Provenance of riddle based on KJV Bible?

We’ve all seen it:

Anyway, does anyone know if this is truly an old poetic riddle, or of more recent vintage, and the author just claimed it was old?

(For those who haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil the answer, but I will say that the “true answer” does not actually exist in the KJV, although it might in more modern versions. And, depending upon what you’re counting, it might actually appear five times instead of four.)

But I was just curious if this is truly an old-timey riddle.

The answer doesn’t occur in the KJV? What am I missing? By my count, it occurs at least twice (Job 7:12 and Ezekiel 32:2). It arguably occurs twice more, as part of a six-letter plural in Genesis 1:21 and as part of a six-letter possessive in Matthew 12:40. There are two more six-letter plurals in the Apocrypha: Ecclesiasticus 43:25 and Prayer of Azariah 1:57.

You might argue that the answer usually given is wrong because the line “He placed a living soul in me” doesn’t fit the answer. That wasn’t a [5-letter word], it was a [four-letter word]. (Why do I feel like I just delivered a punchline?)

The creature referred to by the riddle might be mentioned in the Bible a few times, but different names are used for it in different places, and it’s not clear that they all referred to the same creature. The uses in Job, for instance, are usually thought to refer to a crocodile or hippopotamus, not to the five-letter beastie that the riddle wants.

Well, Chronos, maybe, but in the English KJV, it’s translated as a [five-letter word]. It might be a bad translation, but it fits the frame of the riddle, which only refers to the KJV. And Biblophage, while it’s true that originally, it’s a [four-letter word], if you look at one of the occasions where the word is used, it’s by Jesus, referring to the [four-letter word] as a [five-letter word]. Besides, everybody thinks it’s a [five-letter word] anyway.

You guys are just doing this to mess with me, right?

In Job, the word “behemoth” is used to describe a hippopotamus, and “leviathan” is used to describe the Nile crocodile.

I don’t think either of those words refers to the creature who (I think) is the answer to this riddle.

i’m [four-letter word] lost.

I think you’re all on the wrong track. Studying the riddle, I believe the answer is not an actual creature but an emotion or feeling… the answer is something like ‘love’ (although not love of course as it has only four letters)…

I can see where the specific animal alluded to by bibliophage fits SOME of the clues, but not all of them.

(don’t follow any of the links in this post, if you don’t want to spoil the riddle)

The critter I’m thinking of fits all of the clues exactly, if one allows for the KJV translation. First animal mentioned as being created, no hands, feet, or legs, a true living being, named by Adam (but then, that doesn’t say much), seldom appearing on Earth, at one point in the Bible God put a soul in one, travels from pole to pole (not quite accurate, but close enough, especially to 19th century knowledge), light produced from dead ones. All the rhetoric about “I can’t understand the Bible, I don’t have free will, etc.” are just because it’s a “mere” animal, not a human. On actually looking it up, by the way, bibliophage is right: The usage in Job does refer to this particular creature. I was thinking of a different passage.

Meanwhile, we’ve all missed the point of the OP, which was to ask whether the riddle is really as old as is claimed on that page, i.e., written in 1890. I don’t know any of the history of it, but some of the references would be more familiar to a person of that era than now. No reason to believe that it isn’t genuinely old.

It had been a long time since I had come across this riddle, and I misremembered what I had found several years ago. Yep, the actual answer is found (in singular and plural forms) exactly four times in the KJV. I was getting that confused with the other terms already mentioned. Hey, memory can be a funny thing.

But the original question still remains: Is this truly an ancient (19th century) riddle, or more recent, just claiming to be that old?