Bulletin Banner

Return to God's Revelation home page.


by John N. Clayton

What about Dinosaurs?

The one remaining question in our study of the Genesis account is the question of how prehistoric creatures like the dinosaurs fit into the Genesis account. Before tackling this subject, it is important to present an explanation of our approach to the words of Genesis. It is our belief that, in order to have any meaningful understanding of the Bible, we must understand words to always have the same meaning unless there is an unquestionably unique reason why they do not (such as the biblical writer redefining a term). A New Testament example might be useful. What does the word baptize mean? Greek scholars tell me the word is derived from a Greek term meaning to immerse. In Acts 8:38, people went down into the water and John was said to be baptizing in the Jordan River "because there was much water there" (John 3:23). There are many places where there is no way to tell from the description whether the method of baptism was by sprinkling or pouring or some other method. If the word baptize is clear in most cases, I assume it must mean the same thing in all the other places. Those who maintain that there are innumerable interpretations of the Bible do so primarily because they have refused to recognize the consistency of words in the biblical account. Much of the confusion about the Genesis account among people in the religious world has taken place because words are not used consistently.

What do words like behemah, kanaph, remes, etc., in Genesis mean? If you look at appendices A and C you can see these words being used. I suggest that these words are used in Genesis the same way they are elsewhere in the biblical record. Behemah is used 51 times in the Bible. All of the times outside of Genesis that the word's use can be determined, it is used in reference to an ungulate — an animal that nurses its young. (The reference usually is to a cow.) What does behemah mean in Genesis 1:24-25? Can it refer to a Tyranosaurus rex? To be facetious, I seriously doubt that anyone has ever attempted to milk a T. rex! Behemah cannot refer to a dinosaur. In Job 40:15, there is another reference to a large version of behemah. A giant ground sloth is a real possibility for the meaning of this word, but a dinosaur is not unless the words are being used in a very inconsistent way! The leviathan of Job 40 is described in Psalm 104 as a creature of the deep ocean. Dinosaurs were not deep ocean creatures. The context of the passage is the struggle between good and evil, and the language certainly gives us a vivid picture of evil. Most dinosaurs were harmless cocker spaniel-sized reptiles. Words like behemoth and leviathan cannot be dinosaurs. All of the animals in Genesis 1 are animals that Moses was familiar with — his cattle, his poultry, etc.

It is a major error to assume that these words can include the amoeba, virus, duckbilled platypus, echidnas, bats, etc. There have been some 26 million different species of living things that have existed on this planet. If Genesis used half a verse to tell us about each of these, the Genesis account would be 13 million verses long and you would need a fork lift to pick up your Bible. That is not the purpose for which the Bible was written! Genesis is saying two things: (1) that God created everything and (2) that God created man special in His image. When, where, how, and why are not spelled out and are not relevant to the purposes for which the Bible was written. God has not told us when the dinosaurs were created. Like a lot of things, dinosaurs were created for a reason, fulfilled that reason, and then disappeared.

There are several possible ways to explain the dinosaurs and how they fit into Genesis. The Bible says that God does not do anything in vain (Isaiah 45:18), and that is true of the dinosaurs. There is considerable evidence that the dinosaurs were major influences in the preparation of the earth for man. The dinosaurs ate gymnosperms — sporebearing plants like ferns, conifers, etc. You and I eat angiosperms — plants with fruit and seeds, not gymnosperms. The whole dinosaur ecosystem led to the successful preparing of the earth for man to be able to live and eat. If the dinosaurs were created for this purpose, then they must have been brought into existence by God in Genesis 1:1-3. The word translated earth in Genesis 1:1 does not refer to a blob of gook. In the rest of the Bible it refers to a functioning, life-bearing planet. The word was in Genesis 1:2 is translated became in Genesis 19:26. Whether this has reference to the asteroid collision mentioned earlier is problematical, but the eradication of the dinosaurs by some process cleared the way for man and his world. The prehistory of the earth is in Genesis 1:1-3, while man and his world are created in what may have been a literal week, and man and his animals occupy the rest of the chapter.

Tree of Evolution

The Bible not only gives us an account, which is checkable in every detail of the history that it gives, but also a checkable means of taxonomical classification. The figure below shows the well-known Tree of Evolution as it is portrayed in Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History. In this tree, the oldest and simplest forms of life are found at the bottom of the tree, and the more complex and the more recent forms of life are at the top. There are a number of problems with this model. Animals like the trilobite have been placed at the top of this tree. This has been done because the animal is so complex. The trilobite eye is sometimes referred to as nature's most perfect eye. The eye of the trilobite was so good that it could look at something a foot away and something a mile away and they would both be in focus at the same time. Needless to say, this is not something that you and I can do. The problem with this is that the trilobite is one of the oldest animals to have ever lived on the earth. The trilobite is an index fossil for the Cambrian period which is the period when life began. There is no way this complex animal can logically be at the bottom of the evolutionary tree; so even though it is very old, it is placed near the top of the tree in the museum chart. Other examples exist that have similar problems. The bryozoans are one of the simplest animals to have ever lived on the earth, but they are not found in the earliest rocks. There are a large number of cases like these that violate the assumptions of neo-Darwinism.

There is also the problem of the ease with which animals can be classified. Classical evolutionary neo-Darwinism suggests that there should have been a large number of transitional forms between groups. These would have been animals that could not be classified easily, because they were an evolutionary "experiment" between orders or phyla. There should have been thousands of evolutionary dead ends — animals who were unsuccessful and died out, but were links between related taxonomical groups. What could you have that would be in between the cold-blooded animals and the warm-blooded animals? Can we logically believe in luke-warm-blooded animals? Rather than engage in a running gun battle, both scientists and more open creationists have looked at other options. An option suggested about 40 years ago by Dr. George Kerkut in his book Meanings and Implications of Evolution involves a forest model instead of a tree model. Another name that has been applied to this model in recent years is the lawn of evolution.

The concept being proposed here is that life started in many different trees of evolution. Each tree started independently, but the changes in the tree eventually led to a diverse population of animals who were uniquely linked. Dr. John Bonner of Yale commented on Kerkut's suggestion by saying "This is a book with a disturbing message. It points to some cracks in the foundations. The truth of the matter is that we do not know whether the transition from nonliving to living occurred once or twice or many times … ." (American Scientist, volume 49, June 1961, page 240 and Scientific American, November 1992, page 84). The really interesting thing about this model is that it is extremely close to what the Genesis account has been saying all along. The word kind in Hebrew is the word min, and it is a broad term. In the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 15:39 says that there are four kinds of flesh — the flesh of birds, the flesh of beast, the flesh of fish, and the flesh of man. The same system of classification is used in the first chapter of Genesis and in the flood chapter. We would suggest that the biological community has finally caught up with Genesis and that this division matches the fossil record better than any model that has ever been proposed.

Continue to CONCLUSION


©1998, 2015 by John N. Clayton. All rights reserved.