General Question

ragingloli's avatar

Where does the "Grim Reaper" fit into Christian Mythology?

Asked by ragingloli (46768points) November 18th, 2015

Is it connected to it at all, or is it coexisting, separate folklore?

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9 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

I’m not a scholar or a religious historian, but I’ve done my share of reading, study, and (long ago) sitting through sessions of religious indoctrination. I don’t believe there’s any such thing in the literature of the Bible, the Greek or the Hebrew portion, either one.

As you probably know, Christanity coopted a lot of local beliefs and practices on its way to gaining adoption. I’m guessing that a little research would show us that many of the images and conventions we associate with Christian beliefs came from older traditions and were grafted on during the Middle Ages in Europe. This sounds like one of those.

majorrich's avatar

As far as I know, in the same box as the Easter bunny and the sand man. Not a lot there.

zenvelo's avatar

There’s no connection to Christian beliefs. The idea of a Grim reaper is a bit of anthropomorphizing of the reality of Death.

The closest culturally is Charon, the ferryman on the River Styx.

Seek's avatar

This was a really good question, and sent me on a research-spree.

You really start seeing the artistic trope of the Skeleton as a personification of Death in the late 14th – early 15th century. Y’know, plague and all.

I have found him carrying a scythe-like instrument (though here being used as an axe) in the mid-17th century

It appears it may have roots in the Breton-Celtic legend of the Ankou – a robed skeletal figure which sees in all directions, and wheels a wagon with a creaking axle on which he heaps the souls of the deceased in order to carry them to the afterlife.

The OED lists the first use of the term Grim Reaper is 1847, though earlier mentions of Great Reaper, or simply Reaper, date back to the mid-17th century.

kritiper's avatar

The “Grim Reaper” is a characterized personification not associated with any Christian religion that I know of, and if it was, it wouldn’t be an overly important one. Death is death, pure and simple.

Seek's avatar

Also found during this search:

The Dullahan

This is my new favourite mythological figure, if only for the pimped-out corpse-wagon.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

There might be some quasi Christian groups that have a mythology but without any name for them, I don’t know who you are thinking of as true Believer have no mythology

msh's avatar

I heard that the Grim Reaper polishes the pearly gates, like a custodian. When not doing this, ( there’s only so much pearly on the Pearly Gates.) he had to take a second job. He reaps in the clouds. Breaking up storms and demolishing hurricanes and the like. Hates the Tornado States in the mid US, especially in the Spring.
Around X-Mas, a third job is sometimes necessary. It’s tough thing to find. A lot of competition from the cherubs and unemployed college graduates. One year, the GR was a shopping mall Santa. However, all of the complaints from the parents of little kids bitched about the skinny guy who’s lap just did not feel right and had breath described as…plague-y. He also hung out at the Orange Julius Shack two doors down from his Santa’s House office. (or.. chair) a bit too much. He wasn’t invited back.
This year, I believe that the GR has a position at the Boy Scout’s ‘Cut Your Own’ X-Mas Tree Farm. He has a mean blade, but seriously, I have no idea how that cart is going to make it through the rows of trees. Maybe Orange Julius is hiring over at that same strip mall.
We’ll see.

philosophergirl's avatar

Grim reaper is actually not a Christian concept. Noways it has become part of the culture of the Christian due to wide range of literature about death and agent of death. However, in the western literature, grim reaper is portrait usually dark, and someone you should be scared of, however in many cultuer, Grim reaper is portrait as someone you should respect, and someone you shouldn’t be scared of, for example. in Ancient, death was considered inevitable so they portrait grim-reaper as a bearded man.

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