The topic of dinosaurs fascinates virtually everyone.Children especially are captivated by the dinosaur theme as they behold artists’ perceptions of these magnificent creatures that roamed the earth centuries ago, as such are portrayed in books, on television, and in the movies.
Inasmuch as God created every major kind of biological organism that inhabited the primitive earth, surely this subject is of considerable interest to the Christian.In this presentation we will consider several aspects of this topic.
The term “dinosaur” derives from a Greek expression signifying “terrible lizard.”Apparently the word was first coined about 1841, when an English scientist, Richard Owens, used the term for a “newly discovered” class of fossils representing a large category of animals that once inhabited the earth.Over the past two centuries or so, millions of dinosaur remains have been discovered around the world.
Dinosaur fossils are found on every continent of the world, including the subcontinent of Australia.Their fossils are embedded as far north as Spitsbergen in the Arctic Ocean and as far south as the southern tip of South America.They appear in great variety and in many sizes.Some were as small as chickens and others weighed over 50 tons.Vast fossil graveyards of dinosaurs are found in North America, Africa, Asia and other places (Bliss, et al., p. 43).
It is customary in evolutionary circles to claim that dinosaurs and humans were never contemporary. Rather, supposedly these great creatures became extinct some 65 million years before any ape-like creature evolved to the “human” status.This view, of course, is totally out of harmony with the teaching of the Scriptures in several particulars.In this discussion, we will restrict ourselves to the question of whether the evidence indicates (explicitly, or by implication) that dinosaurs and human beings were contemporary at some point in the past.
Dinosaurs and Man — Biblical Evidence
On the fifth day of the initial week, Jehovah “created the great sea monsters [tanninim], and every living creature” that moved within the earth’s great waters (Genesis 1:21).The day following, other “living creatures after their kind” adorned the land; these included “beasts of the earth” (vv. 24-25).
The tanninim represented a large class of creatures including “possibly dinosaurs in Gen. 1:21; Job 7:12; Psa. 148:7; Jer. 51:34” (Klotz, p. 79).Another scholar notes that the Hebrew word is generic and “refers to a class of large-bodied creatures of great or wondrous power” (Stigers, p. 60).The same author observes that the expressions of verse 24, e.g., “cattle” [behemah], “creeping things” [remes], and “beasts of the earth” [hayath-ha’ares] are “not intended to be exhaustive; the words pertain more to certain characteristics. . . the terms are capable of quite wide interpretation.All subclasses are included” (p. 61).
It is interesting to note that at the conclusion of the sixth day of that first week, Moses wrote that “God saw everything that he had made, and, behold it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).Add to this the fact that the same inspired writer later declared that “. . . in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is” (Exodus 20:11; emp. added).Here is the indisputable evidence that the dinosaur “kind” was made during the same week that man and woman came into existence.
New Testament Testimony
Jesus himself declared that the human family began its existence upon the earth back at “the beginning of the creation” (Mark 10:6), and Paul argued that God’s attributes have been evident to humankind “from the creation of the world” (Romans 1:20).There is no way in which these passages (and many others of like kind) can be harmonized with the notion that human beings did not arrive upon the earth until millions of years after dinosaurs became extinct.For further study, see our book dealing with this theme (Jackson, 2003).
How does this case stack up against the reckless assertion that “man could not have lived in a world full of dinosaurs, so by the time God created Adam the dinosaurs were gone” (Clayton, p. 14)?
In addition to the foregoing, there is that context in the book of Job — regarding “behemoth” — that must be taken into consideration.
In the second phase of the concluding encounter between God and Job (see Job 38:1ff), the Almighty said to the patriarch: "Behold, now behemoth, which I made. . . " (Job 40:15). The Lord then described a monstrous creature that was beyond man’s ability to control, and thus a striking example of the superiority of Heaven’s power as compared to man’s.
Earlier in this marvelous book, the famous patriarch of Uz had become the victim of a series of devastating blows that would have crushed most men. He had lost his material prosperity (which was considerable), his children (all ten of them) were killed, his health failed (he was afflicted with a loathsome disease), and there was the disdain of his wife and friends. All in all, he felt this was a punishment quite out of proportion to any weaknesses he had.
He complained, therefore, that his Maker was mismanaging the affairs of this earth. Time and again, he challenged the Lord to meet with him, in order to debate this matter. The noble patriarch felt sure he could prevail, in the event of such an encounter.
Finally, after Job had “rattled on” for a sufficient time, Jehovah issued a response to his frustrated servant. He began by asking Job a series of penetrating questions (roughly sixty) — first, relative to the inanimate creation (38:4-38), and then, with reference to the animate world (38:39-39:30).
Eventually, God paused in his intensive interrogation (which the man of Uz royally “flunked”), and gave the patriarch opportunity to respond (40:1-2). But Job could say nothing, choosing rather to “rest his case” on the arguments previously introduced (40:5). The patriarch had made some progress, but he had not progressed far enough. And so the Lord brought him to “Round Two.”
In effect, Jehovah said to his servant: “Job, by your criticism of me, you seem to think you are qualified to ‘be God.’ Very well, why don’t you adorn yourself with the apparel of deity [excellency, dignity, honor, and majesty — v. 10]? When you have demonstrated your ability to act as God, I stand ready to listen to you” (cf. v. 14).
This appears to be the Lord’s argument: If one exalts himself to the status of God (asserting the right to criticize his Maker), then he also must be as powerful as God. The Creator’s plenitude in wisdom and power are co-equal. If Job is as wise as he apparently thinks he is, he should be exceedingly strong as well — but is he?
The Lord then proceeded to introduce two terribly powerful creatures — one of the land, behemoth (40:15-24), and the other of the sea, leviathan (41:1-34). Neither of these massive creatures is subject to control by man — including Job. Consequently, the irresistible conclusion that must follow is this: Man is not qualified to criticize God’s moral operation of the earth.
With this brief background sketch, we will henceforth focus upon behemoth. Is it possible to identify this monstrous creature?
Chief of the Ways of God
The English word “behemoth” is an anglicized, plural form of the Hebrew behema (found nine times in the Old Testament). The word, which basically means “beast,” commonly is used in a generic way (cf. Genesis 6:7). In Job 40:15ff, however, the description provided by the inspired writer clearly indicates that a specific animal is in view.The plural format is generally regarded as a device to intensify, i.e., “great beast.” As one writer notes, the significance is “super beast,” i.e., “the noblest and strongest beast” (Hartley, p. 523). T.K. Cheyne suggested the meaning “a colossal beast” (p. 519).
Exactly what sort of creature was this “behemoth,” to which the Lord so powerfully appealed in his humbling examination of Job? Let us note what the text actually says.
“Behold now, behemoth, which I made as well as you; he eats grass like an ox.Look, his strength is in his loins.And his force is in the muscles of his belly.He moves his tail like a cedar:The sinews of his thighs are knit together.His bones are as tubes of brass; his limbs are like bars of iron.He is the chief of the ways of God: only he who made him gives him his sword.Surely the mountains bring forth food for him — where all the beasts of the field do play.He lies under the lotus-trees, in the covert of the reeds and the marsh.The lotus trees cover him with their shade; the willows of the brook surround him.Behold, if a river overflows, he does not tremble; he is confident, though a Jordan [swift river] swell even to his mouth.Shall any take him when he is on the watch, or pierce through his nose with a snare?” (40:15-24).
Over the years numerous attempts have been made to identify this awesome creature.The purpose of this discussion is to weigh the merits of the most prominent ideas, thus attempting to arrive at a reasonable conclusion.
Myth or Symbol
Liberal scholars dismiss the account as a mere mythological fantasy of antiquity (Cheyne, p. 520; Terrien, p. 1186).Such a view will be rejected by the reverent Bible student.Jehovah could hardly have pressed his case with Job if the patriarch knew that behemoth was simply a fictitious creature. This theory warrants no further attention.
Others, with an equally weak case, suggest that behemoth was not a real animal, but merely a “symbolic” creature, with exaggerated features borrowed from the hippopotamus (Smick, pp. 1048-49).It is regrettable that some Christian men, while rejecting the theory of evolution, have nonetheless endorsed the idea that this description of behemoth is but “poetic hyperbole” (Shackleford, p. 284).How could the Lord have convinced Job with mere hyperbole?Moreover, in the section that begins in 38:39, and continues through 39:30, the Lord introduces nine creatures to illustrate his wisdom in the animal kingdom.Why, in continuing his argument on behalf of his power, would he suddenly leave the real world of living creatures and switch to hyperbole?That concept makes no sense.
Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274), a noted theologian of Roman Catholic fame, thought that behemoth was an elephant. This view, however, has never entertained significant credibility among scholars, and for several reasons. The elephant is not by any means the “chief” of those beasts that have lived upon the earth. Too, the elephant’s strength is in his neck, head, and tusks, not in his “belly.”In fact, he is most vulnerable in the abdominal region.Finally, the elephant’s tail does not remind one of a “cedar” tree — even remotely.
The New English Bible, published in the Old Testament format in 1970, presumptuously rendered behemoth by the term “crocodile.”That identification scarcely can be accurate, however, since behemoth was clearly a grass-eater, while the crocodile is carnivorous. Moreover, it hardly seems reasonable to speak of a river “swelling even to his mouth,” when contemplating the crocodile.
In addition, the Lord emphasized that only behemoth’s Maker could vanquish the creature; certainly man could not take him (40:19b,24). By way of contrast, Herodotus (c. 484-425 B.C.) described how the Egyptians captured the crocodile, tamed it, venerated the beast, and even adorned it with jewelry (II.69-70).
The most popular view is that behemoth was the hippopotamus (see footnotes in ASV, RSV, ESV, etc.). But there are objections to this theory as well.Behemoth is ranked as the “chief” of the Lord’s creatures (v. 19). The Hebrew term suggests “one of the hugest creatures” (Delitzsch, p. 361).Barnes observed that “chief” signified “first” in “size and strength” (p. 250). The fact is, the hippopotamus is third in line among the larger varieties of earth’s creatures, being surpassed by both the elephant and the rhinoceros.He is not the “chief” in the modern world, much less the ancient one.
Rawlinson, who argued on behalf of the hippo, conceded that this is a problem for the hippo theory — since the elephant is larger. He opines, however, that the author of Job may not have known of the elephant. A scholar as learned as he, should not need to be reminded that God was the author of this description!
It might be mentioned as well that whereas the hippo weighs a bit under three tons, some of the animals of the dinosaur kind weighed many times that much.The Brachiosaurus is estimated to have weighed about eighty-five tons, standing as tall as a five-story building (see Weishampel, pp. 206ff).The hippo is hardly “chief” compared to this gentleman!
In addition, the hippo’s tail is only about twenty inches long. It certainly does not resemble the cedar, the most massive tree known in the Palestinian region of old, often attaining the height of some 120 feet (see Bromiley, p. 626).Though Anderson favored the hippo as the best candidate, he nevertheless admitted: “It is hard to see how his tail can be compared to a cedar, for the tail of the hippopotamus is small and short” (p. 289).
Finally, Rawlinson observed that the Egyptians, “from very early times, used to attack the hippopotamus and slay him” (p. 642). The Greek historian Herodotus said that the ancients would dry the tough skin of the hippo and from it make javelins (II.71). There are Egyptian tile mosaics that depict the men of that country spearing the hippo from their boats. One Egyptologist stated that it was a “customary thing with the old Egyptians to thus attack these animals” (cited by McClintock, p. 279).
Why do you suppose that a dinosaur is rarely proposed as a candidate for behemoth?The answer is very simple.As noted earlier, the common perception is that dinosaurs became extinct long before man arrived upon this planet (approximately 65 million years, it is alleged).Accordingly, behemoth simply could not be a variety of dinosaur — because the chronological disparity prohibits such.Dr. Henry Morris has addressed the matter in this fashion.
“Modern Bible scholars, for the most part, have become so conditioned to think in terms of the long ages of evolutionary geology that it never occurs to them that mankind once lived in the same world with the great animals that are now found only as fossils” (p. 115).
As we have demonstrated already, there is unequivocal biblical testimony that human beings and dinosaurs inhabited the same early environment of the earth, and there is not a shred of scientific evidence that proves otherwise.
Is there evidence, of a secular/scientific nature, that supports the Bible’s affirmation that all biological “kinds” once lived upon this planet at the same time?Many claim there is not.This is to be expected from evolutionists who acknowledge that if evidence should come to light that demonstrates the cohabitation of humans and dinosaurs, such “would seriously disrupt conventional interpretations of biological and geological history” (see Milne/Schafersman, pp. 111-123).
One Christian writer rejects the identification of behemoth (see above) with a dinosaur type because he knows “of no ancient texts that describe the dinosaurs during the biblical periods” (Shackleford, p. 284).Is the biblical record to be afforded no credibility?Does this assumption even fit the secular, historical facts?
The literature of antiquity, throughout various nations of the globe, has preserved numerous records of huge, terrifying animals that held human beings in awe.China, Europe, and the Middle East contain many examples of such.Frequently they are called “dragons,” and the stories regarding them are not dissimilar.The World Book Encyclopedia comments: “The dragons of legend are much like the great reptiles which inhabited the earth long before man is supposed to have appeared on earth” (Wilson, p. 265).
One of the world’s foremost scholars of ancient Sumerian literature was Dr. Samuel Noah Kramer, Professor of Assyriology at the University of Pennsylvania.In his fascinating book, History Begins At Sumer, the professor has an entire chapter titled, “Slaying of the Dragon: The First St. George,” which focuses upon the Sumerian “dragon” tradition.Sumer (the southern region of modern Iraq) is the first sophisticated civilization known to secular history.In that discussion Kramer observed that the “dragon” motif is common to “almost all peoples and ages” (p. 170).
The “father of history,” Herodotus (c. 484-425 B.C.), speaks of “serpents” in Arabia that could fly (II.75).Similarly, Josephus (c. A.D. 37-95), the Jewish historian, wrote about some sort of “serpent” that was able to “fly in the air” during the days of Moses (Antiquities, 2.10.2).He may have been relying on “legends” he had heard — or that he had read about in a more ancient work. Certain types of dinosaurs are classified as pterosaurs, “flying reptiles.”
Artistic drawings, carvings, etc., of dinosaur-type creatures appear among the ruins of a number of ancient civilizations.Many of these are strikingly accurate — much more so, in fact, than representations first crafted by paleontologists in the early days of “dinosaurology” — less than two centuries ago.
This writer has in his library the original report of the Doheny Scientific Expedition to the Hava Supai Canyon in Northern Arizona, which took place in October/November, 1924 (see “The Hava Supai Dinosaur Carving”).The exploration was under the oversight of Dr. Samuel Hubbard, the Honorary Curator of Archaeology of the Oakland Museum, Oakland, California.Accompanying the exploration party was Charles W. Gilmore, Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology of the United States National Museum.
On one of the canyon walls are carved “pictographs” of dinosaurs that “show every sign of a great antiquity” (p. 7).In the same general region are dinosaur tracks.In Hubbard’s report there is a stunning photograph of one of the dinosaur pictographs that was compared to the Diplodocus, standing upright.The scientist noted: “the fact that the animal is upright and balanced on its tail would seem to indicate that the prehistoric artist must have seen it alive” (p. 7).The author then stated this remarkable conclusion:
“Either man goes back in Geologic time to the Triassic Period, which is millions of years beyond anything yet admitted, or else there were ‘left over’ dinosaurs which came down into the age of mammals” (p. 9).
The Hubbard report also contains several additional items that throw the evolutionary “geologic timetable” into a tailspin.There is the photo of a human moccasin print, complete with stitching, from the so-called Triassic age (pp. 24-25).Another photograph of a basalt rock carving contains the image of a creature that is very similar to the Stegosaurus, complete with armor plates protruding from its back (p. 26).
Dr. Dennis Swift has made a significant study of the art artifacts excavated from the Chupicauro civilization (flourished 500 B.C. — A.D. 500) in Mexico.Hundreds of figurines, made of stone and clay (measuring from a few inches in length to four or five feet long), depict, with amazing precision, a wide variety of dinosaurs.The exciting story of the investigation and photographing of these artifacts, by Drs. Swift and Donald Patton, is found here on the world wide web.The article not only contains photographs of these dinosaur figurines, but an elaborate defense of the genuineness of the discoveries against charges of a hoax.
Another interesting study relates to small stone carvings that were buried among the Inca ruins of Peru.More than 11,000 of these artistic stones, crafted by ancient Inca Indians (c. A.D. 500-1500), and interred with their dead, have been discovered.Thousands of these carved stones depict dinosaurs of various sorts, e.g., the Triceratops and Stegosaurus.Beautiful photographs of some of these treasures are found on Dr. Donald Patton’s web site.For photos of several other items of the same genre, see Harrub, et al.
Footprints in Stone
In several places (e.g., Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and even Russia), discoveries have been made concerning which appear to document the fact that both dinosaur and human footprints have been found in the same rock stratum.One of these was in Glen Rose, Texas in the Paluxy River bed.When Roland Bird, a paleontologist with the American Museum of Natural History examined the “human” tracks in the 1930’s, he was amazed.He declared: “Yes, they apparently were real enough.Real as rock could be. . . the strangest things of their kind I had ever seen.On the surface of each was splayed the near-likeness of a human foot, perfect in every detail” (emp. added).However, when Dr. Bird learned that there were dinosaur imprints nearby, in the same stratum, he dismissed the “human” tracks as clever carvings — the reason being, “no man had ever existed in the Age of Reptiles” (Bird, pp. 255-257).
In the mid-eighties, two amateur “paleontologists” generated considerable controversy by denying that the “man” tracks in the Paluxy bed were, in fact, of human origin.One of the men was Ronnie Hastings, a disciple of Charles Darwin, who taught high school physics. The other was Glen Kuban, a computer programmer, who has made a second career by trying to overthrow any evidence advanced by creationists that the earth is relatively young (dated in terms of thousands, not billions, of years).Kuban acknowledges his belief that the theory of evolution is “a plausible idea.”
The Hastings/Kuban theory is that the tracks actually were but remnants of prints made by a three-toed dinosaur in two different postures of walking — at times on tip-toe; at other times, flat-footed.Too, some of the tracks, they allege, were altered by the inflow of mud sediment.A reporter who interviewed the two wrote:
“Kuban’s theory is that toe imprints of an elongated dinosaur track could have filled in, by mud flowing into the track and from thin sediments flowing into the print.The result?An oblong impression that could appear more human than dinosaurian” (Golden, p. 27).
But many questions remain.For a response to some of Kuban’s arguments, see Taylor (pp. 71ff).
Some creationists now are reserved about citing the Paluxy tracks as evidence for human/dinosaur cohabitation, yet others insist that the case is not closed.Donald Patton, a respected geologist, argues for the validity of at least some of the Paluxy tracks (see Dr. Patton’s website).Another source that brings the controversy into a more balanced focus is Helfinstine and Roth’s book, Texas Tracks and Artifacts.
No Christian desires to manufacture evidence that is not genuine; at the same time, one need not be intimidated every time a skeptic, burdened with an obvious agenda, wants to dispute the evidence.
Dinosaurs on the Ark?
Did Noah take dinosaurs on to the ark?Logic would suggest that he did.Consider these points.
God instructed Noah to take a male and female of each kind of land animal upon the ark (Genesis 6:19-20; 7:15-16).There is no reason why this would not have included dinosaurs.
It would not have been necessary to take a pair of each species; rather, only the major “kinds” (cf. Genesis 1) need have been preserved (as with the original creation process).
It must not be assumed that adult types were required.Young animals would have served Noah’s purpose just as well.
While some dinosaur types were extremely large, the average size of the dinosaur was about that of a horse.
If behemoth was a dinosaur (see earlier section), then a behemoth type must have been on the ark, because the Lord used the behemoth as an illustration in teaching Job.It is almost universally conceded by Bible scholars that the historical background for the book of Job is in the post-Flood period of the Patriarchal era.
What Happened to the Dinosaurs?
So far as we know for certain, dinosaurs do not exist upon the earth today.The question then is this, what happened to them?The answers provided by the scientists are as varied as they are bizarre.One evolutionist has written:
“Now comes the important question. What caused all these extinctions at one particular point in time, approximately 65 million years ago?Dozens of reasons have been suggested, some serious and sensible, others quite crazy, and yet others merely as a joke.Every year people come up with new theories on this thorny problem.The trouble is that if we are to find just one reason to account for them all, it would have to explain the death, all at the same time, of animals living on land and of animals living in the sea; but, in both cases, of only some of those animals, for many of the land dwellers and many of the sea-dwellers went on living quite happily into the following period.Alas, no such one explanation exists” (Charig, p. 150).
The foregoing paragraph only serves to demonstrate the state of confusion that reigns in the evolutionary community.It has been noted that more than fifty theories have been proposed (and disposed) regarding the disappearance of the dinosaurs.
The most recent theory surmises that a huge asteroid from outer space struck the earth, throwing billions of tons of rubble/dust into the atmosphere.Supposedly, the dust cloud shrouded the earth for several years.In this great blackout, most of the plants died, and so did the dinosaurs — for lack of food.This theory, however, is illogical on the face of it; it certainly does not explain why millions of smaller, less-hardy animals, birds, and reptiles did not expire at the same time.
But the fact is, Charig’s analysis, as cited above, may just hold the key to the most reasonable possibility of all.Is there an explanation that is able to postulate why millions of animals died suddenly (as evidenced by the vast fossil graveyards in various parts of the earth), and yet why others did not?Indeed.The Genesis record (chapters 6-10) provides the best answer.The universal Flood of Noah’s day is the most plausible concept that brings into harmony the difficulties in reconciling the dead/living ratio factor.
It is acknowledged by all familiar with the fossil record that there was an abrupt change in the climate of the ancient world.At one time the earth was characterized by a temperate, ideal climate.Tropical plants grew in the Arctic regions; our now-burning deserts had wondrous vegetation.Agnostic scientist, Dr. Robert Jastrow, has written:
“Throughout the long reign of the giant reptiles, the world had known a mild and constant climate; on every continent the eye met gentle landscapes of low relief, with shallow seas and vast areas of swampland and tropical forest.The elements of that world were in perfect balance.The clement, moist weather supported a lush growth of vegetation; the plant-eating dinosaurs fed on the vegetation, and the meat-eating dinosaurs fed on the plant-eaters” (p. 69).
Many biblical scholars believe that the Flood is the best explanation for the radical change in climate.It is likely that the pre-Flood globe was bathed in a blanket of water vapor that produced an Eden-like environment (cf. Genesis 1:7; 2:6).After the torrential rains dissipated that protective cover, earth’s climate changed radically.Additionally, the up-thrust of the “fountains of the deep” (Genesis 7:11), forged mountain ranges and carved deep canyons.Geo-conditions thus were created that facilitated drastic climatic alterations.The dinosaurs that populated the post-Flood world survived for a while — millennia even.However, when they could compete no longer, they gradually faded away.
But dinosaurs were not the only ones endangered; in fact, the extinction process is ongoing.Two evolutionists, Howard and Rifkin, state: “Over these past three billion years, one hundred million species have existed upon this planet.Of those, ninety-eight million are now extinct” (p. 21).Jared Diamond, a professor at the University of California (Los Angeles), suggests that about 150,000 different species of plants and animals are becoming extinct annually (pp. 57-58).
Skeptics, of course, dismiss the Flood story as mere fiction.They do so, however, at the sacrifice of their credibility.There are numerous ancient traditions, from all around the earth, of a Flood that consumed the entire earth, and from which only one family was saved.Noted archaeologist Howard Vos contends that “on all continents and among almost all peoples of the earth flood accounts have been found.”Anthropologists have collected between 250 to 300 of these records (p. 32).Moreover, the earth itself bears remarkable evidence of the Deluge.
It is a well-known fact that a significant number of people who are identified with the larger community of “Christendom” have accepted the evolutionary propaganda that dinosaurs lived millions of years before man arrived upon the planet.It is also fairly safe to say that many Christian young people have laid aside the biblical information on this matter (if, indeed, they ever were taught it), and they have ingested the evolutionary dogma which asserts that men and dinosaurs were never contemporary.This issue is but a symptom of a much larger problem — the compromise of biblical truth in deference to the mystique of that “religion” known as scientism.