Dinos in the Bible?
click here for printer-friendly version
Q. I have heard creationist's claim that dinosaurs are mentioned in the Bible. Do you agree, and if so, why?
A. Yes, I do think there are very clear descriptions of creatures in the Bible that, in my opinion, can only be referring to dinosaurs. The most obvious description is found in Job 40:15-24. There is another creature described in Job chapter 41, however, in this discussion I will deal only with the animal described in Job 40.
It is interesting that the man, Job, apparently lived in the days of the patriarchs, i.e. before or around the time of Abraham. How can that determined? There estimates ranging all over the place by various scholars with various opinions concerning the integrity of the written records of Scripture, however, for me, the internal witness of Job 42:16 settles the issue. "And after this (the events described in the story of Job) Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his grandsons, four generations." We are not told how old Job was when the story began, but his 10 children were old enough to have their own houses. I think a conservative estimate would be that Job was 60 years old as the story unfolds. Thus, Job lived to be at least 200 years old. That length of life was disappearing in the days of Abraham. Abraham's father, Terah, died at 205, and Abraham lived to be only (!) 175; his son Isaac, 180. Therefore, the events and descriptions within the book of Job are over 4000 years old, i.e. 2000 B.C. or earlier. Were dinosaurs alive as recently as 2000 B.C? Most people would exclaim, impossible! According to popular science's explanations, dinosaurs essentially disappeared from the earth's diversity of life approximately 65 million years ago. Well, let's consider the description of the beast recorded in Job 40:15-24.
The first characteristic to note about this beast, Behemoth, is that it is an herbivore. Verse 15 states, "Behold now, Behemoth, which I made as well as you; he eats grass like an ox." The second characteristic to note is that it is extremely powerful. Verse 16ff states, "Behold now, his strength in his loins, and his power in the muscles of his belly. . . . The sinews of his thighs are knit together. His bones are tubes of bronze; his limbs are like bars of iron." A very interesting detail of this description concerns Behemoth's tail; verse 17 states, "He bends his tail like a cedar . . . ." This creature apparently spent time wading, and was massive enough to withstand a strong river current. Verse 21ff, "Under the lotus plants he lies down, in the covert of the reeds and the marsh. The lotus plants cover him with shade; the willows of the brook surround him. If a river rages, he is not alarmed; he is confident, though the Jordan rushes to his mouth." And Behemoth seems to be ferocious. Verse 24, "Can anyone capture him when he is on watch, with barbs can anyone pierce his nose?"
Now taken individually, any of these descriptions could easily be associated with creatures that exist today; a hippopotamus, an elephant, an alligator or crocodile. However, taken together, which is the only legitimate way to interpret this passage, what animal alive today fits this description? Behemoth is a huge, powerful, grazing, wading herbivore with a large tail. And yet, even in the margin of many of the published versions of our modern English Bibles, the suggestion is offered that perhaps Behemoth is a hippo or crocodile. However, such attempts to accommodate the commonly accepted, secular theory of dinosaur extinction (which simply cannot tolerate the notion that Man and Dinosaur coexisted on this earth) show how easy it is allow preconceived notions to effect an observer's or interpreter's objectivity. The description cannot refer to a crocodile or alligator; these are carnivores, not grazing herbivores. The description cannot refer to an elephant or hippo; these both have very small rope-like tails. The cedar trees of the ancient near east were the large trees used to construct the largest of buildings. If we were to make an analogous description today, we would say "he bends his tail like a Redwood." Amazingly, some writers have tried to explain that the "tail" is really referring to the elephant's trunk! The Hebrew word translated "tail" here is not uncommon. The same word is used to describe the tail of a serpent (Exo 4:4) and the tails of the foxes that Samson tied together (Judges 15:4). Surely Job as well as God Who is speaking in Job 40, knew the difference between the trunk/nose and the tail of an elephant!
There is simply nothing alive today that can reasonably be described this way. But as we interpret the fossils, many creatures which once lived could have been described this way. Creatures we refer to as the dinosaurs. Among the huge grazing dinosaurs would be the Apatosaurus, Diplodocus and Brachiosaurus. Behemoth may have been one of these well characterized, now extinct (we assume) dinosaurs, or some other less well-known dinosaur--which was indeed well-known to Job. That is, unless you think God would have referred to a creature about which Job had no knowledge in His object lesson for Job intended as an illustration of the power of the Almighty displayed in His creations.
To ask Ben a question, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org