The article deals with the programmatic first chapter of the Physiologus about the lion. Its three allegories refer to Christ’s incarnation, his death and his resurrection. In general, the author of the Physiologus only alludes to dogmatic conceptions and exegetical traditions of his age and expects his readers to fill any voids (‚Leerstellen’). A detailed analysis of the complex religious-historical background of the lion-chapter offers the possibility to draw some chronological conclusions (based on the assumption that the 1st chapter has to be regarded as an integral ¬part of the Physiologus’ first version). Whereas the figure of the hidden descent of the Saviour can be traced back to ‘heterodox’ Christian traditions of the 2nd cent. the motive of his angelomorphic status and the intertextual reference to Ps 24 (23LXX) are rather indebted to Origen and his theology. Moreover, the christological vocabulary – namely the leitmotiv of Christ’s „divine nature (theotēs) hidden in the flesh (/body)“ – points most likely to the 4th cent. The lion chapter shows also traces of 4th cent. debates about the status of Christ between death and resurrection (triduum mortis). If the first version of the Physiologus originated in the first half of the 4th cent. his milieu might probably be found among Origenist monks in Egypt (who were perhaps also transmitters of Gnostic traditions and texts). Finally, the article deals with the hermeneutical profile of the Physiologus’ allegorical method and his basic conception of the ‘two books of God’, nature and Scripture.