I was asked the following question, so I thought I’d answer it here.
Were Leviathans (Bible sea monsters) dinosaurs? And if so how do dinosaurs fit into the creation theory- if not, what were they?
1. I’m not a specialist in this topic, but here’s what I suspect from my limited knowledge of this subject.
2. Also, I’m going to answer this question from an adult perspective, and Dante’s significant other can ‘translate’ what I’m saying into age-appropriate vernacular.
Leviathan is mentioned only a handful of times in the Bible, perhaps five, if I’m not mistaken. It’s also mentioned in some types of ancient and other literature. The thing to keep in mind is that some people assume that, since they haven’t seen Leviathan and because we know so little of it, that perhaps it is only a myth.
Two things come to mind as I write that:
(1) People should be more, not less, inclined to take the Bible and its remarks at face value– rather than quickly throwing them off as pre-scientific nonsense. That’s simply because the Bible is written in a historical-grammatical way and is essentially a literal book. That last sentence is a theological way of saying that the Bible speaks matter-of-factly and in the plain sense of things– its general M.O. isn’t to speak encode. Though certain literary devices are certainly used in scripture (hyperbole, allegory, etc.), the writers of scripture are usually straight-forward, so they say what they mean and they mean what they say.
(2) Another factor that leads to people’s outright disregard of concepts like Leviathan are the general way of thinking in Western/American culture today. We live in a changing but still largely “scientific” society where thoughts and ideas are generally weighed and determined based on the empirical-rational (viz., if I see it, I’ll believe it) standard of establishing knowledge (AKA, epistemology). Because of this, some people are inclined to doubt or to dismiss anything that cannot be immediately proven in a lab or through incontrovertible, visible evidence (and even THEN they may not believe it). That’s another way of saying that there is an anti-supernatural bias that exists in our culture, and many people outright reject anything that the Bible says or that pre-scientific literature describes.
Those issues notwithstanding, I want to begin (at least now and in this particular blog post) with the assumption that the Bible is authoritative and true– so we can get on with Dante’s questions without any more objections.
So, what about’em?
Job 41 in the Old Testament of the Bible says (King James Version):“Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?” Other scriptures also reference Leviathan, like Psalm 104:24ff that reads (New Living Translation): “O Lord, what a variety of things you have made! In wisdom you have made them all. The earth is full of your creatures. Here is the ocean, vast and wide, teeming with life of every kind, both large and small. See the ships sailing along, and Leviathan, which you made to play in the sea.”
All of that to say that Leviathan is mentioned in scripture.
To greatly summarize the concept of Leviathan, so I can get to the rest of the question, here’s the gist of how I believe Leviathan are viewed:
1. Because Leviathan are mentioned in a plain sense– and are mentioned in common ways, much like other animals are mentioned in the Bible (like goats and eagles, etc.), there is an argument to be made that they are/were actual animals existent at the time of the writing of those stories. Now, since Job mentions the animal/monster about 40% of the time– and since his book is among the earliest of Old Testament literature, that also factors into the real possibility of this creature having existed/existing at some point. (It may be the case that, because of the early dating of Job and his mentioning the animal, that it may have existed and then ultimately became extinct, which would describe the monster not being mentioned in the literal sense in many other places of scripture– think about that).
2. Some have thought the Leviathan is a reference to a Crocodile. I personally don’t buy that. That’s simply because some of the passages don’t speak to that type of similarity. Passages mentioning Leviathan seem to be addressing an animal in the deep where ships sail (Ps 104:26), and the last thing I would worry about if I were in the middle of the Adriatic Sea or the Indian Ocean is being attacked by an alligator-type creature! No, I don’t think that’s it. I think that type of argument is an attempt to posit the Bible as true, but without having to commit to the idea of such a creature ever really existing. I think of it as a more theologically moderate view and think it’s pretty easily dismissed.
3. Finally, the third major set of arguments I am aware of, seem to suggest that Leviathan was a type of whale or a dinosaur. I know of no other dinosaur that was sea-bound in this sense, and these descriptions (again) seem far-fetched to me– more far fetched than simply acknowledging the possibility of there being such a thing as this particular animal.
If There WAS a Leviathan, then what?
For argument’s sake– let’s go with option 2, that there was a historical animal in the food chain whose existence and identity was like it has been described in literature. That sounds like a reasonable starting point. And if so, what became of them?
My uneducated guess is this….
I think it’s possible that Leviathan existed as they were described in scripture. The world has lots of unusual animals that are hard to describe and certainly hard to imagine– if one had never seen it before.
Imagine, for example, that you had never seen a rhinoceros. If no one had ever seen one of those– or, perhaps, a hippopotamus, it would really be hard to sell that idea to somebody. Just think of describing its size and how it looks. The same goes for a giraffe.
Now, a step farther. Imagine some of the dinosaurs that WE KNOW CERTAINLY roamed the earth. If we did not have absolute proof of their existence, we would have a hard time believing they existed. What’s more, there are animals that have existed that we sometimes discover that we NEVER KNEW existed. In fact, even recently a number of animals were found in both the oceans and in rain forests that nobody had a clue existed. They existed… but we didn’t know nor did we have proof. Similarly, I think it’s conceivable that these animals existed.
Moreover, I think that though it is unlikely (for the reasons I will share in just a moment), it COULD BE theoretically possible that in some dark recess of the world’s oceans, the vast water fields that surround most of the earth (70%), a small handful of these animals could possibly exist– though they very may well be extinct, and probably are extinct. But keep in mind that huge sections of our planet are unexplored and that the world’s oceans and seas remain the world’s last frontier. The giant squids that were once thought to be folly and fantasy were recently discovered and presented. It may be that, some day, large sea monsters similar to what the Bible describes as Leviathan could possibly be found– or remains of them. Even so, it is also likely if not probable that these animals have been gone for so long that they no longer survive in any identifiable form due to decomposition of the carbon remains.
Were they dinosaurs?
I am not completely familar with dinosaurs, but is my assumption that many or most were land-based animals and that only a small number of them were prone to water at least some of the time. I don’t know if that suggests they were akin to amphibians, but you get the idea. I presume they were essentially on or near the dry ground much of the time. To boot, many were herbivores, while some were carnivorous or flesh-eating.
For these reasons, my best guess is that (if Leviathan existed in the sense I’ve described) these creatures were most likely (a) COLD BLOODED and (b) herbivores. I’ll describe why those are important in the next section, below. But for now let me continue this idea of “were they dinosaurs?”
I would assume that these creatures were somehow in the same Order or Family as dinosaurs.
Generally, Biologists classify organisms into 8 different groupings, called taxonomies. Taxonomies are ORDERED AND SEQUENTIAL PHASES OR RANKINGS that ascend or descend. For the ease of argument, I am going to use these categories to try to explain what I think– but that shouldn’t be understood to imply that I believe in macro-evolution or Darwinism, or Natural Selection, which I do not.
At any rate, if Leviathan were in the same general order or family as dinosaurs, they could share many of the overall body systems and similarities as one another, but still remain distinct.
I think it is possible that they were similar and very much related, having those similarities of being cold blooded and herbivores, but having the dissimilarity of being either land-bound or water-borne.
Where did they go?
Earlier I mentioned the interesting biblical feature that Leviathan were mentioned in both the Psalms and in Job. Those books were written or being written quite early on in scripture. That could place these references quite early in human history.
If that were to hold true, here’s what I think may have happened to leviathan and their ‘cousins’ the dinosaurs. Think With Me— and give me some room… I’m just thinking out loud here, I’m not making a theological argument.
Here’s a plausible way that it MAY have/COULD have happened:
- I imagine that Leviathan (sea monsters) and dinosaurs may have been, like all other animals, created by God in the beginning of the earth.
- Those animals were cold-blooded and primarily herbivores.
- During the pre-flood days of the earth, there was believed to be a type of tropical canopy enveloping the earth, keeping the earth warm and at a relative temperature and humidity.
- In this type of environment, (a) large plants would have been easily grown– sort of like a large rain forest, only all over the world (EDEN); (b) large animals certainly could have grown– and especially cold-blooded ones, which would have been able to grow large because of the sub-tropical environment that existed pre-flood.
- When the flood came, Noah was instructed to put samples of certain animals on the ark. I believe he did that and probably put male-female pairs of dinosaurs on the ark. The need for placing a Leviathan on the boat was moot, since those were water-borne creatures and they would/could survive in spite of the global deluge.
- Once the flood came, the Bible says that water sources from beneath the earth (hot springs) and clouds above the earth (rain) combined to flood the entire earth. When that happened, it is my belief that the protective canopy and the global-tropical environment it created (as imagined in EDEN) was no longer in existence. As such, the earth would no longer be like a rain forest– and it would also be more susceptible to temperature fluctuations. This led to the existence of seasons and cold after the flood.
- As the earth cooled, I think the large glaciers were formed from the massive amounts of water on the earth which had frozen in many areas. These swept across the earth and destroyed much vegitation, including any remaining large plants that would be required for sustaining the lives of large herbivores like dinosaurs. Also, since the earth was cooler, it was only a matter of time before they were unable to survive and died off. So though there are examples of some wooly mammoths who survived longer, most dinosaurs just couldn’t make it. They died of starvation, from cold, and from being cold enough in the environment that they were sluggish in response and victims of other quicker animals. This would also be true of the carnivore-types of dinosaurs– though they probably lived longer than the others.
- The Leviathan, if they were cold-blooded, would be able to survive in some regions but not many. As ocean tides and underwater currents carried them to and fro, they would have died or become food for other animals that attacked them. Because these large animals were probably deep sea creatures, since the deep seas are unbearably cold (but originally weren’t in a pre-flood world), they quickly succumbed to that reality. Also, it is likely that their bodies were lost into the depths of the sea and covered up from the layers of post-global flood debris running off the earth into the earths waterways and from the natural ebb and flow of currents which cover things up on the bottom of the sea.
Now, whether what my ideas are happen to accurately state how it all works, I don’t know. But it seems to me that these are plausible ideas and may provide a possible explanation of how Leviathan and Dinosaurs are possible, and how these things may have come to pass.