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Does the Bible Affirm the Existence of Mythical Creatures?

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Filed under The Bible

Unicorns

One common argument against the inspiration or even the trustworthiness of the Bible is that it affirms the existence of mythical creatures. For example, atheist Jason Long says, “The cockatrice, unicorn, and dragon, are examples of mythical creatures in the Bible that fail to leave any reliable evidence for their existence.”1

Do these legendary animals prove the Bible itself is a collection of legends? No, because in most cases the Bible is affirming the existence of real animals. It is only the work of later translators, and not the Bible’s original authors, that refer to these legendary creatures. This is especially prevalent in the King James Version of the Bible (or the KJV) which became popular for skeptics to quote ever since Steve Wells used this translation for his popular Skeptics Annotated Bible.

In this post I’ll examine two animals in the KJV that critics often cite: the unicorn and the cockatrice.

Unicorns

A unicorn is a horse with a long horn that protrudes from its forehead that medieval literature described as possessing medicinal or even magical powers. In the KJV the unicorn is depicted as a symbol of strength and wild power. Numbers 23:22 says, “God brought [the Israelites] out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.” In Job 39:9-10 God points out Job’s human limits and says, “Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow?”

The Hebrew word the KJV translates as “unicorn” is re’em, which modern scholars have identified with an auroch, or a large horned cow that is now extinct. The ancient Assyrians also referred to these animals by the similar name rimu.2 So how did the Hebrew word re’em become “unicorn” in translations like the KJV?

The translators of the Septuagint, or the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, used the Greek word monoceros (literally “one-horn”) in place of the Hebrew word re’em. In the fifth century St. Jerome translated the Septuagint into the Latin Vulgate and used the Latin equivalent of “monoceros,” or “unicorn.” Eventually, this word became “unicorn” in English.

But why did the Septuagint translators use a word that literally meant “one horn” instead of something like “wild ox? One theory is that the Septuagint translators may have been thinking of another animal besides a wild ox that also fits the description found in passages like Numbers 23:22. The first century Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder described a real animal from India called a monoceros that,

“has the head of the stag, the feet of the elephant, and the tail of the boar, while the rest of the body is like that of the horse; it makes a deep lowing noise, and has a single black horn, which projects from the middle of its forehead, two cubits in length. This animal, it is said, cannot be taken alive.”3

Today, in northern India, there is a very strong animal with feet like an elephant, a large body, and one horn that protrudes from its head. If we allow some leeway in Pliny’s description (which is necessary in ancient descriptions of unique creatures) we can identify this creature with the modern Indian rhinoceros. Indeed, monoceros means in Greek “one horn” and rhinoceros means “nose horn” (or rino ceros). A rhinoceros would make sense of these passages because, unlike unicorns, they are known for being very strong beasts that can’t be domesticated.

Even though a rhinoceros would fit the sense of these passages, in order to remain faithful to the original language, and to avoid confusion with the medieval conception of a unicorn, most modern translations of the Bible render the Hebrew word in these passages as, “wild ox” and not “unicorn” or “one-horn.”

The Cockatrice 

This creature is mentioned several times in the KJV’s translations of the books of the prophets. Jeremiah 8:17 reads,For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the Lord.” Isaiah 11:8 says, “And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den.” Long says of this creature, “The prophet Isaiah informs us that a cockatrice, a mythical creature able to kill it’s victim with a casual glance, will arise from a serpent (Isa. 14:29). What tangible evidence do we have to believe that a creature with this incredible ability has ever existed?”4

But Long is mistaken in his description because Isaiah never mentions the “cockatrice” nor does he describe this creature as having supernatural powers. Like the King James Bible in whose pages it is found, the cockatrice is a product of medieval European thinking and would have been unknown to prophets like Jeremiah or Isaiah. According to English scholar Laurence Breiener, “The cockatrice, which no one ever saw, was born by accident toward the end of the twelfth century and died in the middle of the seventeenth.”5

Although allusions to the creature can be traced back to Pliny the Elder, the dissident Catholic John Wycliffe first used the term “cockatrice” in 1382 in his popular translation of the Bible. It was later used in the 1535 Coverdale Bible, which may have been the source for the KJV’s use of this word.

While Isaiah and Jeremiah would have been unaware of the “cockatrice,” they would have known what a tsepha‘ was. This is the original Hebrew word used in passages like Isaiah 11:8 and it simply means “snake” or “viper.”6 Today, most modern translations render passages like Isaiah 11:8 in this way, “the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den [an adder is a kind of venomous snake].”

Check the Original

Remember that the Bible was not written in 17th century English. It was written in ancient Hebrew (along with some Aramaic and Greek) for the Old Testament and ancient Greek for the New Testament (the Old Testament was later translated into the Greek Septuagint). This refutes objections raised by atheists like David Mills, who says of passages that seem to describe mythical animals, “in the newer, modern-language translations of the Bible, these ridiculous passages of Scripture have been dishonestly excised, rewritten or edited beyond recognition from their original translation in the King James.”7

However, Mills is erroneously treating the KJV as if it were the original text of the Bible. The truth is that newer translations of the Bible are better than the KJV because they use earlier manuscripts that better capture the sense of the Bible’s original text. But even these bibles represent the opinions of modern translators. This is why when we confront a scripture passage that is difficult we must examine what the inspired author originally said in Hebrew or Greek. By doing this we sometimes see that the words the original word author used make more sense than what a later translator used instead, especially if the translation is an older one like the KJV.

 

Excerpted and adapted from Trent's upcoming book These are Hard Sayings: A Catholic Approach to Bible Difficulties (2016).
 
 
(Image credit: RawStory)

Notes:

  1. Jason Long. Biblical Nonsense: A Review of the Bible for Doubting Christians (iUniverse, 2005) 159
  2. G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, Vol. 13 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004) 243.
  3. Pliny the Elder. Natural History. 8.31
  4. Long, 159
  5. Laurence Breiner. “The Career of the Cockatrice” Isis Vol. 70 No. 1 (1979) 30.
  6. See Strong’s Concordance 6848
  7. David Mills. Atheist Universe (Berkeley: Ulysses Press, 2006) 150.
Trent Horn

Written by

Trent Horn holds a Master’s degree in Theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville and is currently an apologist and speaker for Catholic Answers. He specializes in training pro-lifers to intelligently and compassionately engage pro-choice advocates in genuine dialogue. He recently released his first book, titled Answering Atheism: How to Make the Case for God with Logic and Charity. Follow Trent at his blog, TrentHorn.com.

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  • Kevin Aldrich

    A fun, read, Trent.

  • Paul Brandon Rimmer

    Trent as usual only deals with the easy cases. What about the Beholder or the Mind Flayer or the Rust Monster or... Oh wait, I'm looking at the Monster's Manual. Never mind.

    Nice article, Trent.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    The aurochs was portrayed in Assyrian and Babylonian wall mosaics in profile. Due to the lack of perspective only the near horn is visible, giving the impression that the beast had only one horn growing out of its forehead. People of the time, aware of the artistic convention, may very well have called it "Ol' One-Horn" or some other such moniker. Indeed, even a modern applying a strict literalism might read the artwork in that manner. It helps if we assume that the ancients weren't idiots.

  • David Nickol

    I think there are greater problems than unicorns. See Genesis 6:1-4, for example. (I have provided a link rather than including here the NAB's lengthy footnotes.)

    Origin of the Nephilim.
    1 When human beings began to grow numerous on the earth and daughters were born to them,

    2 the sons of God saw how beautiful the daughters of human beings were, and so they took for their wives whomever they pleased.

    3 Then the LORD said: My spirit shall not remain in human beings forever, because they are only flesh. Their days shall comprise one hundred and twenty years.

    4 The Nephilim appeared on earth in those days, as well as later, after the sons of God had intercourse with the daughters of human beings, who bore them sons. They were the heroes of old, the men of renown.

    Did "sons of God" (angels?) intermarry with human women?

    • Rob Abney

      One way to read that story is to consider "how could that happen?, it doesn't seem possible", another way to read it is "that's an impressive bit of storytelling, I wonder what it means?, what is the moral of that story?".

      • Michael Murray

        what is the moral of that story?

        Lock up your daughters the angels are in town ?

        • Rob Abney

          Don't do that because the angels are ALWAYS in town!
          From the footnotes that David linked to:
          The point here is that even these heroes, filled with vitality from their semi-divine origin, come under God’s decree. (the flood comes next).

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So, did they actually exist?

          • Rob Abney

            Who's existence are you referring to?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Nephilim

          • Rob Abney

            Yes.
            I like Jim the Scott's answer above.

          • Jim the Scott

            See my counter reply. Davis has to get over his "all Christians & Historic Christianity are fundamentalist Protestants" meme.

          • Rob Abney

            What do you have in mind with the term "fundamentalist protestant"?

          • Jim the Scott

            A hyper-literalist interpretation of Scripture at all times by the presuppositions of a Christian tradition/movement that began in the 16th century as a rebellion to the Catholic Church.

            Protestants believe in Sola Scriptura the Bible is the sole rule of faith & tradition is not needed to interpret it. They believe scripture must be plain in it's meaning thus we don't need the Church or tradition to deduce it's alleged clear meaning.

            I reject these views as a Catholic.

            Still these are extreme caricatures of their views I admit but people who react to religion often react to the extreme manefestations of it.

            OTOH give me a non-caricature view expounded by a believing Protestant & I might either still reject it or conclude his definition is too vague to disagree with.

          • Rob Abney

            I wonder why you find this view unusual for an atheist. I think that sort of personal interpretation leads easily to atheism.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I wonder why you find this view unusual for an atheist.

            I don't find it unusual I merely find in at best droll and worst boring.

            I like my Atheists to be a little more thoughtful & informed than the mere Richard Dawkins type. Like a certain Scotish fellow here who knows he needs the correct definition of Divine Simplicity before he argues the doctrine leads to the pantheism of Spinoza & expends energy on writing an article to that effect. I like what he is doing.

            > I think that sort of personal interpretation leads easily to atheism.

            One of the things but Atheism like homosexuality or fundamentalism is likely multi-causal and one particular cause isn't exhaustive.

      • David Nickol

        that's an impressive bit of storytelling, I wonder what it means?, what is the moral of that story?"

        Well, I am certainly open to reading the story that way. But I am also open to reading the story of the flood itself that way, the story of Abraham and Isaac that way, the story of the burning bush that way, and the story of the Exodus from Egypt that way.

        Is there any story in the Old Testament that we can't say, "Well I don't think that is a historical or factual account, but if we read it figuratively (or allegorically, etc.), then it has deep meaning"? And what about the New Testament?

        • Rob Abney

          There is not any story in the bible that you cannot get deep meaning from. It happens to be easily read by people at a wide variety of levels of intelligence. Someone like you can find the meaning while also considering the historicity and the genre and the overall development of the story while someone with less bookreading knowledge gets meaning only from considering everything to be literally true.
          You seem to be very familiar with the bible, have you continued to read it since you left Catholic school?, because it reads differently as you grow older.
          Here's a great book that describes the development of the entire story, Bible Basics for Catholics by John Bergsma, you can read it in an afternoon.

          • David Nickol

            There is not any story in the bible that you cannot get deep meaning from.

            I think that is an overstatement, but to the extent that it is true, it is true of Iliad and Odyssey, The Qur’an, The Mahabharata, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Book of Mormon.

            The question I think you are avoiding is whether anything in the Bible is factual or historical and whether it makes a difference. Would it make a difference, for example, if there was no exodus from Egypt? Or is the story of the exodus so inspiring and meaningful that it makes no difference if it ever happened.

            No doubt there are many Bible stories where it makes no practical difference, but I have seen New Testament scholarship that conjectures that early Christian eucharistic celebrations inspired the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper rather than vice-versa. At some point it becomes important whether biblical accounts are inspiring stories or actual events.

            You seem to be very familiar with the bible, have you continued to read it since you left Catholic school?, because it reads differently as you grow older.

            Studying the Bible was something Catholics didn't do when I went to Catholic school, so almost nothing I learned about the Bible (aside from the famous Bible stories) came from my Catholic education (1950s to mid-1960s). I did speak to someone at my old high school some years ago and was told that had changed markedly. Freshman religion classes now have no textbook, but every student must own a Bible, and that is the object of study. Throughout the whole time I was in Catholic school, I was never expected to own a Bible.

            Here's a great book that describes the development of the entire story, Bible Basics for Catholics by John Bergsma, you can read it in an afternoon.

            This book has so much to recommend it—an author from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, published by Ave Maria Press, foreword by Scott Hahn. Who could resist? :-)

            But I think I am going to read it anyway.

          • Rob Abney

            "The question I think you are avoiding is whether anything in the Bible is factual or historical and whether it makes a difference. Would it make a difference, for example, if there was no exodus from Egypt? Or is the story of the exodus so inspiring and meaningful that it makes no difference if it ever happened.

            No doubt there are many Bible stories where it makes no practical difference, but I have seen New Testament scholarship that conjectures that early Christian eucharistic celebrations inspired the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper rather than vice-versa. At some point it becomes important whether biblical accounts are inspiring stories or actual events."

            I'd never heard that the Exodus was doubtful until recently reading it here on SN, maybe from you.
            I've heard doubts about the eucharist but would be unable to see those doubts as anything other than anti-catholicism.
            But in the end I have to believe that the meaning of the old and new testament was well understood by the apostles and the early church fathers and has retained that meaning through the church's continuity.
            For that reason I'll not be able to debate historicity and/or textual criticism very well.

            I did consider adding that book I recommended was written by someone who was likely a teacher/professor of Trent Horn!

            Based on your lack of exposure to the bible as a catholic, have you read it in its entirety since then?

          • David Nickol

            Based on your lack of exposure to the bible as a catholic, have you read it in its entirety since then?

            I have not read the Bible in its entirety, although I have gone deeply into certain parts of it. I do not accept the Catholic doctrine that the Bible is one coherent book, and I particularly reject the notion that from beginning to end, the Bible is about Jesus. That is entirely a matter of Christian faith rather than a fact about the Bible as a collection of Jewish and Christian documents. I have begun reading Bible Basics for Catholics, and that is one very important point on which I will certainly disagree with the author.

          • Rob Abney

            Great, I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts about it.

        • VicqRuiz

          If one is a Catholic, one merely has to go to the Church for guidance.

          The Church will explain which Bible stories are literally true, which are embellished versions of real events, and which may be read as pure allegory.

          Seems pretty convenient to me, and allows one to spend one's thinking time on topics of more immediate relevance.

          • David Nickol

            If one is a Catholic, one merely has to go to the Church for guidance.

            I am rather surprised you got an upvote from Rob Abney on this one, because it is largely untrue.

            The Catholic Church does set itself up as the final authority on the interpretation of the Bible, however, there is no official annotated Catholic Bible that does what you say, and—going out on a limb here—I'd say that the vast majority of issues like "the sons of God" mating with human women, or the Nephilim, have been interpreted a number of ways over the century, and there is no "official" Catholic interpretation.

          • Rob Abney

            You are correct David, but I upvoted to encourage Vic even if he's intending to be a bit sarcastic.
            What is very useful for me in determining the meaning of scripture is hearing a skeptical viewpoint, otherwise I often just take it for granted that it has a Christological meaning, after considering alternatives it makes that Christological meaning fuller.

          • Micha_Elyi

            The Catholic Church does set itself up as the final authority on the interpretation of the Bible...

            --David Nikol

            Of course. The Bible is the Catholic Church's own book. The Church's men wrote it, compiled it, authorized it, preserved it, translated it, and promulgated it to the world. Analogously, the "final authority" (your phrase) on a book of teachings is the man, men, or organization that created it, not Cliffs Notes. The Church did not "set itself up" (your phrase) any more than an author of a book sets himself up as the final authority on his own book. The authority to be the interpreter of one's own book doesn't come by decree but by justice.

            [On] the vast majority of issues (in the Bible) there is no "official" Catholic interpretation.

            True that. I've even heard Church authorities say as much. However, that doesn't mean that any and all interpretations are equally valid. And it does mean that although not every jot and tittle in the Bible has been given a dogmatic interpretation (there are surprisingly few points in the Bible that have been made dogmas), the Church's bishops have an authority that bloggers and soapbox speakers do not share to speak on how passages in the Bible should be interpreted and which interpretations are in error.

          • David Nickol

            I am not sure we disagree on how the Catholic Church regards its role as the authority on the Bible. My point was that, whether or not one believes the Church's claims, most of the Bible, taken passage by passage, remains open to interpretation, with very few passages having a definitive Catholic interpretation that overrides and excludes all others.

            The Bible is the Catholic Church's own book. The Church's men wrote it,
            compiled it, authorized it, preserved it, translated it, and promulgated
            it to the world.

            You are, of course, assuming that the Catholic Church is the "supernatural" entity that it claims to be. Otherwise the Bible might be looked at as something similar to the Constitution of the United States. The Supreme Court is the "magisterium," in a sense, but there is no guarantee that there interpretation of the Constitution is correct, especially since the Court occasionally reverses itself.

    • Jim the Scott

      Among the Fathers and the Rabbis there is an opinion that the Sons of God refer to the Sons of Seth where as the daughters of man refer to the female children of Cain.

      From the standpoint of theology there is no way a substantive form (which is what a spirit would be) could mate with a living human person anymore than a person could mate with a photon.

      Thus those who take this literally as fallen angels lying with human women have explained it in terms of demonic possession of fallen or soulless human men.

      • David Nickol

        Here, from one of my most trusted references (Dictionary of the Bible, by John L. McKenzie, S.J., is the entry on Nephilim, except for the etymology, which contains Hebrew I can't type here):

        . . . the "ancient heroes, men of renown" born of the union of sons of Elohim and the daughters of men (Gn 6:1-4). It is most probable that this is a fragment of an ancient myth incorporated by the author as a prelude to the story of the deluge; it is similar to the Gk myth of the Titans. The pre-Israelite inhabitants of Canaan are elsewhere identified with the Nephilim (Nm 13:33) and the other gigantic beings (cf Anakim; Rephaim). BS 16:7 alludes to the rebellion of the giants, probably with a reference to this passage.

        It seems to me that it is not at all important (even for devout Catholics) to figure out who or what is being discussed in such passages, because they are mythical beliefs of the biblical authors and no more. You are concerned about too fundamentalist an approach to interpreting scripture. I would say that to assume certain passages and references must be explained by anything more than assuming they involve ancient myths is something akin to fundamentalism.

        I have no problem with the idea that the biblical authors could use ancient myths to express important ideas, but I don't think it is necessary, even for the most devout Catholic exegete, to say the "sons of God" had to be descendants of Seth, particularly because it is extremely difficult to maintain that Seth actually existed.

        • Jim the Scott

          Except I never claimed the Nephilim had to be the sons of Seth. I gave two interpretations & I never said they where the only two possible thought they seem to be the two used by the Rabbis & the Fathers.

          > had to be descendants of Seth, particularly because it is extremely difficult to maintain that Seth actually existed.

          I don't see why Seth could not have existed even if you assume Theistic Evolution to be true & that the biblical authors used ancient myths to express important ideas?

          That makes no sense to me.

          with all due resp...well never mind.;-)

          • David Nickol

            I don't see why Seth could not have existed even if you assume Theistic Evolution to be true & that the biblical authors used ancient myths to express important ideas?

            It will be pointless to argue this, but it seems to me that the only reasonable conclusion in the 21st century is that the story of "first parents" Adam and Eve (and their sons Cain, Abel, and Seth), of all the stories in the Bible, is among the most obviously non-factual/non-historical. If you maintain that Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, and Seth actually existed as the first and second generation of humans, you can hardly continue using fundamentalist as a pejorative.

          • Rob Abney

            It might be non-historical but it is not non-factual.

          • David Nickol

            Could you explain the distinction, please? I was using "non-historical/non-factual" as a single predicate, which is why I used a slash instead of saying "non-historical and non-factual." I used the somewhat odd phrasing because I had been taken to task for describing some things in the Bible as "not literally true."

            What facts would you say are to be found in the story of Adam and Eve?

          • Jim the Scott

            Rob will clarify himself but if I might add.

            >I used the somewhat odd phrasing because I had been taken to task for describing some things in the Bible as "not literally true."

            Well now that I think of it assuming a naturalist view top bottom there is no reason why I can't believe there wasn't literally a first human who was a hopeful monster mutant (which we could call Adam) whose own offspring had one killing the other & is the ancestor of modern humans. This shows up in Genesis as some primordial race memory assuming such a thing exists.

            But I say that tentatively since maybe a hopeful monster in evolutionary biology wouldn't work that way but Richard Dawkins is not here to share is expert knowledge in this area and I am beyond an ameture & concede my ignorance but just thought I'd put that out there.

          • Jim the Scott

            Rather it might be historical just not ultra- literal.

            Or did Ricky Valin, Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper not die in a plane crash as the American Pie song tells us even if these fellows aren't literally God the Trinity (Father, Son and the Holy Ghost, they caught the last plane for the cost etc)?

            Ya feel me lad?

            Cheers.

          • Jim the Scott

            >It will be pointless to argue this, but it seems to me that the only reasonable conclusion in the 21st century is that the story of "first parents" Adam and Eve (and their sons Cain, Abel, and Seth), of all the stories in the Bible, is among the most obviously non-factual/non-historical.

            That is question begging & of course you would think that, you are an Atheist who presupposes the non-inspiration of the Bible & purely naturalistic origin of it.

            >If you maintain that Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, and Seth actually existed as the first and second generation of humans, you can hardly continue using fundamentalist as a pejorative.

            That is comical. By that bit of specious reasoning I would be a fundamentalist for merely believing the factual literal assertion of Genesis One that God created the universe to be true even if I interpreted everything else other than that seemingly plain concept as pure a-historical allegory.

            Thus what you are telling me, logically means, even the most ultra-liberal Protestant who denies the objective existence of a first man is &must be a fundamentalist for asserting the Historical fact God created at the beginning likeGenesis tells us.

            Seriously? Are you like one of those Dawkins Gnus types who calls Theistic Evolutionists "Creationists"?

            How sad & lowbrow. you can do better.

            Fundamentalism is hyper-literalism & the insistence that the only legitimate interpretation of a text is the ultra-literal. There is no reason why even a stylized allegorical text can't contain literal historical truths told in a stylized way.

            Or does the Song AMERICAN PIE not contain real history as it pertains to the history of Rock and Roll even if Jim Morris or Mickjagger aren't literally Satan or Ricky Valen, Buddy Holly and the Big Bobber aren't literally God the Trinity?

            I will continue to use Fundamentalist as a pejorative.

            You might be one because of this disappointing response. Just saying...

          • David Nickol

            I will not be reading your comments from now on or responding to any comments you address to me.

            Here's a parting tip. Defenses of Catholicism are a lot less effective if those defending it come across as people one would not want to know or be like in any way.

          • Jim the Scott

            Please yourself but I clearly can use the term fundamentalist as a pejorative even if I believe in a historical Adam. Your assertion otherwise not withstanding.

            Fundamentalists have a radical either/or mentality.

            Such as either you interpret Genesis as pure a-historial allegory or any admission it contains real literal history must mandate you interpret it as a straight point by point literal historical narrative with no allegory whatsoever.

            I don't see how that is a reasonable position even if there are no gods and mere men alone wrote Genesis.

          • Jim the Scott

            BTW as too your specific charges against my character before I leave to it..

            >Here's a parting tip. Defenses of Catholicism are a lot less effective if those defending it come across as people one would not want to know or be like in any way.

            As I recall my distant memory. Tim O'Neil self described "Australian Atheist Bastard" gave either you or William or Ignatius (which ever one of you is a Jesus Mythist) a really brutal intellectual fisking and showed amazing contempt and condescension toward that silly view.

            It never gets old watching him do that (& I if I was ever stupid enough to share and challenge him with my views on the Shroud of Turin without doing a mountain of homework he would do the same to me. I would expect no less).

            BTW he wasn't defending Catholicism and if you where paying attention neither was I.

          • Michael Murray

            Ah you sure you are remembering correctly? I don't think any of Ignatius, William or David are Jesus Mythist's.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            He's not remembering correctly, because none of us are mythicists.

          • Michael Murray

            Just shows how easily things can get confused. Even when someone is an eye-witness to the history in question.

          • David Nickol

            You are correct that I am not a mythicist. Also I am not an atheist, but I have agnostic leanings.

            I have another book recommendation for you: George Musser's: Spooky Action at a Distance: The Phenomenon That Reimagines Space and Time—and What It Means for Black Holes, the Big Bang, and Theories of Everything.

            Musser says things like the following:

            These instance of nonlocality, which are distinct from those that spooked Einstein about quantum mechanics, are the subject of this chapter. They indicate that the locality we observe in daily life may not be characteristic of the way things really are. Although forces act locally—their influence spreads through space at a limited speed—this locality doesn't seem to be rooted in the structure of nature. There are no separated entities that transmit and receive these forces; the world can't be partitioned into independent spatial pieces. And in that case space must not be the true venue for physics.

            And I thought space was the final frontier!

          • Michael Murray

            Excellent. Thanks. A lot of hot Christmas weather coming up here so plenty of chance to read.

          • Jim the Scott

            I could be wrong.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You are

          • Jim the Scott

            Was it you? ;-)

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Nope. I have never been a myther

          • Jim the Scott

            Good. But then again somewhere in the world O'Neil is smacking around a Myther & it is beautiful.

          • Michael Murray

            You can check Tim O'Neill's Disqus profile which is not private

            https://disqus.com/by/Thiudareiks/

          • Jim the Scott

            Thanks.

          • Lazarus

            Other than your unpleasant personal attacks, do you have anything of value to say on the merits of David's post?

            Are you aware that a lot of Catholic theologians and apologists take that position?

            I have flagged your post, and I am watching with interest to see what I would hope is consistent moderation.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Other than your unpleasant personal attacks, do you have anything of value to say on the merits of David's post?

            I have covered my bases.

            >Are you aware that a lot of Catholic theologians and apologists take that position?

            The fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ott and Dendzinger lists the doctrine "The first man was created by God." as de fide which means it is an infallible dogma like belief in the Trinity.

            So you are telling me there are "Catholic" theologians and apologists who deny an infallible dogma?

            Who are these heretics & or mere erroneous misinformed people? Name names for me. Let me hear their own words? Because that is like claiming "I know Mormon Theologians and apologists who say Joseph Smith isn't a prophet.".

            >I have flagged your post, and I am watching with interest to see what I would hope is consistent moderation.

            Yes take off my posts retreat to your safe space. By all means don't answer me with argument.

            Don't give me any reason why I should consider it fundamentalism to confess a real Adam.

            I simply don't care. I am too cynical to even try at this point.

          • Lazarus

            We have had some wonderful articles on Adam and Eve, original sin and related topics right here on SN, clearly dealing with the various Catholic and other opinions. Your ignorance and cynicism (whatever with) does not count as justification for rudeness towards the very people that this site wishes to have respectful dialogue with.

          • Jim the Scott

            >We have had some wonderful articles on Adam and Eve, original sin and related topics right here on SN, clearly dealing with the various Catholic and other opinions.

            I've read some of those articles and I agree with them. I was a fan of the Flynn-Kemp proposal a long while back when it originally was posted on Feser's blog long before it appeared here.

            Also I think Jewish Tradition has some gems that make it seem even more plausible. (Not that I endorse concordant interpretation of Genesis in that area I stand with the late Fr. Stanley Jaki.).

            http://www.aish.com/tp/i/moha/48931772.html

            >Your ignorance and cynicism (whatever with) does not count as justification for rudeness towards the very people that this site wishes to have respectful dialogue with.

            Cynical yes I am. Rude, it is a failing. Ignorant, I say HA! HA I say...

            If a Catholic denies there was a real Adam or a first man or we had first parents he is either a heretic or he or she is simply misinformed. I stand by that.

            So outside of Hans Kung I don't know who these "Catholic" theologians are who deny a real Adam and Eve? That is the extremist error of liberal Protestantism but it is not Catholic. As articles on this very website show there is no reason why you can't believe there was a real Adam & believe in Evolution & even biological polygenesis.

            So I think I am informed in this area.

            But anyway William and I have patched things up so let there be a cessation of hostilities.

            I wish you the peace of Christ.

          • Jim the Scott

            BTW Lazarus

            Did you ever read this past post?

            I didn't see your name in the comments box.

            http://www.strangenotions.com/knowing-ape-from-adam/

            I still don't know who these "Catholic" theologians are who deny a real Adam?

            Or are you channeling Hans Kung?

          • Jim the Scott

            BTW Lazarus what specific personal attacks do you think I have made that offend you?

            Or are you just running with the crowd?

          • Rob Abney

            Jim the Scott, I hope you stick around, but this site is designed to facilitate dialogue so you'll have to figure out how to challenge metaphysical assumptions without the challenged poster feeling beaten down. That is not easy to do for various reasons but it is important. A good example is Bishop Barron's responses to skeptics in his YouTube comboxes. Again, I hope you stay because you can do good here and also because I read all your comments with a Scottish accent!

          • Michael Murray

            also because I read all your comments with a Scottish accent

            Ach laddie, that wee Jim is nae Scot or he'd nae be spellin' it with the two t's.

          • Jim the Scott

            I'll give it the old college try. Anyway William and I patched things up.

            Cheers man.

          • Michael Murray

            No sign of any moderation yet !

    • neil_pogi

      it's possible. that's why the Bible is all witness to them

      • David Nickol

        it's possible. that's why the Bible is all witness to them

        Argue with Jim the Scott. He says it is not possible.

        • Jim the Scott

          >>It's possible. that's why the Bible is all witness to them

          >Argue with Jim the Scott. He says it is not possible.

          Stop making crap up about what I believe then maybe I will be nice to you.

          I DID mention the Angels could have possessed fallen men or soulless men & thus it is possible they married human women.

          http://www.strangenotions.com/knowing-ape-from-adam/

          • neil_pogi

            davis and david are trying to get us 'confused'

            christians have different interpretations on leviathan and unicorn issues in the Bible. since there were no drawings to be found in the Bible, most drawings are likened to 'a horse with pointed, spiraling horn projecting from its forehead' .. that's not true. i believe the unicorn described in the Bible was referred to rhinoceros.

            leviathan fitted the descriptions for dinosaurs. since dinosaur drawings can be found in several ancient temples (angkor wat) and south american artefacts (peebles), therefore dinosaurs only existed few thousand years ago. (even soft tissues, RBCs, DNAS can be found in dinosaur's fossils)

          • Jim the Scott

            Animal names are kind of relative. When native American first saw the horse they called it in their language "big dog". It's a mistake to assume the writers of the Scripture have anticipated modern species classification of clades and whatnot.

            I tend to reject coordinate interpretations of Holy Writ (unless they are ultra-modest) because then as the science changes then the coordinate interpretation has to be set aside.

          • neil_pogi

            the bible is not concerned on how many animals were created, and so on, the Bible is most concerned about the revelations that God is the Creator.

  • I do not understand the point of this article. The bible is filled with supernatural people, events and creatures. Demons, giants, "whales" or giant fish that can swallow people, mamals that are called birds, plants growing before there was a sun. A man surviving his own death. The flood itself is impossible on naturalism.

    Is Trent saying that the Bible would be unreliable if it these things were supernatural? So he needs to show they existed on naturalism? But the Bible is okay with the supernatural. If a god like the one described in the Bible existed, it can do anything. It can make unicorns and Giants and all that and magic them away with God power.

    Also, Pliny the Elder is a pretty poor source.

    "He also described a boy who rode to and from school on a dolphin's back,
    and the gigantic skeletal remains of the mythical hunter Orion. He
    described a battle between an elephant and a dragon, whose blood
    combined, to account for the origin of cinnabar. He wrote of elephants
    walking to a river for a purification ritual at the new moon then
    carrying their young in a procession afterwards. He wrote a touching
    account of an slow-witted pachyderm who was found practicing his
    assigned tasks at night so as not to get beaten for a clumsy performance
    the next day. And we owe our belief that an elephant "cannot abide a
    mouse" to Pliny. Speaking of mice, rubbing their poo on your bald head
    can restore your gleaming, curly locks, he said. Pliny described
    petrified shark teeth as glossopetrae (tongue stones), and wrote
    of the octopus, "No animal is more savage in causing the death of a man
    in the water." He recommended treating a scorpion's bite by consuming
    the animal's ashes in a glass of wine. He wrote that bear cubs are born
    as shapeless lumps of white flesh that must be gradually licked into
    shape by their mothers. He wrote about "king bees.Not surprisingly, one modern science historian (Brian Cummings) has described Pliny as "endearingly batty."

    To be fair, however, Pliny qualified much of the information he passed
    along with phrases such as "some people say" or "so the story goes."" (Just from a random website I Googled.)

    • Michael Murray

      The mouse thing doesn't work. My cat just keeps attacking my head.

      Perhaps this was some ancient version of Ripley's Believe it or Not ?

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ripley%27s_Believe_It_or_Not!

      • neil_pogi

        quote; 'The mouse thing doesn't work. My cat just keeps attacking my head.' -- therefore no evolution happened

    • neil_pogi

      so you don't believe a big whale which 'swallowed' Jonah, and yet you believe the astonishing claims that your 'self-replicating molecule' was able to evolve into different forms of life!

      • No. I do not think self replicating molecule was able to evolve into different forms of life. I beleive a self replcating molecule assists in organisms evolving into different species.

        • neil_pogi

          Nope. before anything else, a 'self-replicating molecule' existed already (eternal), that's your belief, and how will it assist creating other organism when it was the first?

          • That is not my belief. It is clear that neither DNA or any other molecule is eternal. DNA assists in evolution by the process of natural selection.

          • neil_pogi

            then if you don't like the word 'eternal' then what word is it? or atheists are trying to make new words (neologism).

            so the DNA is 'just there'.. no explanation is due why it is there! therefore, we really don't need to study the 'origins', the sciences, because all 'were just there'!

            just one example, even if your LUCA evolved, survived and thrive.. what would be the first organism it create? suppose that a newly formed organism was created, how did it know that sound exists (why ear evolve?) how did it know the sense of touch (pain, cold, heat,)? the sense of seeing?

          • I do not know how DNA originated. I know some hypotheses, but I think there is not enough to go on. Certainly not enough for a lay person like me to. I have only a high school understanding of chemistry and biology, and that is more than 20 years old.

            I am afraid if you want to learn more about evolution by natural selection, you will need to consult biology textbooks, not com-boxes on Catholic apologetics websites.

          • neil_pogi

            if you want to prove evolution to be true, then test it, verify it thru experimentations.. but the textbooks are just saying 'just so' and 'make believe' stories. if i were you, i just go to the process of lab works and real time experiments.

  • GuineaPigDan .

    What would Trent have to say about young Earth creationists like Kent Hovind (I know Hovind is actually anti-Catholic, but he is still influential among some YECs even after getting out of prison) who claim that animals like cockatrices, leviathan, etc are actually dinosaurs or dragons?

  • neil_pogi

    if atheists question the existence of creatures such as the unicorn, then, how come they don't question the existence of their 'first replicating molecule'? The Bible was written by hundreds of people, just about 2,000 years ago, and yet questions by atheists that the writings were just fairies? how would they know? all their claims are mere claims without offering valid arguments!

    leviathan is really an ancient word for a modern version for 'dinosaur'..

    • Lazarus

      Neil, I sometimes wonder if you're not an atheist pretending to be a theist, sent on some secret mission to do damage here :)

      • Michael Murray

        Nope definitely on your team :-) We all have our crosses to bear.

        • Lazarus

          We will nevertheless continue to search for evidence of this plot - memos, emails, coded messages ...

      • neil_pogi

        i am a defender of God, my questions are very basic, and i need ardent atheists to just answer these basic questions. they question the existence of a creature, such as the unicorn, then i have the right to question them, then how about the LUCA? prove them that this LUCA really was the 'mother' of all living things, such as you!

        • You have the right to ask any questions you want. You do not have the right to be taken seriously. Are you really saying that you accept unicorns exist but deny DNA exists and is a self-replicating molecule?

          DNA is observable and is observed every day by hundreds of thousands of people. We can actually see it, and test it. We can manipulate it and change organisms. We witness it evolve time and time again. It is in every living creature and we can actually tell that similarities in DNA show up in similarities in biological representation. It is universally accepted by biologists as being the central mechanism by which all organic reproduction takes place. Millions if not billions of theists, Christians, and Catholics all accept this. They don't accept it because they deny God. They accept it because the evidence is overwhelming. It is not a terribly complicated molecule, though in human chromosomes it is very, very long. It is four base pairs amino acids. I could go on for hours.

          And yet you adamantly deny that evolution occurs or DNA is the mechanism. On the other hand, you adamantly seem to defend the existence of unicorns? In this very article it is admitted that the Bible itself mistranslated this and supposes that what was meant was not a horse with a horn, but the ancestor of the cow.

          You are being ridiculous. I don't know if you get some kind of kick out of it. I have found it somewhat fun responding to you infantile questions, but I won't any longer.

          You have clearly demonstrated your contempt for the kind of good faith discussion and community that Brandon has painstakingly fostered in these pages. Best of luck to you.

          • neil_pogi

            yes. DNAs are the 'blueprint' of life, but it is not eternal as what you've claimed to be.

          • neil_pogi

            i am only asking the origins of 'self-replicating molecule' and you said that 'it's all there'..

            atheists have the right to question, 'if God created the universe, then who created God'? then i have also the right to question you, 'if the self-replicating molecule created life, then who created it'?

            if 'self-replicating molecule' is an eternal entity, then why the RNA hypotheses? you just contradicted yourself. DNA and 'self-replicating molecule' are components of matter, therefore, they are not eternal.

      • neil_pogi

        and why did you think that?

        i want atheists to answer me if their 'first replicating molecule' did exist? and if it did exist, then how it evolved into different forms of life, including the unicorn?

        • Lazarus

          I'm joking with you, Neil.

          But you do have a habit of sometimes juxtaposing science against religion in quite unnecessary ways, in the process not doing your apologetic efforts any good. You often attack settled science as if it's wild speculation. Religion is by its very essence a mixture of fact and faith, and science is .... science. Don't set the two up against each other as mortal enemies, religion will not do well in that unnecessary battle.

          • neil_pogi

            i didn't attack what you called 'settled science'... big bang cosmo is not a 'settled science', for example. the basic question for that, is, where did the 'infinitely small dot' come from? no explanations is given, maybe, 'it's just there'... true science harmonize with faith and religion. the fact is, atheism is based more on faith, assumptions, 'just so' and 'make believe' stories, and not on repeatable observations and experimentations.

  • Lazarus

    Ah, the unicorn.
    About as rare a thing as a new SN article ... ;)

  • Howard

    I'm not really sure that the oldest surviving Hebrew text is actually older than the oldest surviving Greek text. Even if the "original language" is Hebrew (no problem there), this might not be the "original language", meaning the exact words which came from the pen of Moses. It is very much a Protestant habit of mind to consider the existing Hebrew text to be authoritative and the Septuagint merely a translation much inferior to the NIV -- what a shame the authors of the New Testament couldn't read Hebrew and didn't have the NIV! A Catholic should be more careful, though. I prefer St. Augustine's approach, which is to treat BOTH versions as actually inspired.

    • Lazarus

      Well, if English was good enough for Jesus, it is good enough for me ;)

  • DLink

    It would probably be more accurate to say that the bible does not preclude belief in such creatures. Scripture is not meant to encyclopedic; it is a spiritual work .What does not contradict can often be found in the study of other disciplines.

  • DLink

    The belief in mystical creatures comes quite close to one of Thomas Aquinas' proofs for the existence of God; that of universality of belief. All organized cultures have beliefs in some form of mystical being. Some of the more developed have discovered that some quite profitable books, films and TV shows can be made about them.

  • Doug Shaver

    This is why when we confront a scripture passage that is difficult we must examine what the inspired author originally said in Hebrew or Greek.

    I'm quite OK with the notion that we must do our best to figure out what the original authors intended to say, and I'm equally OK with not assuming that the KJV translators were infallible. I'm not so OK with the assumption that the original authors were divinely inspired.