Friday, May 19, 2023

The Novelty of Praying to the Dead

One kind reader sent me an email suggesting that describing prayers to the departed saints as "idolatrous" is a novelty in view of the testimony of Scripture.  

The term, "idolatrous," is not the best word for the sin. Nevertheless, surely the novelty is the practice of praying to anyone but God.  Attempts to contact the dead in various forms have been constantly opposed by Scripture:

Leviticus 19:31 Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.

Leviticus 20:6 And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.

Leviticus 20:27 A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.

Deuteronomy 18:11 Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.

1 Samuel 28:3 Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land.

1 Samuel 28:7-9 Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor. And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee. And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die?

2 Kings 21:6 And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.

2 Kings 23:24 Moreover the workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD.

1 Chronicles 10:13 So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it;

Isaiah 8:19 And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?

Isaiah 19:3 And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof; and I will destroy the counsel thereof: and they shall seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards.

Isaiah 29:4 And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.

And what can those who wish to speak to those who rest in Christ offer as a counterexample?  Jesus and his disciples spoke to the dead to raise them to life again, but that's not what these folks are doing.

On the mount of transfiguration, Jesus was seen talking with Moses and Elijah, but these folks are not talking with the dead, but merely praying to them.

But yes, it was (of course) ok for people to ask Mary to pray for them when Mary was there with them.  The same with Peter, and Paul, and the others.  The same as we ought to bear one another's burdens even now. 

But praying to anyone but God? Neither Christ nor his apostles ever endorsed such a thing.


Debate Against Icons

Images for Religious Veneration are a Grave Evil

First, they distract from the true image of God.  Human beings are said to be in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27 and 9:6), the husband in a special way (1 Corinthians 11:7), and Christ in the most special way is the Image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4 and Colossians 1:15).  Notice, though that Paul, in Colossians, says that Christ is the image of the invisible God.  Invisibility is one of God’s attributes.

Thus, Hebrews 11:27 describes Moses as enduring, “as seeing him who is invisible,” and Paul in 1 Timothy 1:17 praises God as “the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God.”

The non-portrayal of God, including the non-portrayal of Christ is anticipated by the New Testament.  Thus, the apostle Peter writes (1 Peter 1:7-8): “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:”

Jesus likewise anticipated that people would not see him: John 20:29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. Moreover, it is the very next two verse that explain that we are to believe by the word, not the picture (John 20:30-31): “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

John continues the same thing in his first epistle:

1 John 4:12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

And again: 

1 John 4:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

Maybe someone will think that although it is not a picture of God, it is still a picture of Christ’s body.  But again, the true image of Christ’s body is two-fold: 

First, the people of God (the church) is the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12, 1 Corinthians 12:12 and 27, Romans 12:5).  Moreover, the sacrament of the Lord’s supper illustrates both us (1 Corinthians 10:16) and (secondly, but primarily) Christ (Matthew 26:26, 1 Corinthians 11:24).

Second, they are an abomination to God.  

When Samuel wanted to call out the sinfulness of Saul’s rebellion, he compared it to witchcraft, and he compared Saul’s stubbornness to idolatry.  

The prohibitions against the making of idols in the Old Testament are numerous:

Leviticus 26:1 Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down (LXX: προσκυνῆσαι) unto it: for I am the LORD your God.’

Notice that the prohibition was not against art absolutely, but against art for the purpose of religious veneration “to bow down” to the idols or images - this is key.  After all, there were artistic renderings in God’s tabernacle and temple.  

Psalm 97:7  Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods.

You might think that this means idols are prohibited because they represent false gods.  No, even idols of the true God are prohibited:

Deuteronomy 4:15-24

Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven. But the LORD hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day. Furthermore the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, and sware that I should not go over Jordan, and that I should not go in unto that good land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance: But I must die in this land, I must not go over Jordan: but ye shall go over, and possess that good land. Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee. For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.

Notice that God’s prohibition on images is in the strongest possible terms, and is justified by jealousy.  Why jealousy? Because whenever God is worshiped using images, the glory that is to be given to God is instead given to a lie. 

And it’s not limited to images in the round, notice how Ezekiel describes it:

Ezekiel 8:10 So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, pourtrayed upon the wall round about.

And the worship doesn’t have to be sacrificing animals, it can be bowing down to them:

Isaiah 2:8-9

Their land also is full of idols; they worship (LXX: προσεκύνησαν) the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made: and the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself: therefore forgive them not.

It can be kissing them:

Hosea 13:2 And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftsmen: they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves.

Greet one another with a holy kiss, but icons won’t kiss you back.

Indeed, the Old Testament records two times when the people of Israel represented God by the use of golden calves, and in both cases, God’s extreme displeasure was recorded.

Exodus 32:4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

1 Kings 12:28 Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

2 Kings 10:28-29 Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel. Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan.

But some will say, that was the Old Testament.  God was against idols then, but now He approves or even commands their use!

On the contrary, Jesus taught:

John 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Icons and other idols are neither.

Likewise, Luke described Paul on Mars hill this way:

Act 17:16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.  

Paul’s sermon stated of God:

Acts 17:25 Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;

Paul contrasts Christian worship from heathen worship, not by changing who their idols were of, but contrasting Christian worship to worship that involves idols:

1 Thessalonians 1:9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;

1 Corinthians 12:2 Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.

Indeed, Paul explains that the use of idols to represent God is part of man’s corruption:

Romans 1:20-23 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

Small wonder, then, that Demetrius the silversmith was so concerned about the spread of Christianity that he assembled a mob at Ephesus:

Acts 19:23-27

And the same time there arose no small stir about that way. For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.

Demetrius realized that Paul’s religion was not simply the replacement of one statute with another, but a worship of an invisible God, and consequently a threat to his livelihood.

Paul is not alone in his condemnation of idolatry.  In the Revelation of Jesus Christ that John gave, he writes:

Revelation 9:20 And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship (προσκυνήσωσιν) devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:

And in his first general epistle, John writes more tenderly and to the point:

1 John 5:21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

(the above was the negative constructive in my debate with Craig Truglia) 

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

1 Clement and Election

The author of 1 Clement would agree that it is Scripture that is to be our rule of faith.  He wrote:

1 Clement 53:1 For ye know, and know well, the sacred scriptures, dearly beloved, and ye have searched into the oracles of God. We write these things therefore to put you in remembrance.

That said, the author of 1 Clement provided numerous verses (I've identified 33 below) that mention God's calling and election, the number of the elect, and related topics.  The following are provided out of Lightfoot's excellent translation (available here)(other translations, notes, etc. available here), and are provided in response to a tweet by Leighton Flowers, which I plan to address another time.

  1. 1 Clement prologue:1 The Church of God which sojourneth in Rome to the Church of God which sojourneth in Corinth, to them which are called and sanctified by the will of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to you and peace from Almighty God through Jesus Christ be multiplied.
  2. 1 Clement 1:1 By reason of the sudden and repeated calamities and reverses which are befalling us, brethren, we consider that we have been somewhat tardy in giving heed to the matters of dispute that have arisen among you, dearly beloved, and to the detestable and unholy sedition, so alien and strange to the elect of God, which a few headstrong and self-willed persons have kindled to such a pitch of madness that your name, once revered and renowned and lovely in the sight of all men, hath been greatly reviled.
  3. 1 Clement 2:4 Ye had conflict day and night for all the brotherhood, that the number of His elect might be saved with fearfulness and intentness of mind.
  4. 1 Clement 6:1 Unto these men of holy lives was gathered a vast multitude of the elect, who through many indignities and tortures, being the victims of jealousy, set a brave example among ourselves.
  5. 1 Clement 8:6 Seeing then that He desireth all His beloved to be partakers of repentance, He confirmed it by an act of His almighty will.
  6. 1 Clement 11:1 For his hospitality and godliness Lot was saved from Sodom, when all the country round about was judged by fire and brimstone; the Master having thus fore shown that He forsaketh not them which set their hope on Him, but appointeth unto punishment and torment them which swerve aside.
  7. 1 Clement 11:2 For when his wife had gone forth with him, being otherwise minded and not in accord, she was appointed for a sign hereunto, so that she became a pillar of salt unto this day, that it might be known unto all men that they which are double-minded and they which doubt concerning the power of God are set for a judgment and for a token unto all the generations.
  8. 1 Clement 20:3 The sun and the moon and the dancing stars according to His appointment circle in harmony within the bounds assigned to them, without any swerving aside.
  9. 1 Clement 27:5 Who shall say unto Him, What hast thou done? or who shall resist the might of His strength? When He listeth, and as He listeth, He will do all things; and nothing shall pass away of those things that He hath decreed.
  10. 1 Clement 29:1 Let us therefore approach Him in holiness of soul, lifting up pure and undefiled hands unto Him, with love towards our gentle and compassionate Father who made us an elect portion unto Himself.
  11. 1 Clement 29:2 For thus it is written: When the Most High divided the nations, when He dispersed the sons of Adam, He fixed the boundaries of the nations according to the number of the angels of God. His people Jacob became the portion of the Lord, and Israel the measurement of His inheritance.
  12. 1 Clement 32:3 They all therefore were glorified and magnified, not through themselves or their own works or the righteous doing which they wrought, but through His will.
  13. 1 Clement 32:4 And so we, having been called through His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified through ourselves or through our own wisdom or understanding or piety or works which we wrought in holiness of heart, but through faith, whereby the Almighty God justified all men that have been from the beginning; to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
  14. 1 Clement 33:3 For by His exceeding great might He established the heavens, and in His incomprehensible wisdom He set them in order. And the earth He separated from the water that surroundeth it, and He set it firm on the sure foundation of His own will; and the living creatures which walk upon it He commanded to exist by His ordinance. Having before created the sea and the living creatures therein, He enclosed it by His own power.
  15. 1 Clement 35:3 What then, think ye, are the things preparing for them that patiently await Him? The Creator and Father of the ages, the All holy One Himself knoweth their number and their beauty.
  16. 1 Clement 35:4 Let us therefore contend, that we may be found in the number of those that patiently await Him, to the end that we may be partakers of His promised gifts.
  17. 1Clem 36:1 This is the way, dearly beloved, wherein we found our salvation, even Jesus Christ the High priest of our offerings, the Guardian and Helper of our weakness.
  18. 1 Clement 36:2 Through Him let us look steadfastly unto the heights of the heavens; through Him we behold as in a mirror His faultless and most excellent visage; through Him the eyes of our hearts were opened; through Him our foolish and darkened mind springeth up unto the light; through Him the Master willed that we should taste of the immortal knowledge Who being the brightness of His majesty is so much greater than angels, as He hath inherited a more excellent name.
  19. 1 Clement 38:1 So in our case let the whole body be saved in Christ Jesus, and let each man be subject unto his neighbor, according as also he was appointed with his special grace.
  20. 1 Clement 38:3 Let us consider, brethren, of what matter we were made; who and what manner of beings we were, when we came into the world; from what a sepulchre and what darkness He that molded and created us brought us into His world, having prepared His benefits aforehand ere ever we were born.
  21. 1 Clement 46:3 And again He saith in another place; With the guiltless man thou shalt be guiltless, and with the elect thou shalt be elect, and with the crooked thou shalt deal crookedly.
  22. 1 Clement 46:4 Let us therefore cleave to the guiltless and righteous: and these are the elect of God.
  23. 1 Clement 46:6 Have we not one God and one Christ and one Spirit of grace that was shed upon us? And is there not one calling in Christ?
  24. 1 Clement 46:8 Remember the words of Jesus our Lord: for He said, Woe unto that man; it were good for him if he had not been born, rather than that at he should offend one of Mine elect. It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about him, and be cast into the sea, than that he should pervert one of Mine elect.
  25. 1 Clement 49:5 Love joineth us unto God; love covereth a multitude of sins; love endureth all things, is long-suffering in all things. There is nothing coarse, nothing arrogant in love. Love hath no divisions, love maketh no seditions, love doeth all things in concord. In love were all the elect of God made perfect; without love nothing is well pleasing to God:
  26. 1 Clement 50:2 Who is sufficient to be found therein, save those to whom God shall vouchsafe it? Let us therefore entreat and ask of His mercy, that we may be found blameless in love, standing apart from the factiousness of men. All the generations from Adam unto this day have passed away: but they that by God's grace were perfected in love dwell in the abode of the pious; and they shall be made manifest in the visitation of the Kingdom of God.
  27. 1 Clement 50:6 This declaration of blessedness was pronounced upon them that have been elected by God through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
  28. 1 Clement 52:2 For the elect David saith; I will confess unto the Lord, and it shall please Him more than a young calf that groweth horns and hoofs. Let the poor see it, and rejoice.
  29. 1 Clement 58:2 Receive our counsel, and ye shall have no occasion of regret. For as God liveth, and the Lord Jesus Christ liveth, and the Holy Spirit, who are the faith and the hope of the elect, so surely shall he, who with lowliness of mind and instant in gentleness hath without regretfulness performed the ordinances and commandments that are given by God, be enrolled and have a name among the number of them that are saved through Jesus Christ, through whom is the glory unto Him for ever and ever. Amen.
  30. 1 Clement 59:2 but we shall be guiltless of this sin. And we will ask, with instancy of prayer and supplication, that the Creator of the universe may guard intact unto the end the number that hath been numbered of His elect throughout the whole world, through His beloved Son Jesus Christ, through whom He called us from darkness to light, from ignorance to the full knowledge of the glory of His Name.
  31. 1 Clement 59:3 [Grant unto us, Lord,] that we may set our hope on Thy Name which is the primal source of all creation, and open the eyes of our hearts, that we may know Thee, who alone abidest Highest in the lofty, Holy in the holy; who layest low in the insolence of the proud, who settest the lowly on high, and bringest the lofty low; who makest rich and makest poor; who killest and makest alive; who alone art the Benefactor of spirits and the God of all flesh; who lookest into the abysses, who scanest the works of man; the Succor of them that are in peril, the Savior of them that are in despair; The Creator and Overseer of every spirit; who multipliest the nations upon earth, and hast chosen out from all men those that love Thee through Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, through whom Thou didst instruct us, didst sanctify us, didst honor us.
  32. 1 Clement 64:1 Finally may the All seeing God and Master of spirits and Lord of all flesh, who chose the Lord Jesus Christ, and us through Him for a peculiar people, grant unto every soul that is called after His excellent and holy Name faith, fear, peace, patience, long-suffering, temperance, chastity and soberness, that they may be well pleasing unto His Name through our High priest and Guardian Jesus Christ, through whom unto Him be glory and majesty, might and honor, both now and for ever and ever. Amen.
  33. 1 Clement 65:2 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and with all men in all places who have been called by God and through Him, through whom be glory and honor, power and greatness and eternal dominion, unto Him, from the ages past and forever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Hendiadys and the Granville-Sharp Rule in the King James Version

 The most famous Granville-Sharp Rule, one of six, states: 

When the copulative kai connects two nouns of the same case, if the article ho or any of its cases precedes the first of the said nouns or participles, and is not repeated before the second noun or participle, the latter always relates to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun or participle; i.e. it denotes a farther description of the first-named person.


Some have suggested that the discovery of this rule is significant in two ways: (1) to demonstrate the divinity of Christ, since some of the Granville-Sharp uses are places in which Jesus is referred to as God, and (2) to demonstrate errors in the King James Version translation.

I have no objection to the first usage, and I only want to temper the second use.

My tempering of the second use is based on the rhetorical device known as hendiadys.

Webster's 1913 explains it thus:


n. 1. (Gram.) A figure in which the idea is expressed by two nouns connected by and, instead of by a noun and limiting adjective; as, we drink from cups and gold, for golden cups.

The American Heritage Dictionary has a very similar definition:

hen·di·a·dys  (hĕn-dī´ə-dĭs)


A figure of speech in which two words connected by a conjunction are used to express a single notion that would normally be expressed by an adjective and a substantive, such as grace and favor instead of gracious favor.

There are places in the Bible where we see hendiadys used in the source language, and literally provided in the English translation.  For example 

Gen 3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

(see Kuntz's discussion here

The sense of the text is not that sorrow and conception are distinct and separately multiplied, but that God will multiply the woman's birth pangs.

What about the New Testament?  This is where the matter becomes more hotly debated.  Partly it is debated because of the absence of classical Greek references to the use of hendiadys: the term itself was apparently coined around A.D. 400.  On the other hand, the New Testament writers were influenced by the writings of the Old Testament in which it is hard to argue that hendiadys was not employed.  Accordingly, it is reasonable to suppose that least some passages of the New Testament employ such usage.

My speculation is that the Granville-Sharp Rule is a reflection of an understanding of the use of hendiadys in Greek. In other words, the reason for the lack of duplication of the article is that the author was employing the rhetorical device of hendiadys.

If that's the case, then the English literal translation of "A and B" provides a rhetorically equivalent translation to the source Greek text, just as it does to the source Hebrew text.  The challenge is that it can be exceedingly hard to distinguish hendiadys in English.  Mark Forsyth characterizes hendiadys as "the most elusive and tricky of all rhetorical tricks. Mostly because you can never be sure whether it's happened." ("Elements of Eloquence," p. 74)  Forsyth is overstating his point, for rhetorical effect no doubt, but the point remains.  In English, it can be very hard to distinguish hendiadys.

Thus, even if "our God and Saviour" is hendiadys and means "our Divine Saviour" or "our Saving God" or the like, it is hard to grasp that sense in English merely from a literal re-creation of the Greek hendiadys (if that is what it is).  Accordingly, there might be reason to provide the reader with a less literal translation and to provide the literal translation and a brief explanation in the margin.

Friday, April 14, 2023

An Old English (c. 12th century) Homily on Easter Day

Homily 16 from a collection of Old English Homilies from the 12 century or so.


This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. This day our Lord has made to gladden us and bless us; let us give thanks to Him and prepare for the holy feast that He speaks of when He says: "Ecce prandium meum paratum" ("Behold, my banquet is prepared"). My table is set, and He invites us all, saying: "Venite prandium" ("Come to the table and understand the bread"). But before we bow before the holy table and partake of the bread, let us do as the apostle commanded, saying: "Probet autem se ipsum homo, et sic de pane illo edat et de calice bibat" ("Let each man examine himself and then eat of the bread and drink of the cup"). Let every man prove himself, and if he feels worthy, then let him partake of the sacrament. Let him who comes to it in a becoming manner and with due reverence understand the cup, and let him drink of it.

And in becoming attire and at the appropriate time, one should come in a becoming manner. In a becoming manner, a man should first show his sins to the priest, renounce them, repent, and receive good counsel. The second time, he should raise his head before the holy altar and believe in the six things that belong to it, namely vigils, labors, sackcloth, fasting, thirst, that is, watchfulness and toil, hard clothes, smarting blows, rare food, and less drink. The third time is on Palm Sunday during the procession, the fourth time on Maundy Thursday at the absolution that loosens the bonds of sin, the fifth time is to creep to the cross on Good Friday, the sixth time is to go around the font on Easter Eve, which signifies the Holy Sepulcher, and the seventh time is to bow before the holy table and partake of the bread. Becoming attire is of two kinds: physical and spiritual. Physical attire comes in many kinds, but I will not speak of them; I will speak only of the spiritual ones, which come in many kinds and are all fair to those who receive the sacrament. But two of them are such that no man may receive them for his own healing unless he has them either here or on him. They are called "vestis innocencie" (the robe of innocence) and "vestis misericordie" (the robe of mercy), one being guiltlessness or penance.

The robe of innocence is restored in baptism, as the priest says, "Accipe vestem candidam et inmaculatam" ("Receive the white and spotless garment"). One understands guiltlessness at his baptism, which is signified by the chrism cloth that the priest wraps around the child and says, "Underfo shrud wit and clene" ("Receive this garment, white and clean"). Every man wears this garment after his baptism, and he should bear it all the while that he refrains from doing, saying, or even thinking anything unworthy of God or wicked men. This garment is becoming and suitable for every man to have when he receives the sacrament. The other spiritual garment I speak of is mercy, also called compassion. The man who deeply regrets his sins and abandons them and seeks mercy, as our Lord commanded, saying, "Miserere anime tue placens deo" ("Have mercy on your soul, pleasing to God"), is said to have a merciful heart. The man who has compassion for his neighbor's distress and loves their well-being, and relieves the misery of wretched men with his wealth, is said to have a merciful heart. No man who has sinned may receive the holy sacrament without wearing these garments.

But to everlasting harm of his soul and body, any man who receives it without either of these garments shall be shamefully driven out of this holy sacrament, and his hands and feet shall be bound and he shall be thrown into the dreadful pit of hell, by the word of our Lord who says to such men, "Amice quomodo huc intrasti non habens vestem nuptialem" ("Friend, how did you come in here without wedding garments?"). This day is a becoming time to receive the sacrament, "quia hec dies quam fecit dominus" ("for this is the day which the Lord has made"), not that this day is more significant than others, but because it commemorates a greater event than any other, namely, the resurrection from death, both of our Lord and of us. For on this day, our Lord, who created all things, displayed his power more conspicuously and showed more mercy to mankind than on any other day. When He arose from the dead, He raised us up with Him, "unde exultemus et letemur in ea" ("let us be glad and rejoice in it"), and He brought us out of the depths of hell and thereby gladdened us. And if we follow Him, He will give us heavenly happiness and bless us. Therefore, this day is called Easter Day, that is, the Day of Resurrection, because on this day He arose from the dead, and we all do likewise when we partake of the holy sacrament, provided that we are leading a clean life, living rightly, and at peace with all men. Our Lord invites us to this sacrament and brings us to His holy flesh and blood, and allows us to partake of them, saying, "Accipite et comedite ex hoc omnes, hic est enim corpus meum et sanguis meus" ("Take and eat of this, all of you, for this is my body and my blood").

Understand this and use it all, for it is my body that you shall all partake of. He also gives us his holy blood, which shall be shed to redeem you, and says that these two things are our belief, "Caro mea vere est cibus, et sanguis meus vere est potus" ("My flesh is truly food, and my blood is truly drink"). My flesh is indeed food, and my blood is indeed drink, and after this He says, "Nisi manducaveritis carnem filii hominis et biberitis eius sanguinem, non habebitis vitam in vobis" ("Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you"). You cannot have any life in you unless you live by my flesh and my blood. The sacrament that you understand is His holy flesh and blood. Firstly, it appears as bread and wine, but through the holy words that our Savior Himself spoke with His holy mouth and after Him, the priest says at the consecration, the bread turns into flesh and the wine into blood, although the appearance, color, and taste of the flesh remains in the bread. But in the holy flesh, faith abides.

But in the holy flesh, the shape and form of the bread remains, as well as the taste and texture of the bread and wine. Our Savior does even greater miracles than the holy words He spoke through His mouth. When a person eats and drinks through the body's nature, the bread becomes flesh, and the drink becomes blood. Therefore, God's word can transform the bread and wine into flesh and blood, and that is the manifold commandment that all Christian men must observe today. That is why this day is called Easter Day, which is the day of the sacrament, and no one can deny how good it is, "quia est pretium mundi" ("for it is worth the whole world"), and better than the whole world. This is the holy man whom our Lord sent, as it is said in the prophet's words, "Pluit illi manna ad manducandum, et panem celi dedit eis. Panem angelorum manducavit homo" ("He rained down manna upon them to eat, and gave them the bread of heaven. Man ate the bread of angels").

"Manna" means "what is this?" And when our Lord sent this food from heaven to the Israelite people, it became in each mouth the food that they loved most. This signifies the holy sacrament, which every Christian now understands, as the highest and sweetest feast, which cleanses from sin, or begins the process of cleansing, and the most bitter and bitterest of all eternal punishment for a person's soul who has not abandoned all their great sins and repented. As the apostle said, "Qui manducat corpus domini et bibit et cetera" ("He who eats the body of the Lord and drinks..."). Whoever receives the holy sacrament unworthily understands himself to be enduring eternal torment and endless damnation. Let us now pay attention to ourselves, if we have come in a fitting manner, that is to true confession, to receiving absolution on Palm Sunday, to the procession on Maundy Thursday, to absolution on Good Friday, to the holy cross, and to the procession on Easter Eve (around the font).

And if we have come in fitting clothing, of innocence that is cleansing, such that we have forsaken our sins, and with the guidance of confession, begun to repent and humbly ask for mercy, then we may fittingly approach God's table, and worthily partake of His body, and through the holy feast come to the Resurrection. May this be granted to us by Him who rose today and lives with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

*** the above is an AI translation of the following ***

HEC est dies quam fecit dominus exultemus et letemur in ea. Þis dai haueð ure drihten maked to gladien. and to blissen us þonked wurðe him. and giarked þat holie gestninge. þe he offe specð þus queðinde. Ecce prandium meum paratum. Mi bord is maked. and us bidded*. [So in MS.] alle þerto þus seggende. Venite prandium Cumeð to borde and understondeð bred. ac er þenne þe*. [? read we.] holie bord bugen. and þat bred understonde do we alse þe apostel bad. seiende þus. Probet autem se ipsum homo. et sic de pane illo edat et de calice bibat. Proue ech man him seluen. and gif he feleð þat he is wurðe þer to; þenne understonde he þat husel. and drinke of þe calice. þe man hit understondeð wurðliche þe cumeð þerto on bicumeliche wise. and mid bicumeliche wede. and on bicumeliche time. On bicumeliche wise cumeð þe man þe Erest sheweð preste his sinnes and forleteð and bimurneð and nimeð þerof god wissinge. and oðer siðe þe holie acxen uppen his heued. and þe six pinen þe þerto bilien. scilicet vigilias. labores. saccum. inedia. sitim. þat is wecche and swinch. harde cloðes. smerte dintes. selde eten and lesse drinken. Þridde siðe palm sunedeies procession. feorðe siðes shereðuresdaies absolucio[n] þe liðe þe sinne bendes. þe fifte siðe crepe to cruche on lange fridai sixte siðe on ester euen gon abuten þe fantston. þe bitocneð þe holie sepulcre. and þe seueðe siðe þat holie bord bugen and þat bred bruken. bicumeliche wede ben tweire kinne. lichamliche and gostliche. þe lichamliche wedes ben manie kinnes. ac of hem ne speke ich noht ac do of þe gostliche. þe ben ec fele kinnes. and alle hie bien faire him þe þe husel underfoð. ac two þeroffe ben swiche þat no man ne mai underfo. him seluen to hele bute he haue here oðer on him. þe ben þus clepede. Vestis innocencie. Vestis misericordie. an is loðlesnesse oðer sinbote. Vestis innocencie restituitur in baptismo dicente sacerdote [A]ccipe uestem candidam et inmaculatam. loðlesnesse understondeð þe man at his folcninge. and þat bitocneð þe crisme cloð. þe þe prest biwindeð þat child mide. and þus seið. Underfo shrud wit and clene. þis shrud haueð ech man on him after his fulcninge. alle þe wile þe he him beregeð þat he ne do ne ne queðe. ne ne ðenche no þing for þat he bie unwurðere gode; ne loðere men; þe iuele is soule; Þis wede is wel bicumeliche and biheue ech man to hauen þenne he husel underfoð. Ðet oðer gostliche shrud ich embe spece; is mildhertnesse. þe is nemed ec; armhertnesse armheorted is þe man. þe swiðere reoweð his sinne. and he hem forlet and bet. and milce bit. alse ure drihten bad seien þus. Miserere anime tue placens deo. haue reoðe of þin ogen sovle. þenne likeste gode. Mildheorted beð þe man þe reouð his nehgebures unselðe. and likeð here alre selðe and ofþinð sore wrecche mannes wanrede. and freureð hem mid his weldede. No man þe sineged haueð ne mai wiðuten þus*. [So in MS. Read þise.] wedes holi husel under|fon; bute to eche harme his soule and lichame and ech man þe hit underfoð wiðuten eiðer þese wedes shal ben shameliche driuen ut of þis holi gestninge. and bunden togedere his honden. and his fet. and worpen in to þe ateliche pit of helle bi ure drihtenes word þe seið to swiche men. Amice quomodo huc intrasti non habens uestem nupcialem et cetera hwu come þu ider in mid unbicumeliche weden. þis dai is bicumelich time husel to underfon. Quia hec dies quam fecit dominus. non quod magis hanc quam alias. sed quia maiora quam in aliis á morte resurgendo. et nos á morte resuscitando. for þat þis makede ure drihten þe makede alle oðre. ac he kidde oðerluker his mihte. and mankin more milce dide on þis dai; þanne on ani oðre. Ðo he aros of deaðe rerde us mid him. Vnde exultemus et letemur in ea, he us fette ut of helle wowe. and þermide us gledede. and gif we him folgieð he gifð us heuene wele and þermide us blisseð to dai þonked. wurðe him. forþi þis dai is cleped estrene dai. þat is aristes dai. for þat þe he þis dai aros of deaðe. and we alle don; þanne we holi husel undernimen. gif we ben þe togenes on clene liflode. and on rihte leue. and wið alle men sehte. Ure louerd þe us bit to þis gestninge. and bringe us to his holi fleis and to his holi blod and leue us hem to bruken. and þus queðinde. Accipite et commedite ex hoc omnes hic est e. c. s. m. n. et cetera. Understondeð þis and brukeð it alle. for it is mi lichame þe giu shal alle lesen. he bet us ec his holi blod þe shal ben shad giu to lesende and seið þat þese two þing bien ure bileue. Caro mea uere est cibus et sanguis meus uere est potus. Mi fleis is wis mete. and mi blod iwis drinke and after þat he seið. Nisi manducaueritis carnem filii hominis et biberitis eius sangui|nem non habebitis uitam in uobis. Ne muge hauen no lif on giu bute ge liuen bi mi fleis and bi mi blod. þat husel þe ge understonden; is his holi fleis and his blod. Erest it beð ouelete and win. and þureh þe holi word þe ure helende him self seide mid his holi muð; and efter him prest hem seið atte swimesse turneð þe bred to fleis and þe win to blod. Set in carne remanet forma color et sapor. ac on þe holi fleis bileueð þe shap and hiu. and smul of ouelete. and on þe holi blod hew and smul of win. More mihte doð ure helende þenne þe holi word þe he þurh his muð spec. þanne he giueð mannes cuinde. and Naþeles þanne man eteð and drinkeð þureh þe lichames cunde þat bred wurð to fleis. and þe drinke to blod. for þi mai godes word turnen þe ouelete to fleis. and þat win to blod. and swo doð. and þat is þe felefolde heste. þe is alre hestene heste þat alle cristene men agen to dai to noten. for þat þis dai is cleped estre dai þat is estene da. and te este is husel. and no man ne mai seien husel*. [A play upon the word husel, as if made up of hu = how, and sel = good: in ll. 8, 9, there is a similar play upon estre and este, and in ll. 34, 35, upon estre, este, and ariste.]; wu god it is. Quia est precium mundi. for it is wurð al þe wereld. and betere þene al þe wereld. þis is þe holi manne þe ure drihten sende alse snow sleðrende alse þe prophete seið. Pluit ille manna ad manducandum et panem celi dedit eis. [P]anem angelorum manducauit homo. he let hem reine manne*. [[Ps. lxxviii. 25.]] to bi-liue. and gef hem bred of heuene. and men eten englene [bred]. Manna interpretatur. quid est hoc? Manne bitocneð wat is tis; and þo ure drihten sende þis mete fro heuene þe israelisse folke; it warð on eches muð wat mete se he mest luuede. and bitocneð holi husel; þe ech cristeman understont nuðe. þe is þe manne hegeste sweteste este þe is of sinne clensed. oðer bigunne to clensende. and alre bitere biterest eches mannes soule þe ne haueð alle michele sinnes forleten. and bet. oðer bigunnen alse þa*. [So in MS.] apostel seið. Qui manducat corpus domini et bibit et cetera. Ech þe understandeð þat holi husel unwurðliche he understant him seluen eche pine. and endelese wowe. Nime we nu geme ure ech agen him seluen. gif we bien cumen on bicumeliche wise. þat is to soð shrifte. to holi axen a palm sunedai; to procession. a shereðursdai to absoluciun. a lange|fridai to holi cruche. an ester euen to procession [abuten þe fanstone]. and gif we ben cumene mid bicumeliche wede. of lodlesnesse þat is clensinge. swo þat we hauen ure sinnes for|leten. and bi shriftes wissenge bet. oðer bigunnen to beten. and milce bidden. þanne muge we bicumeliche to godes bord; bugen. and his bode wurðliche bruken. and þureh þe holi este cumen to Ariste*. [Looks like driste in MS.]. Quod nobis prestet qui hodie surrexit et uiuit cum deo patre in unitate spirituc sancti.

Old English homilies of the twelfth century : from the unique ms. B. 14. 52. in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge : Second series, with three thirteenth century hymns from ms. 54 D.4.14 in Corpus Christi College / edited, with introduction translation, and notes by the Rev. R. Morris. (Morris, Richard, 1833-1894., Morris, Richard, ed. 1833-1894, Old English homilies and homiletic treatises. London: Published for the Early English Text Society, by N. Trübner, 1873.)(Source)(text and translation, though not the one I used)

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Unicorn Rebuttal Points and additional material

Unicorn Rebuttal Points

"The Best Things have been Calumniated"

1. Margin of Isaiah 34:7 shows that the KJV translators meant rhinoceros

A. This is completely backwards understanding of the "‖ Or, ..." marginal annotations.  These marginal annotations refer to what the KJV translators called "diverse" senses, which means "different senses," or as Scrivener put it, "alternative readings." Timothy Berg, who has also extensively studied the marginal annotations, has the same description (here). 

B. The marginal annotations, that say "‖ Or, ..." always express a different sense from the main text.  Sometimes the difference is small, sometimes the difference is large, but there is always a difference.  There are explanatory notes, but these are indicated with a dagger symbol 

2. Deuteronomy 33:17 doesn't mean that the Re’em has two horns because sometimes the singular noun can stand for the plural in Hebrew.

While it is certainly true that a singular noun can refer generically to a group, and arguably that's even the case here (1) English follows the same grammatical principle as Hebrew on this point and consequently it is better to translate the singular with a singular and, more importantly, (2) because in this case although Reem is singular, horns is plural, so the expansion based on generic use is just to a herd of reems each of which has horns.  The two words Reem and horns are tied together grammatically.  

3. The "single horn reference" in Psalm 92:10 is "ignored"

The "singular" horn reference in Psalm 92 is about the horn of the person, not the Reem.  The phrase "the horn of an unicorn" in the KJV is supplied by the translators, it is not the text of Scripture.  This can be seen from the italics both in the modern editions of the KJV and in the original printing of the KJV.

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

Here are six words of the Hebrew text (with vertical lines added for folks less familiar with Hebrew) with the corresponding English below (recall that Hebrew is written right to left):

וַתָּרֶם | כִּרְאֵים | קַרְנִי | בַּלֹּתִי | בְּשֶׁמֶן | רַעֲנָֽן׃

 fresh. | with oil | I will be anointed | my horn | like a Reem | But you will exalt

People are described in Scripture as having a horn, singular, in numerous places (in addition to Psalm 92:10: Job 16:15 of Job, 1 Samuel 

Job says he defiled his "horn" with dust.  Thus, we understand that "horn" of Job is an idiom or poetical word for his head.  

The dirtying of one's head was a sign of mourning/humility:
Joshua 7:5 "put dust upon their heads"
2 Samuel 1:2 "with ... earth upon his head"
2 Samuel 13:19 "put ashes on her head"
1 Kings 20:31-32 "put ... ropes upon our heads" "put ropes on their heads"
Lamentations 2:10 "they have cast up dust upon their heads"
Ezekiel 27:30 "shall cast up dust upon their heads"
Revelation 18:19 "they cast dust on their heads" .

This contrasts with the opposite, the anointing of the head:
Lev. 8:12 Aaron's head anointed

Especially recall how Jesus commanded his disciples to fast secretly in contrast to others:
Matthew 6:17 "when thou fastest, anoint thine head"

4. The Septuagint translates as μονόκερως (monókerōs)

This is the strongest and most difficult argument to counter.

A. Consider what the King James translators said in their preface:

There be many words in the Scriptures which be never found there but once, having neither brother nor neighbour (as the Hebrews speak) so that we cannot be holpen by conference of places. Again, there be many rare names of certain birds, beasts, and precious stones &c. concerning which the Hebrews themselves are so divided among themselves for judgment, that they may seem to have defined this or that, rather because they would say something, than because they were sure of that which they said, as St Hierome somewhere saith of the Septuagint. Now in such a case doth not a margin do well to admonish the Reader to seek further, and not to conclude or dogmatize upon this or that peremptorily?

B. Nick shouldn't be allowed to appeal to the LXX. According to Nick, the LXX is the fifth column of Origen's Hexapla.  When the LXX does not agree with the Hebrew text, Nick affirms that the LXX is corrupt and should be rejected.  While I don't fully agree with Nick's view of the LXX, I agree that it should not be used to correct the Hebrew, merely to illuminate it.  In this case, the LXX gives an uncertain sound, because the seventy used "monoceros" not "rhinoceros," but the "monoceros" is the name of a mythical animal, possibly deriving from travelers' descriptions of the rhinoceros or some other animal.

5. The Latin has Rhinocerotis five times and Unicornis four times. 

A. It depends on which Latin you're talking about:
    1) The Benedictine Vulgate has Rhinoceros five times and Unicorn four times.
    2) The Vulgate of Jerome (i.e. with his Hebrew-based Psalms translation) has Rhinoceros six times, Unicorn two times, and Monoceros one time.
    3) The Old Latin (according to Sabatier, a new critical edition is in progress) has Unicorn seven times, Monoceros once, with the last reference being a reference to a Monoceros using a pronoun.
    4) The New Vulgate uses "bubali" (a term that can mean antelope, gazelle, wild ox, or buffalo) three times, "unicorn" four times, and "taurus ferum" (wild bull) twice.   
    5) Beza's Old Testament of 1602 uses monoceros four times, and unicorn five times (never rhinoceros).

(p. 156/205)

6. All English bibles predating 1611 have Unicorn in every place, except the Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible that has both Vnicorn and Rhinoceros. 

The really old have the Saxon equivalent 

Psalm 21 (corresponding to our 22), verse 19 (corresponding to our 22): Gefriða me of þæs leon muðe, and of þam hornum þara anhyrna gefriða me, yrming.  (King Alfred's prose Psalter)

The phrase, "þara anhyrna," includes a cognate of the modern German word, Einhorn, which means unicorn.  There is an interesting endnote on the phrase:
(22) þara anhyrna: Ro. unicornuorum; according to Helge Kökeritz, “The Anglo-Saxon Unicorn,” in Early English and Norse Studies ed. Arthur Brown and Peter Foote (London, 1963), pp. 120-26, at p. 125, anhyrna is the wk. fem. noun anhyrne, and the gen. pl. flexion in -a is analogical from the st. gen. pl. nouns or is a corrupt form (through haplology) of original *anhyrnena. But the subst. adj. of the corresponding Lat. and the preponderance of adj. renderings of Lat. unicornis, unicornuus among the Old English glossed psalters suggests that anhyrna here represents an adj. used subst., perhaps originally anhyrnena, with subsequent modification either through haplography or through late West Saxon confusion with the vocalic declension of nouns (see S-B §304, n. 2). See also Gneuss, Lehnbildungen, no. 167.

There is also this Glossary note:

ANHYRNE adj. subst. (?) unicorn gp wk. anhyrna 21.22 (see Commentary)

Apparently, "þara" in this instance is just a form of the definite article, "the."

Psalm 28 (corresponding to our Psalm 29), verse 15 (corresponding to our 5 and 6): 5. (5) Þæs Godes word brycþ cedortreowu, and symle se God brycð þa hean cedertreowu on Libano, þam myclan munte (þa treowa tacniað ofermodra manna anweald). (6) Drihten forbrycð and forbryt þa myclan cedertreowu, emne swa þa lytlan onwæstmas. Þa owæstmas beoð swa mycle and swa fægere swa swa þees deores bearn þe “unicornus” hatte.

As you may note, instead of translating, the Latin is simply quoted.

7. The concept of another animal, such as a "wild-ox", "Auroch", or "goat" came after 1611, and was mostly popularized in modern bibles versions since around the time of Westcott and Hort’s Revised Version. 

a) These later dictionaries are more or less irrelevant.
b) Rhinocerots is plural, not singular.

8. Rabbi Kimhi (aka Rabbi Kimchi aka "the Radak" for RAbbi DAvid Kimhi)  

In Sefer HasShorashim (Provence, France c. 1185-1235), Rabbi David Kimhi has the following entry for the Re'em:

"Re'em with his majestic horns" (Deuteronomy 33:17), meaning a type of wild ox with only one horn, as in "the calves of the re'em" (Psalm 29:6). The word "re'em" is sometimes spelled with an aleph instead of an ayin, such as "from the horns of the re'em you answered me" (Psalm 22:22), and sometimes with a yod instead of an ayin, such as "will the wild ox be willing to serve you" (Job 39:9). It is a very strong animal among the desert beasts.

ראם   וְקַרְנֵי רְאֵם קַרְנָיו (דברים לג, יז), רוצה לומר ראםי כי אין לראם אלא קרן אחת. כְּמוֹ בֶן־רְאֵמִֽים (תהלים כט, ו). ובהניח האל"ף וּמִקַּרְנֵי רֵמִים עֲנִיתָֽנִי (תהלים כב, כב). ובהניח האל"ף והתחלפה ביו"ד הֲיֹאבֶה רֵּים עָבְדֶךָ (איוב לט, ט), הֲתִקְשָׁר־רֵים בְּתֶלֶם עֲבֹתוֹ (איוב לט, י), בהמה מבהמות המדבר חזקה מאד.

While I did not find any sources cited for this particular entry, the Radak apparently related on earlier works of Rabbi Judah ben David Hayyuj and Rabbi Jonah ibn Janah, as well as the work of his own father.

Animadversions (c. 1470 - 1550) by Elias Levita on Sefer HaShorashim says:

"It was written in the name of Rabbi Saadia Gaon that the re'em is the female of the wild goat from Accho. This is a matter of wonder, for can it be imagined that the male is pure and the female is impure? There are also commentators who explain that the re'em is a creature with a single horn on its forehead, but this is also incorrect, since it is written 'with his majestic horns' (Deuteronomy 33:17), implying that it has more than one horn."

ראם   א"א כתב רבינו סעדיה ז"ל כי הראם היא הנקיבה מן אקו. ויש לתמוה על זה, וכי תעלה על דעת שהזכר יהיה טהור והנקיבה טמא? גם יש מפרשים ראם הוא החיה שיש לה קרן אחת במצחה וגם זה איננו נכון מדכתיב וְקַרְנֵי רְאֵם קַרְנָיו בָּהֶם (דברים לג, יז), משמע שיש לה יותר מקרן אחת.

9. Oxford English Dictionary

The Oxford English Dictionary of 1910, and the Webster's Dictionary of 1828, both support the word unicorn as being an umbrella term for all kinds of creatures with a single horn, including the Rhinoceros. The footnote in the KJV modified which kind of unicorn it was, i.e., not a Narwal, nor the Hercules beetle, nor a mythical creature, nor a caterpillar (Schizura unicornis), nor a kamichi (unicorn bird), nor a snake (Green unicorn), nor a Rhino-horned lizard, nor a Bicornus (two horned) Rhinoceros, but a single horned "Rhinocerots", which was later officially named the Rhinoceros Unicornis.

Oxford English Dictionary (1910), vol. 8, p. 829, center column.

Appendix I - Latin Usage
If we use the critical Benedictine Vulgate (BV):
Numbers 23:22 (link) has "rinocerotis" (with variant spelling)
Numbers 24:8 (link) has "rinocerotis" (with variant spelling)
Deuteronomy 33:17 (link) has "rinocerotis" (with variant spelling)
Psalm 22:22 (Vul Psalm 21:22) has unicornium (with some variants on the spelling)
Psalm 29:6 (Vul Psalm 28:6) has filius unicornium (with some variants on the spelling)
Psalm 92:10 (Vul Psalm 91:11) has unicornis (with a spelling variant)
Job 39:9 (link) has "rinoceros" (with spelling variants)
Job 39:10 (link) has "rinocerota" (with spelling variants)
Isaiah 34:7 (link) has "unicornes" (with a spelling variant)

Stuttgart has the same in Numbers, Deuteronomy, Job, and Isaiah (but with less spelling variation noted).  However, Stuttgart distinguishes between two texts of Psalms: a LXX-derived translation and the Hebrew-derived translation.
Psalm 22:22 same as BV in both LXX-derived Heb-derived translation
Psalm 29:6 LXX-derived matches BV, while Heb-derived has "filius rinocerotis"
Psalm 92:10 LXX-derived matches BV, while Heb-derived unexpectedly has "monocerotis"

Bibliorum Sacrorum latinae versiones antiguae  Sabatier, Pierre, 1682-1742; La Rue, Vincent de, d. 1762 (in the Psalms, the LXX-derived and Heb.-derived columns are also present)
Numbers 23:22 (link) has "unicornis" (differs from Vulgate)
Numbers 24:8 (link) has "unicornis" (differs from Vulgate)
Deuteronomy 33:17 (link) has "unicornui" (differs from Vulgate)
Psalm 22:22 (Vul Psalm 21:22) has unicornuorum (different declension of same word)
Psalm 29:6 (Vul Psalm 28:6) has filius unicornuorum (different declension of same word)
Psalm 92:10 (Vul Psalm 91:11) has unicornis (same as Vulgate)
Job 39:9 (link) has "monoceros" (differs from Vulgate)
Job 39:10 (link) does not repeat word, but implies "monoceros" in verse 9 with "suum"
Isaiah 34:7 (link) has "unicornes" (same as Vulgate)

Finally, if we use the New Vulgate: 
Numbers 23:22 (link) has "bubali" (the correct translation, but at odds with previous Latin editions) 
Numbers 24:8 (link) has "bubali" (the correct translation, but at odds with previous Latin editions)
Deuteronomy 33:17 (link) has "unicornis" (similar to Old Latin and against Vulgate)
Psalm 22:22 (Vul Psalm 21:22) has unicornium (same as Vulgate)
Psalm 29:6 (Vul Psalm 28:6) has filium unicornium (basically same as Vulgate)
Psalm 92:10 (Vul Psalm 91:11) has unicornis (same as Vulgate)
Job 39:9 (link) has "taurus ferus" (the correct translation, but at odds with previous Latin editions)
Job 39:10 (link) has "taurum ferum" (the correct translation, but at odds with previous Latin editions)
Isaiah 34:7 (link) has "bubali" (the correct translation, but at odds with previous Latin editions)

Appendix II

KJV 1617

prdl to the GB

list of variants but also psalms passages

Appendix III

List of Variants from Isaiah 30-35

Appendix IV 

Friday, March 10, 2023

The latest "Pro-Rhinoceros" Scholarship

Nick Sayers argues that the Re'em is a rhinoceros.  The most recent scholarship cited in support of Nick Sayers' view appears to be two things: the "Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (TSK)" and the J-F-B Commentary, namely Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, the Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1871).


Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (TSK). The TSK first publication indicated, "Consisting of Five-hundred Thousand Scripture References and Parallel Passages from Canne, Browne, Blayney, Scott, and Others, with Numerous Illustrative Notes." The TSK was created in London by publisher Samuel Bagster (1772-1851) and apparently first published around 1830. The earliest edition I found was 1833, which contains a brief statement identifying the Reem with the rhinoceros.

(The treasury Bible. First division: containing the authorized Engl. version. Second division: containing The treasury of Scripture knowledge. (1833). United Kingdom: (n.p.))

There were highly similar opinions expressed in the first half of the 19th century.  For example:

(Cater, P. (1845). Entertaining Knowledge: Or, the Curious Origin and Primary Meaning of Numerous Words and Phrases, Illustrated and Explained with a Dissertation on Ancient and Modern Tongues: by Philip Cater, .... United Kingdom: J. Gilbert. Canterbury: S. Prentice)

These sources are both drawing, directly or indirectly, from a late 1700s book called, "The Natural History of the Bible," or from a prior work quoted by that source. Source citation of that era (at least in the quality of work still promoting the "rhinoceros" theory) leaves much to be desired.

(HARRIS, T. M. (1793). The Natural History of the Bible: Or, a Description of All the Beasts, ... Trees, ... Metals, Precious Stones, Etc. Mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures. Collected from the Best Authorities, and Alphabetically Arranged. United States: (n.p.).)

For another example, a still earlier source:

(Beilby, R. (1792). A General History of Quadrupeds. United Kingdom: S. Hodgson, R. Beilby, & T. Bewick.)

Or this still earlier:

(Hall, W. H. (1789). THE NEW ROYAL ENCYCLOPAEDIA; OR, COMPLETE MODERN UNIVERSAL DICTIONARY OF ARTS & SCIENCES, ON A NEW AND IMPROVED PLAN: IN WHICH ALL THE RESPECTIVE SCIENCES, ARE ARRANGED INTO COMPLETE SYSTEMS, AND THE ARTS DIGESTED INTO DISTINCT TREATISES. ALSO THE DETACHED PARTS OF KNOWLEDGE, Alphabetically Arranged and Fully Explained, According to the BEST AUTHORITIES. Containing a Digest and Display of the Whole Theory and Practice of the Liberal and Mechanical Arts. Comprising a General REPOSITORY of ANCIENT AND MODERN LITERATURE, FROM THE EARLIEST AGES, DOWN TO THE PRESENT TIME: Containing All the New IMPROVEMENTS and Latest DISCOVERIES Made in the ARTS and SCIENCES, Particularly Acoustic ... Vermeology, &c. The Superfluities which Abound in Other Dictionaries are Expunged, for the Purpose of Incorporating Complete Systems, and Distinct Treatises. By Means of this Addition and Deviation from the Old Plan it Comprizes A GENERAL CIRCLE OF SCIENCE, AND FORMS THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE LIBRARY OF UNIVERSAL KNOWLEDGE, That was Ever Published in the ENGLISH LANGUAGE. The Whole Entirely Freed from the Errors, Obscurities, and Superfluities of Other DICTIONARIES. Illustrated with Upwards of 150 Large Superb COPPER PLATES, Accurately Descriptive of the Subjects to which They Refer. IN THREE VOLUMES.. United Kingdom: C. COOKE, No 17, PATER-NOSTER ROW.)

 J-F-B Commentary

The J-F-B commentary has books commented by identified primary commenters.  Brown is only for the Gospels and Acts, while Fausset is for the rest of the New Testament and Job through Malachi.  Jamieson covers Genesis through Esther.  With this division of labor, some of the comments may be from one commentator or the other.  As you will see, the testimony of the J-F-B is all over the map and agrees both with the "rhinoceros" view but also the "buffalo" view.

Considering Jamieson's section frist:

Numbers 23

      22. he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn--Israel is not as they were at the Exodus, a horde of poor, feeble, spiritless people, but powerful and invincible as a reem--that is, a rhinoceros (Job 39:9; Ps 22:21; 92:10).

(nothing relevant at Numbers 24:8)

Deuteronomy 33

      13-17. of Joseph he said--The territory of this tribe, diversified by hill and dale, wood and water, would be rich in all the productions--olives, grapes, figs, &c., which are reared in a mountainous region, as well as in the grain and herbs that grow in the level fields. "The firstling of the bullock and the horns of the unicorn" (rhinoceros), indicate glory and strength, and it is supposed that under these emblems were shadowed forth the triumphs of Joshua and the new kingdom of Jeroboam, both of whom were of Ephraim (compare Ge 48:20).

Turning to Fausset's section:

Job 39

      9. unicorn--PLINY [Natural History, 8.21], mentions such an animal; its figure is found depicted in the ruins of Persepolis. The Hebrew reem conveys the idea of loftiness and power (compare Ramah; Indian, Ram; Latin, Roma). The rhinoceros was perhaps the original type of the unicorn. The Arab rim is a two-horned animal. Sometimes "unicorn" or reem is a mere poetical symbol or abstraction; but the buffalo is the animal referred to here, from the contrast to the tame ox, used in ploughing (Job 39:10, 12).

      abide--literally, "pass the night."

      crib-- (Isa 1:3).

      10. his band--fastened to the horns, as its chief strength lies in the head and shoulders.

      after thee--obedient to thee; willing to follow, instead of being goaded on before thee.

Psalm 22

      21. Deliverance pleaded in view of former help, when in the most imminent danger, from the most powerful enemy, represented by the unicorn or wild buffalo.

      the lion's mouth--(Compare Ps 22:13). The lion often used as a figure representing violent enemies; the connecting of the mouth intimates their rapacity.

(nothing relevant at Psalm 29:6)

(nothing relevant at Psalm 92:10)

Isaiah 34

      7. unicorns--Hebrew, reem: conveying the idea of loftiness, power, and pre-eminence (see on Job 39:9), in the Bible. At one time the image in the term answers to a reality in nature; at another it symbolizes an abstraction. The rhinoceros was the original type. The Arab rim is two-horned: it was the oryx (the leucoryx, antelope, bold and pugnacious); but when accident or artifice deprived it of one horn, the notion of the unicorn arose. Here is meant the portion of the Edomites which was strong and warlike.

      come down--rather, "fall down," slain [LOWTH].

      with them--with the "lambs and goats," the less powerful Edomites (Isa 34:6).

      bullocks . . . bulls--the young and old Edomites: all classes.


Rhinoceros in Biblical and Cognate Languages

The evidence that the Hebrew word, Re'em, refers to the Aurochs is overwhelming.  Nevertheless, there are some who maintain the view that seems to have first originated with the second century translator of the Old Testament, known as Aquila of Sinope.  Apparently Aquila was a proselyte to Judaism, and a disciple of Rabbi Akiba.

As a side note, I found this fascinating detail regarding Masoretic vowel tradition in the Jewish Encylopedia entry on Aquila:

It is interesting to note that Aquila does not agree with the Masoretic punctuation in pointing the names of heathen gods (e.g.,  and , Amos v. 26) with the vowels of  ("abomination").


If this accurate, it confirms that the pointing of the Tetragrammaton with the vowels for "Lord" is similarly a way of highlighting the truly divine, rather than being the actual vowels.

Returning to our question, there is a Greek word for rhinoceros, it's ρινόκερως (rinokeros).  That's the word Aquila used, although the Septuagint did not.  Our English word is directly taken from Latin rhinoceros, which got it from the Greek.

The modern Hebrew word for rhinoceros is "קַרנַף" (kar'NUF).  However, the word karnuf was invented in the 20th century by Joseph Klausner, using the Hebrew words keren (horn) and af (nose).

Turning to other related languages, I found two main branches: one from the Sanskrit, the other from the Ge'ez. 


  • Ge'ez ሐሪሥ, ሐሪስ (ḥäriś, ḥäris, “rhinoceros”) 
  • Arabic حَرِيش‎ (ḥarīš, “rhinoceros”) (apparently derived from Ge'ez)
  • Other languages related closely to Ge'ez have similar words.


On the other hand, Persian has the word کرگدن (karkadan), apparently from Middle Persian (klg /karg/, “rhinoceros; horn”) + (-dʾn' /-dān/, “bearer, holder”), ultimately from Sanskrit खड्ग (khaḍga, “rhinoceros; literally sword bearer”).

This word is similarly found in other languages:

  • Arabic كَرْكَدَّن‎ (karkaddan, “rhinoceros”)
  • Classical Syriac ܟܪܟܕܢܐ‎ (karkǝḏānā, “rhinoceros”)
  • Sanskrit खड्गधेनु (khaḍgadhenu, “a female rhinoceros”)
  •  Avar: гаргадан (gargadan)
  • Middle Armenian: քարկարտան (kʿarkartan), քարկանտան (kʿarkantan)
  • Turkish: gergedan
  • Uyghur: كەركىدان‎ (kerkidan)
  • Uzbek: karkidon

Looking through the Semitic Etymology dictionary, I only found three entries related to the rhinoceros:

Number: 2648

Proto-Semitic: *yaʕal- ~ ʕawāl- (?)

Afroasiatic etymology: Afroasiatic etymology

Meaning: 'mythological bull' 1, 'rhinoceros' 2, 'young of the elephant' 3

Akkadian: alû (elû) 1 'bull (as a mythological being)' Bogh, SB, Akkadogr. in Hitt. CAD a1, 377

Syrian Aramaic: yaʕlā 2 'unicornus, rhinoceros' Br 305

Tigre: ʕǝwal 3 'young of the elephant' ("in der Poesie auch von anderen jungen Tieren gebraucht") [LH, 477], ʔäwal [ibid., apud Munz.] (hardly connected with *ʕVwVl- 'young of an animal' which is attested in Tgr as ʕǝlu 'young of the donkey' [LH 450]; <*ʔawāl- with a variant form in ʕ- through contamination with ʕǝlu) ?

Number: 2654

Proto-Semitic: *ḥar(i)ŝ/ŝx ( ~ *Hawuraris)

Afroasiatic etymology: Afroasiatic etymology

Meaning: 'rhinoceros'

Syrian Aramaic: Cf. ḥarsūmā 'proboscis; labia bovis' Br 257

Arabic: ḥarīš- [BK 1 408]

Geʕez (Ethiopian): ḥariŝ, ḥaris, ḥoras, ʔarwe ḥoras [LGz 244]

Amharic: Cf. ʔawuraris 'rhinocéros' Baet

Number: 2655

Proto-Semitic: *karkadan- ~ *karkand-

Meaning: 'rhinoceros'

Syrian Aramaic: karkǝdonō Brock. 346b

Arabic: karkaddan-, karkadann- [BK 2 888]

Geʕez (Ethiopian): karkand 'unicorn, rhinoceros' LGZ 291

The Assyrian dictionary only offered this:

From my standpoint, the issue here is not just that the words for "rhinoceros" are nothing like Re'em, but that even the one Proto-Semitic word that might refer to a rhinoceros independent of the Ge'ez and Sanskrit streams seems to have mythological connotations.  Arabic stands at a cross-roads between the two major streams and adopts names from both languages, but there seems to be no uniquely Arabic word distinct from the Ge'ez and Sanskrit.  

There are several Biblical Hebrew words with similarity to the "haris" root (Strong's Nos. 2789-2802, for example), but the closest seems to be 2793 "choresh" (חרֶשׁ), which has no obvious connection to rhinoceroses as such. Similarly with the other options.

What's the best explanation for this lack of word for rhinoceros among the Hebrews?  

This is the current range of the Rhinoceros.  Wooly rhinoceros remains have been found in the British isles and Siberia.  The most interesting variety of rhinoceros for the rhinoceros/unicorn identification is the Indian rhinoceros.  According to Brittanica: "The Indian rhinoceros previously occupied an extensive range across northern India and Nepal from Assam state in the east to the Indus River valley in the west." (source

The most likely explanation for the lack of a Hebrew word for rhinoceros is the absence of rhinoceroses in Canaan during the time period from the 15th century B.C. onward.  While I doubt some of the dating methods used, this article summarizes the current naturalistic view on the presence of rhinoceroses in Canaan: "Said Prof. Amos Frumkin, director of the Hebrew University’s Cave Research Center: 'Rhinos haven’t been seen in the land of Israel in the last twenty or thirty thousand years...'." (article describing the find of ancient rhinoceros remains in Samaria)