Are zombies on TV and on the movies? Yes – in hoards! The Last of Us. The Walking Dead. Dawn of the Dead. Shaun of the Dead. 28 Days Later. Zombieland. Braindead. Night of the Living Dead. In the Flesh. Resident Evil. Daybreak. They’re hard to miss.
Are zombies in the Bible? The short answer to the question is – no, not in the modern sense. Then why read on? Because there is a longer answer to the questions. And the longer answer is more interesting because it all depends on how you define a zombie in the first place.
So, then, what is a zombie? A dead corpse that supernatural or scientific forces have half-way revived so that it can perform some outward actions of its former self. We can all agree on that. But the details beyond this vary from story to story. Here’s what I can gather from them.
- Zombies aren’t back to being fully what they were, physically or mentally. They are no longer who they were before. They have lost their original personality and immortal soul.
- A zombie body, even in its new life, still has a look of decay and death about it. It resembles an animated corpse more than a living human being.
- The zombie has no life of its own. It hasn’t brought about this new existence by itself but has had it done to it. Because of this, zombies may move under the will-power of some other force or by a collective consciousness.
- Zombies act in an automated, brainless way. This is little to no evidence of rational thought or autonomous action.
- Zombies are usually depicted as slow-moving and slow-witted.
- A zombie is often mute, unable to talk, only emitting a groaning sound.
- Zombies attack those who have life. It’s not even that they hate the living. Their behaviour is more like that of an unthinking virus or force of nature.
- They may be cannibals, with a special taste for the human brain.
Aren’t there individuals in the Bible who have come back to life? Isn’t that a sort of zombie existence? No, not really. There are three possible candidate groups and none of them fit the description.
- The Resuscitated – There are individuals in the Bible who died but were brought back to life by a divine miracle. For example, Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus but it was in is old, mortal body. He was brought back to same life he had before, which would eventually end in death.
- The Resurrected – These are those who are raised from death to a new, immortal life, in a body with powers and properties far beyond what they possessed before. Jesus himself is the first of these (‘the Firstborn from the Dead’ – Revelation 1:5) but his followers will follow him on the Day of Judgment.
- The Translated – In a few rare cases, some in the Bible didn’t die – Enoch, Elijah – but ascended into heaven while still alive, and were immediately transformed into an immortal state, body and soul.
However, there are two further groups in the Bible that take us some way towards a zombie-like existence. Physically, those most closely resembling zombies in appearance are plague victims and leapers. There are many verses that describe in graphic detail the terrible impact of “wasting disease” on the human body and how it will “drain your life” (Leviticus 26:16). But this one from the minor prophet Zachariah is probably the best.
And the LORD will send a plague on all the nations that fought against Jerusalem. Their people will become like walking corpses, their flesh rotting away. Their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths.Zachariah 14:12 (New Living Translation)
But it gets even more interesting when we think of the spiritual account of humanity, according to the Bible. We’re spiritually dead, mindlessly following the will of another, with an insatiable, unnatural hunger.
Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world… All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh.Ephesians 2:1-3
Not a pretty picture. What are you supposed to do with dead people walking around like regular people? Can these corpses come back to life? That’s a question God asked the prophet Ezekiel in one of the most famous resurrection scenes in the Old Testament. There’s a valley filled with dry bones. God tells Ezekiel to preach to them! He does so.
So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.Ezekiel 37:7-8
But these corpses still had no life in them. Ezekiel was told to preach to them a second time. This time, he was to command the four winds to breathe into these bodies so they could come to life again.
So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.Ezekiel 37:10
Instead of an army of zombies, we’re left with an army of the living!
So, to ask the first question again: do we know of any zombies in the Bible?
Well, there are pictures of animated corpses, living a sort of half-life, not fully under their own control. Sound familiar?
Perhaps a better question would be: Do we know of any zombies like this in the real world?