The Apocrypha’s “The Story of Bel and the Dragon”: Being Open Minded Enough to Accept that Your Beliefs Were False
Gays and lesbians—at least every one that I have met—has faced some criticism in their lives because of their sexuality. Part of this criticism believes that our “lifestyle” is a choice; therefore, I can choose to be otherwise. No, the only choice involved is choosing to accept who I was born to be. Sexuality isn’t a choice; your body and heart react to your attractions.
If you ask a straight person when they chose to be straight, they shake their head, because it never happened, but they can tell you whom they fell for first. They never end their story with: and that’s when I knew I was straight.
Why would gay people be any different in this respect? Yet you can’t convince most people who believe they know the truth, even in the face of contradictory evidence. Some, however, can be swayed to reconsider their beliefs, and The Apocrypha’s “The Story of Bel and the Dragon” discusses a few of these moments. Why this book was cut from the Book of Daniel is strange.
The first part of this book’s story handles Bel, a god worshipped in Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. When Daniel is asked why he won’t worship Bel, he asserts that this false idol is no living God, that he doesn’t drink any of the food or wine left daily at his altar. The king disagrees, stating as evidence that it disappears daily, therefore the god MUST consume it. Daniel offers a challenge.
One night, with the temple cleared after the offerings provided, he sprinkles ash all around the altars (unbeknownst to the 70 priests, who Daniel knows take the food). These priests (and their wives and children) fall for the trap, leaving their footprints in the Ash, which, the next day, are discovered by the king. Enraged, he orders ALL of them (wives and kids too) slaughtered and the idols and temple destroyed.
But Nebuchadnezzar couldn’t give up all the idols he worshipped, and the other half of the book covers the one of these, the dragon, which is actually a serpent. (I’m unclear why a few of the Apocrypha books have such trouble with certain details, like children being men, dragons being serpents, etc.) Anyway, the king commands Daniel to worship this great serpent and, sticking to his guns, declines, going a step further to say he can even kill this serpent without a stick or a sword (1:26). Ever industrious, Daniel cooks a concoction, which he feeds to the snake and kills it. Victorious, he points out how awful these false idols are. The king seems happy to have been shown the errors in his beliefs.
The other Babylonians are not so open minded. They become enraged for Daniel’s discrediting of Bel and the slaying of the serpent and the priests. They demand his head; the king agrees to imprison Daniel in a lion’s den. There for seven days, Daniel is aided by God, who transports the prophet Habakkuk to feed Daniel, and, when the den is inspected after seven days and Daniel walks out, he is exalted. The king then throws those who conspired against Daniel into the den, where they are eaten alive.
This story contains lot of fascinating details that would work well in the Old Testament, for the moral is all about knowing whom to worship, the proper things to believe, being open minded in order to be turned from false beliefs, and what happens when you don’t let go of these false beliefs. Perhaps the issue people have had with this message is worrying about people not recognizing the difference between a truth and a false belief. Perhaps that’s what makes this selection “dangerous” and worth removing from the Old Testament.