What is the Torah view on the dinosaurs? There's no mention of them in the Torah, only that the world was created in 6 days.

You'd think the existence of a former world of huge alien creatures would have some sort of mention in midrashim, etc. and some sort of purpose in G-d's plan. How do we view this from a torah pespective?

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    Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/10797/…
    – HodofHod
    Oct 12, 2012 at 7:58
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    I don't understand the argument of "There's no mention of them in the Torah, only that the world was created in 6 days. If they existed, Adam and his descendants should have seen them. Yet there's no mention.". There's no mention of mosquitoes or zebras either. So what?
    – msh210
    Oct 12, 2012 at 8:12
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    I don't think that the medrash which says the earlier worlds were destroyed means that no trace of them can exist.
    – rosends
    Oct 12, 2012 at 12:34
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    I heard that the Tiferes Yisrael addresses this in his "Drush Or HaChayim" (printed in the back of standard Tiferes Yisrael editions of mishnah Nezikin vol. 1), but I never actually read all of it (but I did see a few lines of it, and they include references to animals such as טערודעקטיילס and סטגאסאורוס)
    – b a
    Oct 12, 2012 at 16:29
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    @ray First of all, consider clarifying all this in your question itself, and be careful whether you are asking about the Torah, or the Midrash. I don't think the Midrash would mention dinosaurs, since I doubt Hazal knew about them. To keep things in perspective, there are currently around 8.7 million species on Earth. Many of these are very exotic and differ in many ways from the organisms we are used to and indeed, are quite alien. Nevertheless, the vast vast majority of them are not mentioned by the Torah, or even by Hazal.
    – mevaqesh
    Oct 14, 2016 at 5:57

6 Answers 6


Prof. Nathan Aviezer wrote a book "בראשית ברא" answering questions about the creation in torah view.

There he claims the 6 days of creation to be 6 periods of time that didn't necessarily last 24 hours. Moreover - maybe it was one cycle of dark&light, but things happened at a quicker pace.

Take, for example, a person's growth. If you were to calculate the rate of growth during his first two years, you would conclude that at the age of 20 he'd be as tall as a skyscraper. Similarly, scientists calculate age of things according to he worlds' pace today, but things may have worked differently in the past.

Hence, dinosaurs might have lived and died prior to Adam Harishon. Maybe created on "day" 5 and extinct before 6.

(Somewhat related: What is the meaning of יוֹם (yowm) in Bereshit?)

The Malbim (on Noach 7:23) addresses "large animals" that couldn't be "wiped out" by the flood, but were buried in depths of the earth following quakes the Mabul created. He is clearly addressing dinosaurs since he's talking about (my free translation): "... geologists who dig and find large animals who have become extinct, they use this to show earth existed long before Bereshis creation..."

Some attribute "התנינים הגדולים" (Bereshis 1:21) to the dinosaurs as a reference of their existing (not mentioned in Malbim).

Another opinion I've heard from reliable people (suggested by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in this letter) is that the world was created "old", such as Adam Harishon was created as a man of 20 and not a newborn baby. Hence, dinosaurs could have either existed - or their remains and footprints were melded into the creation.

  • Malbim on that pasuk just says "there are some fish that are really big" and doesn't seem to be talking about dinosaurs
    – b a
    Oct 12, 2012 at 16:26
  • @ba, it's Malbim on Noach - I edited it in.
    – JNF
    Oct 14, 2012 at 6:26
  • @RaymondSebag, as the answer notes, Hashem might have done millions of years within 24 hours. Shabbos was completion of work not necessarily a day in itself. Further, "days" might have not been equal in time (the way we define it) so maybe when Shabbos arrived it really was one day. P.S. World's birthday = Elul 25th
    – JNF
    Oct 14, 2012 at 10:32
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    @RaymondSebag And does the fact that we have dinosaur bones that appear millions of years old not qualify as Shaat HaDechak?
    – Double AA
    Dec 3, 2012 at 7:44
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    I would have to disagree with the first point mentioned, that the six "days" were NOT 24 hours, for indeed they were, and the Rebbe would address this numerously in various letters (and of course before him, many official Chassidic discourses address clearly each day, and of course before then, the entire Gemara / Rishonim etc. all talk about 6 literal days, and these people, BTW, do NOT make any mistakes at all ever)
    – user8832
    Oct 16, 2018 at 4:53

In the sefer "Q&A Thursday Nights With Rabbi Avigdor Miller" Volume 2, pg 284, he was asked why were the dinosaurs and the mastodon not saved from the mabul? He answered simply because there was no room for them on the teivah (ark) .He said that all species fit but the extra big ones simply didn't fit.

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    So he holds that the mabul happened 60 million years ago?
    – Double AA
    Jul 19, 2013 at 21:28
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    It seems he thinks they were still alive just preceding the flood.
    – Double AA
    Jul 21, 2013 at 3:34
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    @doubleaa , and why 60 million years why not regular years
    – sam
    Jul 21, 2013 at 4:16
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    @HachamGabriel What does creating the world "adult like" have to do with their living together. You can tell me the bones were created in the ground, but that is not saying they were alive at the same time.
    – Double AA
    Jul 22, 2013 at 6:49
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    @DoubleAA The OP seems to have changed the question (although it is a bit hard to tell, since the question was never clear to start with( after there were upvoted answers. Is that legit?
    – mevaqesh
    Oct 14, 2016 at 13:09

Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb addresses this issue in many shiurim (check out Evolution & the Age of the Universe for example).

Background of approach

His general approach follows the general chareidi approach (he is a Bostoner Chassid teaching in Ohr Samayach, indeed due to his background many Rabbonim will refer you to his lectures if you ask this question), and has done a lot of research into the scientific reconciliations such as Dr. Schroeder's relativity solution, and uses his background as a professor of mathematical logic with special interest in philosophy of science to deal with this in a manner that doesn't compromise Torah positions at all but is still palatable to someone who wants rational, logical solutions.

Summary of approach

To summarise what he says, the consensus among the gadolei adar is that the 6 days of creation are 24 hours (our hours) each. I've personally asked him if he holds that we pasken hashkafa and he said yes, referencing several sources in Rambam. There is room for interesting resolutions, that the history of the universe did play out, but faster, for example, but the 24 hours is important.

So we have to now deal with fossils, and the general solution offered is the same as Lubavitcher Rebbe (see Yaacov Deane's comment below for more on this citation); the universe was created aged rather than embryonic, in the same way that Adam was created aged, as that of a man of 20 (Bereshit Rabba). Indeed, it would take 13.8 billion years to make a universe like ours from an embryonic state, and dinosaurs would be an important step in the evolution of the body of man, but Hashem skipped all that (in some sense) and created year zero 5783.5 years ago, with a universe "aged" 13.8 billion years.

Dealing with a common issue with this approach

One might ask, isn't this deceptive? He makes it one way, but makes it appear another, and (as some people claim) He did so to give us free will - this makes people uncomfortable. Rabbi Gottlieb gives the philosophical answer: Hashem isn't deceiving us because He told us in the Torah how old the universe is. The reason the world looks older is irrelevant, whether it is purely for free will, or simply because Hashem loves nature (Derashot HaRan 8:63a), or any other reason.

Concluding remarks

So, the rational thinking Torah Jew doesn't have to have a position on dinosaurs. He doesn't have to say "they didn't exist and anyone who says so is an apikorus" (see this and this answer), but he also shouldn't feel boxed in to insist that they did exist otherwise he's an anti-science irrational religious zealot, even though you'll certainly find authorities holding by both sides (as always CYLOR). He can simply say it certainly looks like they existed, and the science done on their bones paints a very cool story of what they were like and one can be impressed about that in the same way all of nature impresses one to the awesome ways of Hashem*. If he wants to follow a strong opinion in the traditional Torah world that the days were 24 hours, then he has philosophical feet to stand on.

Remember, rational thinking knows limits. Science is not history and historical theories are never theorems. Torah tells us absolute truths but it also leaves out a lot of the history in its pshat. So what actually happened is something we currently don't know for sure. Rabbi Gottlieb places a lot of stress on not getting too worked up about this. As a younger man I found that hard to hear; I wanted to know! I still do, but it's clear that there's no point taking a definite position without definite facts, and that Hashem doesn't have to have done it the way I think would be the most sensible or cool. As cool as dinosaurs are**, I'm sure if I ever find out how Hashem did it, I'll agree He did it in the most fantastic way, far beyond anything I could have imagined :)

*I'll say from experience that there are many traditional households that do not hold like this, and one should be respectful. Scientism has been a damaging enemy to the religious world over the centuries and some people have felt it more than others, and have their own reasons for not wanting to teach their children about dinosaurs.
**Do note though, the world of the dinosaurs is an especially hard one to reconcile with the idea of goodness. In a world where there were no humans with free will to accomplish a great good that makes creation worth while, for a hundred and fifty million years there was violence and horrific death we can't imagine, an ever ongoing arms race of size and teeth and poison and claws and every nasty horror in nature...

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    I have seen different views of the Rebbe on the general subject of age of the universe, dinosaurs, etc. I don’t know if that means his opinion changed or it evolved. Generally, regarding an “aged universe”, the Rebbe took the catalyst/enzyme approach to nuclear decay. Although arguable, personally, I find that position more difficult than applying special relativity. Regarding the “props” viewpoint, this is, in my view a denial of observable reality. Torah requires us to judge by our perception & to adhere to truth. Properly understanding the subject of “good” טוב will alter your closing view. Jun 14 at 11:16
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    Whatever philosophical approach you follow, one aspect that I don't think gets enough attention is the halachic ramifications, like kashrus of mammoth meat, tumas neveilah of various ancient animals, and tumas neveilah or meis of ancient humanoids. If you're creative enough you can probably come up with nafka minas between all of the different approaches.
    – Heshy
    Jun 14 at 11:26
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    And just to emphasize, this is not the same concept that is emphasized in the 3rd paragraph of the Shema. Jun 14 at 12:11
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    @DoubleAA R' Aryeh Kaplan quotes similar. I asked him about this and he had another set of quotes. I'll see if I can get hold of them, and his reasoning, but he's hard to contact these days.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jun 14 at 13:52
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    @YaacovDeane According to those who say the world was created 5773 years ago looking old, mammoths were just created dead, so they arguably wouldn't have a din of animals. And the difference between Jews and non-Jews is only in terms of ohel, not maga and masa sefaria.org/Mishneh_Torah%2C_Defilement_by_a_Corpse.1.12
    – Heshy
    Jun 14 at 15:57

Taninim Hagedolim can possibly mean dinosaurs. The word Tanin means a reptile or serpent (like when Aharon's stick become a sepent - Vayehi l'tanin. The dinosaurs were reptiles. See Dr. Schroeder's "The Science of G-d" which discusses this.


after reading parts of Michael Denton's Nature's Destiny I would speculate that God has designed every possible form of creature that could possibly exist within the confines of the laws of physics (and the laws of physics need to be almost exactly as they are to support human life as explained there).

Denton says there that there is a limit to the size of an animal due to various factors such as the speed of nerve signal transmission which is determined by the diffusion rate of ions. the current values for these are crucial to life. He explains there that for an animal of 100 meters it would take roughly 4 seconds for certain nerve impulses to travel and that would be way too slow for the animal to be nimble.

So perhaps the dinosaurs were a hashlama (completion) to the possible types of life forms that could exist on earth as part of the perfection of nature. Only that they needed to no co-exist with us for safety reasons.

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    Is Michael Denton the Torah? Is he even Jewish? Why should we care what he thinks?
    – Double AA
    Oct 13, 2016 at 21:48
  • @DoubleAA i am trying to explain the purpose of dinosaurs from a torah perspective using our modern knowledge
    – ray
    Oct 13, 2016 at 21:50
  • It seems like the info from Denton is totally irrelevant to the answer. Why is the fact that large organisms are in some ways different from smaller organisms relevant to the question of the Torah's perspective of dinosaurs, whether they existed, why they are not mentioned on the Torah, and when they existed?
    – mevaqesh
    Oct 13, 2016 at 22:32

To answer your first question: Most people would say that dinosaurs are not mentioned in the Bible. And they would be wrong. Oranges are also not mentioned in the Bible and yet no one would deny an orange for supper. Contrary to popular belief, dinosaurs are mentioned in the Torah, and no, it's not what you think. No, it's not Genesis 1:21's "taninim gedolim", translated as "great sea monsters" and it's not Leviathan, either, which means whale.[1] Rather, the first time we read about dinosaurs is in the beginning, as you would expect.

And G-d said, "Let the waters swarm a swarming of living creatures, and let fowl fly over the earth, across the expanse of the heavens."

On the fifth day, G-d created birds. True, birds do not look like dinosaurs, and dinosaurs do not look like birds, but archaeologists have proven that birds are not only modern descendants of dinosaurs, they are dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. A lot of people would laugh at the notion that Noah saved the dinosaurs on the Ark. He did. Noah sent a raven and a dove to look for land.

As to your second question: Even if readers do not like this approach and admit that dinosaurs, as in giant reptiles or Tyrannosaurus are not mentioned in the Torah, we can answer that “the Torah speaks in human language” (Rabbi Ishmael). Because the Torah was given to the generation of emancipated slaves, it could not expect them to understand science and evolutionary biology. As a result, it had to work with the time it was given.

[1] Although some read taneneem to mean crocodiles, snakes, or dragons

  • Animals did not descend into other animals but were created as complete entities. See meseches chullin 60a
    – Dude
    Jun 14 at 17:55
  • @Dude I assume your referencing the theory of spontaneous generation?
    – Turk Hill
    Jun 18 at 18:43
  • @RabbiKaii I'm glad you liked what I wrote. I thought it was sort of a comical answer because birds are technically dinosaurs. It's not the kind of answer you'd expect to hear. Regarding reptiles, I did not know that reptiles are not considered to have evolved from dinosaurs. thank you for pointing this out to me. I'll change the answer to reflect your comment. It is interesting that they evolved out of other species.
    – Turk Hill
    Jun 18 at 18:45
  • @TurkHill no, look at the gemera. Everything was made in their complete forms. There is no evolution from dinosaurs to animals we have today. Thus a bird cannot be a descendant of a dinosaur.
    – Dude
    Jun 18 at 18:56
  • @Dude It seems that a bird is indeed the descendant of a dinosaur. But the gemera seems to state the opposite — what then? Chazal were humans and not familiar with mordern science. See Rabbi Slifkin's essay on the sun's path at night where the sage admits to the wisdom of the Gentiles. As Jews, we only need to uphold and justify what is found in Scripture. I do not feel the need to justify every midrash or gemera. I only need to justify the Torah for my belief.
    – Turk Hill
    Jun 19 at 21:34

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