“The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;” (Song of Solomon 2:12)

My last article was on the topic of foolish attacks against God’s word that were based upon the failure of pseudo-scholars and blathering apostates to use an English dictionary to explain verses that they fail to understand. I recently learned of an amazingly foolish one by James R. White. This is particularly telling because, as lame and incompetent as he is, White is considered to be the cream of the crop among King James Bible critics. This is like being the cream of a crop of tares, but, in any case, if he is their best, they should hide their heads in shame, because, judging from his own words, their top man is an idiot.

On page 235 or White’s book, The King James Only Controversy, he irreverently and arrogantly ridicules the King James Bible for its reference to turtles in the Song of Solomon: “Turtles are not known for their voices, and how these would be connected with flowers and the singing of birds is unknown. Of course, the passage is not referring to turtles at all, but to the turtledove, as the modern translations recognize.” This may very well be the most stupid statement that I have yet to encounter in a Westcott-Hort only attack against God’s word, and it amazes even me. Why is it that this allegedly educated “scholar” was unable to figure out that turtle refers to a turtledove rather than a tortoise or shelled-reptile? Out of context with the rest of the occurrences of the same word, it might be understandable for a child or an uneducated and naive adult to be confused by this verse, but White is not a child, he should know to look at context, and he should own a dictionary. In spite of this sound evidence to a lack of a high intelligence, he claims to be smarter than the more than 50 great scholars who were behind the King James Bible, the millions of Christians throughout history who have been guided by it, and Gail Riplinger whom he maligns in the silliest and most deceitful manner. I know Dr. Riplinger, and believe me, although she is far too humble to ever say so, comparing her intellect to that of James R. White is like comparing the intellect of a rocket scientist to that of Peewee Herman.

Turtles were mentioned several times in the works of Shakespeare. Paulina in Winter’s Tale refers to herself as a turtle:

“There’s time enough for that;
Lest they desire upon this push to trouble
Your joys with like relation. Go together,
You precious winners all; your exultation
Partake to every one. I, an old turtle,
Will wing me to some wither’d bough and there
My mate, that’s never to be found again,
Lament till I am lost.”

Perhaps if White professed to be a scholar of the English language, instead of a professed biblical scholar, he would ridicule Shakespeare for writing about flying turtles.

He might also have been inclined to ridicule Shakespeare for the words of Troilus who in Troilus and Cressida uses the metaphor of flight in reference to turtles:

“Troilus “O virtuous fight,
When right with right wars who shall be most right!
True swains in love shall in the world to come
Approve their truths by Troilus: when their rhymes,
Full of protest, of oath and big compare,
Want similes, truth tired with iteration,
As true as steel, as plantage to the moon,
As sun to day, as turtle to her mate…”

Similarly he might declare Shakespeare to be stupid for the words of Petruccio and Katherine in Taming of the Shrew:

“Petruccio: O slow-winged turtle! shall a buzzard take thee?
Katherine: Ay, for a turtle, as he takes a buzzard.”

“Whoever heard of a winged turtle?” he could ask with an upraised nose and a snort. He might then take all of these passages and translate them into a modern dumbed-down English that he and his followers might be able to understand without having to rely on the use of too many brain cells.

Among the poems of Shakespeare that are separate from the 37 plays more or less attributed to him (38 for those who want to count The Two Noble Kinsmen) is The Phoenix and the Turtle. This poem was inspired by a much earlier poem of Chaucer’s known as the Parliament of Fowls (Parlement of Foules). The whole poem is quite clearly about birds. Both die in the poem and the final verses are: “To this urn let those repair That are either true or fair; For those dead birds, sigh a prayer.” I wonder if White would be able to figure out that turtle refers to a bird here. It seems obvious enough — about as hard to miss as an ostrich in a chicken house — but it is just as obvious in the Bible when examined in context. Seeing that White is unable to handle the KJV with its vocabulary of around 6,000 words, we can hardly expect him to be able to grasp the earlier English of Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter verse, complicated prose sentences, and more than 20,000 words. We can, however, expect this so-called scholar to be able to use a dictionary in his own language.

The very first definition in the Oxford Dictionary is that of a turtle-dove. The reptile meaning is the second definition. This is because the Oxford, like Webster’s and many other dictionaries, arranges its definitions not according to the most common modern meanings first, but according to chronological development, that is to say the earliest meaning is presented first and later meanings appear in order of their historical appearance in the English language. The word in question, as we can see by the Oxford’s lexicon below, goes back to Old English, several hundred years before Shakespeare and the King James Bible [].

“Turtle 1.
1. a. = TURTLE-DOVE 1. (Often mentioned as a type of conjugal affection and constancy: cf. 2.)

c1000 Ags. Ps. (Th.) lxxxiii[i]. 3 Him eac spedlice spearuwa hus begyte, and tidlice turtle nistla. c1000 Ags. Gosp. Luke ii. 24 Twa turtlan oe tween culfran briddas. c1200 Trin. Coll. Hom. 49 Turtle ne wile habbe no make bute on and after at non..e bitocninge at is imene turtlen and duues… Eier turtles and duues habbet sorinesse for song. c1200 ORMIN 7588 Tweenn cullfre briddess..Or..tween turrtless. 1382 WYCLIF Ps. lxxxiii. 4 [lxxxiv. 3] Forsothe the sparowe fonde to hym an hous; and the turtil a nest. c1400 tr. Secreta Secret., Gov. Lordsh. ciii. 104 Pytous as turtyll. 1483 CAXTON Gold. Leg. 373/2 Lyke a turtle that allone without make waylleth and wepeth. a1548 HALL Chron., Hen. VI 118 As louyng to him, as the Turtle to her make. 1611 SHAKES. Wint. T. IV. iv. 154 Your hand (my Perdita:) so Turtles paire That neuer meane to part. 1670 G. H. Hist. Cardinals I. III. 91 A Mass is sung, and his Holiness presented with two young Turtles. 1713 STEELE Guard. No. 22. 2 [She] kept a pair of turtles cooing in her chamber. 1802 MONTAGU Ornith. Dict. s.v. Dove-turtle, The Turtle visits the southern parts of England in the spring. 1851 MAYHEW Lond. Labour (1861) III. 64 His no longer stocked with carriers,..jacobins,..turtles. 1860 C. ROSSETTI O. & N. Year Ditties iii, Turtle calleth turtle in Heaven’s May.”

The reptilian definition did not appear in English literature until about 1657 and at that time the spelling differentiated it from the dove. The spelling of the two words eventually merged, but both meanings continued to exist side by side until some time after the 1860’s, and initially the reptilian word was largely restricted to use by sailors.

Oxford’s definition for the second turtle noun is []:
“Turtle 2.
1. a. Any species of marine tortoise; also extended to various other tortoises. (Pl. turtles, collectively usually turtle.)

As to the varying application of the names tortoise and turtle, see the note to sense 1 of the former word. With defining words, applied to various species, as box-turtle (BOX n.2 24), DIAMOND-BACKED t., HAWK’S-BILL t., LAND t., LEATHER-t., loggerhead t. (LOGGERHEAD 6a), MUD t., PAINTED t., SEA-TURTLE2, SNAPPING-t., SOFT-SHELLED t., TRUNK-t. (see these words); alligator-turtle, the snapping-turtle, also called alligator tortoise (ALLIGATOR 4); bastard turtle, Thalassochelys kempi; chicken-turtle, Chrysemys reticulata, also called chicken-tortoise; greaved turtle, any species of the genus Podocnemis; green turtle, various species of Chelonia, having green shells, as C. midas of the W. Indies and C. virgata of the Pacific, both much esteemed as food; horned turtle, an extinct turtle of the genus Miolania, having projections at the back of the skull like the ‘horned toad’. 1657 North’s Plutarch, Add. Lives 90 He took a Ship~board..fourty Parrots, many Tortels, and many other Animals strange to our World. 1657 R. LIGON Barbadoes (1673) 4 The Loggerhead Turtle,..the Hawks bill Turtle… A third kind called the Green Turtle,..far excelling the other two, in wholesomness, and Rareness of taste. 1689 Relat. Sufferings H. Pitman 22 We walked along the sea shore to watch for tortoise or turtle. 1712 E. COOKE Voy. S. Sea 13 Sea Tortoises, or, as the Sea-men call them, Turtle. 1719 DE FOE Crusoe I. 101, June 17. I spent in cooking the Turtle; I found in her threescore Eggs. 1745 P. THOMAS Jrnl. Anson’s Voy. 105 Great Quantity of Tortoises, or, as the Seamen call them, Turtles. 1785 Jackson’s Oxford Jrnl. 16 July, Dressing a very fine lively Chicken 6/- per quart or 10/6 the Tureen. 1792 M. RIDDELL Voy. Madeira 63 Four species of turtle are found on the shores of this islandthe green-turtle, the hawk’s-bill,..the logger-head, and the land-tortoise.

1839-40 W. IRVING Wolfert’s R. v. (1855) 75 The island abounded with turtle, and great quantities of their eggs were to be found among the rocks. 1870 YEATS Nat. Hist. Comm. 114 Turtles abound in the enclosed seas of Central America.”

Turtle never referred to any reptile before mid-17th century sailors pronounced a word meaning tortoise (tortue) the same way that they pronounced the unrelated Latin-derived word for a turtledove (turtur). The former has less association with the word for turtle-dove than the mouse that is attached to my computer has to do with the mouse for which I recently set a trap (the latter was at least named due to a superficial resemblance to the rodent).

Throughout the King James Bible’s translation of Genesis, Leviticus, Numbers, and Luke, turtle is used in a word pair with pigeons. Leviticus 12:8 “And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for her, and she shall be clean.” Does Mr. White think that this is a reference to reptiles as an alternative to birds? These verses make it obvious that they are alternative birds for sacrifice. We know through another contextual piece of evidence
that this is not the shelled reptile. The tortoise is an unclean animal and would not be sacrificed.

Leviticus 11:29 “These also shall be unclean unto you among the creeping things that creep upon the earth; the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind,”

It should be noted that White’s precious Westcott-Hort perversions of Scripture, including the NIV, NASV, and NKJV, translate this word as a large lizard. It meant tortoise then and still does in Modern Hebrew. This error may have added to White’s confusion, but it is still obvious that reptiles of all kinds are not acceptable creatures for sacrifice.1

Anyone who actually studies the Bible for reasons other than to attack it, like Mr. White and the Westcott-Hort Only horde of fools that slither about the internet, will have already noted that this piece of contextual evidence is completely unnecessary because in several passages, including one in Luke the KJV translators specified turtledove. Leviticus 1:14

“And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the LORD be of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons.” This does not speak well for Mr. White’s intelligence or reading comprehension skills, but this is only par for the course for this attacker of Scripture and his scholarly superiors.

In Jeremiah 8:7 turtles are paired up with cranes. This might have given Mr. White another clue that could have helped him understand the Solomon verse better. Actually, none of this evidence should have been necessary, and what I have presented is overkill, to say the least. However, we are living in an age of great foolishness, absurdity, and insanity, and such overkill is useful for illustrating just how foolish, absurd, and insane the Bible critics have become. Logic and reason does not drive them, blind rebelliousness and apostasy does. New Age religion requires the destruction of God’s word and it cannot be done through a frontal attack, so it is done in increments through perverting and omitting verses, and Mr. White has chosen to pose as a champion of this cause.

Will Kinney lists a number of other Bible translations that use the word “turtle” in the Song of Solomon. These are: The Geneva Bible 1599, Webster’s 1833 translation, the Revised Version 1881, J.B. Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible 1902, Young’s literal translation, the 1950 Douay version. I might add that I looked up “turtle” in an Arabic dictionary and one of the words supplied was the word for turtledove. Besides showing that earlier Bible translators used the same word for turtledove, this shows that some later translators and lexicographers did not even consider the word to be obsolete or archaic, and did not find it challenging to their understanding.

Of course, there will be defenders of White who will claim that he really isn’t that foolish, but was just being flippant (which is completely contrary to being scholarly). This doesn’t look likely, but even if this were the case Ephesians has much to say about such flippancy. It defines it as foolishness. The following verses from Ephesians 5 are an appropriate ending to this essay.

“1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;
2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them.
8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:
9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”

1Some Hebrew dictionaries and Strong’s Concordance innacurately translate this word as “a
great lizard.” This is due to a confusion of the Arabic Dab with the Hebrew tsav. The former refers to a lizard while the latter term is used for both a covered wagon or cart, or covered litter, or for a turtle. Lizards do not have coverings like a sedan, while turtles, of course, do. Arabic can often be used to speculate about the meaning of words in other Semitic languages, but it also leads astray. Many related words have separated in meaning, and sometimes dramatically. Modern Israelis do know that the word means turtle or tortoise, as their dictionaries testify. It is puzzling why dictionaries like BDB are confused by it when modern speakers of the language are not. A further confusion shown by the apostate James Strong is reflected in the speculation that the word tsav is derived from a unattested verb meaning to establish, while the Arabic Dab is derived from a verb meaning theorized to mean to lie or crawl close to the ground, or one meaning to twist and bend, either of which would contradict its alleged cognate status with the Hebrew word.

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.