The Bible and Paleontology
Paleontology is “the science that deals with the fossils of animals and plants that lived very long ago especially in the time of dinosaurs” (m-w.com). While the Bible contains no specific references to “the fossils of animals and plants,” it does mention several extinct animals that are now known only by their fossil remains, such as what modern scientists call dinosaurs. It is important to examine what scientist’s claim is found in the fossil record, and compare their findings with what the Bible says in this field of science, because of its relation to the creation versus evolution conflict.
Does the Fossil Record Depict Evolving Life or Sudden Death?
Evolutionists look at the fossil record as evidence of the evolution of life over many ages. Creationists (scientists who believe in the Biblical record of creation) believe that the fossil record is evidence of the catastrophic destruction of life, world-wide death, in one age. The Bible’s record of the Flood can certainly be viewed as the greatest producer of fossils.
“And God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth…And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die’” (Genesis 6:13,17). “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights…And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered. And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man. All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died. So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping things and birds of the air. They were destroyed from the earth…And the waters prevailed on the earth one hundred and fifty days” (7:11-12,19-24). With this picture of overwhelming waters (almost a year passed before they fully receded) and great crustal upheavals causing the destruction of “all living things” and the death of “all flesh,” you have what would amount to the greatest producer of thick sediments and entrapped plants and animals ever recorded in history.
Fossil graveyards found all over the world speak of a rapid burial, not of a slow depositing of animals and plant life over long ages. When animals die, their remains quickly decompose on the surface unless they are somehow rapidly covered with sediments that are soon compacted and hardened. Fossil fish beds have been found that extend for miles, containing fish by the billions, in many places (Scotland, New York, California, Wyoming, and many other places). Fish do not normally sink to the bottom, nor do they become fossils; they decompose, and are eaten by scavengers. Even beds of fossil birds have been found, despite the fact that birds can avoid burial by all but the most violent, widespread, and prolonged catastrophes. Fossils of insects (“creeping things”) abound in Colorado, the Caribbean islands and elsewhere. Nothing less than a worldwide catastrophe can account for these extensive fossil deposits.
Great dinosaur beds have been excavated in the Rockies, in South Africa, in Central Asia, and in every other continent, and most other countries. Which is more logical: hundreds of dinosaurs over a period of thousands of years just fell dead in that spot, or a one-time catastrophic event that brought about the sudden death of hundreds of dinosaurs in many locations all over the world? In a recent PBS special on “Dinosaurs”, they showed various fossils beds, one with a thousand dinosaurs in it. When explaining how they got there, paleontologists admit it must have been a major catastrophe, likely a localized flood. But such fossil beds are all over the world; why not accept the fact that it was a world-wide Flood?
There is one thing that is absent from all the billions of fossils known and documented– there is no evidence in the fossil record to support evolutionary transformations. There are no fossils which represent transitions from reptile to bird or mammal, or animal to man, yet evolutionists insist such transitions occurred.
Does the Bible Mention Dinosaurs?
The Old Testament Hebrew word “tannim” (translated “dragons” some 25 times in the King James Version–See Jeremiah 51:34; Ezekiel.29:3; Malachi 1:3) literally means “a marine or land monster” (Strong’s). The first use of “tannim” is in Genesis 1:21 where the KJV translates “tannim” as “whales”, but most other versions use “sea monsters or creatures.” If “tannim” was translated “dinosaurs”, every one of the 25 uses of the word would be appropriate and would fit well in each context where “tannim” appears. Most liberal commentaries refer to “dragons” as simply legendary animals (myths, fables); most conservative commentators have tried to identify them as living animals (such as a jackal, whale or serpent), described in an imaginative way. But the “dragons”of the Bible could well be the dinosaurs of paleontology.
Creationists contend that two very unique animals mentioned in the Old Testament, “the behemoth” (Job 40:15-21) and “Leviathan” (Job 41), likely refer to two kinds of dinosaurs. Commentators commonly identify behemoth with an elephant or hippopotamus, and Leviathan with a crocodile or whale, but the Biblical descriptions do not fit any present-day animals. Job lived during the early generations after the Flood, and he likely would have seen many animals that later became extinct. In the context of God describing these two animals, God is explaining to Job that he has an inadequate perspective on the greatness and uniqueness of God’s creation. God’s concluding proof concerns the greatest land animal (behemoth) and the greatest sea animal (Leviathan). The description of the behemoth fits well with what we know of such a land dinosaur as the brontosaurus (See Job 40:15-24). Every sentence in this description of the behemoth is appropriate in describing a huge dinosaur, but no other animal we are aware of, living or extinct, fits the bill. The word “behemoth” itself means a uniquely gigantic and powerful beast. An ordinary beast is called “behema” in the Hebrew, but “the behemoth” is a special beast, “the first (in magnitude and power) of the ways of God.”
The description of Leviathan fits what we know about some marine dinosaurs, such as the plesiosaur or ichthyosaur. Leviathan is a type of “dragon” (“tannim”) according to Isaiah 27:1 (KJV). Other references to Leviathan in Scripture (Psalm 74:13-14; 104:25-26) also suggest the great size of this sea monster. It is instructive to note that not only in the Bible but also in the ancient records and traditions of most nations of the world, tales of “dragons” abound, providing evidence that many nations actually had had experiences with dinosaurs.
In addition to Biblical evidences, there is credible geological evidence of the coexistence of men and dinosaurs. Footprints of various kinds of dinosaurs are well preserved in a limestone formation near Glen Rose, Texas; in the same formation many human footprints exist. There is another site in Russia. Two human skeletons have been found in the same Utah sandstone formation in which a great number of dinosaur fossils are found. Dinosaur pictographs made by early tribal artists have been found in Arizona, Siberia, and elsewhere. A recent “Discovery Channel” special showed hundreds of 6000 year old pottery with etchings of dinosaurs.