As a predominantly Christian people, Westerners think they know the Bible pretty well. But not everybody realizes that many of the most iconic features of Christianity were never mentioned by the holy book or the church, but were actually pulled from the ass of some poet or artist years after God turned in his final draft of the Bible.
We might be a bit late to the party here, but apparently The Bible is kinda controversial? Whether we're debating its scientific accuracy, figuring out how important the fine details are or just trying to remember what the hell happened in it, it seems like we're always finding something new to get mad about.
But those have never been the kind of arguments we're interested in. We're more about deciding whether The Bible's sex scenes are hotter than the one in Her, or if Ezekiel's zombie army could defeat the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Or, in the case of this Cracked Classic, we're simply showing that -- just like how Captain Kirk never said "beam me up, Scotty" and Darth Vader never said "Luke, I am your father" -- the Bible doesn't actually feature...
The image of an angel is so recognizable that you can immediately spot one if somebody makes its shape in some snow. They're sparkly people with two white wings and occasionally swords, who sit on clouds ripping out awesome harp solos while protecting humans from harm. So basically, the protagonists of the next Stephenie Meyer novel.
The sex scene will be as unsettling as it is improbable.
The Only Problem Is ...
Now, there are angels in the Bible. But if you encountered some of the angels it describes, you'd probably need a shotgun under your bed to sleep soundly for the rest of your life.*
*NOTE: that is a joke. If angels turn out to be real, and you encounter one, do not shoot it with a shotgun.
There are several kinds of angels in the Bible and you've probably heard about some of them, like archangels, cherubim and seraphim. They all look different, and very few actually have wings. Those who do, like the seraphim, actually have six wings and need all of them to cover their body, lest they blind/incinerate whoever is unlucky enough to bump into one.
This is a seraph, trying with all its might not to burn you alive.
Then there are the thrones, which are described in the Bible as "wheels within wheels," the rims of which are covered in eyes.
Whatever it is, we're pretty sure it can see.
Then we have the cutest order of angels, the cherubim. As we all know, a cherub is a baby angel, usually with a little bow and arrow and a leaf protecting his modesty. Except that Ezekiel 10:14 describes them as frightening four-headed monstrosities that included the faces of a man, an eagle and a lion.
Actually Came From:
Painters took liberties when portraying angels, and just like putting capes on superheroes, giving them wings was a visually interesting way to identify who was the angel in a painting full of regular dudes (wings were also used in the early church to denote that these creatures lived in the sky). Archangels like Michael and Gabriel were given contemporary military garb.
Which apparently included "hair like a lady."
Cherubs in particular didn't get their extreme makeover until Renaissance sculptors revived the ancient practice of putti, which depicted cute babies dancing and playing around on infant tombs. The rediscovery and reimplementation of these little cuties brought Cupid-esque cherubs into vogue, as demonstrated by Tomba di Ilaria del Carretto:
Whaddya know? Those dancing naked babies do make this tomb less unsettling.
Lastly, the thing about the harps was actually invented by John Milton who wrote about angels "plucking harps" in Paradise Lost, basically just because it was the cutest thing he could pull out of his ass.
#4. The Devil Is Red and Has Horns, a Pitchfork and Goat Legs
The devil, also known as Satan, Beelzebub, Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness, Mr. Scratch, Old Nick and Al Pacino, is the cloven-hoofed, pitchfork-wielding, red-skinned, horned king of hell and founder of the metal genre of music. He's also a gambler and a businessman, willing to make bets or contracts with you and grant you wishes/musical abilities in exchange for your immortal soul. He looks like this:
The Only Problem Is ...
Not one inch of that is in the Bible. Anywhere. Not even the goatee (and this is a book where every other character has a goatee. Or at least we picture it that way).
So what does Satan look like in the Bible? We don't know -- he's never physically described except when he visits Eve as a snake, and some think that the snake in the Garden of Eden wasn't actually Satan anyway. Other than that, he's just a disembodied ghost-voice, kind of like a really evil Obi-Wan Kenobi.
"You should totally try crystal meth."
Actually Came From:
Medieval artists who wanted to portray the devil visually had to take a bit of artistic license, generally drawing whatever seemed evil at the time. No single source is responsible for the common depiction of Old Nick, but he picked up bits and pieces of his traditional costume as time went on, like a hipster trawling dozens of op shops over the course of a month.
Speaking of hipsters, what about that pitchfork? It's really a trident, a popular accessory of the Greek and Roman gods. The horns? Possibly a hand-me-down from animal-worshipping religions that Christianity didn't like. Scholars believe that Satan got his goat-legs as recently as the 19th century during the Romantic period, when neo-paganism came into vogue and a lot of writers, poets and artists started talking up the Greek goat-god Pan as a source of their inspiration, a claim about which numerous panties became quite tightly knotted.
Imagine this guy with a pitchfork.
As for the devil's famous habit of gambling with people's souls, that's not canonical either. Though his job is to tempt people to sin, he never grants anybody miraculous powers. We have an old German legend to thank for that. The legend of Faust, made popular later when it was dramatized by Christopher Marlowe, tells the story of a doctor who gets bored and decides to strike a deal with Lucifer in return for knowledge, converting the devil from the Prince of Darkness into a shady snake-oil salesman.
Alas, the devil got more emo with time.
#3. The Holy Grail
The cup that Jesus drank out of during the Last Supper is the ultimate lost treasure, having become a slang term for anything long sought-after or world-changing. And while the Indiana Jones franchise seems to think drinking from the legendary cup will grant you eternal life and heal gunshot wounds, the exact kind of magic powers we can expect to obtain when we find it is a matter of dispute.
Also, there's the question of whether it's a cup, a bowl or, as Dan Brown speculated, a holy vagina.
We'd tap that.
The Only Problem Is ...
If you try to find the story of the magical cup in the Bible, you'll wind up flipping around confused, thinking you've got an abridged version or something. While the Bible does mention Jesus using a cup during the Last Supper, the cup itself is not treated any more importantly than anything else in the scene. It'd make just as much sense to say the table itself is holy, or the chairs, or the menu, or the leftovers, or the tip.
"I only see 11 dollars. Someone's holding out ... Judas, I'm looking in your direction ..."
Actually Came From:
The Holy Grail was first invoked just as a plot-driving device in the legend of King Arthur. Even then, the item that Arthur's army sought was not Jesus' cup at all -- it was a magic cauldron. Since cauldrons were used quite often at parties and Celtic sleepovers, having a magic cauldron would come off today like a plate of nachos that never ended or a bottomless beer keg.
If only this moment could be eternal...
It was the French poet Chretien de Troyes who reinterpreted the Arthurian legend as a quest for the Holy Grail. And even then, the Grail was not a cup, but rather something resembling a really nice serving dish.
No, it was another poet, Robert de Boron, who planted the Jesus-cup story in the world's consciousness. According to his (quite fictional) masterwork Joseph d'Arimathe, the cup was used by Joseph of Arimathea to collect Jesus' blood and sweat after his crucifixion.
Just look at the man's dorag -- you know he was into some freaky shit.
It was his possession of the Grail that granted him the Jesus-powers to survive his own death and burial, and then for some reason he delivered it to Britain. This provided not only the first description of the Grail as Jesus' cup, but also an explanation as to why the hell we're looking for a piece of Israeli tableware in goddamn England.
Yep. Definitely a vagina.