Sunday, June 6, 2010

Famous Atheist Refutes His Own

Here is Atheist Isaac Asimov on the use of the word "unicorn" in the King James Version. From his Asimov's Guide to the Bible pp. 186-187 Vol. 1, 1968 :
Atheists who want accuse the Bible of teaching mythology at this point have no support from the one time President of the American Humanist Association. If an atheist or other critic of biblical inerrancy would be honest with the facts, they could see that they have no two legs to stand on polemically. Also, I'm not saying that just because Asimov wrote this, that it must be true. Only that today's critics would be well served to be honest and careful with the evidence as Asimov was, and so acknowledge the truth.

"The Hebrew word represented in the King James Version by “unicorn” is re’em, which undoubtedly refers to the wild ox (urus or aurochs) ancestral to the domesticated cattle of today. The re’em still flourished in early historical times and a few existed into modern times, although it is now extinct. It was a dangerous creature of great strength and was similar in form and temperament to the Asian buffaloes.The Revised Standard Version translates re’em as “wild ox.” The verse in Numbers is translated as “they have as it were the horns of the wild ox,” while the one in Job is translated “Is the wild ox willing to serve you?” The Anchor Bible translates the verse in Job as “Will the buffalo deign to serve you?”
The wild ox was a favorite prey of the hunt-loving Assyrian monarchs (the animal was called rumu in Assyrian, essentially the same word as re’em) and was displayed in their large bas-reliefs. Here the wild ox was invariably shown in profile and only one horn was visible. One can well imagine that the animal represented in this fashion would come to be called “one-horn” as a familiar nickname, much as we might refer to “longhorns” in speaking of a certain breed of cattle.
As the animal itself grew less common under the pressure of increasing human population and the depredations of the hunt, it might come to be forgotten that there was a second horn hidden behind the first in the sculptures and “one-horn” might come to be considered a literal description of the animal.
When the first Greek translation of the Bible was prepared about 250 B.C., the animal was already rare in the long-settled areas of the Near East and the Greeks, who had no direct experience with it, had no word for it. They used a translation of “one-horn” instead and it became monokeros. In Latin and in English it became the Latin word for “one-horn”; that is, “unicorn.”
The Biblical writers could scarcely have had the intention of implying that the wild ox literally had one horn. There is one Biblical quotation, in fact, that clearly contradicts that notion. In the Book of Deuteronomy [33:17—BT], when Moses is giving his final blessing to each tribe, he speaks of the tribe of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) as follows: “His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns....”
Here the word is placed in the plural since the thought of a “one-horn’s” single horn seems to make the phrase “horns of a unicorn” self-contradictory. Still, the original Hebrew has the word in the singular so that we must speak of the “horns of a unicorn,” which makes it clear that a unicorn has more than one horn."

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