SATYRS, DRAGONS AND UNICORNS
There are many atheistic, Islamic and Christian sites that criticize the King James Bible and its use of such terms as satyrs, dragons and unicorns as being mythological creatures and therefore erroneous translations.
I find it of great significance that the only Bible these sites seem to pick on and criticize is the King James Bible. Modern Bible critics don’t believe any Bible version or specific Hebrew or Greek text is the infallible words of God, and they don’t defend their NASB, NIV, RSV, ESV, or NKJV as being totally accurate or inspired. The only Bible believed by multiplied thousands if not millions of Christians today to be the inerrant word of God is the King James Holy Bible, and this is why only the true Holy Bible is attacked.
John Ankerberg is such a Bible critic who says: “All translations are neither 100% perfect nor equally competent. Only the prophets and apostles in their original autographs were inerrant.”
Of course, Mr. Ankerberg has never seen the originals; never once did the originals form an entire Book called The Bible, and he has no absolute standard by which he compares and judges the King James Bible, but these are minor considerations to be ignored by men like Mr. Ankerberg. He wants you to think he knows what God really said and that it is not what is found in the King James Bible. Mr. Ankerberg continues: “Finally, mythical animals, such as the unicorn, the satyr, the dragon, and the cockatrice represent translations acceptable to men in 1611, but today these translations have either been corrected or it is admitted the exact meaning is unknown.”
Mr. Ankerberg has every right to his own opinion regarding this matter, but as we shall see, a whole lot of other “scholars” do not share Mr. Ankerberg’s particular views on this subject.
The King James Bible is not at all alone in translating the Hebrew word as unicorn. In fact the word unicorn is found in Wycliffs translation, Tyndale (he translated part of the Old Testament before he was killed), Coverdale¹s Bible, Taverner¹s Bible, the Great Bible, the Bishops Bible, the Geneva Bible, the so called Greek Septuagint version, Lamsa’s translation of the Syriac Peshitta, the Italian Diodati as well as the Spanish of 1602, all of which preceeded the King James Bible. Today, other more modern versions that contain the word unicorn are the Spanish Reina Valera of 1909, the Spanish Las Sagradas Escrituras 1999 edition, the Catholic Douay version of 1950, Darby¹s translation, the 21st Century KJB, the Third Millenium Bible, Daniel Webster¹s 1833 translation of the Bible, and in the 1936 edition of the Massoretic Scriptures put out by the Hebrew Publishing Company of New York.
In this particular article I will not be dealing with the unicorn issue, but please see my article about them at:
The word translated as satyr is the Hebrew word sa’ir #8163. It has several meanings, including “hairy” – “Esau my brother is a HAIRY man” Genesis 27:11; “goat” – “lay his hand upon the head of the GOAT” Leviticus 4:24; “devils” – “they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto DEVILS” Leviticus 17:7; “satyrs” – “and SATYRS shall dance there” Isaiah 13:21, and “rough” – “the ROUGH goat is the king of Greecia” Daniel 8:21.
The word satyrs is found twice in the King James Bible. In Scripture, the satyr seems to be a hairy, goat-like devil or demon, and is portrayed as a real spiritual entity, and not as a mythological creature.
Isaiah 13:21 “But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and SATYRS shall dance there.”
Isaiah 34:14 “The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the SATYR shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest.”
Not only does the King James Bible use the word satyr in the Isaiah passages but so also do the following Bible versions. The Geneva Bible 1599, Webster’s 1833 translation, the Revised Standard Version 1952, the Jewish Publication Society 1917 translation, the Hebrew Publishing Company of New York version of 1936, the Jerusalem Bible 1968, the New American Bible 1970, the New Jerusalem Bible 1985, Lamsa’s 1936 translation of the Syriac Peshitta, the Greek Septuagint, the KJV 21st Century version, and the Third Millenium Bible.
The Greek Septuagint (LXX) – Regardless of when you think this Greek translation of the Old Testament was made or by whom, this version is chock-full of satyrs, devils, dragons, and unicorns. The word unicorns is found in Numberbs 23:22; Deuteronomy 33:17; Job 39:9; Psalms 22:21; 29:6; 78:69, and 92:10.
The satyrs are mentioned four times in the Greek Septuagint version. In Isaiah 13:22; 34:11 and 34:14 we read: “satyrs shall dwell in it…devils shall dance there and satyrs dwell there…and devils shall meet with satyrs…there shall satyrs rest.”
Revised Standard Version 1952
Leviticus 17:7 “So they shall no more slay their sacrifices for SATYRS, after whom they play the harlot. This shall be a statute for ever to them throughout their generations.”
Not only does the RSV translate this word as Satyrs in Leviticus 17:7, but so also do the 1917 Jewish Publication Society translation, Moffatt’s New Translation 1922, An American Translation by Smith and Goodspeed 1931, the New American Bible 1970, Jerusalem Bible 1966, and the New Jerusalem Bible 1985.
2 Chronicles 11:15 “and he appointed his own priests for the high places, and for the SATYRS, and for the calves which he had made.”
Isaiah 13:21 “But wild beasts will lie down there, and its houses will be full of howling creatures; there ostriches will dwell, and there SATYRS will dance.”
What about a modern “evangelical” version? Well, surprise! Let’s take a look at the New American Standard Version 1972-1995 Update.
2 Chronicles 11:15 “He set up priests of his own for the high places, for the SATYRS and for the calves which he had made.”
Smith’s Bible Dictionary: Satyr: Isaiah 13:21; 34:14. The Hebrew word signifies “hairy” or “rough,” and is frequently applied to “he-goats.” In the passages cited it probably refers to demons of woods and desert places. Comp. Leviticus 17:7; 2 Chronicles 11:15.
Even among the various other modern versions there is little agreement on how to translate this term. What we see in the various versions is a wide variety of translations that include the following: “shaggy creatures (Rotherham), goats, goat-demons (NRSV), goad idols (ESV), demoniacs, hairy ones (Darby), demons (New English Bible 1970), wild goats, and evil spirits (Bible in Basic English 1970).
It is really silly of those who criticize the King James Bible for using the word dragon. Don’t these people ever look at their own bible versions first before they try to criticize the KJB? It seems they just find these goofy arguments on some anti-KJV site and post them as though they had proven some undeniable error in the Holy Bible.
Here are just a few verses from the most popular modern versions that show the use of the word DRAGON.
NASB 1995, ESV 2001
Isaiah 27:1 “In that day the LORD will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, With His fierce and great and mighty sword, Even Leviathan the twisted serpent; And He will kill the DRAGON who lives in the sea.”
Isaiah 51:9 “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; Awake as in the days of old, the generations of long ago. Was it not You who cut Rahab in pieces, Who pierced the DRAGON?”
Revelation 12:3-4 “And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red DRAGON having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the DRAGON stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.”
Of course, some of the modern bible versions can’t seem to get their act together and agree with each other. Here is a good example. Nehemiah 2:13:
KJB: And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the DRAGON well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire.
NASB, ESV: So I went out at night by the Valley Gate in the direction of the DRAGON’S Well and on to the Refuse Gate, inspecting the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were consumed by fire.
Other versions that read “DRAGON well” are: Wycliffe 1395, Coverdale 1535, the Bishop’s Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1599, Webster’s 1833 translation, both the 1917, and 1936 Jewish translations, Lamsa’s 1936 translation of the Syriac Peshitta, the Spanish Reina Valera 1602 and 1960, Douay version 1950, New American Bible 1970, Bible in Basic English 1970, NRSV 1989, New Jerusalem Bible 1985, Young’s, Revised Version 1881, the Message, KJV 21st Century, Third Millenium Bible, and the Contemporary English Version.
BUT, some like the NKJV and NIV don’t agree with the others nor with each other!
NKJV: And I went out by night through the Valley Gate to the SERPENT Well and the Refuse Gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were burned with fire.
Also reading SNAKE well are Rotherham’s 1902 Emphatic bible, and God’s Word Translation
NIV: By night I went out through the Valley Gate towards the JACKAL Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire.
Also reading JACKAL are the RSV, Living Bible, World English Bible, and the ASV.1901.
If the King James Bible critics don’t care for these “mythological creatures”, as they call them, then what will they do with these animals found in their modern versions?
Isaiah 34:14 “The desert creatures will meet with the wolves, The hairy goat also will cry to its kind; Yes, the NIGHT MONSTER will settle there And will find herself a resting place.”
Matthew 12:40 “for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
MANY HEADED MONSTERS
NIV, (ESV, NASB, NKJV) – Psalm 74:13-14 “It was you who split open the sea by your power; you broke THE HEADS OF THE MONSTER in the waters. It was you who crushed the HEADS OF Leviathan…”
NIV Job 7:12 “Am I the sea, or the MONSTER OF THE DEEP, that you put me under guard?” The NIV has the word “monster” six times, and one of these is a many headed monster!
Ezekiel 29:3 “Speak, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I am against you, O Pharaoh king of Egypt, O GREAT MONSTER who lies in the midst of his rivers, Who has said, ‘My River is my own; I have made it for myself.’
Ezekiel 32:2 “Son of man, take up a lamentation for Pharaoh king of Egypt, and say to him: ‘You are like a young lion among the nations, And you are like a MONSTER IN THE SEAS, Bursting forth in your rivers, Troubling the waters with your feet, And fouling their rivers.”
So, regarding the correctness of the translation of SATYR, Mr. Ankerberg can think what he wants, but there are a lot of Bible scholars who differ with his opinion. Again, the Bible versions that sometimes translate this Hebrew word as SATYR include both Jewish translations of 1917 and 1936, the Geneva Bible, Moffatt’s New Translation 1922, An American Translation by Smith and Goodspeed 1931, the New American Bible 1970, Jerusalem Bible 1966, and the New Jerusalem Bible 1985, the Revised Standard Version 1952, Webster’s 1833, the KJV 21st Century, the Third Millenium Bible, and the NASB – New American Standard 1995 Update version. And there are a whole lot of Bible versions that speak of unicorns, dragons and monsters.
Mr. Ankerberg may not have a perfect Bible, but I and a lot of other Christians believe we do. We’ll stick to the King James Holy Bible and accept no inferior substitues, thank you very much.