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Don Stewart :: Does the Bible Have Anything Specifically to Say about Dinosaurs?

Don Stewart
Does the Scripture have anything directly to say about the existence of dinosaurs? If not, does this mean that they did not exist alongside humanity?

Not Found In King James Bible

The word dinosaur is not found in the classic King James Version of 1611. This is to be expected since the term dinosaur was not invented until two hundred years after the King James Version was translated. Therefore, the lack of use of the word in the King James Version means absolutely nothing, one way or the other, about dinosaurs.

Are Dragons Dinosaurs?

The Authorized Version does translate certain Hebrew words as dragons. This has led some to think that the subject was an actual dinosaur. There are, however, alternative explanations for dragons.

Possible Passages

There are a couple of passages in Scripture that may give a specific reference to dinosaurs. These passages are found in the Book of Job and they refer to creatures known as the behemoth and the leviathan. The Bible says the following concerning the behemoth.

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 are like bars of iron. He is 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).

Job 41 gives a more detailed description of the leviathan.

Can you draw out Leviathan with a hook, or snare his tongue with a line you lower? . . . Can you put a reed through his nose, or pierce his jaw with a hook? . . . 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 vain; shall one not be overwhelmed at the sight of him? No one is so fierce that he would dare stir him up. Who then is able to stand against Me . . . I will not conceal his limbs, His mighty power or his graceful proportions . . . 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 41:1-2,7-10).

Not Mythological Or Symbolic Creatures

Though many Bible students think these creatures were mythological or merely symbolic creatures, these creatures were actually created by God. The following reasons show this to be true.
1.In Job 38:39-39:30 there are 12 animals that are mentioned by God. All of these are real creatures. This would indicate that the final two creatures mentioned would also be real.

2.God told Job to look at the behemoth (40:15). He could only look at a real creature.

3.God told Job that He made the behemoth as He had made man (40:15).

4.The Bible provides detailed descriptions of the physical characteristics of the Leviathan and behemoth. This is not consistent with mythological creatures.

5. The Leviathan is spoken of elsewhere in the Bible as being part of God's creation

How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. . . There the ships go to and fro, and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there (Psalm 104:24,26).

Behemoth Described

The following things can be ascertained from the description of the behemoth.

1.It was a grass eater, it was not a carnivore or meat eater.

2.The behemoth eats grass like an ox but is not an ox.

3.His strength in its hips and power in his stomach muscles.

4.The creature moves its tail like a cedar

5.The sinews of his thighs are tightly knit.

6.He has large bones like beams of bronze and ribs like bars of iron.

7.The behemoth is first in the ways of God.

8.Only God can control this creature.

9.He visits the mountains along with the other creatures. They all seem to play there.

10.Though he is this creature of great strength and size, he lets other beasts play near him unhurt.

11.He lives an inactive life under the lotus tree and in the marsh.

12.He is not disturbed when the river rages.

What Was It?

Some commentators state simply that it is an animal of unknown origin. The New King James Version footnotes Job 40 and 41 as follows:

A large animal, exact identity unknown . . . (New King James Version, p. 535, notes 55).

The idea that this is a poetic description of a non-existent animal is also popular among commentators.
Water Ox

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown argue that the behemoth is the Egyptian water-ox.

The description in part agrees with the hippopotamus, in part with the elephant, but exactly in all details with neither. It is rather a personification of the great Pachydermata, or Herbivora (so he eateth grass, the idea of the hippopotamus being predominant. In vs. 17, the tail like a cedar hardly applies to the latter. . . Behemoth seems to be the Egyptian water-ox (JFB, p. 402).

Hippopotamus

Many people think the behemoth refers to the hippopotamus.

The reference in Job is to some marsh dwelling mammoth such as the Hippopotamus amphibius which inhabits the Nile and other African rivers. In the Apocrypha the name denotes the male counterpart of the Leviathan (2 Esd. 6:49,52) (R. K. Harrison, Behemoth, ISBE, Vol 1, p. 452)

G.S. Cansdale writes:

This is the most common Heb. word for beast . . . The pl. form occurs nine times in the OT, and in all passages except one where it is tr. beast or beasts. The exception is in Job 40:15 where the context clearly suggests a specific animal for which most Eng. VSS. give the transliteration behemoth but RSV mg. has hippopotamus. . . . The passage is largely fig. and the only points which seem clear are that it is aquatic and powerful (vs. 23) and eats grass (v. 15). Also there are ancient records of hunting hippos with harpoons and barbed hooks (Diodurus Siculus 37:35). The hippo was certainly known in Biblical times, esp. in Egypt where its numbers were greatly reduced by Romans because of damage to the crops, but it finally disappeared in the 12th cent. A.D. (G. S. Cansdale, Behemoth, in Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia Of The Bible, Vol. 1, p. 511).

Roy Zuck notes:

The common view that this huge creature is the hippopotamus is supported by several observations. The hippo is herbivorous (it feeds on grass like an ox, v. 15). Therefore wild animals do not fear being attacked by it (v. 20). (2) It has massive strength in its loins, stomach muscles . . . tail . . . thighs, metalllike bones and limbs (vv. 16-18). Unlike the elephant, a hippopotamus' stomach muscles are particularly strong and thick. The rendering that his tail sways like a cedar (possibly meaning cedar branch, not a cedar trunk) suggests to some that the tail means the trunk of an elephant. However, Ugaritic parallels indicate the verb sways (which occurs only here in the OT) means stiffens. In that case the hippopotamus' tail, though small, was referred. The tail stiffens when the animal is frightened or is running. (3) The hippopotamus was the largest of the animals known in the ancient Near East (he ranks them first among the works of God, v. 19). The adult hippo today weighs up to 8,000 pounds. . . . (4) The hippo is difficult if not impossible to kill with a mere hand sword. The words His Maker can approach him with His sword (v. 19) suggest that only God dare approach the beast for hand combat. Nor can it be captured or harpooned when only his eyes or nose show above the water (v. 24) (5) As a hippopotamus . . . lies hidden in the marsh . . . the stream, and the river (vs 21-23), it sustenance (perhaps vegetation) floats down from the hills (v. 20). This huge creature is undisturbed by river turbulence for the rivers are his habitat (v. 23). An elephant or brontosaurus would hardly be described this way. A surging river would hardly reach the depth of the Brontosaurus mouth (Roy Zuck, Job, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 772).

Description Of Dinosaur?

There are some commentators who believe that the behemoth describes a dinosaur. The idea that the behemoth was an elephant or a hippopotamus does not fit all the facts. Neither of these has the tail of a cedar, one of the largest trees in the ancient world. However this description does fit the dinosaurs. Therefore, it is argued that the behemoth was a gigantic plant-eating dinosaur such as the Diploducus.

Leviathan

The Bible also describes a sea creature called the Leviathan. Its identity is also grounds for much speculation.

A large sea creature, exact identity unknown (New King James Version, p. 535, notes 55,56).

The Leviathan is spoken of as the greatest creature in the sea. What sort of creature was the Leviathan? Many answers have been given.

Crocodile

A popular view is that the Leviathan was a crocodile. The word Leviathan means the twisted animal.

The proper name (it always occurs without the definite article) of a large aquatic animal perhaps reflecting a mythological monster . . . Job 41:1-34 the most extended description of the Leviathan, suggests to many the crocodile . . . In his confrontation with Job, the Lord's point seems to be that while Job is no more a match for the power of evil than he would be for a crocodile (G.P. Hugenberger, ISBE, Volume 3, p. 109).

Dinosaur

There are some students of Scripture who believe the Leviathan is a dinosaur:

The leviathan the Bible talks about in Job 41 is described as the greatest creature of the sea. Unlike a crocodile or fish, it was useless to try and catch the leviathan with hooks. Nothing on earth is his equal-a creature without fear (Job 41:33, NIV).
What was the leviathan? The large size, strong jaws, great teeth, fast swimming ability and its protected back and undersides all give clues. It could have been a Kronosaurus (KRONE-oh-SOR-us) or something like it. This was one of the greatest, most overwhelming animals ever to swim the seas. It was not a true dinosaur, but it was reptile-like and had great sharp teeth.
It seems these animals were still alive at the time of King David. Psalm 104 says they played where the ships go to and fro. This was probably in the Mediterranean Sea (Paul Taylor, The Great Dinosaur Mystery, El Cajon, California, Master Books, 1987, p. 48).

Not All Agree

Thus we see that among students of Scripture there are a variety of ways this has been interpreted.

Calling the behemoth and the leviathan dinosaurs wrongly dates Job's lifetime within only a few hundred years of the Flood (Roy Zuck, ibid. p. 772).

Therefore the exact identity of these creatures is unknown.

Summary

Does the Bible specifically mention dinosaurs? The following conclusions can be made.

1.The word dinosaur is not found in the 1611 King James Version of the Bible. This is to be expected since the term was not invented until 18th century.

2.It is possible that the term translated dragon in Scripture refers to dinosaurs.

3.There are two creatures mentioned in the Book of Job, the behemoth and the leviathan, that may be actual dinosaurs. However this identification is disputed.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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