The Lost Apocrypha of the Old Testament/Og


The Book of Og the Giant, who is said by the heretics to have fought with a dragon after the Flood. This is the most sensational entry in the Gelasian Decree. How we should like to have the book in which such stirring incidents were related!

What can we elicit from records, or reasonably conjecture, about it? It was circulated by heretics. What heretics? I guess the Manichæans, for in a list of Manichæan books given by Timotheus, Presbyter of Constantinople (Fabricius, Cod. Apocr. N.T., i. 139) is one called "The matter (or treatise) of the Giants" (ἡ τῶνθιθάτων πραγματεία), which may fairly be identified with the Book of Og. Other Manichæan writings—the Foundation and the Treasure of Lifeare condemned, be it noted in passing, in the Gelasian Decree.

But how should Og, who was conquered and slain by Moses, have fought with a dragon after the Flood? It is the constant Rabbinic story that he was one of the antediluvian giants, and that he escaped the Flood by riding on the roof of Noah's ark, being fed by Noah: and, further, that he was identical with Eliezer the servant of Abraham. Once one of his teeth fell out, and Abraham made an armchair out of it. This and many other stories demonstrating his great size, may be found collected in Eisenmenger's Entdccktes Judenthum, or Baring Gould's Legends of Old Testament Characters. But there is nothing in them about a dragon.

An unexpected source gives what may be a reminiscence of that incident. In the metrical Anglo-Saxon Dialogue of Salomon and Saturn are the following question and answer:—

"Salomon: Tell me of the land where no man may step with feet.

"Saturnus quoth: The sailor over the sea, the noble one, was named Wandering Wolf (weallende Wulf), well known unto the tribes of the Philistines, the friend of Nebrond (=Nimrod). He slew upon the plain five-and twenty dragons at daybreak, and himself fell down there dead: therefore that land may not any man—that boundary place any one visit, nor bird fly over it, or any more the cattle of the field. Thence the poisonous race first of all widely arose, which now bubbling through breath of poison force their way. Yet shines his sword mightily sheathed, and over his burial-place glimmer the hilts."

Only a reminiscence, clearly, if that: for Og, we see, survived the combat for many centuries. But quite possibly a reminiscence, for the hero is of the right sort of date, the friend of Nimrod, and early enough to be connected with the rise of the whole tribe of venomous beasts.

Dragons and floods are not unconnected in mythology. Sometimes the dragon, it is thought, is a torrent or flood personified; sometimes (as in Rev. xii. 15) he is the source of it. We may remember that it was after the Deucalion flood that the Python took up his abode at Delphi, where Apollo slew him. Some such myth as that lies, perhaps, at the bottom of the lost story of Og.