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)

Another word that confuses Ankerberg, Weldon and White is cockatrice. In The Facts on the King James Only Debate the statement is made that cockatrice was an error. Since these men do not know what a cockatrice is, and they do not know what type of snake the word tsephia referred to, I’d like to know exactly how they came to determine that the KJV is wrong here. It is not a word that is used much today. I myself had to look it up when I wanted to know details about it. I did, however, assume that it was a poisonous snake without the aid of a dictionary. I can imagine how difficult this would be for someone like Ankerberg who either does not own any dictionaries, or at least does not bother to open any.

There is not much that needs to be said about the word cockatrice. It refers to a venomous snake. There are a number of theories about what type of snake this is, but all that we need to know about it is that it is deadly. Tristram speculated on what type of snake a tzephia could be. He suggests the Yellow Viper (daboia xanthina), which is the largest viper found in the region in modern times, but there is no way to be certain. [Tristram, p. 275). Ankerberg states that the cockatrice is a mythical animal, but this same statement may be applied to the Old Testament itself. Do the references in Isaiah 14 and 59 not sound like a fabulous creature?

Isaiah 14:29 “Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.”

Isaiah 59:5 “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.”

If these verses are intended as metaphors, why would the KJV translators have been expected to translate it otherwise. If the cockatrice is an actual type of serpent that was given fabulous descriptions, it fits these passages even better.

There existed a myth that the cockatrice would hatch from chicken eggs. It is hard to say where such an idea would have come from, but it does not negate the existence of venomous snakes called cockatrices. In southern Ohio it is a common myth that black snakes become venomous by mating with rattlesnakes. I was bitten by one when I was 15 when I failed to get a good grip on its neck when I grabbed it. I tried in vain to keep visiting neighbors from running it over and rushing me to the hospital. I knew very well that blacksnakes ate rattlesnakes, but the ignorant locals insisted on embarrassing me by rushing me to the hospital with the carcass of the poor innocent snake. I have heard the same nonsense about blacksnakes in other parts of Ohio too. It is a myth, but that does not make blacksnakes a mythical snake. They do exist. Cottonmouths are real snakes, even though virtually every water snake in North America is mistakenly called one, even in areas where they do not live. I’ve seen plenty of cottonmouths in Louisiana; they are easy to identify. I’ve never seen one in Ohio in spite of having alleged cottonmouths pointed out to me on many occasions.

The myth of hoop snakes was very common in early America, and still survives today. There are no snakes that hold their tails and roll after victims, but it is likely that the hoop snake was a fabrication based on a real snake type. It has been suggested that this myth may have been derived from the mud snake’s habit of sleeping in hooplike coils.

Similarly the milk snake, a harmless and common type of North American snake, got its name due to its reputation for getting milk from the teats of cows. This may have come into being due to the milk snakes habit of hanging out in barns. Again, its mythological description does not discount the existence of milk snakes. Cobras are thought by some to be entranced by music (if you can call the screech of a punjee music), even though snakes are deaf. Cobras still exist.

Nowhere in the King James Bible is there a reference to a snake that is born from a chicken egg. There is no reason to assume that this poisonous snake is a mythological creature as described in English dictionaries. What we have is a description of a type of venomous snake that we cannot identify in either language. We don’t need to know anything more about it, and nothing is added by the modern versions.

Ankerberg, John and John Weldon. The Facts on the King James Bible Debate: How Reliable are Today’s Bible Versions. The Anker Series. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest house Publishers, 1996.

Tristram, H.B. The Natural History of the Bible. Gorgias Press, 2002 ed.

John Hinton, Ph.D.
Bible Restoration Ministry
A ministry seeking the translating and reprinting of KJV equivalent
Bibles in all the languages of the world.