Notice that the Greek word used here, monokerotos, literally means mono (one) and kerotos (horn). So it could be translated as ‘singlehorn.’ In the past, some Bible translators fancifully envisioned as a horse with a single horn between its eyes, and called this a unicorn.
However, the unicorns that we see in artwork today are a medieval invention. Back then, Europeans didn’t know any animals that only have one horn. They had only seen horns on cattle, like cows, sheep, and goats – and they always have two.
So when some old English Bibles use the word ‘unicorn,’ it’s just because medieval translators had never seen a one-horned rhino. Not knowing what to do, they created a new English word that means ‘single horned,’ unicorn.
However, according to the World Book Dictionary:
The Greek word monokerotos (as found in the Septuagint) is just a mistranslation of the Hebrew word re’em, which refers to ‘a two-horned animal, possibly a wild ox or aurochs [an extinct species of wild cattle].’
So is the Greek Septuagint in error? Well, maybe not. Half of all rhino species have two horns. It could easily be that the Greek-speaking Jews who translated the Greek Septuagint were more familiar with the single-horned variety, and knew the species by that name. So when translating, they referred to the animal by its more well-known one-horned name, rather than the older two-horned name.
This discrepancy between the Hebrew (two-horned) name and the Greek (one-horned) name, may lend support to rhinoceros being correct. Why? Well, cattle are not sometimes one-horned and sometime two-horned. Indeed, the only big strong animals that do vary in this way, are rhinos!
So, this Bible translates monokerotos as rhinoceros. The brief description of it in Job could easily fit its physical characteristics as being a large, uncontrollable, strong animal. See a video of rhinos showing their strength.
Were rhinos known in the Middle East?
Yes. While rhinos are not found in the Middle East today, they were in ancient times. Back then, rhinos were spread much further, even into Europe. Cave paintings in France (presumably from after the Great Downpour of Noah’s day) depict two-horned rhinos. Meanwhile in Italy, mosaics in a Roman Villa show a one-horned species.
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