Wolves in Words
Posted: September 3, 2019
The Apostle Paul used the idea of wolves to give a warning to the Ephesian church: “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29). Paul was not talking about canine wolves. He meant humans working for the evil one. And people understood. Wolves were part of everyone's experience! And that’s also why we find them everywhere in writing.
You don’t have to visit Yellowstone National Park to find a wolf. Check your bookshelves and your video list!
Mythical Wolves―In myths, wolves sometimes symbolize danger and deception. In one Greek myth, the made-up god Zeus turns a King named Lycaon into a wolf for acting sneaky and bloodthirsty. In another myth, twin brothers Romulus and Remus are left in the wilderness to die. The twins are saved by a mother wolf. That myth shows another side of wolves. They take good care of their young and are loyal to their pack.
Fairy-Tale Wolves―When you run into a wolf in a bedtime story, you know you’re in trouble! These wolves are usually tricksters. Think “Little Red Riding Hood.” The same is true in the less well-known fairy tale “The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids.” In that story, a wolf whitens his paws with flour. He’s disguising himself as the young goats’ mother so they will let him into their home.
Novel Wolves―In novels, often a wolf is more than just a wolf. In C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the wolves side with the villain, the White Witch. In Jack London’s White Fang, the main character is three-quarters wolf and one-quarter dog. White Fang puts flesh—and fur—on a big question people are always trying to answer: Which determines how we’ll behave—nature (how we are from birth) or nurture (what we are taught)?
Hollywood Wolves―In Old Yeller, a poor family in Texas adopts a yellow, thieving dog. Old Yeller becomes a hero when he saves the family from a rabid wolf. In The Journey of Natty Gann, the wolf acts more like a dog than a wolf. When Natty’s dad goes out West to find work during the depression, she runs away to find him. Along the way, a wolf befriends her. Here, the wolf serves as a protector and a companion—something unheard of in real life. Don’t try that at home!
Wolves in the Word― In Matthew 7:15, Christ speaks of false prophets as “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” That’s a pretty vivid picture! We know wolves eat sheep. So if they dress up as sheep, wolves are hiding their true nature. They are deceptive.
But here’s a positive picture too. After Christ’s final return, the world will be sinless. The wolf will no longer hunt the lamb. The two will graze side by side. They’ll even lie down together! (Isaiah 11:6, Isaiah 65:25)