Basilisk

baz'-i-lisk (tsepha`, tsiph`oni, from obsolete root tsapha`, "to hiss": Isa 11:8; 14:29; 59:5; Jer 8:17; Pr 23:32 m. In Pr 23:32, the King James Version has "adder," margin "cockatrice"; in the other passages cited the King James Version has "cockatrice," margin "adder" (except Jer 8:17, no margin)): The word is from basiliskos, "kinglet," from basileus, "king," and signifies a mythical reptile hatched by a serpent from a cock's egg. Its hissing drove away other serpents. Its look, and especially its breath, was fatal. According to Pliny, it was named from a crown-like spot on its head. It has been identified with the equally mythical COCKATRICE (which see). In all the passages cited, it denotes a venomous serpent (see ADDER; SERPENT), but it is impossible to tell what, if any, particular species is referred to. It must be borne in mind that while there are poisonous snakes in Palestine, there are more which are not poisonous, and most of the latter, as well as some harmless lizards, are commonly regarded as deadly. Several of the harmless snakes have crownlike markings on their heads, and it is quite conceivable that the basilisk myth may have been founded upon one of these.

See also the McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia.

Alfred Ely Day

 
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