Dinosaurs in the Bible? Not Really.

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 5.18.14 PM.png

Perhaps the closest, beyond one or two other examples that we shall review, one would get to dinosaurs being mentioned in the Bible is Genesis 1:21 where God creates “great sea monsters” on the fifth day. The used Hebrew word tannîyn may have several meanings such as  “dragon,” “serpent,” “sea monster,” or “venomous snake,” however an analysis of other Old Testament verses suggest tannîyn could refer to contemporary snakes (Exo. 7:9; 7:10; 7:12; Deu. 32:33; Psalm 91:13), aquatic animals (Job 7:12; Psalm 74:13; 148:7; 51:9; Ezekiel 29:3; 32:2), or land animals (Isaiah 27:1; Jer. 51:34). So,  even given that tannîyn might refer to a dinosaur in Genesis 1:21, its usage in several other places within the Old Testament refers to species that existed at the time the Old Testament narratives were written. It is far more likely referring to a contemporary animal of the author.

Some have alleged that a detail in the book of Job might make reference to a dinosaur. For example, the Leviathan is described in the book of Job, the Psalms, and Isaiah (1). Take Job for instance. According to an ultra literalistic Young Earth Creationist (YEC) criterion of reading the Bible the mentioned creature doesn’t even fit the description of a dinosaur. The Leviathan in Job 41 breathes fire and as far as scientists know there is no such dinosaur that can breathe fire (Job 41:21). Nor do dinosaurs have bones of bronze and limbs like iron (Job 40:18). However, just because the author makes use of metaphors it does not follow that the mentioned creature has to automatically be a dinosaur. It could be any of the many animals known to Job and/or the author (2). Then the behemoth makes its appearance. However, biblical scholars have provided several candidates for what the behemoth likely was. It could have been a mythological creature, an elephant, hippopotamus, rhinoceros or buffalo (3). Some have argued that it could not have been, say, a hippo since the hippo lacks certain biblical characteristics from the text. In other words, we simply do not know what animal it was; it could have been an imaginative creation (4) or a hyped up stylised version of some creature, but it does not have to be a dinosaur. A possible clue that it was not a dinosaur is that Job says it “finds shade in the marsh” (Job 40:21). However, we know that marshes are made up of grasses, rushes, reeds, and low-growing shrubs. But this terrain wouldn’t be a viable home for a large dinosaur such as the sauropod (which is over 30 meters long), as YECs believe (5). How could an animal that big “find shade” among plants that were only waist-high to a man? Moreover, the book of Job is clearly full of poetic and allegorical writing. It is also, according to many biblical scholars, a story that is not intended to read like a modern day historical report, although it probably does have grounding in actual history. If this is the case then it is simply unwarranted to use the mentioning of beasts as evidence for dinosaurs.

Regarding the Leviathan mentioned in the Psalms and Isaiah it is simply believed to be a large undefined sea monster or creature. In Psalm 74 God is said to “break the heads of Leviathan in pieces” before giving his flesh to the people of the wilderness. In Psalm 104 God is praised for having made all things, including Leviathan, and in Isaiah 27:1 it is called the “wriggling serpent” who will be killed at the end of time. Although some have argued that the leviathan was a crocodile or a hippo (6), it is very probable that the Leviathan is simply a mythical creature, especially since sea serpents featured prominently in the literature of the Ancient Near East (7). Scholars have argued that this is the best way to understand the Leviathan (8). Again, it is almost certainly not a dinosaur nor does the biblical text support that idea.

So, just these few lines considered, one may be in a well grounded position to deny that the biblical texts ever support the notion of dinosaurs living in recent history alongside man.

Why aren’t Dinosaurs Mentioned in the Bible?

The Bible does not mention dinosaurs just as it doesn’t mention the millions of other animal species. And in the place where dinosaurs could be mentioned, such as in the Genesis 1 creation account, we find that they are not. Why? Simply because, given God’s revelation, God did not intend to provide the Jews with information that was not relevant to his purposes. Instead, God’s communication to them was centered on the relationship between God and man and the rules by which God wanted his human creatures to live by. It focuses on mankind’s relationship to God. Therefore, dinosaurs would only be an irrelevant distraction. Moreover, they simply wouldn’t have understood what God was saying since they had no concept of the Earth being hundreds of millions of years or billions of years old.

In other words, we have to come to an informed conclusion regarding the dinosaurs from evidence outside of the Bible. And on this note the physical evidence is clear that dinosaurs existed since we have found thousands of fossils suggesting that they did. Dinosaurs must have also existed far before contemporary animals since that are not interwoven with modern creatures in the fossil record. Paleontologists have always found dinosaur fossils below the fossils of more modern creatures. Coupled with dating techniques we learn that they lived hundreds of millions of years ago and became extinct some 65 million years ago.

A Young Earth Problem.

Since many Christians believe that the Bible says that the Earth is only a few thousand years old then the dinosaurs prove to be a huge problem. This is because it is obvious that they lived much earlier than a few thousand years ago. However, even if we grant the YEC that the Earth is just 6000 years old then there’s the problem of explaining dinosaur fossils. The implication is that God then created the Earth and dinosaur fossils with an appearance of age. In other words, God is a deceiver by creating the world to appear much older than it really is.


1. Job 3:8, Amos 9:3, Psalm 74:13–23, Psalm 104:26 and Isaiah 27:1

2. Van Der Toorn, K., Becking, B. Van Der Horst, P. 1999. Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible. p. 165–168.

3. Metzger, B. & Coogan, M. 2004. The Oxford Guide To People And Places Of The Bible. p. 33.

4. Metzger, B. & Coogan, M. 2004. Ibid.

5. Steel, A. 2001. “Could Behemoth Have Been a Dinosaur?”

6. 1959. The Holy Bible Revised Standared Version. p. 555-556

7. Van Der Toorn, K., Becking, B. Van Der Horst, P. 1999. Ibid. p. 512–514.

8. Gunkel, H., Zimmern, H. & Whitney, W. Creation And Chaos in the Primeval Era And the Eschaton: A Religio-historical Study of Genesis 1 and Revelation 12.

4 responses to “Dinosaurs in the Bible? Not Really.

  1. I’m not sure I understand your logic or argument here. If you believe Genesis, and it’s 1st 11 chapters, then how can you possibly say that the earth has been here millions of years? And if you don’t believe Genesis, and suggest that the earth has been here millions of years, then where do you draw the line on the truth-fullness of the Bible. In other words, how can you ignore Genesis’ 1st 11 chapters, yet believe all other parts of the Bible? I believe that the whole Bible is the truth, therefore the earth is not millions of years old, and I question the logic of aging, err dating techniques. Most scientists that believe that earth is millions of years old, are also those same scientists that believe in the Big Bang theory, and that we also evolved from animals.

    • I agree with you, Chris. Seems to me that “apologists” in general simply express their own interpretation of much of the Bible, but then expect others to accept what they say as “the truth” – even if this means contradicting themselves, and the Bible itself, at times.
      Apologists believe what they wish to believe about certain passages and simply pick and choose which ones they actually deem to be true – just like many so-called “Christians” do today.
      Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:17 saying “Your word is Truth” – and that’s certainly good enough for me.

  2. Pingback: Dinosaurs in the Bible? Not Really. — James Bishop’s Theology & Apologetics. | Talmidimblogging·

  3. Pingback: Q&A – Theological Rationalism & Understanding the Bible’s Really Weird Animals. | James Bishop's Theology & Apologetics.·

Let me know your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s