This is the first in a brand new category of posts on Reclaimer! The Sci-Fi and Scripture series will explore the connections between sci-fi/fantasy elements and Biblical stories and concepts. This first series will look at the various possible occurrences of zombies in the Bible. Today we’re looking at loose zombie examples, mostly those Biblical stories dealing with resurrection.
We’ll start our exploration of zombies in the Bible by looking at some stories that depict resurrection from death, a primary component of the zombie life cycle.
Elijah and the Widow’s Son
“17 After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. 18 And she said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!” 19 And he said to her, “Give me your son.” And he took him from her arms and carried him up into the upper chamber where he lodged, and laid him on his own bed. 20 And he cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?” 21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s lifecome into him again.” 22 And the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived.” I Kings 17:17-24
Here we have a miraculous resurrection story, but what’s interesting is the method by which the prophet Elijah helps bring about the miracle. I don’t exactly know what it looked like for Elijah to “stretch himself upon” this kid, but it was probably awkward for everybody. What really matters in this miracle as well as all miracles is the work of God. These resurrection stories may illustrate various methods by which people are raised from death which indicates an inconsistency as to how to bring it about. But the point is not learning some magic incantation to resurrect someone, but rather the work of God. A prayer or calling on God in some way is the common thread in these stories. This story would be an approximate example of Reanimation since the boy was brought back through supernatural means. However, the boy’s original spirit was returned to him and he came back into a living body, not one that will continue to rot. This one could possibly just be seen as a near-death experience.
Tabitha and Eutychus
The early church’s growth as told in Acts was a crazy turning point for the people of God. Jesus had just ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit began a massive work amongst Jews and Gentiles, baptisms were rampant, and God’s work through miracles seem to be in every other story. Here are two examples:
“36 Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. 37 In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” 39 So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive.” Acts 9:36-41
What’s interesting in this story is that she was clearly dead. The “washing” referenced is a ceremonial washing for a dead body. These days we would likely say that she was dead and embalmed. So unlike the previous story, this is not a near-death experience. Again, the emphasis here is on the prayer and God’s response to his people. This is also similar to the Reanimated type, but again not a true example of a zombie. The next one may also not be a zombie, but is definitely freaky…
“7 On the first day of the week, we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper.[a] Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight. 8 The upstairs room where we met was lighted with many flickering lamps. 9 As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he fell sound asleep and dropped three stories to his death below. 10 Paul went down, bent over him, and took him into his arms. “Don’t worry,” he said, “he’s alive!” 11 Then they all went back upstairs, shared in the Lord’s Supper,[b] and ate together. Paul continued talking to them until dawn, and then he left. 12 Meanwhile, the young man was taken home unhurt, and everyone was greatly relieved.” Acts 20:7-12
The moral of this story is: Don’t fall asleep at church because you might die. Credit is due to Paul here because not only was he preaching for a ridiculously long time, but it was so epic that people actually stuck around until he was finished. This poor guy Eutychus was probably really into it, but just hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before. This story kind of reminds of trying to go to a midnight movie premiere after having worked all day. You’re really excited about the movie, but you just can’t seem to keep your eyes open.
Speaking of movies, this scene reminds of a typical horror movie device, particularly common in zombie movies. Some crazed creature attacks a main character and is beaten down and as they walk away they hear a moaning as the person who should be dead slowly gets back up. This story is like that, but positive and less terrifying. Eutychus makes a three-story faceplant into the ground, likely producing some horrendous spine-crunching sounds when he lands. (I doubt there was sufficient therapy in the ancient world for those who saw this firsthand.) But Paul just calmly walks over and by the grace and power of God declares, “It’s all good folks, he’s okay!” and then Eutychus stands up triumphantly and walks it off like a football player who seemingly just took a really bad hit. So while this story is reminiscent of a scene from a zombie flick, Eutycus still doesn’t fit the bill for a true zombie.
We’ve danced around a some half-examples that mostly don’t qualify as zombies, but next time we’ll look at some other examples that are much closer.