Death Has 14 Terrifying Faces (And Whoever Came Up With Them Clearly Ran Out Of Ideas Halfway Through)
The basic story of the Testament of Abraham (an apocryphal book from the 1st century that was popular among early Christians) is that ol' Abe is scheduled to die, but God decides to do him a solid and let him know ahead of time. Unfortunately, instead of lying down and waiting for it, Abraham spends the whole book trying to weasel out of dying. Eventually, God has no choice but to send in his personal hitman: Death.
This isn't your boring old skeleton with an agricultural implement, either. This Death is so scream-pissingly terrifying that a single look would instantly kill a human. In a move right out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, Abraham decides to stall the inevitable by demanding a look at Death's 14 faces, which are so frightening that 7,000 people instantly keel over and die merely from being in the general area.
As it turned out, whoever wrote this book kind of backed themselves into a corner with that one, since they then had to come up with 14 whole faces, each scary enough to warrant that small genocide. Let's see how that went:
- Faces 1 and 2 are "flaming fire" and "darkness." (Not really scary by themselves, but could be as faces.)
- Face 3 is "a gloomy face of a viper." (Pretty scary.)
- Face 4 is "a most terrible precipice." (Scary, especially if you're afraid of heights.)
- Face 5 is "fiercer than an asp." (So another snake. Could just have led with this one.)
- Face 6 is "a terrible lion." (Unclear if he's terrible as in deadliness or as in he has a shitty attitude.)
- Faces 7 and 8 are "a cerastes and basilisk." (A snake and a snake. Chill out with the snakes.)
- Faces 9 and 10 are "a fiery scimitar" and "a sword-bearing face." (Wait, is Face 10 carrying Face 9? Now we're getting somewhere freaky.)
- Face 11 is "lightning, lightning terribly." (Fucking metal.)
- Face 12 is "a fierce stormy sea and a fierce rushing river." (That's a lot of ground to cover for a single face.)
- Face 13 is "a terrible three-headed serpent." (Assuming they all have faces of their own, this brings our snake face total up to seven.)
- And Face 14 is "a cup mingled with poisons." (Snake poisons?)
Most of the rest of the book is dedicated to Death explaining the meaning of his faces, which might have worked better had the writer in any way understood subtlety or metaphors. For example, the sword faces represent people being killed with swords. The cup of poison symbolizes people who die from drinking big cups full of poison. Even God seems to agree that 7,000 people dying for this is ridiculous, so he ends up bringing all those people back to life. Not Abraham, though. That guy can suck it.
Hell Is Full Of Aborted Fetuses That Shoot Lightning Bolts From Their Eyes
Since Hell isn't actually in the Bible a whole lot, early Christian texts tried to fill that void while having a little fun with eternal damnation. Like a hip middle school vice principal, the 1st century apocryphal text the Apocalypse of Peter thought that the punishment should fit the crime. For example, if a woman braided her hair and seduced a man with those braids, then she would hang by her irresistibly sexy hair over a boiling swamp. The man she seduced, meanwhile, would be suspended by his thighs, and his head would be dunked in sewage. Maybe they were going for a "keep your mind out of the gutter" pun?
Anyway, abortion was an even more dire sin than hair-braiding, yet the punishment is equally poop-centric: A woman who gets an abortion has to sit neck-deep in a pit of "excretions." Why only neck-deep? Because the aborted baby would sit above her, shooting their would-be mom in the face with "rays of fire" (sometimes translated as "lighting"). That's right, getting aborted turns you into Cyclops from the X-Men.
The punishment for leaving a newborn out in the wilderness to die is even worse. Instead of hanging out in the shit pit while getting drilled by lasers, the mother would be attacked by monsters made out of her own breast milk, "which shall come forth and turn and torment them forever with their husbands." Does the mention of "husbands" mean the father is spared from the boob juice monster rampage if they're not married to the mother? Please consult your local priest and let us know what he says.
There were efforts to get this wackiness in the New Testament, but ultimately it didn't make the cut. Not because of all the crazy poop-themed torture porn, mind you, but because in the 4th century, the Bishop of Athanasius picked another text (the now-canonical Book of Revelations) as the best for him to use against other Christians who questioned him. The shit rivers and tit demons didn't factor into it.
Alex Perry is a freelancer who wrote an adult novel about a time-traveling stalker, as well as a heartwarming kid's book that retells the classic story of a boy's friendship with his genetically modified pig / organ donor. She wants an agent to help her sell those books, and for you to follow her on Twitter.
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