Deut. 33:17 one horn or two horns

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by Logos1560, Jan 3, 2008.

  1. Logos1560

    Logos1560
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    Did the animal represented by the Hebrew word reem at Deut. 33:17 have one horn or more than one horn?

    Does the overall evidence indicate that the Hebrew word reem in this verse was singular or plural in number?
     
  2. Logos1560

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    Very likely following the Greek Septuagint rendering monokeros or the Latin Vulgate rendering unicornis or both, the earlier pre-1611 English Bibles (Wycliffe's, Tyndale's, Coverdale's, Matthew's, Great, Taverner's, Geneva, and Bishops') all had unicorn [singular] at Deuteronomy 33:17. The 1602 Spanish Valera had unicornio [singular] at this verse. The 1611 KJV changed this noun that was singular in number in the Hebrew Masoretic text and in all the earlier English Bibles to a plural. Either the 1762 Cambridge standard KJV edition or the 1769 Oxford standard KJV edition added the following marginal note for the word unicorns: “Hebrew an unicorn.” Other KJV editions that had marginal notes such as the 1810, 1821, 1835, 1857, 1865, and 1885 Oxford editions, the 1853 American Bible Society standard edition, the 1769, 1844, 1872, 1887, and the 2005 Cambridge editions, and the 2002 Zondervan KJV Study Bible have this same marginal note at this verse. This marginal note in standard editions of the KJV affirms with the earlier pre-1611 English Bibles, the 1602 Spanish Valera, and the 1657 English translation of the standard Dutch Bible that the Hebrew word was singular in number.
     
  3. robycop3

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    The AV translators & those before them such as Coverdale had no reason to doubt the existence of the horse-like unicorn. after all, King James' coat-of-arms has a unicorn depicted on one side, & a lion on the other. And, while obviously, none of those translators had seen a live unicorn, it's very likely they'd never seen a live lion, either! (Not too many zoos in those days, nor too many "safaris", either) So, we don't say 'unicorn' is a mistake in the KJV. the translators did the best they could with a Hebrew word whose meaning isn't obvious.

    Same with cockatrice and satyr. The Hebrew word 'tsepha' means poisonous serpent, no particular species, and since there's no specific serpent identified as the cockatrice, the translators used that word. Same with satyr. The Hebrew 'saiyr' is often used for he-goat or for any goat-like animal, and the satyr, besides being the fictitious Roman half-man, half-goat, was a fictitious hairy desert animal.

    Again, the earlier English Bible translators had no reason to doubt the existence of any of these animals.
     
  4. Logos1560

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    Concerning the word unicorn, the 1895 Sunday School Teachers' Bible [KJV] pointed out: "The LXX translation has passed into our A. V., but is erroneous, as the mention of two horns on one reem (Deut. 33:17) proves." McClintock also observed that this text "puts a one-horned animal entirely out of the question" and that one of its scriptural characteristics is "having two horns" (Cyclopaedia, X, p. 638). The unabridged Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary noted at its entry unicorn: "in the Bible, a two-horned, oxlike animal called reem in Hebrew: Deut. 33:17" (p. 1998). Since the Hebrew word reem is singular at Deuteronomy 33:17, Unger's Bible Dictionary and Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible also noted that "the reem had more than one horn" (p. 66; Hastings, IV, p. 834). The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible also confirmed that the Biblical animal "was 2-horned (Deut. 33:17), where the word is singular, and not plural, as in A. V.)" (p. 617). The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible also referred to the animal's "2 horns (Deut. 33:17)" as "its outstanding characteristic" (I, p. 114). Likewise, Peloubet’s Bible Dictionary asserted that the reem had “two horns” (p. 714). The People’s Dictionary of the Bible also noted that “the passages mentioning it, correctly understood, require an animal with two horns” (p. 210). Based on this same verse, Cansdale pointed out that "there is no possibility of it [the reem] referring to a one-horned animal" (All the Animals, p. 82). Concerning this verse, Tristram maintained that “nothing could prove more clearly than this passage that the ‘unicorn’ was a two-horned animal” (Natural History, p. 146). At Numbers 23:22, Ellicott’s Commentary has a note that affirms that Deuteronomy 33:17 indicates “that the reem had more than one horn” (I, p. 546). Granbery also described this animal as “having two horns” (Bible Dictionary, p. 396). In his 1848 Bible (KJV) and Commentary, Adam Clarke wrote: "Reem is in the singular number, and because the horns of a unicorn, a one-horned animal, would have appeared absurd, our [KJV] translators, with an unfaithfulness not common to them, put the word in the plural number" (I, p. 834).
     
  5. Logos1560

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    Perhaps the early English Bible translators did not know to which animal this Hebrew word was referring. Nevertheless, since the Hebrew word reem is singular in number and since this animal is said to have "horns" [plural], the early English translators could have had reason to question whether translating this Hebrew word with a name that means "one-horned" was the best rendering.
     
  6. robycop3

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    From what I could find, all the translators knew was that the reem was a large, powerful animal of some sort. Both the Geneva & the Bishop's bibles say "vnicorne", so maybe the AV men just followed suit.

    I don't think the modern rendering "wild ox" is at all outta the question.

    Perhaps we'll never know the exact meaning of reem in this life.
     
  7. Logos1560

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    In his commentary on Job, Henry Morris stated: "The Hebrew word translated unicorn in this and other passages is believed by most Hebrew scholars to refer to the huge and fierce aurochs, or wild ox, which inhabited the Middle East and other regions but is now extinct" (p. 107). George Cansdale maintained that the wild ox or Aurochs "is the beast that Hebrews knew as re'em" (All the Animals, p. 82). W. L. Alexander pointed out: "The reem is supposed to be the aurochs, an animal of the bovine species, allied to the buffalo, now extinct" (Pulpit Commentary, III, p. 537). James Boyd indicated that the Hebrew word reem referred “evidently to a two-horned animal, Deuteronomy 33:17, possibly the now nearly extinct wild ox, auroch, or urus of naturalists” (Bible Dictionary, p. 103).

    Roy Pinney maintained that "nearly all Bible scholars and naturalists are agreed that the animal meant was the Aurochs, Urus, or Wild Ox (Bos primigenius) which is now extinct" (Animals in the Bible, p. 103). The Dictionary of the O. T. asserted that “the Hebrew term reem is without doubt the now extinct aurochs, or wild ox Bos primigenius” (Alexander, p. 916). Likewise, Edward Nourse identified the reem as “the wild ox, Bos primigenius, the German Auerochs” (New Standard Bible Dictionary, p. 670). Walter Ferguson also confirmed: "The evidence strongly indicates that it [the reem] was the aurochs, also known as wild ox, giant ox, or urus, an extinct bovine" (Living Animals of the Bible, p. 26). In his commentary on Deuteronomy, S. R. Driver noted that the Auerochs of the old Germans, the Urus of Caesar, have been described “as being nearly as large as an elephant and untamable” (p. 407). Spurgeon wrote: "The unicorn may have been some gigantic ox or buffalo now unknown, and perhaps extinct" (Treasury of David, II, p. 119). Willmington has “wild ox” in parenthesis after “unicorn” in his list of Bible animals (Complete Book, p. 26).


    Waite's Defined KJB included in its note concerning "unicorns" at Deuteronomy 33:17 the following: "Heb probably the great aurochs or wild bulls which are now extinct" (p. 315). Waite wrote: “Get a Defined King James Bible if you want to have the Words of God translated into understandable English” (Fundamentalist Deception, p. 34). Waite suggested that if “you don’t know what these words mean, get a copy of The Defined King James Bible” [where] “each of the 600 or more uncommon words is defined accurately” (Fundamentalist Mis-Information, p. 91). Concerning Numbers 23:22, David Sorenson also asserted that this creature “likely refers to the aurochs which were great wild bulls, now extinct” (p. 813). In his tract “King James Bible Dictionary,“ O. Ray Smith defined “unicorn” as “wild bull.“ Do most other KJV-only advocates reject this claimed understandable and accurate definition of the Hebrew word given at Deuteronomy 33:17 in Waite’s Defined KJB?


    Unger's Bible Dictionary noted that this Hebrew word "most certainly denotes the 'wild ox,' for the cognate word in Akkadian rimu has this meaning (p. 66). At its entry reem, the Oxford English Dictionary declared: "The Hebrew name of an animal mentioned in the Old Testament, now identified with the wild ox" (XIII, p. 453). This same authority on the English language included this statement: “The identification of the Hebrew reem with the wild ox (Bos primgenius) is one of the most certain of all Bible names” (Ibid.). Green's Concise Lexicon gave the meaning of this Hebrew word as "wild ox" (p. 213). This Hebrew word is translated "wild ox" or "wild oxen" in English translations by Jews such as their 1917 Holy Scriptures According to the Masoretic Text and Tanakh. At Deuteronomy 33:17, Thompson's Chain Reference Bible gave this marginal note: "i.e., horns of the wild ox." At Numbers 23:22, the Scofield Reference Bible has the marginal note: "i.e. the aurochs, or wild ox." The 1952 Pilgrim Edition of the KJV edited by E. Schuyler English and the 2002 New Pilgrim Bible with two KJV-only advocates as consulting editors have the footnote “a name for a wild ox” at Numbers 23:22.

     
  8. robycop3

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    I remember reading a story about William Wallace & The Douglas a long time ago, where one of The Douglas' men, John Turnbull, was the only man to slay an auroch during a hunt, and he did it by lancing it while he was on a horse. It is believed the auroch became extince in the british Isles in the Bronze Age, but the last known specimen in Europe died in Poland in 1627.

    The prominence if the horse-like unicorn in British legend, the use of that word in earlier British Bibles, & its being featured on KJ's coat-of-arms doubtlessly influenced the AV men in choosing to use that word for reem.
     

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