Could the Legend of the Phoenix Be Based on Fact?
The legend of the phoenix goes back thousands of years. According to that legend, the phoenix bird lived for hundreds of years in the Arabian Desert. Then, to renew itself, it burned itself up in its own funeral pyre. It would then rise from its own ashes, renewed for several hundred years.
Dr. Maurice Burton, a British naturalist, has suggested that this legend may have some basis in fact. He points out that some birds like to play with fire. The British rook is a bird that is a little larger than a crow. When Dr. Burton hands a rook at his nature preserve an unlit match, the rook holds the match so it can peck at it. Once the rook gets the match to light, it quickly puts the burning match under its wing, appearing to want to set itself on fire. When supplied with straw and a match, the rook will set the straw on fire and then lie, wings outstretched, on the burning straw until the fire goes out. It is possible that in ancient times people saw this behavior and developed the legend of the phoenix to explain what they saw.
Dr. Burton points out that this behavior is common among intelligent birds, such as rooks and jays, who pick up discarded cigarettes that are still burning and fly off with them. It is even likely that this strange behavior is responsible for many house fires. While the legend of the phoenix may be a misinterpretation of a real event, we can trust that the Bible accurately records real events from creation to our salvation to eternity.