Dinosaurs and the Bible
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:
Examining the Bibles text and the related scientific facts.
The Bibles 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, its spelled correctlyat 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.
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 kids dinosaur book, you will notice several possible matches for each one. Lets examine those.
Behemoth has the following attributes according to Job 40:15-24
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 kids 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. A Brachiosaurus could therefore easily be described as the first of the ways of God.
Comparing all this information to the description in your kids dinosaur book, you may come to the conclusion that behemoth is not a normal animal, it is a dinosaurthe brachiosaurus. We agree with that conclusion!
Leviathan has the following attributes according to Job chapter 41, Psalm 104:25,26 and Isaiah 27:1. This is only a partial listingjust enough to make the point.
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 Leviathans 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. 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 Leviathans armor, iron is like straw and arrows ca not make it flee. Lets face it, an arrow can do a lot of damage to a crocodile or alligator. This is not a description of either of themor 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 todays 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, dont you agree?
Before we leave the topic of fire, there are two more notes you may find interesting:
Comparing all this information to the description in your kids 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: and show us the evidence. We will post that evidence with our reply in our FAQ section for the world to seeliterally.) 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 extinctand 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 earlierand 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.
Copyright © 1998, 2005 by Clarifying Christianity (SM).
All Bible passages were taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
All information contained in Clarifying Christianity is a resource for questions dealing with Christian issues. It is not to be taken as Christian counseling. Seek a qualified Christian counselor for help with all such issues. If you choose to work with a Christian counselor, it is your responsibility to ask pertinent questions before you begin, to assure yourself of their qualities and abilities.1609