What About the Unicorns in the KJV?

Sunday night we talked about the inclusion of ‘unicorns’ in the KJV Bible. 

(Here is the link to the sermon referenced above. http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=921141913202)

The following is the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition for a ‘unicorn’:  “A mythical animal generally depicted with the body and head of a horse, the hind legs of a stag, the tail of a lion, and a single horn in the middle of the forehead.” Since we know our Bible doesn’t reference mythical creatures, we may rightly ask—why did the KJV translators chose the word ‘unicorn’? We can’t say for sure why unicorn was selected because of the absence of a marginal note in these passages or a 1611 dictionary to reference. But we can surmise.  We know the Vulgate (the Latin Bible) that the translators certainly consulted employs the word ‘unicornes’ (having one horn, from uni- + cornu horn) in some of these OT passages (such as Isaiah 34:7), where a horned beast is referenced. Therefore, it seems very reasonable to assume that since the translators did not know exactly what kind of horned beast the Hebrew word rĕ'em (H7214) is making reference to, they simply maintained the one horn idea and transliterated the Latin word unicornis into the English unicorn.  If the reader thinks of this horned beast as being perhaps a wild ox, then they have a correct understanding of the text. If the reader pictures a mythical horse with a horn protruding from its forehead, then they are allowing the modern understanding of a unicorn to influence their understanding. Since most contemporary readers think of a unicorn as such, most modern translations have avoided using the word unicorn in these texts because the goal is always to provide an accurate understanding of the truth.


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