"No Dinosaur…Ever Breathed Fire"
In a book he authored in 1998 titled The Genesis Question, well-known progressive creationist Hugh Ross ridiculed the idea that behemoth and leviathan were dinosaurs. According to Ross, “No creatures on Earth, alive or extinct, fit the literal descriptions” of the animals that God described to the patriarch Job in Job 40:15-41:34. Furthermore, “No dinosaur…ever breathed fire or smoke or had bones of iron and brass” (p. 48). Ross has chosen to believe that the magnificent creatures described by God in His second speech to Job were the hippopotamus and the crocodile.
Like so many professed Christians who have attempted to amalgamate the long evolutionary ages with the biblical account of Creation, Ross’ reservations to accept the likelihood of behemoth being a dinosaur and leviathan being a dinosaur-like, water-living reptile are not the result of a sensible, judicious exegesis of the biblical text. A man who believes that dinosaurs “dominated the Earth’s land and sea life from 250 million to 65 million years ago” (p. 48), and that “no credible evidence whatever suggests the coexistence of primates and the great dinosaurs” (p. 49), obviously will have a difficult time accepting that behemoth and leviathan, which lived as the same time as Job, were dinosaurs. [For information on the cohabitation of humans and dinosaurs, see Harrub and Thompson, 2003. For a discussion on the reality and the identity of behemoth and leviathan, see Lyons, 2001.]
Two of the main reasons Ross gives for rejecting the dinosaur-like features of these creatures are: (1) “no creatures on Earth, alive or extinct, fit the literal descriptions;” and (2) “no dinosaur…ever breathed fire or smoke.” According to Ross, these “facts” present a problem when Bible students understand these creatures as being dinosaurs.
I have two questions for Dr. Ross, which I wonder if he could answer for us. First, although admittedly no creature alive today fits the “literal descriptions” of leviathan and behemoth, how can Ross confidently assert that no extinct animal resembles the description of behemoth or leviathan? How does Ross know what every creature that ever has walked on Earth looked like? How does he know what feats they were able to perform? Ross might suggest: “But common sense tells us no creature had ribs of “iron” or bones of “brass” (cf. Job 40:18). Agreed. But, by employing such metaphors and similes, any reasonable Bible student can understand that God was stressing the fact that behemoth’s bones were extremely solid—like they were made of solid metal. Interestingly, although dinosaurs had the largest, most massive bones of any known animal that has ever walked this Earth (e.g., one fossilized Argentinosaurus vertebra was five feet high and five feet wide—see Meyer, 2002), and even though they are known to have the most massive tails of any animal ever known (e.g., the 40-foot-long tail of Diplodocus), which could reasonably be likened to a “cedar” (Job 40:17), Ross has chosen rather to believe that behemoth was a hippo—an animal with a tail shorter than many dogs and cats.
A second question I wish Hugh Ross could answer for us is how he can be so certain that “no dinosaur…ever breathed fire or smoke.” By his own admission, Ross never has seen a dinosaur (he believes they became extinct 65 million years ago), and thus obviously he never has observed every dinosaur or dinosaur-like creature that ever walked on land or swam in the oceans. Truly, as Henry Morris observed in his book Biblical Basis for Modern Science: “To say that the leviathan could not have breathed fire is to say much more than we know about leviathans (or water dragons or sea serpents)” (1984, p. 359). When a person considers that electric eels can produce enough electricity (500-600 volts) to stun a horse without ever shocking itself, that anglerfish and fireflies can produce “light,” that the komodo dragon can store deadly bacteria inside its own mouth, and that bombardier beetles can produce a stream of noxious gas that can be expelled from their bodies at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, it is not difficult to accept the possibility that certain dinosaurs or dinosaur-like, water-living reptiles were capable of expelling certain hot gaseous fumes that might briefly ignite.
Hugh Ross, it seems, has forgotten that all animals, including the dinosaurs, were designed and created by God on days five and six of Creation. If Jehovah wanted to create one or more dinosaurs that could expel fire, smoke, or some deadly chemical out of their mouths without harming themselves, He certainly could have done so. Bearing in mind the way that He described leviathan to Job in Job 41:18-21, and considering that many secular stories have circulated for millennia that describe “fiery dragons,” it is logical to conclude that He did create such creatures. It seems fitting to ask Dr. Ross the same rhetorical question God asked Abraham long ago: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14). Who is Ross to say that “no dinosaur…ever breathed fire”?
Harrub, Brad and Bert Thompson (2003), “Walking Amidst the Dinosaurs,” Reason and Revelation, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/15.
Lyons, Eric (2001), “Behemoth and Leviathan—Creatures of Controversy,” Reason & Revelation, 21:1-7, January, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/154.
Meyer, Pedro (2002), “Does the Original Matter?” WashingtonPost.com, [On-line], URL: http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/photo/essays/zonezero/jan_02.htm.
Morris, Henry M. (1984), Biblical Basis for Modern Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Ross, Hugh (1998), The Genesis Question (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress).