How could Genesis hint about the extinction of the dinosaurs? Genesis doesn’t even mention dinosaurs, does it? As it turns out, Genesis is a much more comprehensive account of creation that it is commonly given credit for. Many Christians consider the King James Version of Genesis to be the literal history of creation regardless of scientific theory and others consider Genesis to be poetic or allegorical in nature. It seems that very few people consider that all of these things may be reconciled, you can read more about that in these articles on The Big Bang and Evolution, but for now, let’s focus on dinosaurs!
Where Does Genesis Even Mention Dinosaurs?
I’ve read through Genesis many times and never noticed anything about dinosaurs. So where could I possibly be referring to?
God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind; and God saw that it was good and He affirmed and sustained it.Genesis 1:21
Right here in Genesis 1:21, where it refers to great sea monsters. I know, I know, that really doesn’t mean dinosaurs, but then again we are reading it in English. Each translation to English manipulates this phrase slightly. Sometimes it is sea monster, or sea creature, or even whales are used. Things like this make me want to dive into the Hebrew to determine why there are so many variations.
So what does the Hebrew say? Well, it uses a phrase “gadowl tanniyn” which can mean a great deal of things. Usually, the person performing the translation decides which word is most appropriate based on the context of the passage. This is a very subjective process that can be severely impacted by the worldview held by the translator.
Gadowl (גָּדוֹל) is listed as having the following definition from Strong’s Hebrew: Great; large (in magnitude and extent); loud (in sound); older (in age); in importance; great, distinguished (of men)
Tanniyn (תַּנִּין) is listed as having this definition: Dragon or dinosaur; sea or river monster; serpent, venomous snake
Now, considering that the word dinosaur wasn’t even invented until 1841 and, as far as we know, dragons never existed, it makes sense that the authors of the 1611 KJV Bible would have avoided those words. I think it is easy to see that this phrase (gadowl tanniyn) conjures images of exceptionally large reptiles/amphibians, very much like dinosaurs.
OK, So Where Does Extinction Come In?
This part is a little more tricky. You see, Genesis does not explicitly talk about the extinction of anything during creation. However, it does state in several places that God said to “be fruitful and multiply” as a blessing. Here is the very next verse:
And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.Genesis 1:22
Here God says to “fill the waters in the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth”. If you remember the earlier verse, there seems to be something missing. Lets take a closer look.
Genesis 1:21 lists several types of creatures:
- great sea monsters (dinosaurs or tanniyn)
- every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed according to their kind
- every winged bird according to its kind
If we compare that to what is blessed in the following verse:
- fill the waters in the seas
- let birds multiply on the earth
It seems as though something has been left out from the Lord’s blessing. If we are translating Tanniyn as dinosaurs or large reptiles/amphibians then it would seem that the tanniyn were not blessed. Here we are left to speculate as to why, but given what we think we know about the dinosaurs it would seem that perhaps they were destined to go extinct from the beginning.
I hope you had some fun exploring Genesis in a slightly different way with me. This has been a demonstration of how the language used in Genesis is extremely versatile and multidimensional. We could likely spend our entire lives studying Genesis alone and still find new meaning in the text. One cannot simply read a single English translation literally and be done with the matter. A translation is written through the lens of the translator and if you are serious about studying the Bible, you may want question someone else’s understanding of what the Hebrew version meant before they wrote it in English.