Scriptural Evidence: Dinos in the Bible
Although we cannot travel back in time to see the first dinosaurs, we do have an eye-witness report from the only person who was on hand to observe their origin, God Himself. On the fifth day of creation, “God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:21 NAS). These “sea monsters” would include plesiosaurs, the great swimming reptiles. The flying creatures would have been created on the same day, including the great reptilian pterosaurs that once filled the skies of the early earth. There is no question that the straightforward, plain teaching of God’s Word leads one to believe that dinosaurs and man coexisted. God Himself declared, “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day:” (Exodus 20:11 KJV). The pattern of God’s literal six-day creation and Sabbath rest is an example for His followers to set aside a day of rest and worship every week. Dinosaurian creatures were created on the sixth day alongside man (Genesis 1:25) and the two co-existed thereafter.
There are a number of places where it appears that dinosaurs or other similar creatures are mentioned in the scriptures. Remember that the Bible was translated into English long before the word “dinosaur” was coined. However, the word “dragon” appears 21 times in the Old Testament alone (King James Version). “You shall tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shall you trample under feet” (Psalm 91:13). From the context it is clearly speaking about a real creature that it would be impressive and intimidating to step on! Jeremiah 51:34 tells, “he has swallowed me up like a dragon…” which brings to mind the way many carnivorous reptiles swallow their prey whole. Both dragons of the sea (Psalm 74:13) and field (Isaiah 43:20) are mentioned. Indeed, Genesis 1:21 can best be translated: “And God created great sea monsters…” One such sea monster became sufficiently well-known to the ancients to be given the special name “Rahab” (Isaiah 51:9). The prophet Ezekiel likens Pharaoh to a sea monster that invaded the Nile river and stirred up the mud (32:2). The Hebrew word, “Tannin,” is from the root meaning “to extend.” The language conjures up an image of a long-necked plesiosaur-like creature paddling up the river and stirring up mud from the Nile delta with its flippers. Just such a creature is depicted by the ancient Egyptians who may have netted one just as Ezekiel describes in verse 3.
Job is the oldest book in the Bible. This book is very interesting from a scientific perspective because of the many natural phenomena that are addressed by God, Job, and his friends. Along the way, God points Job to two special creatures. The first, mentioned in Job 40:15, is usually translated “behemoth” in the English Bible. Some commentators have suggested that behemoth was a hippo or elephant. But the passage makes clear that this herbivorous animal was “chief of the ways of God.” Certainly the hippo and elephant (which had other Hebrew names) don’t qualify as the biggest land animal, nor does their anatomy fit the clear language of verse 17. A cedar tree brings to mind a dinosaur’s huge tail! In fact, pygmy peoples in equatorial Africa tell stories of a ferocious dinosaurian creature that occupies their swamps and rivers and lashes its opponents with its tail. It becomes fascinating, as one considers the tail as an offensive weapon, to review the description of Satan as a dragon: “And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon …And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth:” (Revelation 12:3-4).
Job 41 portrays yet another awe-inspiring creature: Leviathan. While clearly one of the fiercest creatures that God made, it is difficult to establish exactly what Leviathan was. The Bible describes a sharp-toothed, scaled creature whose habitat is the mire and deep waters. Ken Ham suggests the ferocious kronosaur as a candidate. Others have suggested that this fire-breathing monster was a land-dweller that merely spent much of its time in the water. Perhaps leviathan was a dinosaur with armor or claws whose “sharp stones” were employed to destroy ancient weapons. Maybe we have yet to discover the remains of a leviathan!
The “unicorn,” mentioned nine times in the KJV Bible, is the Hebrew word “Re-em.” The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) translated it “Monokeros” (one-horn) which was used in Bibles until the 19th century when Akkadian and Ugaritic records were found that mentioned the “Re-em” being hunted like a wild ox. However, their early pictograph for the “Re-em” shows an animal head with three horns, like a Triceratops. In Psalm 92:10 the “Re-em” has but one horn, while the language or Deuteronomy 33:17 implies two horns. Although most commentators and modern versions translate it as a bull or rhino, some have theorized that “Re-em” might be a Monoclonius (single horned dinosaur like Triceratops). In Job 39:9-12 God asks, “Will the unicorn be willing to serve you, or abide by your crib? Can you bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after you? Wilt you trust him, because his strength is great?” This passage shows that the unicorn, whatever it was, could not be tamed to be used in farming, as could an ox. In his classic work Naturalis Historia the first century author Pliny the Elder described “an exceedingly wild beast called the Monoceros [one-horned]. …It makes a deep lowing noise, and one black horn two cubits long projects from the middle of its forehead.” He describes it as like an elephant in length, but with much shorter legs. Other classical authors like Aelian, Oppian, and Martial also mention a “nose-horn” creature (a “Rinokeros”). Some claim that the “Rinokeros” sharpens his horn on a rock and utilizes it in fighting elephants. This is the root word from which we get the modern name rhinoceros, but the ancient descriptions do not fit the rhino very well. Rhinos do not have a true horn that attaches to the skull. Rather it is made of keratin, a hair-like substance that is similar to our fingernails. The correlation between the classical authors and some modern cryptozoological reports is striking. Dr. Roy Mackal’s explorations in the Congo brought back reports of a rare, single-horned animal called “Emela-ntouka” or “killer of elephants.” In a recent expedition, pygmies in Cameroon identified the horned creature (there called “Ngoubou”) with a Ceratopsian dinosaur and claimed it could sport from one to four horns. Indeed, modern researchers believe that the ceratopsian dinosaurs likely did use their great horn for combat (Dodson, Peter, The Horned Dinosaurs:A Natural History, 1996, p.123.)
In the Authorized version of scripture we find Isaiah twice mentioning the “fiery flying serpent.” Egypt is called the place of the “lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent,” (30:6). This fits with classical authors describing pterosaur populations in Egypt and Arabia. Goertzen notes: “The Hebrew word, m’opheph Jpvfm, is a polal participle; a form used only by Isaiah when describing the reptilian saraph. The polal indicates an intensive of the root pvf ooph that means to fly or flutter. The imperfect form of the polal is found in Genesis 1:20, ‘flying creatures that flutter to and fro’ and Isaiah 6:2 ‘seraphim’ (the same word as the reptiles here used for angelic creatures) that fly to and fro.’” (Goertzen, John, “The Bible and Pterosaurs,” 1998.) This same word is employed in Numbers 21:6 to describe the poisonous reptiles that bit the murmuring Israelites. Indeed it is easier to envision an attack of nimble flying snakes (pterosaurs) killing many of the children of Israel rather than them being surprised and killed by snakes on the ground. The pterosaur becoming a type of Christ (John 3:14) seems more appropriate than the snake, which from Genesis to Revelation is a symbol of Satan. In addition, the spread wings on the top of the pole would form a cross. In fact, a plate found with Sennacherib’s booty at Calah (from the conquest of Palestine) depicts such a winged serpent on a pole that would seem to match the Nehushtan or brazen saraph of Moses that had become a symbol of worship by Hezekiah’s reign (II Kings 18:4). The “fiery” flying snake even matches some cryptozoological reports from New Guinea, which attribute to alleged living pterosaurs a bioluminescent capability like a firefly.
While some of this remains merely speculation, it becomes clear that some very fascinating animals have become extinct since Biblical times. But some might object to using arguments from the Bible, claiming that it is not a reliable resource. There are several lines of evidence that the Bible is God’s Word. Skeptics respond that there are supposed to be a great many contradictions in the Bible. Again the facts come down on the side of God’s Word being consistent, entirely without error in the original, and remarkably preserved.