How come the Bible never mentions dinosaurs? And where do we Christians make them fit in the story anyway, if they lived millions of years before people? Maybe you asked your pastor this and he hadn’t a good answer, or perhaps you think evolution and Christianity can live happily together, so what’s the problem? I hope you’re already reeling off the answers in your head by now, but a recent conversation made me realize that many Christians have perhaps not thought much about the topic, and are confused about dragons, dinosaurs, and unicorns.
As with many issues, if you start with your feet on the solid rock of God’s Word, the difficulties dissolve as you read through what God has to say. The challenge is to know where to look to begin solving the problem. In this case, you have a vocabulary challenge at the outset, because the word dinosaur was not invented until 1841. Sir Richard Owen combined the Greek word deinos (terrible) and sauros (lizard) in response to the huge fossils being discovered at that time. In Scripture, therefore, you’re not going to see the word dinosaur, but instead words like behemoth, leviathan, and yes, dragon.
Genesis 1 says that on day five of creation, God made the birds and everything that lives in the water. That includes large sea-creatures, also translated “huge whales” and “sea-monsters.” The Hebrew word is tanniyn, the same word rendered as dragon or sea-serpent elsewhere in the Old Testament.
On day six, God made the beasts of the earth. This would include all land-dwelling dinosaurs. Whether flying reptiles were brought into existence on day five or six, I couldn’t say. But by the time Adam was ready with the name tags, there were plenty of beasties to label, and we would call many of them dinosaurs. Yes, I just said that people and dinosaurs lived on Earth at the same time. A minority opinion, for sure, but not unreasonable. The same evidence that evolutionists cite to support billions of years and random processes, can be interpreted just as well—better, I think—to support a young earth and designed creation.
Before the fall everybody and everything ate strictly from the vegetarian menu, so people and animals got along fine. After the fall, people were still supposed to eat only plants, but the curse imposed in Genesis 3 brought out carnivorous tendencies in various animals. Thus most likely began the enmity between man and dragon, chronicled in many a tale. You can imagine the hunting parties and quests to destroy a giant dinosaur that had been terrorizing the village and eating up the livestock. It wouldn’t be too long before the creatures were cleared out of the increasingly populated areas, and were seen less frequently.
There’s also no reason to believe God didn’t direct a few dinosaur pairs to the door of the Ark. Many were plant eaters, many were small, and even large species were small as juveniles. The Ark was spacious enough to accommodate the dinosaur ‘kinds.’ A young earth worldview theorizes that a great many of the fossils we find were laid down during the Global Flood, so you would expect to see lots of dinosaur fossils in that mix. The dinosaurs on the Ark got off and multiplied, but surely were relentlessly hunted (after the flood, humans were given permission to eat meat) and driven away from where people were living.
Some ocean dwelling dinosaurs would have survived the flood, and man apparently tangled with them from time to time, as you can read in Job. Chapter 41 describes the Leviathan, whom if you once attempt to hunt, “you will remember the battle and never repeat it!” Read that whole chapter, and you’ll see that Leviathan snorted fire and smoke. It’s really a wild chapter, one of my favorites.
Legends of people fighting dragons and sea-monsters run through the folklore of cultures all over the world. Think of these stories from a Scriptural, historical perspective, and the pieces start clicking into place. Once in a while, you still hear of a mysterious, terrifying creature being sighted in the depths of some remote jungle or deep lake. Who knows if a few ‘dragons’ have not survived? Reptiles live a long time.
Yes, but what about unicorns, you ask? Well, they only show up in the King James version of the Bible, where the Hebrew word rehame is translated unicorn in Job 39, Numbers 23 and 24, and in a couple of Psalms. Language study having progressed significantly since the seventeenth century, modern versions translate rehame as a wild bull or ox. Scholars speculate that a really big, now-extinct species is indicated, such as the aurochs, though the exact meaning of the word is not known. Sorry, no one-horned, magical, pony-like creatures. But hey, dragons!