Nature of the Beast

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According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the nature of the beast first appeared in the 1600s: The nature of the beast was said to be “the inherent or essential quality or character of something, (usually undesirable)which cannot be changed and must be accepted.”

First appearance was said to be in the 1678 John Ray's Collection of English Proverbs (ed. 2) 77 “It's the nature o' th' beast.” It was suggest it was an accepted idiom at that time.

But I found in the 1567 translation of Ovid's Metamorphosis by Arthur Golding who died in 1606:

The beastes doo breake theyr fast with flesh: & yit not all beastes neyther.
For horses, shéepe, and Rotherbeastes too liue by grasse had leuer.
The nature of the beast that dooth delyght in bloody foode,
Is cruell and vnmercifull. As Lyons féerce of moode,
Armenian Tigers, Beares, and Woolues.”

Metamorphosis was the Roman poet Ovid's magnum opus. The poem chronicles the history of the world from its creation to the deification of Julius Caesar.

We see the word “vnmercifull” used by Golding in Romans 1:31 “Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:”

The word unmerciful is translated from the Greek word aneleemon [1] which is the negative form of the word for mercy from eleos[2] meaning “mercy: kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them “ and is a distinguishing characteristic of “true Christians” who lives by faith rather than taking a bite out of his neighbor through force.


The Nature of the Beast is void of “right reason”. Right Reason is equated with divine will and the Natural Law but if you read the rest of Romans 1 to know that the “righteousness of God [is] revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”[3] Living by faith is not living by force. Romans 1:19 ¶ Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed [it] unto them.

20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.


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  1. 415 ~ἀνελεήμων~ aneleemon \@an-eleh-ay’-mone\@ from 1 (as a negative particle) and 1655; TDNT-2:487,222; {See TDNT 232} adj AV-unmerciful 1; 1
    1) without mercy, merciless
  2. Template:1656
  3. Romans 1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.