Revelation 4:6-8 – “Beasts” versus “living creatures”


King James Bible – ”and round about the throne, were four BEASTS full of eyes before and behind.” – Revelation 4:6


In Rick Norris’ book, The Unbound Scriptures, he says: “An additional example where the KJV does not present a distinction that exists in the Greek is the book of Revelation. In this example, the KJV is following all the other English Bibles which also did not indicate this distinction.”


Mr. Norris then goes on to quote several “experts” who criticize the King James Bible’s translation of this word, saying: “Concerning Revelation 4:6-8 in his commentary, John Walvoord observed: “The translation ‘beasts’ is QUITE INACCURATE and should be changed to ‘living ones’…Barnes’ Notes on the N.T. has this comment about the rendering ‘four beasts’: “This is A VERY UNHAPPY TRANSLATION, as the word beasts BY NO MEANS conveys a correct idea of the original word.”


John Rice noted: “The four beasts should be called “living creatures”.


Does Rick Norris himself believe that ANY Bible in ANY language is now or ever was the complete and inerrant words of God?  Of course not.  He couldn’t show you one if his life depended on it, and neither will any other King James Bible critic.  



If interested, See a Rebuttal to Rick Norris’s book, The Unbound Scriptures,

Call me at 661-619-6434 for this article


These Bible critics like James White, Rick Norris, Doug Kutilek, James Price, Dan Wallace, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur are their own independent authority when it comes to what each of them thinks should or should not be in “the Bible” they will never show you, and each of them disagrees with all the others. It’s Every Man For Himself Bible Versionism gone to seed.  These are the days in which we live.


So let’s look at this example a bit more closely to see if there is any merit to Mr. Norris’ criticism. One scholar says it should be “living ones” and the other says it should be “living creatures” and yet others tell us it should be “animals”. But apparently they all DO agree that the King James rendering of “beasts” is “totally inappropriate and by no means conveys the idea of the original word.”


Bibles that read like the King James Bible – 


As Mr. Norris correctly pointed out, all the previous English Bible versions translated this word as “beasts” including Wycliffe 1395, Tyndale 1525, Coverdale 1535, The Great Bible 1540, Matthew’s Bible 1549, the Bishops’ Bible 1568, and the Geneva Bible 1587. 




Also translating Revelation 4:6-9 as BEASTS are the following Bible translations – The Beza New Testament 1599, The Pickering N.T. 1840, Lamsa’s 1933 translation of the Syriac Peshitta, The Bible in Basic English 1961, God’s First Truth 1999, The Tomson New Testament 2002, The Revised Geneva Bible 2005, and The Hebrew Transliteration Bible 2010.


A few versions like the Jerusalem Bible, Goodspeed, and others translate the word as “animals”. 


In all fairness we ask, If rendering the word zoon (ζωον) as beasts “by no means conveys the correct idea of the original word”, then why does the NIV translate this exact same word as “beasts” in 2 Peter 2:12 “like BEASTS they too will perish.”


Why does the NKJV translate this same word as “beasts” in Hebrews 13:11 “the bodies of those BEASTS are burned outside the camp”; and in 2 Peter 2:12 “BEASTS made to be caught and destroyed”, and in Jude 10 – “what they know naturally, as brute BEASTS”? 


Maybe the NIV and the NKJV also “by no means convey the correct idea of the original word”.




If they are so concerned about subtle distinctions in the Greek, why then do the ESV the NIV translate two very different Greek words (ktisma and zoon) as “living creature” in the book of Revelation (Rev. 4:6 and 8:9) and the NKJV has the misfortune to translate Three different Greek words in the book of Revelation as “living creature”? (zoon, ktisma, and psukee) See Revelation 4:7; 8:9, and 16:3. 


Could we then not equally charge that a reader using the NIV, ESV, or the NKJV could become confused upon reading that a third of the “living creatures” died?


In the New Testament, the NIV uses three different Greek words and translates them as “creatures”, while the NASB has a whopping 7 different Greek words translated as “creatures” (therion, ktisis, zoon, herpeton, ktisma, enalios, and phusikos). Are the subtle distinctions likewise lost in the NIV, NASB?


Looking at Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon 1978 edition on page 274, under the word zoon it gives the following definitions of this Greek word: “a living being, animal, a brute, a BEAST.”


Divry’s Modern English-Greek and Greek-English Desk Dictionary 1974. On page 524 of this modern Greek dictionary it tells us that the Greek word Zoon (το ζωον) means: “animal, BEAST”.


See how funny some scholars are? Get ten of them in a room and you end up with twelve different opinions. There is nothing wrong with the King James Bible nor all the others Bible versions which likewise have translated this word as “beasts” in Revelation 4:6-8.  


The word “beast” simply means “an animal, either wild or domestic, as opposed to a man”, and the 4 beasts we see here are described as “like a lion, a calf, had the face of a man, and a flying eagle” and each has “six wings full of eyes before and behind.” They certainly are not men, but are beasts.


I have never confused the four beasts round about the throne who worshipped God with the many headed beast in Revelation 13:1 who rose up out of the sea speaking blasphemy and making war. But what could confuse some Bible students are the totally different readings found in Revelation 13 in the various bible versions out there today.


In the King James Bible, NKJV and several others we read in Revelation 13:1 – “And I STOOD upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the NAME of blasphemy.”


However the NIV reads: “And THE DRAGON STOOD on the shore of the sea. (Not “I” but the dragon) And I saw a beast coming out of the sea…and on each head a blasphemous NAME.”


The NASB read differently from 1960 through 1977. It said: “And HE stood on the sand of the seashore. AND I saw a beast coming up out of the sea…and on his head were blasphemous NAMES.”


Then in 1995 the NASB once again changed to now read: “And THE DRAGON stood on the sand of the seashore. THEN I saw a beast coming up out of the sea..and on his head were blasphemous NAMES.”


So is it “I” who stood on the sand of the sea, or “He” who stood on the sand of the sea, or “the dragon” who stood on the sand of the sea? Is it “the name” of blasphemy (singular) or “names” of blasphemy (plural)?


In Revelation 13:8 the KJB, NKJV, and the NIV tell us: “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him (the beast), whose names are not written in the book of life of the LAMB SLAIN FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.” 


But the NASB doesn’t teach that the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world, but reverses the Greek order of words and says: “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.”


Apparently these “subtle distinctions” are less important to some Bible experts than the difference between “beasts” and “living creatures”. Go figure.