Sunday, May 13, 2012

Unicorns in the Bible

Recently I was pointed to the following video in the comments on another blog. I recommend checking out the video, it is pretty interesting and only about 8 minutes long. A quick summary of the video is that unicorns are mentioned in the bible a few times. This might seem crazy as when we hear the word unicorn we think of the mythical creature which is a horse with a horn. But, what is being talked about in the bible is really a rhinoceros. There are multiple kinds of rhinoceros, some with 2 horns and some with 1. The ones with 1 are called unicorns. The video itself went in to the linguistics of it all and it seemed pretty convincing to me.

One thing that stuck me about the video was a string of atheists mocking the bible for having unicorns in it. Those guys now look like idiots. My first thought was that they shouldn't have been such dicks about it. They were making fun of the bible but since they were wrong, in the end they just look bad. So generally, I like the 'don't be a dick' message, but as many have pointed out, there are places where mockery and even dickery are useful and effective tools. I have been thinking about this for a few days trying to decide where my opinion lands, and I think I settled on the following: If you are going to be a dick, you better make sure your argument is bulletproof.


  1. You bring up a great point. I want to point out that there are giants, sea monsters, fiery serpents, Cockatrice(s?)
    , dragons, What I want to call a hydra (but is only described as a beast with seven heads), Satyrs
    Or, as we've seen, zombies

    Though I should note that a lot of these verses, it really varies translation to translation. This is one of the reasons I find it frustrating sometimes when reading the bible. What my book says might be different from someone else I'm having a discussion with. Most times it really doesn't seem to matter, but other places it does. Some translations will change things around in order to not conflict with current accepted dogma. (ex. Mary was a virgin). I think that the KJV (which seems to have most of these mythical beasts) was one of the first English translations. I believe that this was during a time when people still believed in dragons and whatnot, so it probably wasn't such a big deal back then. I'm sure no one thought to question it. Now that we know better, those things were edited. I have no idea if its the same as when stories are changed from being “literal” like the flood and the slaves in Egypt, to metaphorical now that we know better.

    I looked into the unicorn thing. It looks like it really depends on the translation again. Later versions changed the meaning to “wild Ox” and some people, as you mentioned, think that it's a rhino.

  2. You make a good point about the other mythical creatures. I don't know enough to be able to speak to the accuracy of them. As far as the unicorn thing goes, as I said, the video goes into the linguistics of it, but the bottom line is I think it is credible that the original intent was rhino. The video makes a good case for it IMO.

    This naturally leads me to 2 different thoughts.
    1. When looking at the other mystical creatures, we should be careful. Although, it is hard to imagine their being a similar explanation for a 7 headed beast.
    2. If the language can change so much, how much can we trust the bible for other matters? I'm fine with the idea that we are wrong to think their are unicorns in the bible as we think of it. But then what does that say about everything else in the bible? Shouldn't we then doubt everything else just as much? You can't just say that everything you don't like might be a mistranslation but the things you like are as designed. You need to use the same level of scrutiny everywhere.

  3. "Don't be a dick" is a good massage. Another is to be skeptical of stuff that sounds odd even when it supports your view (that religion is nuts.)

  4. yeah, being skeptical of stuff that supports your view is a really good point. It's easy to be skeptical of stuff that sounds like BS to you right away, but when stuff matches your expectations it is easy to accept it as true too quickly.


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