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Bill Thayer

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The Touring Club guidebook to Rome on my desk claims this represents the famous story in which the prophet Habakkuk is carried thru the sky by his hair to go bring reassurance to Daniel in Babylon (Dan. 14:33 ff.).a That would fit with the door's general theme, God's deliverance of his people; but the iconography is all wrong. This is not Babylon, but the countryside; there is an angel but not carrying anyone, by the hair or otherwise; and if the smaller figure is Daniel, why are those animals not lions, but a ram and a dog?

My candidate: The Sacrifice of Isaac. This too fits the theme, and we can see the angel, the ram, and the child-sized Isaac.b On the other hand, I need to explain the dog and what appears to be loaves of bread, don't I?


a Most modern Bibles put the last chapters of Daniel in the Apocrypha under other names, with chapter 14 corresponding to the apocryphal book Bel and the Dragon: q.v., v. 33 ff.

b There are good reasons for believing that Isaac was not a child at all but a young man, as Sir Thomas Browne pointed out in Book 5, Chapter 8 of his Vulgar Errors; but the fact is, it is among Christians a very old belief just the same. 
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Page updated: 24 Oct 00