Unicorns According to the Bible

Painting of the Elasmotherium sibiricum or ‘Siberian unicorn’ above by Heinrich Harder. Photograph: Public Domain

Much attention in the past two days has been devoted to something quite unexpected -Unicorns.  In the midst of headlines detailing an attempted plane hijacking in Cyprus[1] and a suicide bomber in Pakistan killing 69 people, [2] we find headlines about unicorns.  Unicorns clearly get people’s attention as they have, for the most part, been grouped along side of leprechauns and fairies in a long list of other childhood fairytales.   Not so much anymore though. A fossil discovered by scientists show that these animals may have roamed the earth at the same times humans did.  Though they may have not had rainbow fur, they did have one horn and looked much like a cross between a horse and a rhino. [3] To be fair, scientist have known of the existence of the Siberian Unicorn for some time, but until now it has been assumed that they went extinct long ago and never roamed the earth at the same time that humans did.  Job is an interesting place to look in this regard considering the KJV use of “unicorn” in its translation.  Below is the translation in the ESV and the KJV.

Job 39:9–10 (KJV 1900) 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?

Job 39:9–10 (ESV) “Is the wild ox willing to serve you? Will he spend the night at your manger? Can you bind him in the furrow with ropes,or will he harrow the valleys after you?

The reason why I give you both the KJV and the ESV is because the ESV here follows the Ancient Hebrew manuscripts while the KJV translates the Hebrew but uses the specific term unicorn from the Greek Septuagint (called the LXX, a translation of the Hebrew).  The Hebrew term here is רְאֵם which is a general term for wild ox or another two horned animal like it (Heberew may not have had a specific name for some animals).  It gets interesting though because the ancient translators of the LXX understood this word for ox here to refer to a unicorn.  So the translators took רְאֵם (wild ox) and translated it as μονόκερως which is best translated unicorn in English or one horned animal (μονό- one).  This is why the KJV (as well as Luther in his German translation in 1534) translated this as unicorn.

This translation of the Hebrew word רְאֵם for ox here into the Greek word for unicorn is at the very least interesting, especially in light of the recent discovery.

See our other “According to the Bible” articles:

Church Structure According to the Bible

Church Worship According to the Bible 

Women in Combat According to the Bible

Abortion According to the Bible

Gender Roles According to the Bible Part 1 & Part 2

 

 

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/30/world/middleeast/egypt-plane-hijack-cyprus.html?_r=0

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/29/opinion/another-bombing-this-time-in-pakistan.html

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/mar/29/siberian-unicorn-extinct-humans-fossil-kazakhstan

How we may Read the Scriptures with the Most Spiritual Profit

This is a fruitful outline from a written sermon by the English Puritan Thomas Watson.  This godly man did not have an easy life, as he faced much persecution and lost all of his young kids during his lifetime.  In the midst of suffering, Watson found his hope not in his situation but in God and in the words of Scripture.  Reading Watson’s sermon gave me much spiritual profit and here is the basic points that Watson makes.  I tried to write the points word for word, which is why some points are in outdated english but many points are simplified so they can be understood easily.

How we may Read the Scriptures with most Spiritual Profit

  1. Remove those things which will hinder your profiting
    1. Remove the love of every sin
    2. Take heed of the idols which will choke the word read
    3. Take heed of mess around with scripture
  2. Prepare your hearts to the reading of the word.
    1. In controlling our thoughts
    2. In getting rid of unclean affections
  3. Read the scripture with reverence
  4. Read the book of scripture in order
    1. “we do not read a friend’s letter in the middle”
  5. Get a right understanding of scripture.
    1. “if the word shoot above our head, it can never hit our heart.”
  6. Read the word with seriousness
  7. Labor to remember what you read
  8. Meditate on what you read
    1. “Reading brings truth to your head, meditation brings it into our heart.
  9. Come to the reading of scripture with humble hearts.
  10. Give credence (acceptance as true) to the word written
  11. Highly Prize the scriptures
  12. Get a passionate love for the word.
  13. Come to the reading of the word with honest hearts.
    1. Willing to know the whole counsel of God.
    2. To read it that we may be made better by it.
  14. Learn to apply scripture
    1. “A medicine will do no good, unless it be applied”
  15. Observe the commands as well as the promises.
  16. Let your thoughts dwell longer upon the richest passages.
  17. Compare yourselves with the word.
  18. Take special notice of those scriptures which speak to your particular situation.
  19. Take special notice of the examples in scripture
  20. Leave not off reading the Bible till you find your hearts warmed
  21. Set upon the practice of what you read.
    1. “reading without practice will be a torch to light men to hell”
  22. Make use of Christ’s prophetical office
    1. Tread often the threshold of the sanctuary (Go to church)
    2. Pray that God will make you profit

Is the Bible Sufficient for Life’s Problems?

The Bible being sufficient for life means that Christians must rely on the Scriptures to deal with life’s problems.  Holding to the sufficiency of Scriptures makes the Bible the go to place for wisdom, guidance, and direction.  Looking at the biblical texts that support the sufficiency of Scripture can help us understand what this reality means for us.  Paul in 2 Timothy 3:17, states that the Scriptures make one “competent, equipped for every good work”.  Not only is the Bible sufficient to point an unbeliever to salvation in Christ, the Bible also makes that new believer, complete, able to deal with the problems of life to the glory of God.

The next important text comes in 2 Peter 1:3 that states that “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us”.   When it comes to helping someone deal with the problems of life and pursue godliness, we must not think we need some new thing as if we did not have what we need.  God has granted to us what we need in the Scriptures; it is up to us to use it.  Another text that is helpful in understanding the sufficiency of the Bible is found in Hebrews 4:12.  There we see that the word of God is able to expose the problems of the heart and bring about repentance.  The text is used to highlight the power that comes through the words of the Scriptures.  The Bible is able to expose the problems we are having so that they can be solved.  No other book or person can claim what the Bible does about itself.  There are many other places in Scripture to point to its sufficiency such as Psalm 19 and 119 but these three texts highlight what it means for the Bible to be sufficient for life.

What does the Bible mean to me?

A common thing for Christians to say when studying the Bible with others is, “what the Biblical text means to me is…”  or “my interpretation of this passage is…”  The scary thing about these statements, is that they suggest that several people can read the same Biblical text and each of them walk away with several completely different understandings.  The reality is that this should not be the case. In this short blog, I want to reexamine the way Christians often read their Bible.

Every time we read the Bible, we take part in what is called interpretation.  Robert Stein defines interpretation as “the expression of a reader’s understanding of the author’s meaning”.¹  Interpretation is the way in which you seek to express the meaning of the biblical text.  Pay close attention to this, the goal of interpretation is finding the meaning of the text (notice meaning is singular). If this goal of interpretation is misunderstood, then disaster is near because there can always wrong interpretations of any given passage.

For example, a faulty interpretation of 1 Samuel 18:3, “Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul” would be that David and Jonathan were homosexuals and were involved romantically.  What is the problem with this interpretation?  It does not match the author’s intention.

This is the goal of interpretation is being faithful to the author’s intention.  When reading a passage of the Bible, always keep that in your mind, what was John’s intention when he wrote this?  What was Paul’s intention? What was Moses’ intention?  When you figure out what the author intended to communicate, you are well on your way to having a correct interpretation.

So you may be wondering why this is important.  This is inexpressibly important because many readers of the Bible, even many pastors, don’t think this way.  They ignore the intention of the author and inject their own opinions and faulty views into biblical interpretation.  That way, they can use the Bible to support whatever sinful desire or unbiblical opinion they may have.  Don’t do this.  2 Timothy 2:15 “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

¹Robert H. Stein, A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 49