Tag Archive for: Snakes

Staff to Cross: The Caduceus Myth

Armodoxy for Today: Caduceus

The Gospel of John begins with a “nativity” narrative that traces Jesus’ origins to the beginning of time. “In the beginning was the Word,” says the evangelist, from where he brings Jesus to the first century Middle East. Within the first few chapters we are introduced to Jesus, the Lamb of God, the one who changes water to wine, and who speaks about transformation by being born from above, or more commonly expressed as “born again.” Following a dialogue between him and a religious ruler, Jesus makes the proclamation that, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Within Jesus’ statement he references a story that was all too familiar by his audience, referring to Moses, a serpent and the wilderness. It comes from the Biblical book Numbers, with the people of God walking and complaining. “And the people spoke against God and against Moses: ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.’ So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people.  Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” (21:4-8)

Looking at the staff with the serpent on it was their means of salvation from the venomous snakes. When Jesus says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life,” he is referring to this story of the poisonous snakes but is also cautiously alluding to his own Crucifixion. In fact, he was “lifted up” for everyone to see and witness. Remember, that when this Gospel was written in the latter part of the first century, the Crucifixion of Jesus was an event known by the community of believers. So, with this statement Jesus is inviting the listener to focus on the Crucifixion as a means of salvation.

The Crucifixion is what gives meaning to the statement “God so loved the world that He gave his only Son.” We will see how, as we continue tomorrow on Armodoxy today.

Let us pray with the words of St. Paul, who says, “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Amen (Galatians 6:14)

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