Thursday, January 20, 2011

Um, Really? Unicorns in the Bible?

I asked the question, "Are unicorns real, or are they a myth? What does the word unicorn mean? If it really means a one-horned horse, is there fossil evidence of such an animal? Please lend your two cents!" on facebook.

Job 39:9-12
Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib?
Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee?
Wilt thou trust him, because , because his strength is great? or wilt thou leave thy labor to him?
Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?

In this chapter god is talking to Job, about how awesome he is. That his wisdom is "unsearchable in them" "God is to be feared because of his great works" "God's works are to be magnified"

Now, the question is, as always, in the original script, in is original form and language, was the word unicorn meant to be a single horned creature, or is this a bastardisation of a word that could not be directly translated? We all know how much language and words change. Words like "gay" which used to mean happy, "Fag" which used to mean a bundle of sticks, then as slang for a cigarette. So, where did the word unicorn come from?
Lets break it down. It's origins are latin, unus -one and corne - horn.
"Though the modern popular image of the unicorn is sometimes that of a horse differing only in the horn, the traditional unicorn also has a billy-goat beard, a lion's tail, and cloven hooves—these distinguish it from a horse."

An animal called the re’em (Hebrew: רְאֵם‎) is mentioned in several places in the Hebrew Bible, often as a metaphor representing strength. "The allusions to the re'em as a wild, un-tamable animal of great strength and agility, with mighty horn or horns (Job xxxix. 9-12; Ps. xxii. 21, xxix. 6; Num. xxiii. 22, xxiv. 8; Deut. xxxiii. 17; comp. Ps. xcii. 11), best fit the aurochs (Bos primigenius). This view is supported by the Assyrian rimu, which is often used as a metaphor of strength, and is depicted as a powerful, fierce, wild mountain bull with large horns."[13] This animal was often depicted in ancient Mesopotamian art in profile, with only one horn visible.

The translators of the Authorized King James Version of the Bible (1611) followed the Greek Septuagint (monokeros) and the Latin Vulgate (unicornis)[14] and employed unicorn to translate re'em, providing a recognizable animal that was proverbial for its un-tamable nature. The American Standard Version translates this term "wild ox" in each case. -(Wikipedia)
Jewish view

The classical Jewish understanding of bible did not identify the Re'em animal as the unicorn. Instead, the Tahash animal (Exodus 25, 26, 35, 36 and 39; Numbers 4; and Ezekiel 16:10) was thought to be a kosher unicorn with a coat of many colors that only existed in biblical times.

So, it seems those darned old translators strike again! This is part of the reason that the bible is so easily dismissible for me. Not only was it written by men who thought god was using them to write the word, but the people who translated the works into other languages...actually translated from one language to another over and over again...substituted words time and time again for ease of use, or to associate things in the bible to things that the people of the time would be able to relate to. If you can agree that there are discrepancies in the translation when it comes to single words, how can you possibly have any hope that the rest of it isn't tweaked for convenience sake? One of the most interesting things I've heard lately is in this video:

This website is also very illuminating on the subject. It's great reading, both for believers (You really should understand what you are believing) and non believers alike. If you disagree with the idea that the words are not mistranslated, by all means, do what I did and spend the morning with your Latin text book, as well as the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic ( and let me know what you come up with. I am always open to facts and evidence.

Speaking of evidence, check this out:

Alleged evidence

Otto von Guericke's unicorn skeleton, exhibit near the Zoo, Osnabrück

Among numerous finds of prehistoric bones found at Unicorn Cave in Germany's Harz Mountains, some were selected and reconstructed by the mayor of Magdeburg, Otto Von Guericke, as a unicorn in 1663 (illustration, right). Guericke's so-called unicorn had only two legs, and was constructed from fossil bones of a Woolly rhinoceros and a mammoth, with the horn of a narwhal. The skeleton was examined by Gottfried Leibniz, who had previously doubted the existence of the unicorn, but was convinced by it.[18]

Baron Georges Cuvier maintained that, as the unicorn was cloven-hoofed, it must therefore have a cloven skull (making the growth of a single horn impossible); as if to disprove this, Dr. W. Franklin Dove, a University of Maine professor, artificially fused the horn buds of a calf together, creating the external appearance of a one-horned bull.[19]


Elasmotherium or rhinoceros

One suggestion is that the unicorn is based on the extinct animal Elasmotherium, a huge Eurasian rhinoceros native to the steppes, south of the range of the woolly rhinoceros of Ice Age Europe. Elasmotherium looked little like a horse, but it had a large single horn in its forehead. It became extinct about the same time as the rest of the glacial age megafauna.[20]

However, according to the Nordisk familjebok (Nordic Familybook) and science writer Willy Ley the animal may have survived long enough to be remembered in the legends of the Evenk people of Russia as a huge black bull with a single horn in the forehead.

In support of this claim, it has been noted that the 13th century traveller Marco Polo claimed to have seen a unicorn in Java, but his description makes it clear to the modern reader that he actually saw a Javan Rhinoceros.


Single-horned goat

The connection that is sometimes made with a single-horned goat derives from the vision of Daniel:

And as I was considering, behold, a he-goat came from the west over the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. (Daniel 8:5)

Antiquities researcher Timothy Zell also produced artificial unicorns dubbed "the Living Unicorn", remodeling the "horn buds" of goat kids in such a way that their horns grew together into a single one.[21] Zell theorized that this process might have been used in the past to create court curiosities and natural herd leaders, because the goat was able to use this long straight horn effectively as a weapon and a tool. Medieval art often depicts unicorns as small, with cloven hooves and beards, sometimes resembling goats more than horses with horns. This process is possible only with animals that naturally have horns. For a time, a few of these unicorns traveled with the Ringling Brothers Circus.[22]

There you have it. The only fossil evidence of a unicorn has been faked, and there are many different animals and circumstances that could lend the uneducated, and unscientific mind to imagination. The only question left to answer is, what in the bible is trustworthy? I am one of those pesky all or nothing types. I cannot pick and choose which things to believe. If it were my religion, I'd have to completely follow every single rule, even the stone-your-kids ones (how well would Laurel and Miah behave then?!?) and I'd have to truly believe in all the stories...Jonah, Noah, Moses, and Jesus to name a few. So, being of that mind, I don't understand those who pick and choose. How do you know which is right? Do you even think about it, or do you simply dwell on all of the pretty verses, and leave the confusing ones to the preacher to worry about? I challenge you to leave the church and the preacher out of the equation, and read all of the tough stuff for yourself. Get some books to translate...and get a bible in one of the original languages. I can lend you one, if you'd like.

And just for fun:

No comments: