The Bible contains numerous references to “dragons” and other creatures that resemble dinosaurs, such as Behemoth, as well as other extinct reptiles like Leviathan and the flying serpents. Most of these references are after Genesis 6-8, implying that these kinds survived the global flood. So how and when did these marvelous creatures go extinct?
Dinosaur fossils are typically found in sedimentary rock layers – rocks that have lithified from sediment deposited by water. When full skeletons of dinosaurs are found, they are typically in a “death pose” with the neck arched back, indicative of asphyxiation. It seems that these animals perished in a massive flood. The rock layers in which dinosaurs are found are referred to as Mesozoic and include the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous systems. These layers tend to be continental in scale, which indicates that they were formed during the global flood – probably during the latter stages. The flood destroyed all land-dwelling living animals, except for those that were on board the ark (Genesis 7:23).
However, the flood did not cause the extinction of the dinosaurs – at least not directly. Representative kinds of dinosaurs would have been on the ark. All air-breathing living animals were brought on board the ark in male and female pairs (Genesis 6:19-20). Since dinosaurs are air-breathing land animals, they would have been on board the ark.
Some critics mindlessly state, “Dinosaurs wouldn’t fit on Noah’s ark!” I say “mindlessly” because I have yet to meet a critic who has (1) actually done the math while (2) fairly representing the creationist claim. We have done the math. The dimensions of the ark are given in Scripture: 300 by 50 by 30 cubits (Genesis 6:15), which conservatively works out to 450 by 75 by 45 feet. There were three decks. So the available area was 101,250 square feet. That’s quite a lot of space. We can also estimate the amount of space taken up by two of each created-kind of land animal. This has been done by various creation scientists, such as John Woodmorappe. Generous estimates of upper limits indicate that birds take up 2621 ft2 (2.6%), mammals take up 29132 ft2 (28.7%), and reptiles (including the dinosaurs) take up 15700 ft2 (15.5%). All the animals therefore would occupy 47,453 ft2, which is 46.8% of the space available – a bit less than half.
Some of the ways in which critics misrepresent creationists in order to inflate the number of animals on board the ark is to claim that two of each species had to come aboard. But this is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that two of each kind came aboard. And kind is considerably broader than species. The created kind in most cases corresponds to the family level of the modern taxonomic system – not species. We estimate that there were less than 16,000 animals aboard the ark – perhaps quite a bit less depending on the estimate. While there are several hundred dinosaur names, we estimate that there were only about 60 dinosaur kinds. Thus, there would have been 120 dinosaurs on board the ark.
Even 120 dinosaurs may seem like a lot when people tend to think primarily of the largest varieties. But, only a few kinds of dinosaurs got really big – such as the sauropods. Many remained small, such as Compsognathus which never got larger than a turkey. The median size for a dinosaur was around the size of an American bison. Furthermore, we would do well to remember that even the largest dinosaurs started out very small. The largest sauropod hatched out of an egg not much larger than an American football. Wouldn’t it make sense for God to select the younger dinosaurs to be included on the ark: those that had not yet reached their full size?
Since representatives of each kind were aboard the ark, dinosaurs did not go extinct during the flood year. But the environment after the flood seems to have changed. The nearly global sub-tropical climate that apparently existed before the flood is now gone. And there is compelling evidence that an ice age followed the worldwide flood and persisted for several hundred years. It seems that dinosaurs never reached the same population after the flood, perhaps due to these new environmental conditions.
When population sizes are small, a group of organisms is more susceptible to extinction from any number of causes: natural disasters, famine, disease, being hunted to extinction, and so forth. Dinosaurs may have gone extinct rather gradually in the centuries and millennia that followed the global flood. Some varieties apparently survived until much later; the Behemoth and Leviathan are mentioned in Job, which took place several hundred years after the flood (and during the ice age). The flying serpents are mentioned in Isaiah, which was written around 700 B.C. Given that dinosaurs apparently survived for many centuries beyond the flood year, we might expect to find written records of people encountering creatures that resemble known kinds of dinosaurs. Of course, they won’t be called “dinosaurs” since that is a modern word. But are there any records of people encountering “dragons?”
Dragons in History
History records many examples of people seeing living “dragons.” In 330 B.C., after Alexander the Great invaded India, he reported seeing a dragon there which hissed and snorted loudly. The creature was said to measure over 70 cubits (105 feet) and the local people worshipped it as a deity. Morvidus was king of the Britons from 341 to 336 B.C. When a dragon began attacking and devouring people on the western shores, Morvidus went to fight the beast using every weapon at his disposal. Unfortunately, he lost. History records that the dragon killed and consumed him.
The Roman author Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79) also wrote about dragons. He states, “Africa produces elephants, but it is India that produces the largest, as well as the dragon, who is perpetually at war with the elephant, and is itself of so enormous a size, as easily to envelop the elephants with its folds, and encircle them in its coils.” It is hard to imagine anything other than a dinosaur that could successfully engage in physical combat with an elephant. The Greek scholar Philostratus (AD 170-245) also reported that dragons still lived in India at that time, and he even provided detailed descriptions. He states, “The whole of India is girt with dragons of enormous size; for not only the marshes are full of them, but the mountains as well, and there is not a single ridge without one. Now the marsh kind are sluggish in their habits and are thirty cubits long, and they have no crest standing up on their heads, but in this respect resemble the she-dragons. Their backs however are very black, with fewer scales on them than the other kinds.”
Marco Polo traveled through Asia and Indonesia from AD 1271 – 1291 recording what he observed of the local customs and animals. Regarding the province of Karajan, he states, “Here are seen huge serpents, ten paces in length, [~25 feet] and ten spans in the girth of the body [~8 feet]. At the fore-part, near the head, they have two short legs, having three claws like those of a tiger, with eyes larger than a fourpenny loaf and very glaring. The jaws are wide enough to swallow a man, the teeth are large and sharp, and their whole appearance is so formidable, that neither man, nor any kind of animal, can approach them without terror. Others are met with of a smaller size, being eight, six, or five paces long.” The dimensions and short front limbs with three claws are consistent with an Allosaurus – a theropod dinosaur similar to a Tyrannosaurus.
Flying reptiles are also reported throughout history. The Greek historian Herodotus (5th Century BC) wrote about flying reptiles in Egypt. He states, “There is a place in Arabia not far from the town of Buto where I went to learn about the winged serpents. When I arrived there, I saw innumerable bones and backbones of serpents: many heaps of backbones, great and small and even smaller…. The serpents are like water-snakes. Their wings are not feathered but very like the wings of a bat.”
The Jewish historian Josephus reported that Moses and the Israelites encountered flying serpents. He states, “When the ground was difficult to be passed over, because of the multitude of serpents…some of which ascend out of the ground unseen, and also fly in the air, and do come upon men at unawares, and do them a mischief…”
These are merely a small sampling; many other examples exist. Ancient artwork from around the world shows dragons that resemble known kinds of dinosaurs. Vance Nelson has an excellent book entitled Dire Dragons that documents these with full color illustrations so you can judge for yourself. History confirms that people have seen living dinosaurs.
Did dinosaurs evolve? Sometimes critics of creation will equivocate on the word “evolution”, so it is important to define our terms. From Genesis, we learn that God created organisms according to their kind. The kind seems to refer to the reproductive limit of an organism. This is why two of each kind were brought aboard the ark: to repopulate the earth according to their kind. From creation-based research, the kind seems to correspond to the family level of the modern taxonomic system in most cases. God has built-in to organisms the ability to diversify, with many variations possible due to the various possible combinations of the different genetic instructions carried by the two sets of DNA. These variations along with mutations and natural selection have allowed organisms to diversify into many species, while remaining the same created kind. Animals today are not exactly the same as they were at creation; but they remain the same created kinds. Therefore, creationists expect to find many variations of a dinosaur kind, but would not expect to find hard evidence of evolution between the major kinds (“Darwinian evolution”).
And what do we find in the fossil record? Exactly that. For example, there are many variations of the ceratopsian kind. But we do not find a gradual progression of ceratopsians evolving from non-ceratopsians. There are saurapodamorphs and theropods, but where are the fossils of their common ancestor? We find lizard-hipped dinosaurs, and bird-hipped dinosaurs, but really nothing in the way of hip structure gradually morphing into these designs. Ironically, the evidence for variation within created kinds but not between created kinds can be found even in the evolutionary textbooks. You will often see “trees” that represent the supposed evolutionary relationships of dinosaurs. And these trees show lots of branching between the major groups. But notice that they do not show any creatures at the actual major branch splitting points – the locations where evolution is supposed to be actually happening. The fossil evidence confirms biblical creation and variation within kinds.
Dinosaurs and Birds
Many evolutionists claim that some branches of dinosaurs evolved into birds. After all, birds and dinosaurs share some characteristics. Of course, all vertebrate animals share certain characteristics, which is what makes taxonomy possible. God is a God of order and patterns. And He has charged human beings with caring for creation (Genesis 1:26-28), which means we need to study and understand creation. God graciously organized His created order into an understandable nested hierarchy.
Evolutionists interpret this hierarchy (in organisms) as being due to evolution: common descent. However, other aspects of creation also show a hierarchy which cannot be due to common descent. For example, fundamental particles can be classified taxonomically. Protons and neutrons are both nucleons which are baryons which are hadrons. But that doesn’t mean that that protons and neutrons have gradually, biologically descended from a common ancestor. Numbers are hierarchical. The number 8 and the number 28 are both even; but that doesn’t mean that they both gradually evolved from the number 2, or that evens and odds share a common ancestor. Clearly, hierarchies do not necessarily imply evolution. They are consistent with the creation of the rational God.
Dinosaurs do share some characteristics with birds. They have upright posture and often have hollow bones. However, many mammals also have upright posture, so this is not unique to dinosaurs and birds. The hollow bones in birds and dinosaurs are not due to a common origin; rather, they seem to have a common purpose: to reduce weight. So there are functional reasons for these similarities.
But there are many differences between dinosaurs and birds. Birds have wings; dinosaurs do not. Of course, there were flying reptiles that had wings, but such wings are structurally different from those of birds. Pterosaur wings were supported by an elongated fourth digit (the “pinky finger”) would could be several feet long. However, bird wings are supported primarily by the radius, ulna, and wrist bones. Both designs are functional, but they are very different. True dinosaurs had neither of these structures.
You might think that evolutionists would argue that the hip structure would support dinosaur-bird common ancestry. After all, some dinosaurs were “bird-hipped” only in the sense that the pubis bone points backward as it does with birds. But interestingly, evolutionists believe that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs which are lizard-hipped! Their faith in evolution seems unshaken by this remarkable inconsistency. Theropod dinosaurs had large hind limbs, and shorter front limbs – the exact opposite of flying birds. So the data are not consistent with the belief that dinosaurs evolved into birds.
Impressions of dinosaur skin show scales, not feathers. This is one reason that dinosaurs are classified as reptiles. Of course, scales are not unique to reptiles. Most fish have scales, and birds usually have scales on their legs. But dinosaurs were apparently covered in scales, which is consistent with modern reptiles. However, some paleontologists have claimed fossil evidence that some dinosaurs had feathers. What does the evidence really indicate?
Of course, evolutionists are highly motivated to believe that some dinosaurs evolved feathers, because this step is necessary for Darwinian evolution. However, if some versions of dinosaurs really did have feathers, it would not confirm evolution because God has created other creatures with mosaic traits. The duck-billed platypus is a mammal because it has fur and produces milk. But it has some bird-like, reptile-like, fish-like, and amphibian-like characteristics. It has a bill like a duck, lays eggs like a reptile, is semi-aquatic like an amphibian, is venomous like a snake, and has electroreception like a shark. This mosaic creature doesn’t help evolution because it would have to have evolved from everything! Likewise, if some dinosaurs were discovered to have feathers, it would mean that they too have mosaic characteristics.
However, the evidence for feathers on dinosaurs seems very shaky at best. There are two ways in which paleontologists argue for feathers on dinosaurs. First, they show fossil evidence of clear feather impressions on ancient birds (such as archaeopteryx) and they simply call this bird a ‘dinosaur.’ But as we saw in a previous article, there simply is no basis for thinking that archaeopteryx was transitional or anything other than a true 100% bird. Second, they show actual dinosaurs with impressions of filamentous structures surrounding the skin, which look nothing like feathers, and simply argue that these filaments are the decayed remains of feathers. But that seems to be quite a stretch. What no one has found so far is clear fossil feather impressions on an actual dinosaur. Some creationists have jumped on the “feathered dinosaur bandwagon.” But when we consider the evidence, such a leap seems premature.
An effective way to get someone to believe something false is to link it with something true. In this way, dinosaurs have become an icon for evolution. Many evolutionists use dinosaurs to tell their story. Textbooks on dinosaurs have facts about dinosaurs and evolutionary stories seamlessly interweaved. Movies and television shows state the evolution story as if it were as factual and concrete as the fossils of dinosaurs. This may be psychologically persuasive, but it is not rational. The actual fossil evidence of dinosaurs is consistent with the Biblical narrative. If evolutionist can use dinosaurs to persuade people of their fictional version of history, why can’t Christians use the truth about dinosaurs to show people how science confirms true history as recorded in Scripture?
Dinosaurs can be used as “missionary reptiles.” They can challenge the evolutionist to reconsider his beliefs about the past. They can spark an interest in studying the Bible and external evidence that confirms the Bible. Reading the accounts of various biblical creatures like Behemoth and flying serpents, as well as other historical accounts of people encountering dragons is very encouraging. As in all things, the evidence confirms biblical history.
 Seven (or perhaps seven pairs) of the clean kinds were brought aboard. However, there are relatively few clean kinds. Dinosaurs would have been ceremonially unclean.
 Philostratus, Life of Apollonius 3.6
 Travels of Marco Polo, revised Marsden translation, Book 2, Chapter 40. (The Henry Yule translation has this account in chapter 49.)
 Herodotus, The Histories, Book 2, 75-76.
 Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 2, chapter 10.