Leviticus 11:19

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and the stork, the heron after its kind, and the hoopoe, and the bat. (ASV)


Edit this section if you suspect error.

This is the end of a series of "laundry list" verses that begin at Lev. 11:13 with the words "And these ye shall have in abomination among the birds; ... " (KJV).

Needless to say, a bat is not a bird, however, for those of you unfamiliar with the name, a hoopoe is.

The basis of the prohibition against eating the animals listed in the laundry list appears to be the standard Mosaic prohibition against eating predators and/or scavengers as most of the "birds" listed are predators and those that are not predatory are scavengers.

This error is almost uniform across all translations:

RSV                            "And these you shall have in abomination
                                among the birds ..."

NRSV                           "These you shall regard as detestable
                                among the birds."

ASV                            "And these ye shall have in abomination
                                among the birds ..."

NIV                            "These are the birds you are to
                                detest and not eat because they are
                                detestable ..."

The Joseph Smith Translation   "And these are they which ye shall have
                                in abomination among the fowls ..."

World English Bible            "These you shall detest among the birds

Douay-Rheims Bible             "Of birds these are they which you must
                                not eat ..."

NAV                            "Of the birds, these you shall loathe
                                and, as loathsome,they shall not be eaten

In light of the near-universal use of the word "birds," or its synonym "fowls," this cannot realistically be chalked up to an error in translation. I believe this to be especially true in light of the translators' notes in the New Revised Standard Version which state that the translation was guided by the principle of "literal where possible, interpretive where necessary."

The Hebrew text from Torah reads as shown here

I do not read Hebrew, however, the website "Halachic Sources of Kashrus" translates this series of verses (11:13-19) as follows:

13. And these you shall hold in abomination from among the fowl; they shall not be eaten; they are an abomination; the nesher, the peres and the azniyah; 14. The da'ah and the ayah according to its species; 15. the orev according to its species; 16. the bas hayaanah, the tahmas, the shahaf and the netz according to its species; 17. the kos, the shalakh and the yanshuf; 18. The tinshemes, the kaas and the raham; 19. the hasidah, the anafah according to its species, the duchifas and the atelef.

According to My Hebrew Dictionary, the Hebrew word ???? (transliterated, atelef) means "bat."

It seems that only the New World Translation ("And these are what YOU will loathe among the flying creatures[.]") avoids this error of biology by translating the verses (13, especially) in a figurative, rather than literal) manner. This is in keeping with how the verses would read had they been translated from the Septuagint, which uses the word "????????" ("able to fly", or, "full fledged").

--ninewands 17:43, 22 Nov 2005 (CST)

Furthermore, the classification of bats among birds makes a contrast with the careful observation of domestic animals' extremities earlier in Leviticus 11, whether their hooves are split or not. So we can create a table comparing bats, small birds, and mice, which are similar in size and shape:

Features Bat Bird Mouse
Front limbs are wings? Yes Yes No
Skin extending backwards? Yes No No
Covered with? Hair Feathers Hair
External ears? Yes No Yes
Bare-skin nose? Yes No Yes
Teeth? Yes No Yes
Beak? No Yes No

So bats and mice are more like each other than either is like a bird, as determined by observations that the writers of the Bible could easily have made.


This is, indeed, an error by modern scientific sensibilities (attributable to the problem of translating Hebrew into English) ... though it is a perfectly understandable one. Modern biological science has one method of sorting animals into various classes, and we sort all creatures that have hair and mammary glands as "mammals," even if they fly. The Hebrews who wrote this text did things differently, and categorized bats as birds, based solely on flying. I do have to wonder how they would have categorized a penguin, but because penguins were not available to the Hebrews to eat, the law is silent on the eating of penguins.

But as far as "serious proof" of Biblical errancy ... this is nothing more than reading an ancient text without an understanding of the context (including what we would call "scientific knowledge") of the culture that produced the text.

--JustinEiler 17:21, 22 Nov 2005 (CST)

Yes, their word for bird included bats. Ours does not. Their classification system was different. This is not an error at all. --Austin


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