Atheist's Attacks

Answering Humanist's Accusations Against the Bible

Christian Resources

Does Science Prove the Bible Wrong? Nope!

Are there dragons and unicorns in the Bible?

THE HUMANIST'S CLAIM there are: Additional Errors About the Physical World

The Bible has verses mentioning dragons (Jeremiah 51:34), unicorns (Isaiah 34:7), and cockatrices (Isaiah 11:8). These passages led many naturalists in the Middle Ages to think such mythical creatures actually exist.[White, Vol. I, pp. 33-35]

As best I can find, here is what the humanists are referring to:

Free Atheist's Answers Book

Thus was developed a sacred science of creation... Like all else in the Middle Ages, this sacred science was developed purely by theological methods. Neglecting the wonders which the dissection of the commonest animals would have afforded them, these naturalists attempted to throw light into Nature by ingenious use of scriptural texts, by research among the lives of the saints, and by the plentiful application of metaphysics. Hence even such strong men as St. Isidore of Seville treasured up accounts of the unicorn and dragons mentioned in the Scriptures. - Andrew White, History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, from chapter 2 (Kindle location 1108 & 1115)

That really doesn't say much. And I haven't bothered to do much research St. Isidore of Seville. I don't know what "White" means by "treasured up," but, I assume means to have fond memories of something. And it seems White assumes these are mythological animals... but that may not be so. What if they are real, but are not the animals we picture?

However, the KJV Bible does mention dragons, unicorns, and cockatrices. I particularly like dragons, and even own some real fossil "dragon" footprints. The word quot;dragon" (or the plural: dragons) is used 35 times in the Bible. Do you know what scripture is talking about when it uses the word "dragon?"

Real, Living Dragons In Scripture

In some cases, such as in Revelation, it is referring to that dragon Satan. In that case it is figurative language describing the power and destructive nature of Satan. When used this way the Greek word translated as "dragon" is Strong's 1404 -- drakon -- and it means a large serpent with a keen sense of sight.

Outside of Revelation, "dragon" is only used in the Old Testament and it translates the Hebrew word "tanniym," Strong's 8577, and it describes real, living creatures. For example:

And the wild asses did stand in the high places, they snuffed up the wind like dragons [ jackals]; their eyes did fail, because there was no grass. - Jeremiah 14:6 KJV

Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon [serpent] shalt thou trample under feet. - Psalm 91:13 KJV

The NASB and the ESV translation replace the word "dragon" with "serpent." However, the definition of "tanniyum" is "a land or sea monster. This is not a King Kong or Godzilla type of monster. The meaning is that of a "monster" in the sense of being strong and vicious. A jackal fits within the Hebrew definition of "monster." But, scripture is not talking about jackals.

What type of animal does "dragon" refer to? There is a certain animal, created by God on day six of creation, that was not given its current name until 1841. The KJV was originally translated in 1611, with the last update in 1769, well before the current name for this animal came into use.

What animal is that? Dinosaurs. The animal that was called a dinosaur in 1611, is now called a dinosaur. So, yes, dragons are real... although they are extinct.

I assume that you are thinking... "The last of the dinosaurs died 65 million years ago. It's impossible, people and dinosaurs didn't live together." Well... that's a "fact" only on the basis of propaganda and indoctrination. If you look at the actual scientific evidence, it strongly shows that dinosaurs went extinct recently... maybe in the last 500 to 1000 years.

To present all the evidence would take another web site. But, I made a video on this topic in 2010 called: Men and Dinosaurs. It's available on YouTube. It is out-of-date only in the respect that A LOT MORE evidence is now available, such as red blood cells and soft tissue being found in numerous dinosaur bones. Neither of these could survive for millions of years.

What About Unicorns?

YES, the KJV talks about unicorns:

His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns [wild ox]: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: - Deuteronomy 33:17

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

Possible Unicorn

In these two verses we see that the NASB and ESV replace the word "unicorn" with "wild ox." The Hebrew word used here is "rame," Strong's 7214. Strong's shows the definition as "wild bull, from conspicousness" but that it is only translated as "unicorn" in the KJV.

So is the unicorn a real animal? Yes. In Job 39 the Bible lists the unicorn as a part of other real animals Job was familiar with. It would not make sense to include an imaginary animal in a list of real animals.

We picture a unicorn as being like the mythical horse with a single horn. But, the Bible does not tell us much about what a unicorn looks like. Some say that it might be elasmotherium (pictured above). This is an extinct giant rhinoceros whose fossils show that it had a single, very large horn. Scripture indicates unicorns were strong, solid animals, and this certainly was a strong animal.

When it comes to unicorns... or maybe we could eliminate some confusion by using the Hebrew word "rames." Remember, "unicorn" is the English word translators chose to use. It's use does not mean the Bible is talking about a My Little Pony type of unicorn.

What Is A Cockatrice?

Good question. Cockatrices are not mentioned in White's book, so there's no help there. We do know a little about them. For example, they lived in dens, and were probably very dangerous..

And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. - Isaiah 11:8

We know they were a type of snake.

For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the Lord. - Jeremiah 8:17

And we know they laid eggs, like a snake does.

They hatch cockatrice' eggs, and weave the spider's web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper. - Isaiah 59:5

The NASB and ESV identify a cockatrice as a type of snake called an adder.

At the time the KJV was translated a cockatrice was a mythical beast with the ability to kill people by looking at them, touching them, or breathing on them. It looked like a small, winged mythological dragon. Does that mean the Bible is talking about a mythological creature? No, of course not. It just means that is the term the KJV translators assigned to the Hebrew word "tsepha" -- Strong's 6848 -- which means "trusting out tongue -- hissing."

It sounds to me like the NASB and ESV got it right. If this is not an adder, it is some other type of very poisonous snake. Why the 1611 KJV translators used "cockatrice" is something we'll never know, but their human translation does not mean the Bible was talking about a mythological creature.

Conclusion: The Bible does not identify mythological creatures as being real. The dragon (dinosaur), unicorn (maybe an elasmotherium), and the cockatrice (adder) were all real animals, and the KJV translators had their unknown reasons for selecting these English language names for these real animals.

What's next? The Bible is also incorrect in saying the bat is a bird (Leviticus 11:13,19), the hare and rock badger chew the cud (Leviticus 11:5-6), and the mustard seed “is the smallest of all seeds” (Matthew 13:32).

Finally, it’s inconsistent with science – and ludicrous – to believe that God confounded the language of humans because he was afraid they would build a tower high enough to reach heaven (Genesis 11:1-9).

It looks like we'll be talking about bats and birds next... and what does a hare chew? Answers to these and other questions coming up on our next page. Click here....