“Why Are Dinosaurs Not Mentioned in the Bible?”
A college student visited our offices some time ago and asked what he believed were troubling questions about the coexistence of dinosaurs and humans. One question that puzzled him was why dinosaurs are not mentioned in the Bible. “If God really did create dinosaurs, and if humans cohabited the Earth with them in the past, then surely we would read the word ‘dinosaur’ at least once in the Bible.”
Admittedly, a person will not find the word “dinosaur” in most English translations of the Bible. However, this does not negate the fact that dinosaurs once cohabited the Earth with man. First, we must keep in mind that the Bible is not a taxonomical book. The Bible’s main purpose is to tell us about God and His scheme of redemption, not to list every animal God created. The Bible mentions a variety of animals (including snakes, chickens, horses, goats, etc.), but not every animal. Simply because the Scriptures do not mention an animal does not mean that the Bible teaches the animal never existed alongside humans. There are many animals the Bible never specifically mentions, including cats, kangaroos, elephants, aardvarks, anteaters, platypuses, and penguins. To say that these animals do not cohabit the Earth with man because the Bible does not mention them, would, of course, be false. To assume dinosaurs and humans never lived together because “the Bible doesn’t mention dinosaurs,” is equally erroneous.
Second, one must recognize that whereas the Bible was completed 1,900 years ago and was translated fully into English by 1535 (by Miles Coverdale), the English word “dinosaur” was not coined until 1842—more than 300 years after the first complete English translation of the Old and New Testaments. Obviously, one would not expect to find the English term dinosaur—meaning “fearfully great” (deinos) “lizard” or “reptile” (sauros)—in a translation of the Bible that preceded its coinage.
Third, though most modern English Bible translators have elected to omit the term “dinosaur” in translations produced after 1842, such exclusion does not necessarily mean that Bible writers refrained from mentioning dinosaurs or dinosaur-like creatures. Consider the Hebrew term tannin. In Job 7:12, it is translated “sea monster” (ASV, NASB, RSV), “monster of the deep” (NIV), or “sea serpent” (NKJV). In Genesis 1:21 and Psalm 148:7 where the plural form of tannin is used (tannim) in literal contexts (like Job 7:12), the word is translated “great sea creatures/monsters” (NKJV, NIV; ASV, NASB, RSV). What are these “monsters” of the sea? No one knows for sure. It is possible that these are references to dinosaur-like, water-living reptiles (e.g., plesiosaurs). Also of interest is the fact that Isaiah referred to the “flying serpent” (30:6). Although it is impossible to know the exact identity of the “flying serpent,” we know that flying reptiles with long tails and slender bodies (e.g., Rhamphorynchus, Dimorphodon) once lived (cf. Herodotus, 1850, pp. 75-76). What’s more, the Bible gives God’s description of two massive creatures in Job 40-41, behemoth and leviathan, which sound exactly like dinosaurs or dinosaur-like, water-living reptiles (see Lyons, 2001).
Finally, regardless of whether dinosaurs are mentioned specifically in the Bible or not, one can know that they were created alongside man during the Creation week (Genesis 1), and not millions of years earlier. “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” (Exodus 20:11, emp. added).
Herodotus (1850 reprint), Historiae, trans. Henry Clay (London: Henry G. Bohn).
Lyons, Eric (2001), “Behemoth and Leviathan—Creatures of Controversy,” Reason & Revelation, 21:1-7, January, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/154.