According to evolutionary time scales, the dinosaurs lived hundreds of millions of years ago and died out about 65 million years ago. Holding to a literal interpretation of Genesis and accepting the record of the dinosaurs, however, would seem to be diametrically opposed. Therefore what are we to do with the dinosaurs if we also hold to a literal, six-day creation only several thousand years ago?
Dinosaurs Were Real
Some believers in the inerrancy of the Bible have simply dismissed the dinosaurs as having never existed almost as a knee-jerk-reaction to the controversy concerning the supposed missing links of human ancestry.[i] The collection of bones, however, is a completely different question from that of man’s supposed early ancestors, and hence their existence should not be in question.
The number of dinosaur bones that has been discovered is staggering. They have been found all over the world in large quantities, and sometimes entire skeletons have been found intact. There should be no doubt among young earth creationists that dinosaurs were real creatures that existed in great quantities in the past. The big question at hand is: when did they exist? The Bible-believing adherents of an old earth see the reality of dinosaurs as one more reason that evolutionary timescales must be true and must have taken place over millions of years. Indeed, we have been told so many times that dinosaurs died out around 65 millions years ago, that men and dinosaurs never coexisted, and that holding to a literal creation of six, 24-hour days of creation a few thousand years ago would seem to pose some problems. It is only a problem, however, until we realize that the Bible actually speaks of dinosaurs being created during the first six days and coexisting with men.
Where Are the Dinosaurs in the Bible?
So just where in the Bible are dinosaurs mentioned? The word dinosaur, per se, is never mentioned in the Bible. The word was not coined until 1841, twenty years after a British doctor, Dr. Mantell, discovered some teeth and bones in a quarry. They were so different from the bones and teeth of known lizards that they were eventually given a new name by another British scientist, Dr. Owen, who called them dinosaurs, meaning terrible lizards. Given that the name itself was not coined until the 1800’s, we would not expect to find it in the Bible as such. But that does not mean that the Bible doesn’t mention them by another name.
There are, in fact, dozens of verses that speak of dinosaurs sometimes as actual living physical creatures and sometimes as either physical or symbolic creatures.[ii] We will look at the three main words in Hebrew, תנינם tanninim, בהמות behemoth, and לויתן Leviathan, which designate dinosaurs of various types. Though there are other words such as Rahab and nahash, which some people suggest refer to dinosaurs, their designation as dinosaurs is speculative. Therefore, we will focus on the large number of strong examples that we already have to work with.
The first word, tanninim, is found in Genesis 1:21, the fifth day of creation: “So [iii] Thus, we don’t actually see the word dinosaur written in the text of an English Bible, but it is lying below the surface in the original language. Just how are we to understand this word though? Is this word referring to great whales as the KJV translates it here or as great sea creatures or great sea monsters as we see in other versions? Is it simply understood in a generic sense of a big creature or more specifically as a dinosaur-dragon-type creature?created great sea creatures [תנינם tanninim] and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” The word tanninim appears 27 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, 21 of which have been translated as dragon (or dragons) in the King James Version (KJV), three times as serpent (and serpents), once as monster, and twice as whale (and whales).
The Origin of the Word
The origin of the word is not absolutely certain. The most accepted Hebrew lexicon, Brown Driver Briggs, suggests the following meanings: 1) dragon, serpent, sea monster 1a) dragon or dinosaur 1b) sea or river monster 1c) serpent, venomous snake, though it suggests that tanninim may be related to a more primitive root of tan meaning to howl, and hence, by implication, jackal. This latter suggestion is questioned by many scholars due to linguistic considerations. The Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible states regarding the origin of this word:
AARTUN has revived the proposal […] that Tannin is derived from a geminate root TNN, “to smoke, ascension of smoke”, leading to the Ugaritic “the dragon, (sea) monster, snake (stretching out/moving forward like smoke).” (Van Der Toorn et al 1999: 834)
Three Root Letters
Semitic languages are fascinating in that (almost) every word consists of three root letters that serve as the foundation of the word. By adding prefixes, suffixes, and changing the vowels, the application (and implication) of the word changes, but the essential meaning remains the same. This idea can be seen in English, although it is still slightly different, in some words like save, savior, and salvation. These three words are all related with the common meaning of save, though they obviously have different roles.
In Hebrew and all Semitic languages, there are three principal letters which give a word its essential meaning. tanninim consists of the three-root letters tav, nun, nun or TNN. Just as there are Spanish, French, and Italian words that are practically the same (such as gato, chat, and gatto, respectively meaning cat), the same is true of Semitic languages where a word in one language can be almost identical to that in another language. Thus, to find that the root TNN appears with a similar meaning in an ancient language called Ugaritic, which was spoken around approximately 1400 B.C. in what is today Lebanon, greatly helps us narrow down the search for the meaning.
According to R. E. Whitaker, A Concordance of the Ugaritic Literature, the word appears eight times (Whitaker 1972: 619). Six of those are couched in mythological texts, and three of those are concerning tunnanu, the great sea monsters. J.C.L. Gibson translates a particular text as “In the sea are Arsh and the dragon” (Gibson 1977: 81). The Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible notes that the ideogram, which is a type of written picture, for tunnanu, is that of a snake (Van Der Toorn et al 1999: 835). Thus comparing the Hebrew word tanninim with the Ugaritic, we find that the word was indeed related to a creature, though associated with the Ugaritic gods, that was, nonetheless, a type of aquatic dragon which may have also breathed fire.
Dragons in the Septuagint
We should also consider the testimony of the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures done in approximately 270 B.C. by Alexandrian Jews. Therein we can gain an insight into an ancient understanding of the word. The Septuagint translates the word in Genesis 1:21 as κητη (kete) which means monster. However, the majority of the occurrences of the word tanninim are translated as δρaκων (drakon), which is the origin of the English word dragon. There are many references to dragons in Greek literature. They were snake-like monsters (though often with feet) that were guardians of important places; they were not merely whales. Hence, the Greek translation of the word points in the direction that this class of creatures that God created on the fifth day was indeed a dragon or, in modern language, a type of sea “dinosaur”[iv].
The next word is behemoth found in Job 40:15. Behemoth is the plural of the feminine noun behema, which simply means beast. It is curious to note here that behemoth, though plural, takes a singular and masculine verb (in Hebrew the number and gender of nouns and verbs must agree) thereby signifying not beasts, but a specific type of creature. Thus, the word behemoth here is not just a plural form, but a completely different creature or beast.
God’s Description of Behemoth
In this passage, God comes, per Job’s request, to testify that He is altogether above man’s understanding and challenges Job to consider His creations, “Look now at the behemoth, which I made along with you…” (Job 40:15) Notice how God declares that He made the behemoth along with Job. But even more importantly is the command “look now” – a clear statement that this creature was created at the same time and apparently lived contemporarily with Job, or he would not have had a clue what God was talking about and certainly would not have been able to “look” at what God was talking about.[v] God then lists many of the attributes of this creature that we will look at to get the best picture possible of what kind of animal this truly was.
Look now at the behemoth, which I made along with you;
He eats grass like an ox.
See now, his strength is in his hips,
And his power is in his stomach muscles.
He moves his tail like a cedar;
The sinews of his thighs are tightly knit.
His bones are like beams of bronze,
His ribs like bars of iron.
He is the first of the ways of God;
Only He who made him can bring near His sword.
Surely the mountains yield food for him,
And all the beasts of the field play there.
He lies under the lotus trees,
In a covert of reeds and marsh.
The lotus trees cover him with their shade;
The willows by the brook surround him.
Indeed the river may rage,
Yet he is not disturbed;
He is confident, though the Jordan gushes into his mouth,
Though he takes it in his eyes,
Or one pierces his nose with a snare. (Job 40:15-24, emphasis mine)
God says that “He eats grass like an ox.” To say that the creature is like an ox in the food it eats means that it is not an ox, but rather it is only similar in the way that they both eat grass. There have been three main explanations as to what known animal this could be: elephant, crocodile, or hippopotamus. Both elephants and hippos are known to eat grass, while crocodiles, on the other hand, eat only meat (frogs, insects, or larger animals), but never grass. We can safely conclude that this creature is not a crocodile just from its diet.
Elephant or Hippo?
Could it be either an elephant or a hippo? Thomas Aquinas, a Catholic theologian of the 13th century, suggested that behemoth is in fact an elephant (Jackson 2005). This animal could possibly be an elephant in that they both eat grass, but what about the other characteristics? Do they really fit those of an elephant? “See now, his strength is in his hips, And his power is in his stomach muscles” (Job 40:16). The strength of an elephant is in its trunk, shoulders, and head. Its hips and stomach, though not weak compared to ours, are certainly not its outstanding characteristics. God then continues describing the animal, “He moves his tail like a cedar…” (Job 40:17).
Just how big is a cedar tree? According to one source, a Lebanon cedar tree (assuming that is what Job would have
understood) typically grows to around 81 feet tall and 112 inches (9.33 ft) in diameter. The tail of an adult male elephant measures between seven to ten inches at the widest part! [vi] And just what would it be like to wag a tail that is like a cedar? Obviously, anything that got in its path would experience serious devastation. Getting in the path of an elephant’s tail might not smell great, but it probably would not do much harm. What can be said about the tail of an elephant is equally true of a hippopotamus – the tail is little more than a fly swatter!
It’s a Tail and Nothing Else
Some have tried to suggest that the Hebrew word זנב (zanav tail) should in fact be translated as the male genital instead. This theory is nothing more than an attempt to draw attention away from the true issue that in this text the tail of this creature does not fit that of any normal everyday kind of creature. Zanav is used eleven times in the Hebrew Bible including this passage in Job. Every occurrence outside of Job refers to a tail whether it be an animal’s literal tail or a figurative usage of what comes after and not before. Several of those times[vii] the word is further defined by the contrast with the head, leaving little doubt that a tail, and not a sexual organ, is being referred to.
Next God states what his bones are like. To take this passage literally means that we understand that the text suggests that the bones are like bronze and iron, although they are not made of those actual materials. Care must be given not to overlook those small but important words that allow us to interpret literally. Nevertheless, the picture is given that the bones of this creature were of immense strength implying that the creature itself was extremely big to need such strong bones. Although one could argue that elephants and hippos possess such strong bones, it would fit well in describing the strength of dinosaur bones, too. In fact, considering that “the weight of Brachiosaurus, the largest plant-eating dinosaur, is 50 metric tons” according to the Indian Institute of Astrophysics website, which is 49.2 English tons, its bones would have to be extremely strong. An adult, male, African elephant, the largest of all elephants, weighs in at 6.8 tons. While we should certainly not want it to step on our feet, it is much, much lighter than the heaviest of dinosaurs. The Brachiosaurus is seven times heavier than the elephant. The implications of such enormous size are summarized as follows:
Galileo was the first to address the problem of support faced by land animals in the early 1600s. He theorized about the relation of size to strength and structure. Consider two animals of different sizes that are geometrically similar. If the larger is twice as long as the smaller animal, it is also twice as wide and twice as high. The larger creature outweighs its smaller counterpart eight times. Although the volume is eight times larger, the strength of its legs increases only by a factor of four. Thus, eight times the weight would have to be carried by only four times the bone strength. If an animal becomes progressively bigger without changing its shape, it must eventually reach a size at which it is incapable of supporting itself. (Indian Institute of Astrophysics 2006)
While the above explanation does not consider the elephant and the Brachiosaurus specifically, the principle holds true that the bones of the dinosaur would have needed to be extremely strong to support such an enormous creature. Thus, the Bible’s description of the bones being like bronze and iron is in no way an exaggeration if the animal were indeed a large dinosaur such as the Brachiosaurus. In fact, it would seem that no other creature except such a giant would merit the description of having bones like bronze and iron.
After questioning Job about his knowledge of Behemoth, God then continues to challenge him regarding another creature, whose description has caused many to dismiss it as purely myth. The Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible states, “Obviously the author of Job 41 had access to some animal mythological literature relating to the Egyptian tradition” (Van Der Toorn et al 1999: 513). The author matter-of-factly states that the biblical writer, whom I believe to be Job, borrowed the tradition from another culture. The author of the dictionary has effectively declared that it was not God who spoke those words to Job, but rather some unknown author who was inspired by another culture.
A Dragon/Snake-Like Creature
A root similar to Leviathan is found in an Ugaritic text[viii] – litanu whose etymology is thought to be either “the twisting one (cf. Arabic lawiya) or the wreath-like, the circular (cf. Heb liwya), both possibilities pointing to an original concept of Leviathan as a snake-like being” (Van Der Toorn et al 1999: 511). Other than this connection, no other supporting evidence is given to substantiate the claim that Job, or whoever is believed to have written the biblical book of Job, borrowed the idea from others rather than being told divinely from God Himself. Most Ugaritic texts are from the 15th century B.C., although many believe that the book of Job is much older than that. Granted, the date of Job is controversial and not altogether certain. However, if the early date of Job is accepted, then it is at least possible that the account in Job is the original, while the Ugaritic account is merely a distortion of it. Although we may not be able to prove conclusively which account is older, we can look at the Bible’s own description of this amazing creature.
God’s Description of Leviathan
We are told in Isaiah 27:1 that at that point God will “punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan that twisted serpent; and He will slay the reptile that is in the sea.” Due to the end times nature of this passage, it cannot be ruled out that this may be metaphorical language referring towho is called the dragon of old in Revelation 12:9. On the other hand, we are told specifically that the creature lives in the sea and is some type of twisting serpent-like creature as we saw in the Ugaritic text.
Psalms 104:26, 27 provides an important naturalistic description of Leviathan indicating that it was a real, historical creature as far as the Bible is concerned. “There the ships sail about; There is that Leviathan which You have made to play there. These all wait for You, that You may give them their food in due season.” The fact that Leviathan lives where the ships sail and is listed with the innumerable teeming things which live in the sea (Psalms 104:25) strongly demonstrates that, whatever it was, it was one of the many creatures that God made. The detailed description of Leviathan is given in Job 41 where God challenges Job if he is able to contend with Leviathan, with the implication that God alone is able.
Can you draw out Leviathan with a hook,
Or snare his tongue with a line which you lower?
Can you put a reed through his nose,
Or pierce his jaw with a hook?
Will he make many supplications to you?
Will he speak softly to you?
Will he make a covenant with you?
Will you take him as a servant forever?
Will you play with him as with a bird,
Or will you leash him for your maidens?
Will your companions make a banquet of him?
Will they apportion him among the merchants? (Job 41:1-6)
Not an Ordinary Creature!
God is stating in unambiguous terms that this creature is no ordinary creature. He is not some animal that one can tame like the other animals and is not one that is taken as food for a banquet (verse 6). God then goes on to describe how this creature is practically invincible because no spear can pierce him and his entire body is covered with a type of armor impenetrable to man’s weapons.
Can you fill his skin with harpoons,
Or his head with fishing spears?
Lay your hand on him;
Remember the battle– never do it again!
Indeed, any hope of overcoming him is false;
Shall one not be overwhelmed at the sight of him?
No one is so fierce that he would dare stir him up.
The description that God gives of this creature is remarkable. There is no known animal on the entire earth that was so fierce that man could not conquer it. God declares that because no one would dare stir Leviathan up that there was no one who was able to stand against God. No elephant, hippopotamus, crocodile, or any other creature is invincible to man. Although many men may die fighting, given enough spears and men, every creature would eventually fall at the hands of men — with the exception of one. This creature can be conquered by God alone. God continues describing Leviathan.
“I will not conceal his limbs,
His mighty power, or his graceful proportions.
Who can remove his outer coat?
Who can approach him with a double bridle?
Who can open the doors of his face,
With his terrible teeth all around?
His rows of scales are his pride,
Shut up tightly as with a seal;
One is so near another
That no air can come between them;
They are joined one to another,
They stick together and cannot be parted. (Job 41:12-17)
Some remarkable traits of Leviathan are his terrible teeth, true of the crocodile but certainly not of the elephant or hippopotamus. The teeth is where the similarity to the crocodile ends, however, for Leviathan has an outer coat which none can remove and has rows of scales which no air can come between nor can they be parted. It is true that crocodiles have a hard and scaly backside, but their belly is soft and vulnerable. In verse 30 we are told that his undersides are sharp and that he leaves marks in the mire – characteristics hardly true of the crocodile.
What is truly shocking about Leviathan is that God states that he breathed fire.
His sneezings flash forth light,
And his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.
Out of his mouth go burning lights;
Sparks of fire shoot out.
Smoke goes out of his nostrils,
As from a boiling pot and burning rushes.
His breath kindles coals,
And a flame goes out of his mouth. (Job 41:18-21)
I admit that when I first contemplated the thought of a fire-breathing dragon as actually being real, I was skeptical. But then I began to consider it and eventually came to the conclusion: why not? After all, Fireflies (One of God’s Amazing Creatures) are tiny creatures that produce something inside of them that produces light as do numerous bioluminescent marine animals including the electric eel. Certainly an amazing creature is the bombardier beetle, which, when being attacked by a predator, can release chemicals in its rear to provide about 70 quick explosions which are fatal to other insects. Thus, if a little beetle is able to create an explosion from its tiny body, who is to say that dinosaurs might not also have been able to breathe fire? Perhaps the legends of fire-breathing dragons from all over the world actually hold some validity.
A Shining Wake
God then finishes by giving some other characteristics of Leviathan that separate him from all other creatures, especially any of the animals living today. He could swim so rapidly and above the surface of the water that he left a shining wake making people think that the “deep had white hair”! In God’s words, there is nothing like him on earth and so “…he is king over all the children of pride” (verse 34):
Strength dwells in his neck,
And sorrow dances before him.
The folds of his flesh are joined together;
They are firm on him and cannot be moved.
His heart is as hard as stone,
Even as hard as the lower millstone.
When he raises himself up, the mighty are afraid;
Because of his crashings they are beside themselves.
Though the sword reaches him, it cannot avail;
Nor does spear, dart, or javelin.
He regards iron as straw,
And bronze as rotten wood.
The arrow cannot make him flee;
Slingstones become like stubble to him.
Darts are regarded as straw;
He laughs at the threat of javelins.
His undersides are like sharp potsherds;
He spreads pointed marks in the mire.
He makes the deep boil like a pot;
He makes the sea like a pot of ointment.
He leaves a shining wake behind him;
One would think the deep had white hair.
On earth there is nothing like him,
Which is made without fear.
He beholds every high thing;
He is king over all the children of pride.” (Job 41:22 – 34)
Anna Gosline, writing for the NewScientist.com news service, writes about the amazing body armor of one type of dinosaur known as Ankylosaurs, which, though it is not to be equated with Leviathan, does provide an excellent example of what these impenetrable scales may have been like – pointing to the veracity of the account in Job 41.
An in-depth study of dinosaur armor has revealed an unexpected new level of strength, with some plates having a weave of fibers resembling today’s bulletproof fabrics. The likely strength of such plates makes the dinosaurs studied – ankylosaurs – perhaps the best – protected creatures to have ever stalked the Earth […] Ankylosaurs were massive herbivores that grew up to 10 meters in length during the late Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. The coin-sized plates sported by the ankylosaurs fully covered their back, neck, head and even protected their eyes […] They had sets of structural fibers running parallel and perpendicular to the surface, and then further sets at 45° to each of these axes, providing strength in all directions. The fibers of the bulletproof fabric Kevlar are similarly arranged. (Gosline 2004)
Where is the proof?
So the Bible does in fact claim that men and dinosaurs once lived together. However, there is still so much research regarding dinosaurs and so many experts attest that they died out about 65 million years ago. If the dinosaurs really did exist with men as the Bible claims, shouldn’t we see some proof of that other than mere oral accounts that many believe are suspect to exaggeration and mythologizing? Wouldn’t we expect to see some hard facts substantiating men and dinosaurs living together?
Soft Tissue and Red Blood Cells
The evidence that men and dinosaurs coexisted not millions of years ago but only thousands of years ago lies right in front of
our faces, but out of fear, most refuse to see. The evidence of Job and the description of two dinosaurs is evidence not to be lightly brushed off; nevertheless, it remains invisible to many. The discovery of soft tissue complete with blood vessels in dinosaur bones should be just such evidence that should make people reconsider their paradigm. Dr. Schweitzer, who made the discovery, even suggested, “We may not really know as much about how fossils are preserved as we think” (Peake 2005). Dr. Carl Wieland remarks regarding the discovery:
One description of a portion of the tissue was that it is “flexible and resilient and when stretched returns to its original shape”. Dr. Schweitzer…has been cited as saying that the blood vessels were flexible, and that in some instances, one could squeeze out their contents. Furthermore, she said, “The microstructures that look like cells are preserved in every way.” She also is reported as commenting that “preservation of this extent, where you still have this flexibility and transparency, has never been seen in a dinosaur before.”
The reason that this possibility has long been overlooked seems obvious: the overriding belief in “millions of years”. The long-age paradigm (dominant belief system) blinded researchers to the possibility, as it were. It is inconceivable that such things should be preserved for (in this case) “70 million years”.
Unfortunately, the long-age paradigm is so dominant that facts alone will not readily overturn it. As philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn pointed out, what generally happens when a discovery contradicts a paradigm is that the paradigm is not discarded but modified, usually by making secondary assumptions, to accommodate the new evidence.
That’s just what appears to have happened in this case. When Schweitzer first found what appeared to be blood cells in a T. Rex specimen, she said, “It was exactly like looking at a slice of modern bone. But, of course, I couldn’t believe it. I said to the lab technician: “The bones, after all, are 65 million years old. How could blood cells survive that long?’” Notice that her first reaction was to question the evidence, not the paradigm. (Wieland 2005, emphasis mine)
Dinosaur tissue is an amazing challenge to the old-earth paradigm, but it still doesn’t prove that men and dinosaurs coexisted as the Bible clearly claims. However, evidence that men and dinosaurs lived together in the past does exist and is available for scrutiny for all who are willing to reconsider the paradigm. Let’s now consider some archaeological evidence that men and dinosaurs lived together.
[i] A plethora of excellent research has been done in this area demonstrating conclusively that many of the supposed transitional forms were hoaxes, fanciful reconstructions based on pigs’ teeth, merely extinct apes, or just humans – none of which is the missing evolutionary link between men and the imagined ancestor. Marvin Lubenow’s Bones of Contention is a scholarly, yet very readable, creationist assessment of human fossils. Mr. Lubenow systematically demonstrates that the bones in question are not the transitional forms the paleontologists have been telling us for so many years.
[iii]King James Concordance (electronic version: The Word Bible Software): Total KJV Total of occurrences 27 of the root תּנּים / תּנּין tannin / tannim: dragons 15: Deu 32:33, Job 30:29, Psa 44:19, Psa 74:13, Psa 148:7, Isa 13:22, Isa 34:13, Isa 35:7, Isa 43:20, Jer 9:11, Jer 10:22, Jer 14:6, Jer 49:33, Jer 51:37, Mic 1:8
dragon 6: Psa 91:13 (2), Isa 27:1, Isa 51:9, Jer 51:34, Eze 29:3
serpent 2: Exo 7:9-10; monsters 1: Lam 4:3; serpents 1: Exo 7:12; whale 1: Job 7:12; whales 1: Gen1:21
[iv] Dave Wright notes “The sea creatures, like the plesiosaur, are not actually considered dinosaurs. The term “dinosaur” is used to refer to those that live on land. Therefore, dinosaurs were land animals that were created on day six.” (Dave Wright, Answers In Genesis staff, personal communication, June 9, 2007)
[v] Dr. Sholar notes “when He says, ‘Look now at the behemoth..’ this speaks strongly to me of coexistence. If it was extinct, however, the ‘look now’ makes no sense for he would not have had any historical record of it.” (Sholar, personal communication September 21, 2006)
[vii]Exodus 4:4, Deuteronomy 28:13, Deuteronomy 28:44, Judges 15:4, Isa_19:14-15
[viii] KTU 1.5 I:1 27