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Is the Grim Reaper from the Bible?

Gustave_Dore Death Grim Reaper

Public Domain

Philip Kosloski - published on 10/29/22

The popular depiction of death has much in common with a few scenes in the Book of Revelation.

Around Halloween the Grim Reaper character is often depicted in decorations and costumes. It consists of a shadowy character hidden in a black cloak, holding a scythe, ready to reap the “harvest” of a dead person’s soul.

While in general the Grim Reaper is a personification of death, the imagery may have been influenced by the Book of Revelation.

Death as the Fourth Horseman

The Book of Revelation features Death as one of the four horseman of the Apocalypse.

And I saw, and behold, a pale horse, and its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him; and they were given power over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.

Revelation 6:8

Death is given a haunting visual in this passage, and is depicted in a way similar to the way the Grim Reaper pursues the dying.

The harvest of death

Later in the Book of Revelation, the death and judgment of individuals is depicted as a harvest, including a sickle, which is a smaller version of a scythe used in harvesting crops.

Then I looked, and lo, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat upon the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” So he who sat upon the cloud swung his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.

Revelation 14:14-16

In some depictions the Grim Reaper is wearing a crown, and may be a direct reference to this scene in the Book of Revelation.

While there are many other influences behind the Grim Reaper, much of the symbolism can be found in the Bible.

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