Dinosaurs in the Bible?
The following question pertaining to the possibility of dinosaurs being mentioned in the Bible actually depends on how one may interpret a particular passage of Scripture.
First, the Question & Answer. Next, a rather detailed presentation of how the Age of Earth should be understood (The Study of Scripture by Arlen L. Chitwood, pp. 19-28). Finally, a Personal Comment.
Question & Answer
"What does the Bible say about dinosaurs? Are there dinosaurs in the
Age of Earth
(The Study of Scripture)
(Arlen L. Chitwood)
“Was” or “Became”
It would go without saying that there has been a great deal of
controversy over the years among theologians and Christians in
general concerning exactly how the opening two chapters of Genesis should
be understood. And it would also go without saying that, as a
result, confusion has reigned supreme in Christian circles
concerning not only these chapters but the general tenor of the
remainder of Scripture as well.
Those in one school (probably the position held by the majority today) view the six days in the first chapter as time revealing and describing God’s creative activity from verse one.
And those in the other school view these six days as time revealing
God’s restoration of a ruined creation (creation seen in v. 1, a
ruin of this creation seen in v. 2a, and God’s restoration
of the ruined creation seen in vv. 2bff).
1) The relationship of the three circumstantial clauses that form the second verse to that which is stated in the first verse.
2) The meaning of the Hebrew word hayah in verse two (translated
1. The Three Circumstantial Clauses
The three circumstantial clauses in Genesis 1:2 are simply the clauses that form the verse:
1) The earth was without form, and void;
2) and darkness was on the face of the deep.
3) And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
In the Hebrew text there is what is called a “waw” beginning verse two (a conjunctive or disjunctive particle [actually, a letter in the Hebrew alphabet, the waw, prefixed to a word], usually translated “and” in most English texts). Some grammarians view this particle beginning verse two in a conjunctive sense (showing a connection between v. 1 and v. 2), and other grammarians view it in a disjunctive sense (showing a separation between v. 1 and v. 2).
(The other two circumstantial clauses in verse two begin with “waw” as well, which will be discussed later.
The Hebrew text of the Old Testament uses the “waw” more frequently in a conjunctive [“and”] rather than a disjunctive [“but”] sense. Of the approximately 28,000 usages of this particle, some 25,000 appear to be conjunctive and some 3,000 disjunctive. Normally the context determines how the particle is to be understood.)
Understanding the structure of the Hebrew text after this fashion
would necessitate viewing that which is described at the beginning
of verse two as the condition of the earth at the time of
the action described in verse one. That is to say, God
would have initially created the earth (v. 1) in the
condition described in verse two. Then the six subsequent
days would have to be looked upon as time in which God, step by
step, performed and completed His work of creation introduced in
Using the King James Version (KJV) text to illustrate, the translators of the Septuagint used de and kai to translate the three Hebrew “waws” in this manner:
And [De, lit., But] the earth was without form, and void; and [kai] darkness was upon the face of the deep. And [kai] the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And, viewing the verse beginning in a disjunctive sense of the preceding nature, there would be no connection between the first two verses of Genesis. Rather, a separation would exist instead. Within this view, one would normally see verse one revealing an absolute beginning, with verse two (along with the following verses) revealing events occurring at later points in time.
(Most holding this linguistic view see verse two as a description of God’s perfect creation [from verse one] being brought into a ruined state, separated from verse one by an unrevealed period of time. And they would, accordingly, see God’s activity during the six days as activity surrounding the restoration of this ruined creation.
Some holding this linguistic view though still see the six days as time revealing God’s creative activity. They view verse one as describing a “grand summary declaration that God created the universe in the beginning.” Then, apart from seeing a connection between v. 1 and v. 2, they view God’s activity during the six days as a revelation concerning how God accomplished that which He had previously stated in verse one.)
(Leupold, a Hebrew grammarian from past years, in his commentary on Genesis, appears to capture the overall thought of hayah to mark beginning and/or ending points in each day quite well by translating, “. . . Then came evening, then came morning — the first day the second day . . . the third day,” etc.)
Then note the words, “. . . and it was so,” at the end of
verses 7, 9, 11, 15, 24, 30.
“Was” in each reference is a translation of the word hayah,
and it is easy to see that “became” rather than “was” would really
provide a better description of that which occurred in each
instance, translating, “. . . and it became so” (cf. “Let
there be [a translation of hayah] . . . .” [vv. 3, 6, 14]).
Attention is called to this fact
because numerous individuals look at translating hayah “became
[or ‘had become’]” as so rare in the Old Testament that serious
consideration should not be given to the thought of translating Genesis
1:2, “And [or ‘But’] the earth became [or ‘had become’] . . . .”
But the rarity is in the English translations, not in a literal
Hebrew rendering or in certain other translations (e.g., in the King
James Version there are only 17 instances in all of Genesis where
hayah has been translated “became [or, ‘become’ [2:7, 10;
3:22; 9:15; 18:18; 19:26; 20:12;
21:20; 24:67; 32:10; 34:16; 37:20;
47:20, 26; 48:19]; but in the Septuagint there
are at least 146 instances [and some 1,500 in the entire Old
But this is to say that the correct linguistic position for Genesis
1:2 and the correct corresponding interpretation of the entire
chapter — which can be shown by going to the remainder of Scripture
— is a position that God would have expected man to see as
evident when he began reading at this point in Genesis, though
man many times has not done so (past) and does not do so (present).
1) There are good, reputable Hebrew scholars who hold varying views on the opening verses of Genesis, which are many times based strictly on their understanding of the structure of the Hebrew text, apart from contextual considerations.
2) Though the linguistics of the Hebrew text (within the different ways scholars understand the linguistics of the text) will support any one of these views, all but one are out of line with the remainder of Scripture and are, consequently, wrong.
That is to say, though it may be possible to support different views
from the structure of the Hebrew text alone (the way different
scholars understand the syntax of the Hebrew text), different views cannot be
supported when the remainder of Scripture is taken into
consideration — with or without the Hebrew text. Scripture will
support only one view, and that one view is the position
alluded to in the opening portion of this chapter.
1) “Creation” (an absolute creation [v. 1]).
2) “Ruin” of the creation (which means that the “waw” prefixed to the word beginning v. 2 must be understood in a disjunctive sense [“But”], and the Hebrew word hayah must be understood in the sense of “became [or ‘had become’]” [v. 2a]).
3) “Restoration” of the ruined creation (vv. 2b-25).
4) “Rest,” following six days of restorative work (1:2b-2:3).
And to illustrate this is not difficult at all. In fact, the opposite is true. It is a very simple matter to illustrate, from other Scripture, exactly how the opening verses of Genesis must be understood.
In this respect, first note the words tohu wavohu from the Hebrew text of Genesis 1:2.
The words tohu wavohu are translated “without form and void” in the KJV English text (“formless and void,” NASB; “formless and empty,” NIV; “waste and void,” ASV). These two Hebrew words are used together only two other places throughout all of the Old Testament — in Isaiah 34:11 and Jeremiah 4:23. And both of these passages present a ruin of that previously seen existing in an orderly state.
In Isaiah 34:11, “Edom” (vv. 5, 6), representing all nations in the future Lord’s Day (vv. 2, 8), was destined to become tohu wavohu (translated “confusion” and “emptiness” [KJV], “desolation” and “emptiness” [NASB]).
And in Jeremiah 4:23-28, there is a comparison of that which had previously occurred relative to the earth in Genesis 1:2a to that which was about to occur relative to the land of Israel.
The land of Israel was about to become tohu wavohu. That is, as seen in Jeremiah 4:23-28, God was about to do the same thing to the land of Israel (cf. vv. 14:22) that He had previously done to the earth in Genesis 1:2a. And the reason for both of these actions — that which God had done to the earth, and that which He was about to do to the land of Israel — was the same. Sin had entered (sin on the part of Satan in the former, and sin on the part of the Jewish people in the latter).
And, in complete keeping with this type of understanding of the use of tohu wavohu in Isaiah 34:11 and Jeremiah 4:23, Isaiah 45:18 (where the Hebrew word tohu is used, translated “in vain”) clearly states that God did not create the earth (in Genesis 1:1) in the manner described in Genesis 1:2a. Isaiah 45:18 states that God “created it [the earth] not in vain [not ‘tohu,’ not ‘without form,’].”
Thus, if Genesis 1:2a is to be understood in the light of related Scripture bearing on the subject (which it must be [cf. Psalm12:6; Isaiah 8:20; 28:10; 1 Corinthians 2:13]), there can be only one possible interpretation — the ruin of a prior existing creation (from v. 1), because of sin. The earth from verse one “became” tohu wavohu.
The ruin seen in both Genesis 1:2a and Jeremiah 4:23, for a purpose, is with a view to eventual restoration. And the restoration seen in the continuing text of Genesis 1:2 (vv. 2b-25) and in the overall passage of Jeremiah 4:23ff (v. 27b), as well as in related Scripture (e.g., Isaiah 35:1ff), is also for a purpose.
Then, the whole of subsequent Scripture is perfectly in line with this type of understanding of the opening section of Scripture. The whole of subsequent Scripture is built on a septenary structure, with the foundation established and set in an unchangeable fashion at the beginning, in Genesis 1:1-2:3.
That is to say:
The heavens and the earth were created, there was ruin of the material creation (because of sin), God took six days to restore the ruined creation, and He rested the seventh day.
Man was created on the sixth day, man fell into a state of ruin (because of sin), God is presently taking six days [6,000 years] to restore man, and God will rest the seventh day (the seventh 1,000-year period [cf. 2 Peter 1:15-18; 3:3-8]).
And the latter restoration, patterned after the former restoration, is what the whole of Scripture is about. The whole of Scripture is about the same thing initially introduced and established in an unchangeable fashion in the opening thirty-four verses of Genesis (1:1-2:3). The whole of Scripture is about the creation of man, his ruin, his restoration over a six-day period (over a 6,000-year period), followed by a seventh day of rest (a seventh 1,000-year period — the Sabbath rest awaiting the people of God [Hebrew 4:9; cf. vv. 3, 4], the Messianic Era).
As previously stated, man would have been expected to understand this opening section of Scripture after the preceding fashion at the time it was written. And subsequent Scripture simply verifies the correctness of the way man would have been expected to understand this opening section at that time, apart from other revelation.
It is entirely reasonable in light of science (e.g., unearthed dinosaur skeletons) to believe that once in time dinosaurs did indeed live upon earth. But it is also just as reasonable to understand that they existed prior to the renovation of earth as depicted in the first two verses in the first chapter of Holy Scripture.