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Creationism: Dragons, Dinosaurs, and the Taninim
Dragons in the Bible
Most people do not study the Bible in its original language but those who do discover some very interesting tidbits along the way. One of the most fascinating insights I have learned, in relation to the creation vs. evolution debate, is the Bible's testimony to the existence of dragons. Most people and even most Christians will claim that dragons are mythical creatures that never truly existed. I would like to challenge that belief from a Scriptural perspective. In doing this, Christians will understand how the Bible testifies to the existence of real live dragons.
Where not to start
First of all, let it be known that in this article dragons and dinosaurs are synonymous. Otherwise the reader might be thoroughly confused by the use of these two words as this article unravels.
Second, the book of Job will not be referenced in relation to Behemoth and Leviathan and those two creatures will be avoided for a good reason. Before explaining that reason, be aware that the author does indeed believe that these two creatures were dinosaurs in the truest sense as their descriptions are fairly detailed and do not fit any creature that humans are familiar with in a modern context. Having said that, the first reason is that it can be argued that these two creatures were actually a reference to two mythological figures. Some believe that Behemoth was a reference to a giant bull-like creature. Its name, in fact, is the same word that Genesis uses in reference to the cattle that were created on day six. Granted, creationists believe that dinosaurs/dragons were included in this category because they would have fed off of the grass of the land in the beginning. Leviathan is believed to be a sea dragon, sometimes even a multi-headed sea dragon in mythology. Leviathan is mentioned several times in Scripture and always has a menacing connotation, but it is made clear that to God Leviathan is just another one of his creations (Psalm 104:26). Creationists acknowledge the different forms of Leviathan in Scripture and believe that it may be in reference to different sea creatures at different times and maybe even the mythical creature of the Near-East in certain contexts.
Behemoth and Leviathan
- The Leviathan in Judaism - What Is the Leviathan
The Leviathan is a mythical sea monster or dragon that is mentioned in Job 41.
- Behemoth - What Is the Behemoth
The Behemoth is a mythical beast that is mentioned in Job 40:15-24. It is said to be a gigantic ox-like beast with bones as hard as bronze and limbs as firm as rods of iron.
Taninim and Genesis
The best starting point to learn about dragons in the Bible is none other than the book of Genesis. It was on the fifth day of creation when God created the creatures of the sea. Among all of those created were what the King James Version refers to as the "great whales." The word used for whales is taninim. Taninim is the same word used several times throughout Scripture to refer to dragons. Having said that, this is actually a translation of the word that is disputable.
Taninim and dragons
The root word for taninim is tannin. The former is simply the plural form of the latter. The debate is introduced when considering the modern attitude toward the existence of dragons; namely, that they are mythological. In creating modern translations of the Bible this was taken into consideration. So, instead of translating taninim as dragons, it has been translated as though it were Tannim or jackals. The assumption is that there is only a slight difference in the spelling of the two words and since dragons were supposed to be mythical and jackals were known to be real, surely they had to be referring to jackals in the Biblical text.
Unfortunately, for the modern translators and anybody who is reading this article closely, the first mention of taninim is in Genesis 1 and is not referring to jackals but to sea creatures. And although it could be referring to the whales, taninim is mostly used in reference to land dwelling creatures. It seems like the Bible really is referring to dragons!
Not a myth
The question then becomes, "Is the Bible referring to dragons in a symbolic/mythical sense, or is it referring to real creatures?" Once again, the Biblical text speaks for itself. Several passages make reference to dragons within the context of other real animals. For instance: "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet" (Psalm 91:13). Other passages that do the same are Deuteronomy 32:22, Job 30:29, Isaiah 34:13, and Micah 1:8. Malachi 1:3 even refers to them as the "dragons of the wilderness" which acknowledges that they too were creatures of the natural world. It becomes very clear given these evidences that the writers of the Bible believed in dragons.
- Tannin: Sea Serpent, Dinosaur, Snake, Dragon, or Jackal? - Answers in Genesis
Determining the meaning of tannin requires a close look at the actual Hebrew word and a study of the various contexts in which it appears.
It is blatantly clear that the writers of the Bible believed in the existence of dragons. They were listed among the creatures that were created during the creation week, they were listed among the known creatures of their day, and they were preserved in some of the poetic Psalms that were included in the Bible as well. Concerning the relationship between dragons and dinosaurs, that will have to wait for another day. For now, it can be concluded with ease that those who penned the Word of God were well aware of the existence of dragons in their days.