Dinosaurs were an interesting group of animals. We cannot tell exactly what they looked like because all that remains of them today is their skeletons, many of which are incomplete. There is much guess work in the attempt to form a picture of what a dinosaur looked like. The scientists have to piece together the skeleton, filling in the gaps for the missing bones, and then try to work out what the fleshy parts of the animal looked like. Often scientists disagree about some of the details. For instance: what kind of skin had they, and what colour was it?
Evolutionists would have us believe that dinosaurs evolved from a type of reptile about 235 million years ago. They say that these creatures dominated the earth for long ages and then mysteriously became extinct about 60 million years before our first ancestors supposedly began evolving. On the other hand, creationists believe that dinosaurs, like all the other animals and man, were created during the six days of creation about 6000 years ago.
Both evolutionists and creationists do agree that at some stage in history, the environment became unsuitable for dinosaurs, causing them to become extinct. While the circumstances surrounding the extinction of dinosaurs is a mystery to evolutionists, creationists understand that following the Genesis flood there would have been huge environmental changes. This would have affected the habitat of the dinosaurs. Combined with changes in lifestyle, as man began to populate the world again, this resulted in many types of plants and animals becoming extinct. Dinosaurs could not adapt to all the changes they were experiencing and so gradually died out. We see similar threats to other species today. Often at zoos or wildlife parks you can see campaigns to save some of these creatures. Does the possibility of endangered animals such as tigers becoming extinct indicate that they are evolving? No, of course not! Extinction is not proof of evolution.
It is generally accepted that the majority of dinosaurs were not large animals but that their average size was about the same as a sheep. Some were even smaller – about the size of a mouse. There were also very large ones like the tyrannosaurus rex and the brachiosaurus. The word dinosaur is quite a modern term. It was first used in 1841 by a British scientist, Sir Richard Owen, and is Greek for “terrible lizard”. Before 1841 the larger dinosaur-like creatures would have had local names or possibly they would have been called monsters or dragons.
Does the Bible have anything to say about dinosaurs? Obviously the word dinosaur does not appear in the Authorised Version as it was translated before the word became part of our vocabulary. Yet, in the Bible, creatures are described which may fall into the dinosaur category. There are several references to dragons; what exactly these were we cannot say, but obviously they were some sort of animal. For example, we read: “The young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet” (Psalm 91:13), and, “The dragons of the wilderness” (Malachi 1:3).
There are also references to dragons that lived in water. You can look up the references yourself: Psalm 74:13, Isaiah 27:1 and Ezekiel 29:3. Job also refers to a great sea-creature called leviathan, which he describes as breathing fire (Job 41). Also, in chapter 40, God describes a great animal He created, which was unbelievably large and strong; it is called behemoth. Some commentators think this behemoth could be an elephant or a hippopotamus, but it could possibly have been a large dinosaur like brachiosaurus. In Isaiah there is a reference to a “fiery flying serpent”; this could possibly have been a type of flying dinosaur like a pterodactyl (Isaiah 30:6).
There is evidence to support the view that dinosaurs and man lived on earth together. There are accounts of mankind and dinosaurs clashing. In many cultures there are legends of heroic battles between man and monsters or dragons. No doubt many of these accounts have become distorted and exaggerated with the passage of time but they do point to the existence of various types of fierce reptiles. The most recent medieval account of such a battle is from Bologna in Italy in 1572. A peasant called Baptista killed a creature which, from its description, could have been a small dinosaur called tanystropheus. Even today there are giant lizards which are a threat to other sizeable animals, including man. The Komodo lizard, living on the Indonesian island of Komodo, is considered by many to be a type of prehistoric lizard. Yes, it is a lizard, but it is no more prehistoric than you or me! They can grow up to three metres in length and have powerful jaws and sharp teeth. They are strong and fast, in spite of their short legs. Some people have described them as land-crocodiles.
There is further evidence which might give weight to the legends passed down through our history. A sixteenth-century European scientific book contains descriptions of several living animals from that period which would now probably be classified as dinosaurs. Ancient paintings of various dinosaur-like creatures have been found in caves in Utah and Arizona and also in France. Pottery paintings, mosaics and sculptures from many ancient cultures – such as Greek, Egyptian, Sumatran and Roman – are proof that these amazing creatures were seen by mankind.
Dinosaurs are a part of our natural history. We should not be put off trying to explore the facts about them just because they have been hijacked by the evolutionists as supposed proof of an evolutionary timeline. They are part of God’s creation just as we are. Man was created on the same day as the dinosaurs that lived on land. But man was created in the image of God with an immortal soul, to be a creature that would glorify his Creator in a special way. “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:17).
S M Campbell
[This article was first published in the August 2006 edition of The Young People’s Magazine, and was the ninth in a series entitled “How Did It All Begin?”. The previous article, The Origin of Man, can be found at this link.]