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  Where do Dinosaurs Fit in the Bible?

This week's questions comes from Pat of Georgia and Bob of Illinois. Pat wants to know where the cave dwellers fit into the biblical story, and Bart wants to know where dinosaurs come in. There are several possible answers to these questions, again depending upon how one interprets the scriptures.

One answer depends on a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and a dating of the earth at between 5,000 to 6,000 years old. In this interpretation, the scientific claims of carbon dating and the theories of evolution are discounted completely so that it is possible to place dinosaurs at an early age of the earth, at some 5,000-plus years ago. This notion places Adam and Eve as the early cave dwellers living with the dinosaurs. Assumedly, the dinosaurs would have been rendered extinct during the great flood because they would not have fit into the ark.

A second answer depends also on a literal interpretation of Genesis 1, but attempts to interpret Genesis 2 as a second creation. In this thought, there was a creation some million or more years ago as recorded in Genesis 1. This created society would be the cave dwellers as we know of them, but as time passed they either generally died out or were widely scattered. Roaming the earth during this early period were the dinosaurs who also either died out, or were later killed in the flood. For some reason God later effects a second creation as recorded in Genesis 2. This is when God created Adam, the animals as we know them, and finally Eve, whose kin eventually become our modern society. The first created humans who also inhabited the earth were those who lived in the land of Nod and from where Cain found his wife (Genesis 4.16-17). The attraction of this interpretation is that it allows for the accuracy of carbon dating, substantiating the antiquity of the dinosaurs and early human life, as well as allowing for the existence of other humans on the earth and a pool of humanity from which Cain could find a spouse.

The last solution is one which has as its motto, "God did it, but. . . ." This notion essentially agrees that the scientific discoveries of the cave dwellers, the dinosaurs, and the theory of evolution and all the rest are accurate assessments of how our world came into being. In this case, the scriptural narratives of the two different creation stories are viewed as the writings of two different authors both of whom were writing etiologies, that is, stories about origins, in this case the origins of the earth and creation. These two narratives aren't attempts to scientifically explain the creation of the earth, but an attempt to make sense of creation and God's part in it. This allows for the authors to have written their stories without superior knowledge than was generally known at that time, as well as the inclusion of the cosmology of their age. There is no attempt to allow for cave dwellers or dinosaurs because the writers would have had no notion of their existence; indeed, they knew little enough of their own history beyond the stories passed down from generation to generation around the family fire. In this case, the scriptures are viewed as stories of faith, teaching of God's grace and love in the act of creation, rather than serving as historic and scientific texts.

I have heard each of these interpretations at different times during my pastoral studies and career. Each one satisfies the questions of creation differently, though each stipulates God as the ultimate creator.

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