Monday, December 25, 2006
Religious perspectives on dinosaurs
Some Jews and Christians believe that dinosaurs appear in the Old Testament, and regard this as evidence that the animals were still alive during early human history. As it is a modern coinage derived from Greek, the Bible does not use the word "dinosaur", but the Hebrew word tanniyn may be interpreted as referring to them. In English translations, tanniyn may be translated as “sea monster” or “serpent”, but it is usually translated as “dragon”. These creatures are mentioned nearly thirty times in the Old Testament and are found both on land and in the water. At another point, the Bible describes a huge creature called a "behemoth" (Job 40:15-24) whose "tail sways like a cedar"; the behemoth is described as ranking "first among the works of God" and as impossible to capture (vs. 24). Some Biblical scholars identify the behemoth as either an elephant or a hippopotamus, but these animals have very thin tails that are not comparable to a cedar tree. Creationists therefore identify the behemoth with dinosaurs like Brachiosaurus and Diplodocus, and most commonly the Apatosaurus which has a huge, cedar-like tail. Critics point out that the tail is described as swaying like a cedar, not being as large as a cedar.
The Leviathan is another creature referred to in the Bible's Old Testament; it is described as having a variety of dinosaur, dragon, and water-serpent-like characteristics. Many scholars identify the Leviathan in Job c. 41 with the crocodile. Some Bible readers, however, have tried to connect the creature with the dinosaurs.
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