Student Question: What about the Dinosaurs?

Question: How could dinosaurs live on the earth if God made humans in the beginning?

 

Answer: Nobody can know with 100% certainty exactly how the earth was created because nobody was there. There is no hard proof, so nobody can tell us to believe or disbelieve one thing or another based on fact. All we can do is look at the evidence and the best possible solutions and figure out what to believe from there. Here are two possible solutions to understand how God, humans, and dinosaurs work together.

 

Here's the Genesis account of creation:

 

Day 1 - Light/Darkness

Day 4 - Sun/Moon

Day 2 - Water/Earth

Day 5 - Sea creatures/Birds

Day 3 - Plants

Day 6 - Land creatures (beasts of the earth) and humans

 

The following outlines two major interpretations of Genesis 1-2 and Biblical creation. I believe both are perfectly acceptable to believe while still holding a Christian worldview.

 

View #1: Young Earth Creation

In the Young Earth Creation view, each day of creation is a literal 24 hours. God made "the beasts of the earth" on the 6th day, which would include the dinosaurs. God also made humans on the 6th day, which is an estimated 6,000 years ago. Humans and dinosaurs lived together, and while many of the dinosaurs would have died in the flood of Genesis 6, two of each kind were preserved. However, just like many animals have gone extinct, over a period of time, the different kinds of dinosaurs died out and went extinct.

 

The key aspect of this view is that dinosaurs and humans coexisted. Evidence for this can be seen in the book of Job, who is believed to be one of the oldest humans who ever lived. Job 44 mentions living among a “Behemoth” and Job 41 a “Leviathan.” The descriptions in the text of these two creatures match a Brachiosaurus and a Megalodon. If Job is a story about an ancient group of people, it makes sense that they would recognize and describe types of dinosaurs. Furthermore, ancient cave paintings show "monsters" that look a lot like dinosaurs, which is possible evidence of humans living among the dinos.  

 

The biggest problem with the Young Earth Creation interpretation of the dinosaurs is that  archaeologists and geologists date dinosaur fossils to over 65 million years ago. This is a sharp difference from a 6,000 year old earth. Young Earth Creationists defend their view by pointing out that fossil dating is a tricky science and could be completely inaccurate. There is no guaranteed way to know something’s age, especially when we are talking about 100 million years. It’s more guesswork. Another possible explanation is that God created the earth with signs of age, just like he created Adam and Eve as adults instead of infants. 

 

View #2: Old Earth Creation

In the Old Earth Creation view, the earth is as old as scientists claim, around 4.5 billions years. They interpret Genesis 1 as happening over a long period of time instead of six literal 24 hour days. This is because the Hebrew word for “day” in Genesis 1 (yom) doesn’t have to refer to a literal 24 hour day. It’s used in Scripture sometimes to describe time or a period of time. Furthermore, Old Earth Creationists point out that the overarching purpose of Genesis 1-2 isn't to give a precise scientific understanding of how the world was created. Rather, it's about who God is and who humans are in relation to him. One piece of evidence is the writing style of Genesis 1-2 being more poetic than literal. It reads like beautiful prose. In other words, Genesis 1-2 is not history or science, it's theology, and should be interpreted as such.

 

In the Old Earth Creation view, each day could be up to millions of years old with God creating each tiny detail over a long period of time. So, at the beginning of the 6th "day," God created the dinosaurs. And then 140 million years or so passed, and then after the dinosaurs went extinct, God created humans at some point. And that's where the Genesis 1 story ends.

 

Again, I believe any thoughtful, Jesus-following, Bible-loving Christian can hold either view! To lay my cards on the table, I believe in an Old Earth because it's grounded theologically with the writing style of Genesis 1-2, it's consistent with the whole of Scripture, and it helps make sense of what modern scientists believe about the world. However, I am perfectly fine to admit someday that I am wrong and that the earth was actually created in six literal 24 hour days.