There is a long-standing debate that continues to this day regarding the origins of life on Earth. One of the most common is are dinosaurs mentioned in the bible. While there are many theories, we can divide the most fervently debated camps into two areas, namely:
- The Evolutionary Camp – claims that Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection best explain the variety and diversity of animal species that we see today
- The Creationist Camp – claims that the biblical account of creation in Genesis is accurate and that all living things were created around 6,000 years ago by an all-powerful deity
Between these two groups, one topic stands out as an interesting area of discussion, and that is to when dinosaurs existed, and whether or not they co-existed with humankind. The Evolutionary Camp strongly claims that dinosaurs lived between 245 and 66 million years ago, with all known dinosaur species being wiped out by the Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction at the latter end of that time scale.
Some creationists, on the other hand, claim that dinosaurs were created in Genesis, and are even mentioned in the bible as proof of their existence. Many even claim that they were saved from God’s global flood by being placed in Noah’s Ark, and that the fossilized remains of dinosaurs we have today are the many dinosaurs that were wiped out in that same catastrophe, buried in mud only to be discovered thousands of years later.
So, are the creationists correct? Are dinosaurs in fact mentioned in the bible? Many prominent young-Earth creationists do indeed argue that dinosaurs are mentioned, and may well reel off a slew of biblical verses to support their claims, including:
- Genesis 1:24
- Genesis 2:19
- Ezekiel 29:2-3
- Ezekiel 32:1-2
- Isaiah 27:1
- …and others
However, looking at these examples, it seems that the evidence provided is rather tenuous, especially in the earlier examples in the Old Testament. For example, Genesis 1:24 reads:
“And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so.”
This verse seems to describe the creation of the many kinds of animals and creatures in the world, but makes no mention of dinosaurs or anything specific that could be dinosaurs.
Some creationists argue that this is still important because the biblical account clearly states that God created all living things, and that logically this must include the dinosaurs whose remains we have now discovered.
Other biblical books, such as Ezekiel, do make mention of a “monster of the sea,” while others talk of a “leviathan” as well as a great beast known just as “Behemoth.” The description of the latter is perhaps the best evidence for biblical inclusion of dinosaurs, since “Behemoth” does sound quite like an animal resembling a Brachiosaur or similar large herbivore. The following passage is Job 40:15-24, which reads (we’ve underlined relevant parts):
“Look at Behemoth,
which I made along with you
and which feeds on grass like an ox.
What strength it has in its loins,
what power in the muscles of its belly!
Its tail sways like a cedar;
the sinews of its thighs are close-knit.
Its bones are tubes of bronze,
its limbs like rods of iron.
It ranks first among the works of God,
Yet its Maker can approach it with his sword.
The hills bring it their produce,
and all the wild animals play nearby.
Under the lotus plants it lies,
hidden among the reeds in the marsh.
The lotuses conceal it in their shadow;
the poplars by the stream surround it.
A raging river does not alarm it;
it is secure, though the Jordan should surge against its mouth.
Can anyone capture it by the eyes,
or trap it and pierce its nose?
At first glance, one might assume that Behemoth was an elephant or a hippo. Most of the details seem to fit, especially the many water and river references, which would strongly indicate a hippo.
However, the one detail that is most evocative of dinosaurs is the tail that “sways like a cedar.” No large land mammal in the hippo or elephant family can boast this kind of tail, but it does seem to match that of a large land-dwelling herbivorous dinosaur, such as a Brachiosaur.
Despite this one instance, there is very little beyond vague descriptions of monsters and beasts, all of which could have been exaggerated, been made up, or included conflations of two different existing creatures.
Behemoth, for example, could be a combination of the proportions of a large land mammal that had a crocodile-like tail.
Although the behemoth and the leviathan are mentioned in the book of Job in the Bible as powerful and mighty animals,there is not consensus among Christian scholars about what these creatures actually represent.
Some religious scholars have suggested that they could be references to dinosaurs, but this is not widely accepted .
There is no absolute evidence from the text itself to support this idea, and the descriptions given in the book of Job do not match the characteristics of any known species of dinosaur discovered yet.
So What Were the Behemoth and the Leviathan?
It is more commonly understood that the Behemoth and the Leviathan are metaphorical rather than anatomical descriptions of powerful, fearsome creatures, and do not literally reference a dinosaurs or any other specific animal species for that matter.
It is important, for both sides of the discussion to remember the bible is not a work of science, but is there as a symbol of faith and to morally guide people. It was not written and a ancient version of the documentary Planet Earth!
Creationists point to several key words in the Bible that seem to indicate descriptions or mentions of dinosaurs, namely: monster, (giant) serpent, Behemoth, and Leviathan. All are words for which we can indeed picture dinosaurs. There is one more word that some creationists point to as well — “dragon.”
Noted “Creation Scientist” (and convicted tax fraudster) Kent Hovind very famously made the claim that the ancient world always knew about dinosaurs and they were referred to as dragons.
Furthermore, he claims their extinction can be explained by the many hero stories we have of human slaying dragons. As outlandish as Hovind is, the one nugget of truth he touches upon is that the idea of dragons did indeed exist in biblical accounts and in many ancient cultures.
In the Bible, it’s the book of Revelation that reveals the dragon. However, the book also quite clearly talks about how the “great dragon” and “ancient serpent” are actually just a living form of Satan. For instance, in Revelation 12:9, it reads:
“The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”
Revelation Chapter 12 also describes the “red dragon” as having seven heads, and 10 horns, and crowns on each of the heads. That sounds more like the mythical Hydra, or two of them!, of ancient Greek mythology rather than any known species of dinosaur.
The trouble with assigning scientific terms such as “dinosaur” to the bible and other religious accounts is that “dinosaur” refers to something very specific, whereas biblical accounts are at best vague, and hardly coherent or matching.
Tales of monsters have always captured people’s imaginations, and the fact is that if humans and dinosaurs did coexist as many creationists claim, then dinosaurs would feature more prominently in humanity’s ancient art. it hard to miss a 100 foot Argentinosaurus, or to not draw a picture of the day Aunt Edna got eaten by a T-Rex!
We also know that it would have been easy for ancient man to exaggerate sightings of existing creatures as monsters when retelling them, sometimes due to misunderstandings, and perhaps also because they wanted greater suspense in their stories.
In that fundamental way, we haven’t changed much from our ancient ancestors and we all love embellishing stories to some degree, we now just do it a few steps on from wall paintings and stories around a campfire. We have movie, TV, games and literature that allow our creative if not creationist juices to flow.
What does the Church say about dinosaurs.
In real terms most major branches of the Church have accepted that dinosaurs did walk on Earth and it was likely 230 to 66 million years ago. they see no contradiction in anything except time scales, and the science behind it as not their realm of expertise or purpose.
For example the Roman Catholic Church and many Protestant churches have not issued official statements about the existence or not of dinosaurs and take the view that dinosaurs are a scientific discovery, and the role of the church is primarily to provide religious and moral guidance, rather than to make scientific claims.
Many Christians believe in the scientific and evolutionary explanation for the existence of dinosaurs, which is that they lived millions of years ago and became extinct long before humans evolved.
There are some Christians, lesser in number, that interpret the creation story in the Bible as evidence for a young earth, in which all species, including dinosaurs, were created by God in six days, as described in Genesis.
However, this is not a universally accepted interpretation within the Christian community, and many Christians do not see any conflict between their faith and the scientific explanation for the existence of dinosaurs.
Although often used to take a swing at each other by creationists and scientists the general viewpoint is that dinosaurs do not disprove the bible, and the bible does not disprove dinosaurs.
Most religions, including Christianity take a view that their role is not to see dinosaurs as a religious matter at all, and to highlight that their role is in fact to teach gods love and the redemption of people, rather than get caught up in arguments in the sciefitic aspects of the animal kingdom and natural world.
Hi, I am Roy Ford a General Studies and English Teacher who has taught all over the world. What started as a fossil collection became a great way to teach, motivate and inspire students of all ages and all over the world about dinosaurs and from that and children’s love of dinosaurs came the site dinosaur facts for kids, a resource for all ages.