October 26, 2013

The Most Heinous Monster In All of Creation

This post (just in time for Halloween) is essentially a re-post from three years ago. It is a slightly tongue-in-cheek expose of strange creatures mention in the pages of Scripture with a new addendum (ending). Many of the following fiends will be drawn from the KJV as the translators that created that version took quite a few liberties they probably shouldn’t have. I will not fault them too much as they did the best they could with a limited knowledge base…

First up is the famous (or infamous) passages about unicorns in the King James Version of the Bible. Most of the newer translations translate this wild ox and rightfully so. So what we are talking about here is a rather ugly bovine not a full-size version of My Little Pony®. We need a history lesson for this one so we can clear the waters once and for all.

God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of a unicorn. Numbers 23:22 (similar in Numbers 24:8)

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. ~Deuteronomy 33:17

Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Job 39:9

But my horn shalt thou exalt like [the horn of] an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil. Psalm 92:10

And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness. Isaiah 34:7

What is known for sure is this animal was strong and horned. The author of the Hebrew texts would've probably known exactly what this animal was but I am betting one thing: It was probably not a unicorn. When the Hebrew was translated to Greek in the Septuagint the word chosen was monoceros/monokeros μονοκερως. When it was eventually transliterated to Latin it became...you guessed it: unicornis. We must keep in mind that the translators of the KJV were natives of 15th century England and probably had never left their local region let alone England proper so when they came across a Hebrew Re'em רְאֵם or a Greek μονοκερως they were hard pressed to find an English equivalent so they did the best they could with the Greek. Too bad the best they could do was a bit too creative and relied heavily on folklore and imagination.

The Auroch
by: Tom Hammond
The beast may have been a rhinoceros. Strong, single horned and its name even ends in ceros or horn. The problem with this theory is the Greeks already had a name for the Rhinoceros: ῥῑνόκερως. More than likely this "unicornis" was an Auroch or a wild ox. Aurochs were immortalized for their brute strength and “elephantine” size by Julius Caesar in Gallic War , Book 6, Chapter 28:
"...those animals which are called uri [Aurochs]. These are a little below the elephant in size, and of the appearance, color, and shape of a bull. Their strength and speed are extraordinary; they spare neither man nor wild beast which they have espied. These the Germans take with much pains in pits and kill them. The young men harden themselves with this exercise, and practice themselves in this sort of hunting, and those who have slain the greatest number of them, having produced the horns in public, to serve as evidence, receive great praise. But not even when taken very young can they be rendered familiar to men and tamed. The size, shape, and appearance of their horns differ much from the horns of our oxen. These they anxiously seek after, and bind at the tips with silver, and use as cups at their most sumptuous entertainments."
Powerful, fast and horned. Once real and legendary in their time, they are now extinct.

An Auroch, a more feasible explanation...but boring (**yawn, a cow **). Were there ever unicorns. Who's to say for sure? Scientists are digging up new fossils of spectacular beasts every single day and wildly speculating about how they evolved from this or that and who we are related to them. Perhaps someday they will dig up a unicorn fossil?

Were the old versions of the Bible wrong to include what they knew might be too fantastic to believe? Before we leave behind the "Land of Eccentric Biblical Creatures" we should probably clear the air and mention the other more whimsical items of the Bible.
Satyr and Goat

We have the Satyr שָׂעִיר mentioned in Isaiah 13:21 and 34:14 (KJV of course).

The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest. Isaiah 34:14

This was probably a shaggy or hairy goat.

We also have a Cockatrice, the chicken-snake with looks that kill.

And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. ~Isaiah 11:8 (KJV again).

The Cockatrice was suppose to have been some type of serpent that can kill with its glance. The context leads a reader to realize that this is a snake of some sort most likely an asp or an adder.

...and of course we must mention the Dragons. The Dragon of Revelation is really suppose to be a dragon or some form of nightmarish beast. The words of the Old Testament are not so clear (Psalms 148:7) δρακοντες or תַּנִּין tannim/tannin. They were clearly large and unpleasant terrifying brutes. We can also look to nearly every euro-asian culture and see a form of this beast. All cultures have this creature in common. This is similar to the story of a massive flood. Many, if not all cultures have a story of mankind going through an antediluvian period (pre-flood) and then a massive deluge. It is highly unlikely that these stories were pervasive myths and spread but it is more likely that in actuality...they happened and became part of the culture. Cultures do not readily spread to other peoples without force but stories within cultures do. That means many of these stories came from the bottom-up (past to present) not from outside (other cultures). Similarly the story of dragons spread the same way. I mean good grief, we believe that dinosaurs exist, is the existence of a dragon that much of a stretch? I guess the same can be said of the unicorn but there is much more evidence in the case of the unicorn to suggest this was another form of pastoral animal. It is mentioned in the context of other pastoral animals such as peacocks, lambs, lions, bullocks, goats, donkeys and horses.

Where we are pretty sure these beasts are the product of 16th century misuse of words we should absolutely go back to visit the original languages or at least consult multiple versions to gain a consensus of what we are really dealing with. If we do not explain how fairytale creatures can reside in the pages of the Bible (mostly KJV) we do a horrible injustice to modern readers/believers. We also do a terrible injustice to the translators of the King James Version as they did not have at their disposal all the resources many have today like National Geographic and the Internet. At the same time we really should make sure that we stay as close to the original manuscripts as possible. I still use the KJV but I always match it up against the Greek and Hebrew in a word study since these tools are so readily available in software packages in our computer age. 

In the end, we still need to contend with the likes of Leviathan that is described in Job 41:1-34, Psalm 74:14, Psalm 104:26, Isaiah 27:1 and Behemoth in Isaiah

Job 41:1-34 “Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook or tie down its tongue with a rope? Can you put a cord through its nose or pierce its jaw with a hook? (and so it goes for 34 verse…)

Isaiah 27:1 ~ “In that day, the Lord will punish with his sword—his fierce, great and powerful sword-Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea.

“Look at Behemoth, which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox. What strength it has in its loins, what power in the muscles of its belly! Its tail sways like a cedar; the sinews of its thighs are close-knit.”

Do I know what Leviathan and Behemoth were? No, I don't. Does modern science? No, they don't. Because we cannot quantify something does not make it not true nor a myth. It just makes it unknown to man. It is not unknown to God as we are shown in Job and Isaiah above. What I can take away from Scripture is this. If Scripture spoke of Leviathan and Behemoth, then they most certainly existed...even if we are not sure of what they were. We need to align the way we see things in the world. Science does not need to be mutually exclusive from the Bible regardless of what you have been told. When we see the world only through science we will only ever have half and explanation (or less) to the things we see or have seen in this world. 

What is ironic is that we didn't need science to tell us the truth about the worst monster in our lives, we needed the Bible to describe to us this degenerate abomination. As a matter of fact the entire Bible from Genesis 3 to Revelation 21 deals with the most pervasive and insidious freak in all of history...

Yes, there were monsters in the Bible as the Bible is replete with examples of them. If a reader looks hard enough they will eventually realize that some of the worst monsters were satanic in origin. If one looks honestly at the text of the Bible and accepts what it says, a person will come to one of the most startling conclusions having read it. That the most dreadful and horrific monster or beast in our world...is our own sin. Some of the most immoral and evil beasts dwelt in human skin. You see, the truth is that the real monster in God's Creation is anything that exalts itself against God and that is exactly what sin is. An arrogant and rebellious exaltation against Holy God. God considered sin so destructive, so heinous and so monstrous He acted profoundly and eternally on it. He considered this monster so serious that He sent his only begotten son to overcome it for good so it would not terrorize those that would turn to Him. In so doing He put an end to death so that death would not have its vicious bite and sting.

There need be no fear in the things of this world for the Lord Jesus has overcome them all. We can rest easy at night as believers and be at peace with this. There is no boogieman that will accost us in the dark and there is no sin that cannot be overcome through Christ Jesus. Instead of focusing on the Oogily Boogilies on Halloween we need to focus on the risen Savior and what that signifies to us. There is no need to be afraid of the dark for the Light has come into the world (John 3:19).

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