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Question: Are unicorns in the Bible?

Question: Are unicorns in the Bible?

Answer: Thanks for this intriguing question. The simple answer is yes. Unicorns are mentioned in the Bible 9 different times (Numbers 23:22, 24:8; Deuteronomy 33:17; Job 39:9, 10; Psalm 22:21; 29:6; 92:10; Isaiah 34:7).

But here’s the catch, you only find unicorns if you read the King James Version. All other version tend to use bull, ox, or some other form of cattle instead. This brings up another interesting question, why does the King James Version say unicorn, but the other versions don’t?

That question is not as simple to answer. But here is what I found researching this question for you. The Old Testament is primarily written in the Hebrew Language, and the Hebrew word used in all of these passages is “re’em”. At the end of the day, we don’t know what this creature was. Around 200 years before Jesus was born, the Septuagint was translated. The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, and for some reason unknown to us, the translators decided to use the Greek word “monokeros” (“mono” means single, and “keros” means horn). Then when the Latin Vulgate was translated (about 300 years after Jesus), the translator used the Latin word that meant “one horn” which was “unicornis” (“uni” means one and “cornis” means horn). In the early 1600s, the King James Version Translators took the lead from the Latin Vulgate and used “unicorn” to translate the original Hebrew word.

Fun fact, we do have a good idea what the ancient Romans and Greeks considered to be the unicorn, and it was probably the one-horned Rhinoceros. The Indian Rhinoceros still contains the Latin name “unicornis” in the scientific name. Please visit https://rhinos.org/species/greater-one-horned-rhino/ to learn more about this creature and its name.

Getting back to the original Hebrew, again my research has lead me to conclude that the Hebrew word cannot be precisely known today. It could be a bull, a rhinoceros, or some other creature now extinct. Whatever this creature was, it was a strong, powerful, and untamable beast (Job 39:9, 10) that was as a great illustration demonstrating those attributes.

Again thanks for the question!

-Nick

-- This column is designed to help curious people learn more about the Bible. If you have a Bible question or curious to know more about a Bible passage, please contact Nick by calling, texting, or emailing at (270) 999-2600 or [email protected]. Nick Greenman is the minister at Christian Home church of Christ. Christian Home’s service times are Sun: 10 am; 11 am; 4:30 pm; Wed: 7 pm. Address: 3628 Love Lee Rd Morgantown, KY. For more information about Christian Home please visit www.christianhome.us and Facebook @christianhomechurchofchrist. For more information about Nick Greenman please visit www.ndgreenman.com and Facebook @ndgreenman. Also tune in for the weekly radio program Seeking the Kingdom on 101.5 FM at 6:30 am on Sundays.  

 

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