Materova Elizaveta

Frog as a symbol in the commentary on the book of revelation by Tyconius the African (Rev. 16. 13–14)

Materova Elizaveta (2020) "Frog as a symbol in the commentary on the book of revelation by Tyconius the African (Rev. 16. 13–14) ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia III : Filologiia, 2020, vol. 64, pp. 82-94 (in Russian).

DOI of the paper: 10.15382/sturIII202064.82-94


This paper deals with the image of frog in the Commentary on the Book of Revelation by Tyconius the African (Tyconius Africanus), the Christian exegete of the 4thcentury. In his Commentary on Rev 16. 13–14, Tyconius, following the Scriptures, speaks about frogs as a symbol of mud, related to the “Satanic Trinity”, i.e. the Dragon, the Beast and the False Prophet. Such demonisation was not known to Ancient Greek, Roman, and Jewish cultures, where the frogs had other connotations, rather comic than horrifi c. There is only one culture, Zoroastrianism, which had eschatological conception similar to Christianity, and which attributed a demonic nature to frogs. Tyconius comments this place, though he is not satisfi ed with a generalized statement which equalizes frogs and evil spirits. He makes this image more specifi c and it serves as an allegory of hypocrisy. Comparing this episode from Tyconius’ Commentary to the description of a frog in the Late Antiquity text Physiologus (2nd — 3rd centuries AD) allows one to identify certain similarities, i.e. a twofold composition (description of the habits and a subsequent allegorical explanation), an opposition of the righteous and the sinful presented in the Physiologus as the two types of frog, χερσα´ος (living on the ground) and Ëνυδρος (living in water). In Tyconius’ Commentary it is an opposition credentes (believers) — hypocritae (hypocrites). The symbol of water is very important in the two texts because of its connotation of the Baptism. These similarities indicate that the Physiologus, originated in Alexandria, was known to Tyconius, who was a native of North Africa, and perhaps made use of the Physiologus. Tyconius’ interpretation of the frog correlates with his idea of the Church, where the body of Christ is divided into the right (i.e. true) and left (i.e. false, hypocritical) parts. These parts are spiritually opposite but have to remain together till the Last Judgment when the fi nal separation will happen explicitly. Thus, the frog as a symbol of the false part of the Church is in accordance with Tyconius’ system of ideas.


Tyconius, Apocalypse, Book of Revelation, Early Christian exegesis, Physiologus, frog as symbol, Zoroastrianism, allegory


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Information about the author

Materova Elizaveta

Academic Degree: Candidate of Sciences* in Philology;
Place of work: St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University for the Humanities; 6/1 Likhov pereulok, Moscow 127051, Russian Federation;
Post: Associate Professor;
ORCID: 0000-0003-0776-0515;
Email: materowa@mail.ru.

*According to the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 2011, the degree of Candidate of Sciences (Cand.Sc.) belongs to ISCED level 8 — "doctoral or equivalent", together with PhD, DPhil, D.Lit, D.Sc, LL.D, Doctorate or similar.