The Lion, the Light

The Bible in the British Museum

© Trustees of the British Museum

Meet the Lion of Knidos, from Turkey.  He’s not mentioned in the Bible, but I let him join us in this series anyway.  When a lion weighs six tons, it is pretty hard to keep him out of anything. 🙂

He lives in the Great Court of the British Museum these days, probably the first thing you see when you enter.  We once ate our lunch on a bench below him.  You look up and see this huge marble lion above you — just like the Apostle Paul almost certainly did two millennia ago.

From the British Museum description of our lion:

The monument was set on a headland terminating in a sheer cliff that falls some 200 feet into the sea. The hollow eyes of the lion were probably originally inset with coloured glass, and the reflection of light may have been an aid to sailors navigating the notoriously difficult coast.

Sailors going past Knidos could look up and see him, perhaps even relied on him.  Certainly, if you were sailing past, you’d take a look at a big marble lion up on the cliff, even if you weren’t navigating by the light of his eyes.

Paul and Luke sailed beneath his cliff:

Acts 27:7

And when we had sailed slowly many days, and scarce were come over against Cnidus, the wind not suffering us, we sailed under Crete, over against Salmone;

It isn’t certain why the lion was made (suggestions include a funerary monument or a commemoration of a sea-battle).  Certainly, someone very wealthy (and probably very famous) paid to have him sculpted and put in place.

That person’s purpose, name, wealth, etc. are all gone.  He served himself, his nation, or his god — and everything is gone.  The only thing left is the lion.  His eyes may have formerly given reflected light to sailors — but now, they are gone, too.  Those sailors helped by that light no longer benefit by it.

The poor, persecuted, imprisoned, suffering apostle sailed beneath the lion, and almost certainly looked up and saw it.  He served the King of kings and Lord of lords who is to come, the Lion of the tribe of Judah.  That apostle’s writings reflected the Light of the world — and they still do today.  His purpose and his work in his Master’s service, long after he passed from the scene, goes on and on and will never be forgotten.  Those who benefited by the Light he reflected will never, ever cease to reap those benefits.

Shall we build lions, or reflect the Light?

Sources for this series:

Note:  I recommended one of the latter two books for touring the museum.  However, I don’t believe either of them mentions our lion.  So if you follow their tours, be sure to stop in the Great Court and visit the Lion of Knidos.

Summary post for the series, with links to other articles on Bible-related artefacts:
The Bible in the British Museum

About Jon Gleason

Former Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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