Does the Bible Mention Dinosaurs? (Apologetics, Part 3)

Does the Bible Mention Dinosaurs? The word dinosaur appears nowhere in the biblical text, but this fact should not be interpreted to indicate that the Bible is silent regarding the existence of dinosaurs. The word dinosaur was coined in the nineteenth-century from the merger of two Greek words: δεινός (deinos – “terrible”) and σαῦρος (sauros – “lizard”). As a result, one should not expect to find the word dinosaur in the Hebrew (and Aramaic) text of the Old Testament and the Koine Greek text of the New Testament. The issue here is one of terminology. Those creatures that we call dinosaurs (i.e. Tyrannosaurus Rex, Apatosaurus, etc.) were called dragons and sea monsters by the inhabitants of the ancient and medieval worlds.

What’s more, there are words in both Hebrew and Koine Greek that can be translated as dragon and sea-monster. For example, the Hebrew word תַּנִּין (tannîn; plural: תַּנִּינִיםtannînîm) can be translated “sea monster,” “sea-dragon,” and “serpent.”[1] The first occurrence of this word is Genesis 1:21: “And God created אֶת־הַתַּנִּינִם (tannînîm), and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.” Bible translators are certainly not united in their understanding of tannînîm in this passage. The King James Version (KJV) translates tannînîm here as “great whales” (cf. Job 7:12; Ezek. 32:2) while most modern translations tend to translate it as either “sea creatures” or “sea monsters.” Elsewhere, the KJV predominantly translates tannîn as dragon (e.g. Pss. 74:13; 91:13; 148:7; Isa. 27:1; 51:9; Jer. 51:34; Ezek. 29:3). The KJV also translates tannîn as serpent in Exodus 7:9-12 and Deuteronomy 32:33. The Greek word κῆτος (cētos) is frequently the LXX equivalent of the Hebrew tannîn, and it is similarly translated “sea monster.”[2]

John MacArthur interprets tannînîm in Genesis 1:21 to mean dinosaurs.[3] Similarly, many biblical expositors interpret Leviathan and Behemoth (in Job 40-41) as a biblical description of two dragons (i.e. dinosaurs) – the former seaborne and the latter land-borne. In conclusion, the Hebrew term tannîn certainly has a wide range of meaning: (1) serpent; (2) whale; (3) any large seaborne creature; or (4) dragon (i.e. dinosaurs). Though certain occurrences of tannîn / tannînîm may refer to creatures that we would call dinosaurs, others likely do not. However, that being said, the Bible is not silent regarding the existence of dinosaurs.

 

Notes:

[1]A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament [HALOT], ed. William L. Holladay (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1971; reprint 1988), 392.

[2]Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, ed. Frederick William Danker, trans. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich [BAGD], 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 544.

[3]John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 10.

Leave a Comment