“Are zombies mentioned in the Bible?” That is a question I once received from a new Christian. It is a serious inquiry for some people today; after all, zombies are a popular topic of conversation all year round, not just during Halloween.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary,1 the word ‘zombie’ is a combination of words from the West African Bantu language, vumbi meaning a god, and zumbi meaning fetish. This is the same language spoken by native Africans, who once captured and sold their fellow people as slaves2 to ship captains traveling to the Americas. In the Caribbean, the French-speaking people of Afro-Haitian culture adopted the word to describe a (supposed) dead body that is reanimated. This reanimation was brought about through the use of drugs, demons, and rituals of voodoo,3 a religion derived from a combination of West African and Roman Catholic faiths.4
Today zombies are thought of as ‘the walking dead’, but originally they were live humans infected with drugs or disease that acted as if they had lost their humanity. While in a trance, they could be kept as a slave. According to Haitian folklore, in the 1985 book The Serpent and the Rainbow, it was believed that zombies could be made by poisoning people with a neurotoxin found in the pufferfish. The victim would appear dead and be buried, then a voodoo practitioner would exhume the body, revive5 and enslave it by continuous drugging.6
The word zombie appeared in literature as early as 18197 and the concept of a voodoo zombie is mentioned in a 1929 novel titled The Magic Island.8 A new image of the zombie, distinct from that described by Haitian folklore, emerged in modern culture during the latter 20th century, mainly influenced by the 1968 film, Night of the Living Dead.9 The idea of zombies (similar to the Arabic folklore term ‘ghoul’) became very popular after Michael Jackson’s music video Thriller in 1983, and then later in a variety of other movies, books, art, and video games — and of course the popular television series, The Walking Dead.
The word zombie is now a popular word in our vocabulary and is applied in a number of ways in our culture. It is often used as an allegory for discriminated or brainwashed groups and individuals. The zombie also appears as a metaphor for mindless adherence to perverted activities, and in protest songs symbolizing people blindly following authority, particularly that of law enforcement, government, and political organizations.
From zombies based upon some fact through the use of drugs and witchcraft, to the modern ideas presented in fiction, one could say that zombies have had their own evolution or metamorphosis. Within the last decade, or so, zombies have gotten related to the collapse of civilization through some disease or plague. Such a scenario is usually called a zombie apocalypse, because it threatens to wipe out humanity. Relating zombies to an apocalypse makes it sound biblical, hence many people wonder if such a creature is mentioned in the Bible.
Even the United States government has capitalized on the zombie popularity. A blog post of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2011 was titled ‘Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse’. That post was used to raise awareness of emergency preparedness; one CDC director stated, “You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency.”10
So popular was that blog post, the increase of visitors crashed the CDC website. And from the questions asked, it appears many visitors to the web site were more interested in the zombies than they were in emergency preparations. So, it seems there could be people who believe zombies are real. It appears that the opening question to this article may be on the minds of many: “Are zombies mentioned in the Bible?”
Are Zombies found in Holy Scripture?
If zombies are reanimated dead bodies (corpses), does that make Jesus a zombie? Well, no, because Jesus received a new body, just as other departed Christians will during the resurrection. In the Book of Genesis, God said, “you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” (Genesis 3:19b, NRSV).11 Therefore, because the body is destroyed by death, a resurrected body must be reconstituted from scratch, which means being created anew.
It was the same with Jesus’ friend, Lazarus. Lazarus was deceased and had already started to decay, so God had to create a new body when raising him from death. That was part of the reason why Jesus delayed going to visit him — he wanted to show that Lazarus was really dead and in his tomb for several days, before being resurrected. (See John 11:1-44 for the story.)
God will recreate a new body to hold your original spirit. It will be the same spiritual ‘you’, but with a new healthy body in which to live. Fictional zombies keep their old body, one either drugged or diseased or a corpse that is in the process of decaying.
But, even with all that said, there is a scripture reference that is eerily similar to some descriptions of zombies. The Gospels cover the concept of the dead rising, although they fall short of describing zombies accurately. By going to the Old Testament, we find the gore and violence much more attuned to a modern zombie movie.
In the Book of Zechariah, it states, “This shall be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh shall rot while they are still on their feet; their eyes shall rot in their sockets, and their tongues shall rot in their mouths,” (Zechariah 14:12).
Now, there are all sorts of interpretations suggested for this verse, both in ancient times as well as for the prophetic future. However one must take this verse in context to surrounding scripture to know the meaning — read all of Zechariah, chapter 14, to understand. The prediction is of a coming day when Jerusalem will be destroyed. I believe it to be the Antichrist who will come to Jerusalem, making a covenant but deceiving the people. After making the covenant and breaking it, the nations will be gathered against Jerusalem and then will come the battle of Armageddon, when Jesus returns.12
Many interpreters view chapter 14 only as military activity against God’s foes, which is apocalyptic in nature. Zechariah 14:12-15 specifically states that God will defeat those who attack Jerusalem, and even some believers will lose their lives in the conflict.13 To me, this will be a cataclysmic event which seems to be described as some sort of nuclear explosion. The historical written descriptions of dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, during World War II, seems very familiar to the human suffering describe in these verses.
And let us not forget other biblical prophecies that include some zombie-type descriptions, such as God’s bowls of wrath in The Revelation of John. Particularly, the repulsive sores of the 1st Bowl (Revelation 16:2), the scorching heat of the 4th Bowl (Revelation 16:8), and the people gnawing their tongues in the 5th Bowl (Revelation 16:10). Also, there will be starvation, pestilence, plagues, and more during the tribulations.
One thought is that during the tribulation period, when the Antichrist receives a mortal head wound which will be healed (Revelation 13:3, 12, 14), it will be then that Satan is permanently expelled from heaven. There is some speculation that, at that time, Satan takes possession of the body of the Antichrist. If this is true, it could be argued that for the last half of the Tribulation, the Antichrist could be considered as a demonic zombie.14
The idea of zombies didn’t appear until sixteen or seventeen hundred years after the death of Christ, so, no, there aren’t any such creatures really mentioned in the Bible. But scripture does contain descriptive apocalyptic human characteristics of people that have some similarities to zombies. This is why many people wonder if zombies are mentioned in scripture.
For a song to go with the theme of this article on zombies, I dug one up from about 40 years ago. (Sorry for that pun; I couldn’t help it.) It is Michael Jackson’s original music video for his song Thriller, which was produced in the early 1980s. This production was really a miniature motion picture, and is credited for transforming music videos into an art form.
The video starts out with a young man (Michael Jackson) and a young lady (Ola Ray) sitting in a motion picture theater viewing a thriller monster film. The young lady fantasizes that the werewolf on the screen is her date and gets scared and leaves the theater. Her date follows after her and as they walk down the street, the young man starts singing the song. Passing a cemetery, the voice of horror film actor Vincent Price raps some descriptive lines, as zombies begin to come out of their graves.
It is unknown by many that Jackson was an active member of Jehovah’s Witnesses, so he made sure a disclaimer was at the beginning of the video stating that due to strong personal convictions, he wished to stress that the film did not endorse a belief in the occult. Whatever anyone thinks of Jackson, it is obvious that the man was very talented — along with other help, he wrote, produced, and choreographed this video.
Selected lyrics are below. Two music videos are listed: the original includes the inside movie scene and totals almost 14 minutes, while the shorter version (less than 4 minutes) is for those that don’t want to devote that much time for viewing. You will miss Vincent Prices’ rap lyrics in the graveyard scene, if you opt for the short one. See the reference note.15
Something evil’s lurking from the dark.
Under the moonlight,
You see a sight that almost stops your heart.
You try to scream,
But terror takes the sound before you make it,
You start to freeze,
As horror looks you right between your eyes,
Copyright © 2022, Dr. Ray Hermann
→ Leave comments at the end, after ‘References & Notes’.
Your email address will NOT be published. You can view our basic rules for comments by clicking “The Fine Print” on the top menu bar.
References & Notes
- Oxford English Dictionary, 20 volumes, (UK: Oxford University Press, 1989).
This dictionary is the principle historical dictionary of the English Language, including describing various uses of the words throughout the world.
- For more truth about black Africans selling their own people as slaves to the Americans, see this article:
Hermann, Ray, “Slavery, Race, and Reparations – Did God Curse Black People?” (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 27 August 2020), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/slavery-race-and-reparations-did-god-curse-black-people/
- “Zombie”, (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 5 August 2022), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zombie
- “Haitian Vodou”, (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 16 July 2022), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haitian_Vodou
- The drugged person would be revived with a species of Datura, a highly poisonous plant belonging to the nightshade family, which is sometimes known as Devil’s Trumpet.
- “Zombies”, (RationalWiki, 30 May 2022), https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Zombies
- First published in a history of Brazil by the English poet Robert Southey; he used the spelling of “zombi”.
- The Magic Island, a book by W. B. Seabrook, published in 1929.
- Macek III, J. C., “The Zombification Family Tree: Legacy of the Living Dead”, (Pop Matters Magazine, 14 June 2012), https://www.popmatters.com/159439-legacy-of-the-living-dead-2495844721.html
- “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse”, (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 9 July 2022), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preparedness_101:_Zombie_Apocalypse
- All scripture is from The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989). Used with permission.
- Smith, Chuck, “Smith’s Bible Commentary”, (Bible Portal, retrieved 7 September 2022), https://bibleportal.com/commentary/chuck-smith-bible-commentary
- Mays, James Luther, (Ed.), Harper’s Bible Commentary, (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988), p. 752.
- “Are zombies mentioned in the Bible?” (Compelling Truth, retrieved 7 September 2022), https://www.compellingtruth.org/zombies.html
- “Thriller (Official Video)”, Artist: Michael Jackson; Album: Thriller; Director: John Landis, Quincy Jones Productions, Los Angeles, CA, 1982, (Licenses: Epic Records, Warner Chappell, UBEM, ASCAP, others). Used under ‘fair use copyright’ for teaching under Section 107 of the United States Copyright Act of 1976 — MUSIC VIDEOS:
(Original, 14 min.) – https://youtu.be/sOnqjkJTMaA
(Short version, 4 min.) – https://youtu.be/4V90AmXnguw