated. Though it is bound, it is ultimately the place where two other places intersect, the Heavens and the Earth. 

All images of Dune (2021) are from

Our first look at a type of or symbolic paradise in Dune is on House Atreides’ home planet, Caladan. Here’s the same image but I’ve brightened it significantly.

The dwelling place of House Atreides is on the mountain tops, the place that ascends above the clouds and into the heavens. While most of us might not typically think of Paradise (also called the Garden of Eden) as being on top of a mountain, it is in fact so stated in the Bible, though in Ezekiel, not in Genesis.4 It was also known to early Christian writers and thinkers such as Saint Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335–c. 394) and Saint Ephrem the Syrian (c. 306–c. 379).5 Mountains, in the Bible, are the dwelling place of God. They were also the dwellings of the gods for ancient pagans. This is because the gods are “in the heavens” where the sky and earth touch.

For House Atreides, Caladan is where, like Adam, they mediate between the heavens (the realm of authority, legitimacy, identity, ideas — what is above), and earth (material existence — what is below).6 It is the place where they “rule by air and sea power” (Dune [2021], at 14:48).

Compare the Atreides kingdom with an image of Cair Paravel, the place where the Pevensie children, kings and queens of Narnia, rule and are in communion with Aslan, who represents Jesus Christ in The Chronicles of Narnia

Cair Paravel from C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.

Here, we see the similarities in structure with the magnificent Mont-Saint-Michel (Mountain of St. Michael) in Normandy, France. All three of these locations have a mountain-like structure and are situated by the sea. To be sure there are differences, such as the fact that though the Atreides are situated up high, Villeneuve gives us a clue that they are not the highest in the Imperium. The “top” of this mountain is in a valley and next to a much larger one.

Mont-Saint-Michel off the coast of Normandy.

In one sense, they have conquered the air through their technologies of flight and weaponry, and in another sense they have conquered the air in the sense of breath and spirit, ruach in Old Testament Hebrew, which is inseparable from speech. This same Hebrew word is used to refer to the Spirit of God that pulled the dry land out of the salt waters in the beginning. “The Atreides voice is rising,” “the Great Houses look to them for leadership,” says the antagonistic Harkonnen Baron (20:18). The Atreides rule in the heavens, and because of that the Tohu wa-bohu, the chaotic sea, is under their dominion as well.7 At least, for now.

The Atreides ship emerges from the sea like a giant sea monster.

As far as we can tell from the movie, the Atreides are valiant, virtuous, and foolish. They have a loyal population and “the voice of their house is rising” according to the Harkonnen Baron (20:28). All this speaks to a fruitful connection between heaven and earth because of Duke Leto, our typological first Adam’s headship.

Duke Leto Atreides awaits the Herald of the Change.

The Heavens & the Earth

In biblical cosmology, Earth (or just earth) is not merely a planet or dirt but all of physical existence. For us living in modern times, this includes things such as the entire range of the electromagnetic spectrum, anything that can be measured or observed with scientific equipment, quantified. Heaven, on the other hand, is best understood in relation to earth. For example, a house is made of physical objects which can be gathered together and ordered in such a way that they make a house. The house and each object used to build it, such as the building materials and tools, each have an individual and collective blueprint and purpose. These purposes and blueprints are not physical. They exist first as an abstract idea and over time, through work, they begin to take shape in and through matter. For example, God in Heaven takes earth and out of it He creates Man. Heaven and earth meet, and creation takes place. This same pattern, at a lower level, applies to a hypothesis and a theory, for example. A hypothesis (heaven) exists abstractly as a prediction but only becomes a theory (creation) as it is confirmed through experimentation (earth/work). When this is done appropriately we participate in God’s Creation and “name the animals.” In Dune, we get a look at this process gone awry through the figure of Duke Leto.

Adam giving names to the animals, Monastery of St. Nikolaos Anapavsas, Greece.

The Cosmic Mountain, Babel, and The Ziggurat of Dune

I've already touched on the Mountain of Paradise from a biblical standpoint, but I would like to further explore the symbol of the cosmic mountain in general. We see the cosmic mountain within many cultures around the world across space and time. The Athenians had Olympus, home of the gods. The Egyptians had their pyramids. The Mexica people and the Babylonians, though halfway across the world from each other, had their ziggurats.

The Ziggurat of Ur, built in 2100 BC and partially reconstructed in the 1980s.

The ziggurat and the pyramid are each a kind of man-made mountain for the purposes of mediating between the heavens and the earth and communing with one’s gods — think Babel. They were seen as places of stability that were surrounded by chaos and disorder, the influences of time.8 And we do in fact have an image of a ziggurat in Dune.9

This ziggurat is the location from which all the Spice, a sacred hallucinogenic material which “brings life, and has enormous health benefits,” is stolen from the native Fremen people by the brutal Harkonnen (6:36). The Harkonnen’s very name associates them with Behemoth from Revelation. Härkä in Finnish means ox and is where the Finnish surname Härkönen is derived. This Spice is then sold to the Space Guild who uses it “to find safe paths between the stars.... Without it interstellar space travel would be impossible” (6:45). It’s difficult to think of a better image of something like “stealing divinity” than using a psychoactive substance to navigate through the stars which govern the cosmos. Admittedly, this isn’t the image that comes to mind when we think of the Garden of Eden. These so-called gods are not so merciful as the biblical God. This is an image of a tyrannical and mechanistic way of mediating between the heavens and earth. Instead of bringing the Good down from above, as Moses did, giving to those at the foot of the mountain so that they may have order and life, those above take from those below without any regard. The Harkonnens have become “obscenely rich” by selling Spice. They are bald and always clothed in jet black. They “land at night” and the Baron is likened to a giant, harking back to Goliath and the giant clans of the Old Testament (and for those that enjoy fairy tales, the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk).

The Baron towers above like a giant, a Nephilim, one of those men of renown that came into being as a consequence of the union between the sons of God (fallen angels/gods/elohim) and the daughters of men before the flood.

In the Bible, cutting one’s hair is associated with cutting off excess or remainders, whatever it is that one may find bothersome and useless, or can’t be accounted for or controlled by one’s own system or worldview.10 The reason hair represents this is because it is the wild part on the edge of the body that has no feeling. Some tame it by various techniques, while others shave it off in order to get rid of it completely. As such, shaving one’s head in many cases represents pure allegiance, such as when one joins the military for instance. This further associates the Harkonnens with the Bull and military might. 

Let us continue our sandwalk as we explore the significance of their homeworld, Geidi Prime.

Geidi Prime is a star in the horn of the constellation of Capricorn. The Capricorn itself is a hybrid monster with the head and torso of a goat and the tail of a fish, two opposite things which are thrown together. These opposites show us a place where borders touch, inside and outside, light and darkness. Likewise, the dawn is simultaneously two things at once, the end of night and the beginning of day. And yet, in the nature of the hybrid, it is neither wholly day nor wholly night. It is something else. It is reminiscent of the winter solstice, when the sun goes down to its lowest point of the year, darkening the heavens until it starts its ascent upwards again, just like a goat that is climbing up a mountain, its upper half facing the light while the bottom faces darkness below. Therefore, House Harkonnen participates in this theme of transition, one in which they show us the darkness that comes before the ascendancy of a new sun, which for Dune is Paul Atreides, the son of Duke Leto and our typological Second Adam.

The Messiah

“The first man is made from earth, made of dust; the second man is made from heaven.”
– 1 Corinthians 15:47

Christ in the Garden with Adam and Eve, pictured here at Capella Palatina in Palermo, Italy, 1140–1170 AD.
The First and Second Adam, and the Fall

Christ is often referred to as the “Second Adam” because we experience His coming as second. Yet Christ Himself says, “Before Abraham was, I Am” (John 8:58). In ancient Christianity, it is well known that no one can see God the Father. No one can see His face and live (cf. Ex. 33:20). Therefore, when God walked in the garden it was the Son that was with Adam and Eve. God is seen in and through His Son. He is the way in which God reveals and unites Himself to the world. Therefore, Christ is the true first. He is the standard by which all others are judged.

Paul Atreides, Duke Leto’s son, our symbolic and typological second Adam, awaits the Herald of the Change.

For Dune, we have our “first” Adam in the figure of Duke Leto and our “second” in his son, Paul. This doesn’t mean that either of these figures is literally Christ or Adam but that they share in their biblical typology and in certain ways reveal and fall short of their Archetype. Just as Adam is exiled by God from the Garden, so too is Duke Leto exiled by the Emperor from his paradise on Caladan. 

The sun sets on the Atreides’ time in Caladan, marking the beginning of exile.

The Emperor is not God but akin to “the ruler of this world,” a false god and fallen angel. The validity of your paradise ultimately depends on what god you’re communing with. This spiritual death of exile from Caladan opens Leto up to physical death while on the desert planet of Arrakis. Being a lower elohim of the Imperium, he accepts the fruit (the stewardship of Arrakis) from the snake (the Herald of the Change) to “bring peace to Arrakis” (7:02).11 This seemingly noble venture is a plot to get House Atreides out of their homeworld and close to the Harkonnens, opening them up to a surprise attack that will cleanse them from the Imperium — all but Paul and his mother Jessica. “The Emperor is a jealous man,” the Baron tells us (20:18). But Leto, in keeping with his grandfather who “fought bulls for sport” has a plan to “tap the true power of Arrakis” by “making an alliance with the Fremen,” to “cultivate desert power” (13:12).

Grandfather Atreides is depicted on his tomb fighting the bull, a foreshadowing of what is to come.

On Arrakis the desert planet, the Fremen represent the outside of the system, the remainders. There is always power and potential at the margins and, if integrated properly, it can topple the idols of the Imperium. 

The Fremen.

This plan, this blueprint from heaven for strengthening his house against his enemies, is precisely what our first Adam fails to materialize, to unite with earth. His hypothesis and facts do not agree. He is tricked and then betrayed by his family doctor, Dr. Yueh, who takes down the Shield Wall which “protects the city from the weather and worms” (39:07). This act makes way for the Harkonnen attack, and sends Paul and his mother into exile in the wilderness of the desert. Apparently, if you mess with the bull, you get the horns.12

The Salusan bull looks down on the Duke who is in the captivity of the Harkonnen in his final moments.

If the exile from Caladan to Arrakis is the first fall, then the exile from the city to the desert is the second. In the Bible, to be exiled is to be “cut off from among the people” and is indeed a death sentence.13 So too is it in Dune, as the Baron confirms, “No Atreides will live.... The desert takes the weak” (48:52). This exile, this spiritual death, is the death of their former selves and the beginning of a type of baptism into their new role as Lisan al-Gaib, a “voice from the outer world” which is embodied in “a mother and a son” (42:48). This calls to mind our Lady when she fled into the desert and gave birth to her Son (cf. Rev. 12:5–6). But this is only the beginning for Jessica and Paul. There is more dying to be done....

Paul and Jessica, shrouded in darkness, look on at the destruction of the city after the Harkonnen attack.

Later in the movie Paul falls from the heavens in an aircraft down into the desert. He comes from above like a seed and crashes as if being planted into the earth, prefiguring the joining of him and the Fremen, a union of heaven and earth. A “cosmic seed” is a spiritual principle which “contains the whole universe as pure information”14 — the entire oak tree is contained within the acorn, for example. In order for the seed to fulfill its purpose — i.e., become the tree — it must first die (cf. John 12:24). It does this by acquiring more material existence through nutrition. The spiritual seed on the other hand is nourished and grown in the form of persons or “body.” We see this pattern in the Bible when the three Angels visit Abraham and Sarah, who serve them food. When something is eaten, it literally becomes the body of whomever is eating it. Flesh is offered up by Abraham and Sarah, meaning that they give body or give flesh to the angels by hosting them, giving material existence to what is above.

This pattern is also prefigured when Paul is shown sitting in front of a large mural of fish, associating him with the Ichthys, while sitting in a structure in the middle of the desert. Christ said to the Apostles, “I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17).

In this same scene while Paul listens to an educational recording on the Fremen, the shepherd tree is also mentioned. Just as Christ gathered in the outsiders of Rome through His Apostles, so too will Paul gather in the Fremen. Will Paul have a big enough net in the desert for what awaits him there?

Christ tells the Apostles on which side to throw their net.

Here, There Be No Whales

“Thus God made great sea creatures and every living thing with which the water abounded....”
– Genesis 1:21

Jonah is vomited up by the ketos, 4th-century floor mosaic, Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta Aquileia, Italy.

Many of us have been brought up with the story of Jonah and the Whale. With this, we have a prime example of the type of categorical error I mentioned at the beginning of our exploration. Our modern taxonomic category of whale is insufficient in understanding what Christ Himself refers to as the “ketos” that Jonah was trapped in the belly of for three days and three nights (Matt. 12:40). It wasn’t until 1534 that William Tyndall translated this word as whale. In Genesis, God creates the tanninim, a plural Hebrew word which literally translates as “great sea creatures” (Gen. 1:21). Tannin, the singular, is often translated as dragon (e.g., Is. 27:1). In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) for Genesis, tannin is translated as ketos. This is because the Greek ketos and the Hebrew tannin, as beasts of the chaotic sea, actually have more in common with each other than they do with our modern category of whale. They are simply different beasts. This understanding is reflected in our earliest Christian depictions of the event.

Jonah is thrown overboard to, and vomited out by the ketos, 2nd-century fresco, Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter, Rome.
Here in the Menologion of Basil II (Constantinople, c. 1000 AD), we see that this persisted as the Church's understanding of the beast.

Back to applying this biblical understanding to Dune, it is also not a chance event that the English word “worm” has an etymological relationship with its Old English kin “wyrm,” which is defined as “a huge limbless wingless dragon” or simply “a sea serpent” and is especially interesting for our purpose here. Shai-Hulud, the giant sandworm of Dune is “capable of reaching 400 meters in length and inhabits the deep desert” (44:47).

Paul observes Shai-Hulud, the giant sandworm.

One of the most fascinating and telling phenomena that reveals this sand-wyrm to be a chaos-beast in keeping with the ketos that Christ refers to is that in order to cross the desert without attracting it, the Fremen must use the sandwalk, “a dance-like motion with irregular rhythm that emulates the natural sounds of the desert (45:10). This means that the desert has an irregular rhythm, it lacks order and intelligibility just like the ephemeral waves of the sea. Isn’t it interesting how the dunes of the desert have similar behavior? Though some may rise high, they are eventually blown down and scattered, a parody of a mountain. Furthermore, anything that sounds like or resembles order, the worm detects, attacks, and destroys. It is said that a shield “drives them into a killing frenzy” (1:01:00).

In the ancient world, serpentine chaos monsters were often seen as gods themselves — Tiamat in ancient Mesopotamian religion for instance. In the Enuma Elish, Tiamat is killed by the god Marduk. Order is restored and chaos overcome. 

Marduk kills Tiamat.

Interestingly, Shai-Hulud is also revered as a god. It is put on full display for us when the Judge of the Change, Dr. Liet Kynes, says a prayer as it devours the spice harvester: “Bless the Maker and his water. Bless the coming and going of him. May his passage cleanse the world and keep the world for his people” (1:07:50).

Shai-Hulud devours a spice harvester.

Later, when Dr. Kynes brings Paul and Jessica back to an old ecological testing station (which was “meant to tame the planet by freeing the fresh water locked beneath the sand,” pointing to the potentiality of the Fremen), she sacrifices her chance to escape the Sardukar warriors with Paul and Jessica in a flying vehicle called a thopter. She calls the worm to her using a gadget called a thumper, a gadget which makes a steady, ordered, rhythmic thumping sound, so she can ride the beast to her rendezvous with them. She is foiled. The warrior says to her, “Kynes, you have betrayed the Emperor.” She responds by saying, “I serve only one master and his name is Shai-Hulud!” before the worm surfaces and devours both her and her pursuers (1:55:06).

The Thornbush and the Edge of the World

After the Atreides first arrive on Arrakis, Jessica receives a Crysknife from a Fremen woman. It is made from a tooth of Shai-Hulud. Paul receives his at a later point in the story from a Fremen girl named Chani, bringing to mind when King Arthur received Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake.

All the Fremen carry these Crysknives, and “they will not part with them.”

To get to the Fremen, Paul and Jessica fly through a sandstorm, crash land, and move quickly across the desert “through the path of Shai-Hulud.” They successfully navigate the chaos all the way to the outermost edge, to the margin, the remainders. The knives themselves resemble thorns, and indeed this is what the Fremen symbolize, the thorn bush. They represent the very limit of sacred space, of Paul and Jessica’s former identities, starting with who they were in Caladan on top of that mountain, the fall to the false-paradise of the spice-city and exile into the desert, and through the chaos all the way out to the thorn bush. It is where Paul is compelled by duty to do battle, under the amtal rule, and kill Jamis, one of the Fremen warriors, to protect his mother. It is this final fall into death, this taking of another life which marks his final descent, “baptizing” him into his new role as the Kwisatz Haderach and thereby receiving something akin to a crown of thorns, taking that which is below and raising it up.

Jonathan Pageau’s “image of everything,” the cosmic mountain. The fall of the Atreides resembles that of Adam and Eve, culminating in the crowning of Dune’s messiah, Paul Atreides, with the thorn bush, the crown of thorns.

In a vision, just before Paul kills Jamis, unidentified voices suggestive of the Bene Gesserit, a powerful religious sisterhood, whisper, “Paul Atreides must die for Kwisatz Haderach to rise.... When you take a life you take your own” (2:18:00).

The sun rises as Jessica and Paul follow the Fremen back to Sietch Tabr while carrying Jamis’s dead body.

The Bull, Revelation, and Revolution

“Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea.... Then I saw another beast coming up from the earth....”
– Revelation 13:1, 11

Grandfather taunts the bull.

Up to this point I’ve addressed the way in which Dune participates in biblical patterns, to one degree or another, such as paradise, the cosmic mountain, the first Adam, the fall, angels and/or gods, the second Adam/the Messiah, exile, the chaos waters, death and the desert, baptism, the ketos, and the thorn bush. I mentioned earlier that the Harkonnen are something of a Behemoth, but what about the Emperor? We only hear mention of him even though the entire story is set in motion by him. 

We’re told that he is called “Shaddam IV of House Corrino, ascendant to the Golden Lion Throne of Padishah Emperor of the Known Universe” (8:21). Shaddam in Arabic means “one who confronts or one who causes collisions.”15 His surname, Corrino, is etymologically derived from the Latin name of the pagan god Quirinus which means, “wielder of the spear.” Interestingly, Quirinus is also a sobriquet for the ancient Roman god Janus, Janus Quirinus, whose names means “arched passageway or doorway” and whose function was “presiding over all beginnings and transitions, whether abstract or concrete, sacred or profane.”16 Shaddam Corrino IV and the Harkonnen both participate in the symbolism of Behemoth, represented by the Salusan Bull, the beast from the earth.17 The warring attribute of the beast from the sea also seems to apply to the Harkonnen. War is messy. Both beasts, both in the Bible and in Dune, represent aspects of an overall system which we could call the system of the beast.18 In Dune, this system is the empire of the known universe in its current state. Symbolism from Revelation doesn’t always map cleanly since it’s showing us the end where boundaries are blurred and confusion runs amok.

The head of a Salusan bull is packed away during the Atreides move from Caladan.

For example, though Harkonnen is Finnish for bull, Salusa Secundus, the home of the Emperor, is also the home of the Salusan bull. What’s more, the Emperor himself participates in multiple symbols. He is “ascendant to the golden lion throne” for instance (8:25). Perhaps we should say that he is “like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Throughout the Imperium he tries to account for, or mark, all remainders, anyone that doesn’t have their will aligned with his. This type of accounting or marking, which is the essence of 666, acts as an acid on the glue which holds societies together, a catalyst for spiritual and systemic entropy, potentially leading to chaos and war. 

The word apocalypse doesn’t necessarily describe the end of a world as we often think or speak of colloquially. Apocalypse technically means to unveil, or reveal. As institutions and governing bodies lose their legitimacy, typically by the process of some scandal, they must resort to coercion, force, and even violence as their grip of control on those they are supposed to care for and govern starts to slip. In the Bible, this is what it means for the dragon to be cast down from heaven, from the place of authority. Paul Atreides elucidates the scandal for us, “The emperor has moved against here.... You know what the Great Houses fear? Exactly what has happened to us, the Sardukar coming and picking them off one by one.... Only together can they stand a chance against the Imperium” (1:47:00). The war always takes place in the heavens first, the realm of authority and legitimacy (the gods), until the conflict eventually falls down into the earthly or physical realm and the beasts come out to play, making war and attempting to reintegrate people back into the system and reestablish order. After all, Behemoth points people back towards the dragon by performing “great signs, even making fire come down from heaven” (Rev. 13:13).

The Harkonnen rain fire down on the unsuspecting Atreides as a captured Paul and Jessica are taken into exile.

As I alluded to earlier, we already saw that this process was underway with the Baron’s comment that “the Atreides voice is rising,” reinforcing the connection between heaven, authority, and speech (ruach). The movie doesn’t simply culminate in an apocalyptic setting, it takes place in one in its entirety.

This movement of chaos to tyranny — i.e., this loss of legitimacy and drive to regain it by force — brings to mind the Chaoskampf and Succession Myths of pre-Christian paganism, in that it will ultimately culminate in war and violent revolution. Such revolution is markedly different, in my opinion, from how the Christian story not only plays out in the Scriptures but also within history. Is Christianity revolutionary or not?

The Chaoskampf stories are world-creating battles of order against chaos, the Marduk vs. Tiamat battle mentioned earlier for instance. The Succession Myths, generally speaking, represent violent revolution where son kills or castrates father, as with Kronos and Ouranos. The young kill to take the place of the old, and then the old respond by devouring the young. Christianity, on the other hand, established God’s order within and through the existing political structure and civilization by turning people’s hearts towards God through self-sacrifice, not by the sword. This turning the heart towards God baptized Roman civilization, destroying the powers behind it and thus allowing for its integration into the Kingdom of Heaven, even if not completely. Exceptions will always remain. This is how Christianity rebels without being what we typically think of as revolutionary. At the Creation, instead of some apocalyptic battle of order against chaos taking place, YHWH speaks order into being, and with historic Christianity the Saints and the Church have also spoken through martyrdom, creating alphabets for whole civilizations, speaking out against heresy, checking hot-headed emperors, and of course bringing the Gospel to the world. This is how Christianity changed one of the most cruel societies in history into a society that outlawed many evils and changed the face of the entire world. Here, it seems, is what true rebellion is. It is the rebellion against the prince of the power of the air and his fallen angels, through the transformation of the Holy Spirit, who is God, by enabling us to embody His Presence throughout the Created Order, to participate in its Salvation. In other words, to participate in the coming of Paradise back into the world in the form of the New Jerusalem.

This would be a great place to end, but I must touch on the strange relationship between the serpent, the agent of time and transformation, and the Messiah. Through the eyes of fallen civilizations, the Messiah is seen as a force of chaos, a challenge to its Babelesque authority. Moses participates in this typology when he throws down his staff in front of the Egyptian magicians, turning it into a serpent, which when picked back up turns into a staff again, a symbol of order. Later, he lifts up the bronze serpent in the desert to save the Israelites from the multitudinous biting and burning ones. Christ Himself says, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert so too must the Son of Man be lifted up,” and admonishes us to be “wise as serpents but innocent as doves,” connecting Him and His followers with serpentine imagery. St. Maximos the Confessor (c. 580–662) even says in his commentary on Jonah, concerning the worm that smote the gourd plant (a symbol for order), “The worm is our Lord and God Jesus Christ.”19 Though Paul Atreides is merely a shadow of Christ, this is why he’s connected with the giant sand worm of Arrakis. He will cultivate the desert by integrating the Fremen, bringing to fruition the will of his father, and riding the giant worm to victory.

This article is currently being edited and will be reposted soon

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1.  Matthieu Pageau, The Language of Creation (2018), p. 31, fn. 2.

2.  Cf. Jonathan Pageau, “The Meaning of the Dog-Headed St. Christopher,” The Secrets of God’s’Dog (2021), pp. 39–42.

3.  See Stephen De Young, The Religion of the Apostles (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2021), p. 153.

4.  From Ezekiel: “You were in Eden, the garden of God. Every precious stone was your covering, the ruby, topaz, and emerald, the chrysolite, onyx, and jasper, the sapphire, turquoise, and beryl; your settings and mounts were made of gold. On the day you were created they were prepared. I placed you there with an anointed guardian cherub; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked about amidst fiery stones” (28:13–14).

5.  Saint Ephrem the Syrian: “With the eye of my mind I gazed upon Paradise; the summit of every mountain is lower than its summit, the crest of the Flood reached only its foothills; these it kissed with reverence before turning back to rise above and subdue the peak of every hill and mountain. The foothills of Paradise it kisses, while every summit it buffets. Not that the ascent to Paradise is arduous because of its height, for those who inherit it experience no toil there. With its beauty it joyfully urges on those who ascend. Amidst its glorious rays it lies resplendent, all fragrant with its scents; magnificent clouds fashion the abodes of those who are worthy of it.” Hymns on Paradise, td. by Sebastian Brock (St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1990), pp. 78–79.

6.  See Matthieu Pageau: “Language is what separates humans from animals in this cosmology. Adam is the only earthly creature capable of uniting spiritual principles and corporeal facts with language (through his spirit or breath).... Humanity’s full role as cosmic mediator can be summed up as ‘naming animals and hosting angels.’ In biblical cosmology, angels are messengers that transmit higher meaning and guidance to humanity. On the other hand, beasts can potentially receive guidance and instruction from humans. Naming the animals is the ultimate proof of Adam’s God-given authority because it makes him the very source of their identity.” Op. cit., p. 60.

7.  For Tohu wa-bohu, see Wikipedia.

8.  Matthieu Pageau: “Space is defined as a stabilizing power against the transformative forces of time.” Op. cit., p. 116.

9. Idem: “Another important symbol of the spatial axis is the Cosmic Mountain, which embodies stability in the natural world. It stands at the center of the universe in resistance to the forces of pointless change that constantly threaten to flood the land.” Op. cit., p. 121.

10.  Idem: “The process of building space [think “building paradise”] begins with a positive principle (the foundation stone) according to which every other ‘stone’ must be arrayed. When this integration is successful, material reality lends its power and support to that principle. However, when it fails, it reveals anomalous facts or ‘remainders’ that question the supremacy of the first principle.” Op. cit., p. 132.

11.  Idem: “The snake is also a symbol of ‘time.’ It is an influence that disintegrates and returns all things to the primitive stages of creation.” Op. cit., p. 226.

12.  Deuteronomy: “A firstborn Bull, he has majesty, and his horns are the horns of a wild ox; with them he shall gore the peoples; all of them, to the ends of the earth” (33:17).

13.  De Young, op. cit., p. 152.

14.  Matthieu Pageau, op. cit., p. 43.

15.  See Wikipedia.

16.  See Wikipedia.

17.  From the Book of Job: “Behold, Behemoth, which I made as I made you; he eats grass like an ox. Behold, his strength in his loins, and his power in the muscles of his belly. He makes his tail stiff like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are knit together. His bones are tubes of bronze, his limbs like bars of iron. He is the first of the works of God; let him who made him bring near his sword! For the mountains yield food for him where all the wild beasts play. Under the lotus plants he lies, in the shelter of the reeds and in the marsh. For his shade the lotus trees cover him; the willows of the brook surround him. Behold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightened; he is confident though Jordan rushes against his mouth. Can one take him by his eyes, or pierce his nose with a snare?” (40:15–24).

18.  See Jonathan Pageau, “Symbolism of the Beasts in The Book of Revelation,” YouTube, March 17, 2021. Or see transcript here.

19.  In Jonah 4:7 it is written, “So God sent a worm at dawn the next morning, and it smote the gourd plant,” and Saint Maximos the Confessor writes, “The worm is our Lord and God Jesus Christ, insofar as he says of himself through the prophet David, I am a worm and not a man (Ps. 21:7 LXX).... It is the worm who smote the gourd plant and caused it to whither.... For he who is the worm is also the Sun of Righteousness (Mal. 3:20 LXX).... For another thing, he went underground ... in the mystery of his death and burial” (Ad Thalassium 64). From On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ, td. by Paul M. Blowers (St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003), pp. 159–61.

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