Unicorns In the Bible

One of the arguments that some Bible critics make is that it mentions unicorns — which we all know are mythical creatures and therefore the Bible must be a book of myth and legend, not fact.  And indeed the King James Bible does talk about unicorns:

Daniel 8:5 [Full Chapter]

And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes.

Bible search results

Deuteronomy 33:17 — His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh.

The above results are from BibleGateway.org,  King James Version (KJV)  Public Domain

The problem comes from applying a modern conception to an ancient fact.  In modern translations, most have changed “unicorn” to wild goat or wild ox to get away from the foible inherent with the word unicorn.  But the actual, living unicorn was also recorded in non-biblical texts and we can use those to support the truth of the Bible.  One such was the Merriam Webster dictionary.  The 1828 edition contained this reference:

U’NICORN, noun [Latin unicornis; unus, one, and cornu, horn.]
1. an animal with one horn; the monoceros. this name is often applied to the rhinoceros.
2. The sea unicorn is a fish of the whale kind, called narwal, remarkable for a horn growing out at his nose.

The earliest extra biblical writings to mention Unicorns were the writings of a Greek writer: Ctesias in the late 5th century BCE.  He described a strong animal with a white body, a red head, and a single horn protruding from its head.  450 years later, Roman historian Pliny the Elder wrote of single horned beast that was so strong and so wild that it could not be captured alive.

So, when the King James Bible talks about a Unicorn, it’s not the whimsical white horse we think of today, but an early rhinoceros.  That kind of pulls the chair out from under that argument about the Bible being a book of fables, doesn’t it?

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