The Life of George, the Saint, Victor-Bearer, and Great Martyr
Yet another saint whom we shall examine is Saint George the Great and Holy Martyr who is commemorated on April 23 according to the Julian calendar (e.g. May 6 on the new Gregorian calendar). We will explore two of his alleged miracles, specifically the resurrection of the ox in the name of Christ and his killing dragons in Sirofenikiji. The first miracle is thus described:
“While the Great and Holy Martyr was in prison, people came to him and believed in Christ because of his miracles… Among those who believed was a man named Glycerius, a simple farmer. It happened that his ox fell off a hill into the abyss and died. Hearing of the saint, Glycerius ran to him and pleaded for his ox. The saint laughed and quietly said: ‘Brother, go with joy, because Christ has resurrected your ox.’ The farmer humbly accepted the words of the martyr, departed, and behold, he found his ox alive, just as the saint had told him.”
According to the teaching of Scripture, the only beings worthy of resurrection are people. The Lord Jesus Christ and the apostles gave back life by divine power to deceased people (who later, of course, once again died) for the purpose of displaying the Lord’s mighty power and authority over death (Rev. 1:18). On the other hand, there is absolutely no evidence that anybody in biblical times resurrected animals. According to the Apostle Peter, God made animals to be killed and used for food and clothing by humans. This story of the resurrection of the dead ox by the divine power of Jesus Christ is a mockery of the gospel in a very perfidious way. Dositej Obradovic truly was right when he said that The Lives of the Saints relate crazy and superstitious fables (fairy tales) which should embarrass those who are called Christians yet read and believe them.
Here is another example of George’s alleged miracles:
“We should not conceal the notable miracle accomplished when the Holy Great Martyr St. George the Victory-Bearer killed the dragon in Sirofeniki near Beirut, near the sea, near the town of Lydda, where the body of this holy martyr was buried. This miracle has inspired various ancient icons. A passenger traveling in Palestine showed the place where this miracle happened. This is what happened. On the outskirts of Beirut was a very large lake, in which dwelt a huge dragon, an awesome hunter. Emerging from the lake, it grabbed many people, dragged them into the lake, and devoured them. Even though people on many occasions went to hunt for the beast, it would end up defeating them. When it came near the city limits, it exhaled its breath into the air and filled it with deadly poison. Many people became ill and died. And there was constant trouble, sorrow, and crying in this city inhabited by pagans. All of its inhabitants including the ruler were idolaters.
One day the locals had gathered in Beirut. Their ruler came outside, and they asked him: ‘What shall we do, because the dragon is killing our people?’ The ruler answered: ‘Let us inquire of our gods as to their advice.’ And through the revelation of the demons indwelling the idols, they who kill human souls, the inhabitants of the city received this counsel: ‘In order that not everyone should be killed, offer a daily sacrifice of one of your children, a son or daughter, for the dragon to eat.’ Then the ruler said, ‘And when it is my turn, I will also give my daughter, even though she is my only child!’
The population agreed with the ruler’s counsel, or more accurately, the counsel of the demons. They determined that every day, some person, either a leader or an ordinary citizen, would sacrifice their child as food for the dragon. It worked this way: every day, some family would bind their son or daughter and leave them at the shore of the lake. And so they did, although many mourned and cried for their children. The dragon would emerge and devour the children. One time, the citizens drew a lot which fell upon the ruler. The citizens came and said to him, ‘Behold, O king, we have obeyed your counsel and have sacrificed children to the dragon, now what do you want us to do?’ The ruler replied, ‘I will give away my only daughter, and then I will consult with the gods and reveal what they have said.’
Then the king summoned his daughter and ordered her to be adorned in the most beautiful fashion. He mourned for her and wept greatly along with his whole household, but he could not violate the decision, ostensibly divine but in fact demonic, for offering children for sacrifice. And he took his daughter to the dragon as a sacrifice to God for the abyss of Hell. With tearful eyes, the ruler brought the girl to a location on the lake shore, where the dragon ate the sacrifices. And she was standing, crying, and awaiting the hour of death when the dragon would emerge from the lake to devour her.
And, behold, the foreknowledge of God, who wants all to be saved and to save the city from both physical and spiritual death, sent forth the Great Martyr St. George, a soldier of the King of Heaven, riding on a horse and holding a lance in his hand. When he saw the girl standing by the lake and crying, he asked her why she was crying so much. She said to him: ‘Good youth, run away quickly from here with your horse, for you do not want to die together with me.’ The saint said to her, ‘Fear not, maiden, but tell me what troubles you while the people are watching from afar?’ The girl said to him: ‘O excellent young man, I see that you are brave and courageous, but why do you want to die with me? Flee quickly from this place.’ The saint then said to her: ‘I will not leave until you tell me the truth, which is why you stand here and cry, and what awaits you?’
The girl then told him all about the dragon and herself. St. George said to her: ‘Fear not, girl, because in the name of my Lord, the true God, He will deliver us from the dragon.’ She said: ‘Good soldier, you do not want to get killed with me instead of running away. Save yourself from a bitter death. The lot is cast that I should die here alone, because you will not deliver me from the dragon, and I shall die.’
Then the girl said to the saint, ‘Look out!’ Up from the lake emerged the terrible
dragon. It stood and made its customary approach to its victim. Seeing the dragon,
the girl cried strongly, ‘Go away, man, here comes the dragon!’ St. George made the sign of the cross and called upon the Lord by saying, ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’ With his horse, he charged the dragon and thrust the lance into its throat by stomping it on the ground while the horse’s legs galloped. Then St. George put the dragon on a leash, and the girl led it back to the city like a docile puppy. And the people were shocked by the sight of the water dragon led by the girl and started to flee out of fear. Then St. George said to them, ‘Do not fear, but trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and believe in Him who sent me to you to deliver you from the dragon.’ And St George slew the dragon with a sword in the middle of the city. The people pulled its corpse out of the city and burned it with fire. And the ruler of that city and all the people believed in Christ and received the holy baptism. St. George baptized twenty-five thousand men along with women and children. At that point, they then built a large and beautiful church in the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, daughter of the Heavenly King God the Father, His Son and mother, and bride of the Holy Spirit, in the name of St. George the Victor-bearer, for he delivered the girl who survived the dragon. He also kept spotless the Church of Christ, along with every Orthodox soul from the invisible lake of fire and from the sin of the deadly serpent.”
Let us highlight some details from this story of the life of St. George.
First, we observe that the dragon is described as very large and so powerful that even an entire army could do it no harm. But then, only one man with his horse stomping its feet on it end up mastering the dragon. (This detail leaves the impression that the beast was as large as previously reported). After all, this vast and terrible animal (if you can call it that) was then tied to a thin leash and led like a docile puppy by the king’s daughter to the city. (Again, it is not exactly clear how the dragon did not die when St. George had plunged a lance into its neck.)
This fairy tale resembles many others in children’s story books that tell about fictitious monsters. Yet, this tale that Eastern Orthodoxy teaches as truth is absurd for several reasons. If we allow the possibility that some forms of large aquatic reptiles, even dinosaurs, had existed at that time in history, it would have been impossible for such a beast like this dragon to contain such poisonous breath that could kill so many people. Although today there exist amphibians and reptiles that have poison glands, which serve to ward off predators or to attack prey (by paralyzing and killing animals for food), the poison does not come from the air it exhales, and certainly not in such concentration that it could kill an entire city. Such examples can be found only in the imaginative stories and modern science fiction movies. The Lord certainly did not create beasts whose breath was toxic enough to kill many people. Additionally, the Bible describes miracles, but nothing so unrealistic as this one described in The Lives of the Saints.
Following up on the miracle of the resurrection of the ox, there will be some more excerpts from the lives of saints who expressed their spirituality in friendships with animals. The examples that follow come from the “eternal Serbian gospel” of The Prologue from Ohrid by Bishop Nikolai.