Bible Dictionary: Unicorn

by: Guy Templeton

January 9, 2014

This is not what the Bible meant

The Definition of Unicorn in the LDS Bible Dictionary is

“A wild ox, the Bos primigenius, now extinct, but once common in Syria.  The KJV rendering is unfortunate, as the animal intended is two-horned.”

Mormons especially are aware that the Bible has translation errors, such as this one.  Is it time for us to update the Bible to get rid of these kind of egregious errors?

This is a Bos Primigenius

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7 Responses to Bible Dictionary: Unicorn

  1. New Iconoclast on January 9, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    Only if we can eliminate the egregious Trinitarian errors as well. :)

    Frankly, this kind of thing is why alternative translations exist, and why The New English Bible is in my scripture case next to my LDS edition of the KJV. It helps to have a couple of different takes on things sometimes. I know there are people, even Latter-day Saints, who are horrifically literal about obviously not literal Biblical things (young-earth creationism and so on), but even I have never met one wacky enough to insist that there were once unicorns.

    (Parenthetically, I’ve read here or elsewhere about folks who have apparently been shushed or lectured about using other Bible translations in LDS classes. I never have been, and am somewhat surprised to hear that, but perhaps it’s why I’ve never been called to teach Gospel Doctrine. :) )

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  2. Frank Pellett on January 9, 2014 at 9:54 AM

    It’s kind of funny that we draw a line at what we consider mythical and what not, even though they exist in the scriptures. How different are the mentions of angels, seraphim, and chrubim to the mentions of unicorns, dragons, and satyrs?

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  3. davidwayner on January 9, 2014 at 11:37 AM

    We spend a lot of time trying to figure out what the scriptures say before moving on to what they mean. I rarely use the KJV in my personal study, preferring more modern translations, commentaries, etc.

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  4. New Iconoclast on January 9, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    How different are the mentions of angels, seraphim, and cherubim to the mentions of unicorns, dragons, and satyrs?

    The first purport to be heavenly or spiritual beings, above and beyond our plane somehow (I’m not explaining that well). The second purport to be real creatures walking around on Earth. I can handle a little hyperbole in my heaven.

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  5. Lorian on January 9, 2014 at 12:44 PM

    The KJV is a lovely, poetic translation. I enjoyed reading it aloud from the Monastic Diurnal when I was in the convent. However, as a translation for scholarly study, it leaves a great deal to be desired. My favorite translation from the point of accuracy is probably the NRSV, but even it has a good many points with which I would dispute. As Frank Pellett pointed out, above, we run into difficulties when we examine mythology (such as the creation story in Genesis) and attempt to cram it into the framework of “reality.”

    Time and thought and research spent trying to show how, scientifically, the earth *could* have been created in 6 solar days, some 6000 years ago, might just as well be spent trying to prove with quantum physics how the earth could be balanced upon the back of a giant tortoise, or the seas held in place by the encircling and twining of the body of a great serpent. Creation myths have a purpose, but they do not replace scientific knowledge and discovery. This doesn’t make the Bible less valuable. It just means that we shouldn’t try to use it for a science text, whether our translation is an accurate one or not.

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  6. Lorian on January 9, 2014 at 12:48 PM

    In fact, in a way, the KJV is almost *better* for reading or chanting aloud, as is done in monastic settings, because it is musical and flowing in a way which can place one in that contemplative state of mind which is part of monastic prayer. It doesn’t have to be about the literal meaning of the words, but rather, about their ebb and flow with the movement of the chant. It’s lovely, really. But it doesn’t mean that we have to believe in unicorns.

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  7. Yet Another John on January 9, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    Don’t you remember the unicorns missed the boat because “they were playing silly games”?

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