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behemoth Dinosaurs and the Bible

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Most of us loved reading about dinosaurs at some time in our lives. In 1993, the movie “Jurassic Park” stimulated the public interest in dinosaurs far beyond its previous level. As a result, increasing numbers of people have thought, “Since we have found all these fossils and dinosaur bones, we know dinosaurs existed. How come they are not mentioned in the Bible?”

Actually, dinosaurs are mentioned in the Bible, and we will prove it by doing the following three things:

violet ball Examining the Bible’s text and the related scientific facts.
violet ball Explaining the accuracy of the Bible.
violet ball Exploring what we are taught in school and through the media.

The Bible’s Text

The Bible refers to many the common animals we know today. The list includes lions, wolves, bears, sheep, cattle and dogs along with various kinds of birds, rodents, reptiles, and insects. What is interesting is that this extensive list includes three animals that we no longer recognize. These three are (in the original Hebrew language) tanniyn, b@hemowth (yes, it’s spelled correctly—at least as close as we can get in Roman characters), and livyathan.

Although we alter the spelling of behemoth and Leviathan slightly, we still use those same words in bibles today. However, tanniyn is always translated into another word when we write it in English. Tanniyn occurs 28 times in the Bible and is normally translated “dragon.” It is also translated “serpent,” “sea monster,” “dinosaur,” “great creature,” and “reptile.” Behemoth and Leviathan are relatively specific creatures, perhaps each was a single kind of animal. Tanniyn is a more general term, and it can be thought of as the original version of the word “dinosaur.” The word “dinosaur” was originally coined in 1841, more than three thousand years after the Bible first referred to “Tanniyn.” To make things clearer, we constructed the following table comparing the scientific names with the Biblical names tanniyn, behemoth, and Leviathan.

“Dinosaur” Names, Then and Now
Name and date first written in the Bible Scientific Name (best estimate) and date the name appeared
tanniyn (dragon) before 1400 BC dinosaur 1841 AD
behemoth before 1400 BC brachiosaurus 1903 AD
Leviathan before 1400 BC kronosaurus 1901 AD

How we got these new names is interesting. In 1822, Mary Ann Mantell became the first person to discover and correctly identify a strange bone as part of a large, unknown reptile. Her husband, Dr. Gideon Mantell, later named this creature an “Iguanodon.” From that time forward, these forgotten animals were given names chosen by the people who rediscovered them. Of course, the Bible, written between approximately 1450 BC and 95 AD, does not include any of these names.

Reading the Bible carefully, you will realize that no living creature matches the descriptions of behemoth and Leviathan. However, if you grab your kid’s dinosaur book, you will notice several possible matches for each one. Let’s examine those.

violet ball Behemoth has the following attributes according to Job 40:15-24

  • It “eats grass like an ox.”
  • It “moves his tail like a cedar.” (In Hebrew, this literally reads, “he lets hang his tail like a cedar.”)
  • Its “bones are like beams of bronze,
    His ribs like bars of iron.”
  • “He is the first of the ways of God.”
  • “He lies under the lotus trees,
    In a covert of reeds and marsh.”

Some bibles and study bibles will translate the word “behemoth” as “elephant” or “hippopotamus.” Others will put a note at the edge or bottom of the page, stating that behemoth was probably an elephant or a hippopotamus. Although an elephant or hippopotamus can eat grass (or lie in a covert of reeds and marsh), neither an elephant or a hippopotamus has a “tail like a cedar” (that is, a tail like a large, tapered tree trunk). In your kid’s dinosaur book you will find lots of animals that have “tails like a cedar.”

We would expect behemoth to be a large land animal whose bones are like beams of bronze and so forth, so whatever a behemoth is, it is large. A key phrase is “He is the first of the ways of God.” This phrase in the original Hebrew implied that behemoth was the biggest animal created. Although an elephant or a hippopotamus are big, they are less than one-tenth the size of a Brachiosaurus, the largest (complete) dinosaur ever discovered.[1] A Brachiosaurus could therefore easily be described as “the first of the ways of God.”

Comparing all this information to the description in your kid’s dinosaur book, you may come to the conclusion that “behemoth” is not a normal animal, it is a dinosaur—the brachiosaurus. We agree with that conclusion!

    Note: Some paleontologists have found fragmentary leg bones, ribs, or vertebrae which they propose belong to “new” sauropods larger than Brachiosaurus. Examples of these include Amphicoelias, Argentinasaurus, Sauroposeidon, Seismosaurus, Supersaurus and Ultrasaurus. There currently is not enough evidence to really determine the size of any of these, and some paleontologists believe that they are merely large examples of known dinosaurs like Brachiosaurus or Diplodocus. In any case, only the “modern scientific name” of behemoth would change. The point would still remain that behemoth refers to a dinosaur, not a “modern animal” like an elephant or hippopotamus.

violet ball Leviathan has the following attributes according to Job chapter 41, Psalm 104:25,26 and Isaiah 27:1. This is only a partial listing—just enough to make the point.

  • “No one is so fierce that he would dare stir him up.”
  • “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.”
  • “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.”
  • “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.”
  • “On earth there is nothing like him, which is made without fear.”
  • Leviathan “played” in the “great and wide sea” (a paraphrase of Psalm 104 verses 25 and 26—get the exact sense by reading them yourself).
  • Leviathan is a “reptile [a] that is in the sea.” (Isaiah 27:1)

    [a] Note: The word translated “reptile” here is the Hebrew word tanniyn. This shows that “Leviathan” was also a “tanniyn” (dragon).

Unlike behemoth, who is huge, Leviathan is ferocious and terrifying. Many references (we have not listed them all) refer to the sea, so Leviathan is probably a sea creature. Although some bibles refer to Leviathan as an alligator or crocodile (and both of these are fierce) neither of these is a sea creature. They like the water, but they spend much of their time on land. Further, the question “Who can open the doors of his face. . . .” implies that nobody can open Leviathan’s jaws. Although an alligator's jaws cannot normally be forced open, a punch to their sensitive snout or poke in eye might startle them enough to release their grip.[2] Although this is a good description of an alligator characteristic, it does not fit perfectly with the description of Leviathan, which in the context of the Bible was supposed to describe an essentially impossible event, and we are not done yet.

The description of the scales is interesting. Several verses describe these great scales. Compared to Leviathan’s armor, iron is like straw and arrows ca not make it flee. Let’s face it, an arrow can do a lot of damage to a crocodile or alligator. This is not a description of either of them—or any living animal we are aware of.

And now for the key ingredient: fire. It is hard to read Job 41:18-21 without realizing the Bible is telling us that Leviathan breathes fire. That alone will eliminate almost every living animal. Yes, there is one animal like that in today’s world. It is called a bombardier beetle. This beetle is a native of Central America, and has a nozzle in its hind end that acts like a little flame thrower. It sprays a high-temperature jet of gas (fueled by hydroquinones and hydrogen peroxide with oxidative enzymes) for protection. Now, if a Central American beetle can do it, so could Leviathan. By the way, crocodiles and alligators are out of the picture on this one, don’t you agree?

Before we leave the topic of fire, there are two more notes you may find interesting:

  • The history of every culture is filled with stories of fire-breathing dragons. If you think about it, in all the past ages wouldn’t someone have made up a story of a fire-breathing lion or something? Nobody did because the dragon stories are based on truth, and only “dragons” breathed fire. It is easy to imagine Leviathan as a member of the dragon (tanniyn) family. (Plus, Isaiah 27:1 strongly implies this connection.)
  • Many fossil dinosaur skulls contain unexplained, empty passages. Scientists have not been able to guess the reason for these passages. Would it make sense that some dinosaurs used these passages as “gas tanks” for the combustible mixture used to “breathe fire?” We believe it does.

Comparing all this information to the description in your kid’s dinosaur book, you may come up with the conclusion that Leviathan is a kronosaurus. We have heard (and read) other suggestions, but the kronosaurus is the best match of any known creature to the description of Leviathan.

The Accuracy of the Bible

Some people believe that the Bible is not a scientifically accurate book, and that it is only a “spiritual book,” that forgot about dinosaurs or described them incorrectly. This is not the case. Nobody has ever proven that the Bible contains any inaccurately recorded information. (If you think someone has such evidence, contact us: address and show us the evidence. We will post that evidence with our reply in our FAQ section for the world to see—literally.) You do not have to believe the Bible just because someone says you are supposed to. That is blind faith, and blind faith is something you do not need with Christianity. The Bible and Christianity have been proven to be true. (See our page called “How Do You Know The Bible Is True?”) There is no other religion or “holy writing” that can honestly make the same claim. You may also wish to get a copy of the book “Know Why You Believe” by Paul Little. It addresses the facts that support Christianity in clear and simple terms.

What We Are Taught (In School and Through the Media)

Since humans are in the Bible, we unconsciously think that dinosaurs were extinct—and therefore not mentioned in the Bible. As you have just seen, the Bible not only refers to dinosaurs, but has detailed information about two of them.

Unfortunately, our public school system and the media have convinced us that dinosaurs were extinct at least 60 million years before man appeared on earth. They have done such a good job in this area that we can not imagine people and dinosaurs living at the same time. The fact is that dinosaurs were created no more than one day before mankind, not many millions of years earlier—and we have evidence to support that statement. Click here to see our Creation and Evolution page, and a link to many sites that fully prove this.

There is a lot of quality scientific information available regarding dinosaurs in the Bible. In time, we will put together a list of links (or recommend a good list of links we find on the web). For now, we would like to recommend two excellent sources of books, video tapes, and audio cassettes on this topic.

Click here to visit Creation Science Evangelism Click here to visit Creation Science Evangelism

Click here to visit The Institute for Creation Research Click here to visit The Institute for Creation Research

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Cited References

[1] U.S. Geological Survey: What was the biggest dinosaur? What was the smallest?

[2] American Alligator

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