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According to the book of Genesis, animals and humans were created on the 6th day. I am wondering what Jews think of dinosaurs.

When tested for dating (radioactive decay), their bones appear to be millions of years old, a time period that does not exist according to a literal interpretation of the Torah.

I am aware of certain Jewish/science authors that use Einstein's theory of relativity to argue that the first 7 days of Genesis were "relative" and that they could actually be much longer than the 24 hour days we have today.

But for Jews who are not scientists, what is the general belief about dinosaurs?

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It is difficult to separate this answer from science. Ultimately the discovery, knowledge and theory about dinosaurs is a scientific one; one that is not really discussed in classic Judaic literature due to the discovery of dinosaur fossils begin relatively recent.

Rabbi Slifkin has a chapter devoted to this in 'the Challenge of Creation' (chapter 17 entitled 'Dinosaurs and Sea Monsters').

I will try to summarise some of this chapter:

'And Hashem created the great taninim...' (Bereishit 1:21). Some say that this refers to giant sea monsters, however in Devarim 32:33, where 'tannin' is used in the singular, it refers to snakes. Yechezkel 29:3 they are referred to as crocodiles. Slifkin argues against Schroeder (Science of G-d p.193), who says that taninim refer to the general category of reptiles. Slifkin goes on to argue that the modern term 'reptile' bears no place in classic Judaic thought since the Torah's classification of animals has nothing to do with modern taxonomy that is based on DNA. He argues that claiming that 'taninim' as being dinosaurs is sensationalist, at best. Furthermore, seeing as the majority of dinosaurs were terrestrial, Slifkin questions why the Torah would have made a reference to dinosaurs in general as the sea dwelling 'taninim'.

Slifkin argues that there is 'no reason to expect to find dinosaurs in the Torah any more than we would expect to find ammonites or mammoths'. There are countless species (extinct and present) that bare no necessity that the Torah should find the need to mention them.

He brings another 'contender' for dinosaurs from Iyov (40:15-24):

טו הִנֵּה-נָא בְהֵמוֹת, אֲשֶׁר-עָשִׂיתִי עִמָּךְ; חָצִיר, כַּבָּקָר יֹאכֵל. טז הִנֵּה-נָא כֹחוֹ בְמָתְנָיו; וְאוֹנוֹ, בִּשְׁרִירֵי בִטְנוֹ. יז יַחְפֹּץ זְנָבוֹ כְמוֹ-אָרֶז; גִּידֵי פַחֲדָו יְשֹׂרָגוּ. יח עֲצָמָיו, אֲפִיקֵי נְחֻשָׁה; גְּרָמָיו, כִּמְטִיל בַּרְזֶל. יט הוּא, רֵאשִׁית דַּרְכֵי-אֵל; הָעֹשׂוֹ, יַגֵּשׁ חַרְבּוֹ. כ כִּי-בוּל, הָרִים יִשְׂאוּ-לוֹ; וְכָל-חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה, יְשַׂחֲקוּ-שָׁם. כא תַּחַת-צֶאֱלִים יִשְׁכָּב-- בְּסֵתֶר קָנֶה וּבִצָּה. כב יְסֻכֻּהוּ צֶאֱלִים צִלְלוֹ; יְסֻבּוּהוּ, עַרְבֵי-נָחַל. כג הֵן יַעֲשֹׁק נָהָר, לֹא יַחְפּוֹז; יִבְטַח, כִּי-יָגִיחַ יַרְדֵּן אֶל-פִּיהוּ. כד בְּעֵינָיו יִקָּחֶנּוּ; בְּמוֹקְשִׁים, יִנְקָב-אָף.

and in English:

Behold now behemoth, which I made with you; he eats grass like an ox. Behold now, the strength of his loins, and the power in his belly. He thrusts his tail like a cedar, his testicles are bound by twisted cords. His bones are like tubes of bronze; his limbs are like bars of iron. He is the head of the works of G-d; let He who made him bring near His sword to him. The mountains bring him forth food, where all the beasts of the field play. He lies under the shady trees, in the cover of the reeds and swamp. The shady trees cover him with their shadow' the willows of the brook surround him. Behold, he plunders a river without hurry; he trusts that he can draw the Jordan into his mount. He takes in the river with his eyes, his nostrils are as though pierced by hooks.

Slifkin makes reference to a number of creationists that suggest that these verses refer to dinosaurs (saurapods, to be exact), but says that 'no dinosaur lived at the same time as Iyov'. He goes on to suggest that these verses are quite explicitly talking about the hippopotamus.

In summary, he sees no reason for dinosaurs to be mentioned in the Torah.

  • thanks. so if i have this correct, Slifkin is saying that dinosaurs did exist with humans and they just weren't specifically mentioned in the Torah? – kirby Oct 19 '14 at 19:14
  • @kirby he writes 'no dinosaur lived at the same time as Iyov', he strongly suggests that they did not exist at the same time as humans. – bondonk Oct 19 '14 at 19:17
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    @ray its easy to disregard his books due to what some important Rabbanim have had to say about it. The book is among the best sourced in classic sources (more than others i know) dealing with these issues. There are no outlandish sources and IMHO his conclusions are not heretical in the least. I really think the opposition is in his style... nu – bondonk Oct 20 '14 at 5:43
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    @ray, what's with the ad hominem attacks? Comments on this post should focus on issues with the content of this post, such as any counterarguments you may have against arguments made in the cited chapter of The Challenge of Creation or any ways in which you feel the tone of this post needs improvement. The "reliability of R' Slifkin's views" is immaterial here, as this post cites arguments and sources, which are impeachable on their own merits, rather than "views." – Isaac Moses Oct 20 '14 at 14:35
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    @ray, if this answer was relying on his unsupported opinions or fact-reporting, his personal reliability would be relevant. It doesn't. – Isaac Moses Oct 20 '14 at 14:46
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NOTE: I am not a science guy but found the following interesting. Copy/Paste from the Ohr Somayach "Ask The Rabbi"

Far from being frightened by dinosaurs, Rabbi Yisrael Lifshitz, author of the Tiferet Yisrael commentary on the Mishna, received the news of fossil discoveries in the nineteenth century with delight. As he had undoubtedly expected, they confirmed everything that we knew all along. He writes:

…As regards the past, Rabbi Abahu states at the beginning of Bereishet Rabbah that the words "and it was evening, and it was morning" (in the apparent absence of the sun) indicate that "there was a series of epochs before then; the Holy One created worlds and destroyed them, approving some and not others." The Kabbalists expanded upon this statement and revealed that this process is repeated seven times, each Shemita achieving greater perfection than the last…They also tell us that we are now in the midst of the fourth of these great cycles of perfection…[Editor's note: Interestingly, many paleontologists also consider there to have been four eras: the Precambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic.]

We are enabled to appreciate to the full the wonderful accuracy of our Holy Torah when we see that this secret doctrine, handed down by word of mouth for so long, and revealed to us by the Sages of the Kabbalah many centuries ago, has been borne out in the clearest possible way by the science of our generation.

The Tiferet Yisrael then goes on to describe all sorts of discoveries that point to evidence of epochs that were created and destroyed preceding ours including the discovery of "a monstrous type of elephant, some three or four times larger than those found today…"

(Tiferet Yisrael, in Derush Ohr HaChayyim, found in Mishnayot Nezikin after Masechet Sanhedrin)

So it would seem that according to the Tiferet Yisrael the dinosaurs lived in one of the preceding epochs and not in our current experience starting from Bereishet.

I encourage you to read the full article linked above.

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    I am not comfortable with this answer. I'm not sure why Hashem would have put fossils in the ground in order to prove a (perhaps figurative) kabbalistic teaching of worlds being created and destroyed. Furthremore, Hashem destroyed 'those' worlds - why would he leave behind deliberately confusing remnants of it. – bondonk Oct 20 '14 at 21:06
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I discuss some of the logical reasoning in Breishis - Creationism and Evolutionism

Logically, we can consider Creation in a way like building a computer program from modules. Each "day" is a different module turned on and off for the unit testing. This is why the first time, when time is created, is יום אחד (one day) and the following days are of the form "a second day". It is only on "the sixth day" and the finish (ויכולו) that the actual execution begins. As a result, nothing before the beginning of man and civilization (Adam) needs to be mentioned.

Speaking of creation in a theoretical sense, the universe could have been created with this post on your screen and we would have no way of proving that it had been created 5 seconds or 5 billion years ago. In either case, the carbon dating and other internal evidence would be the same.

I also point this out in "And it was evening, and it was morning, *one* day"?

The fact is that with the initial creation of space and time, a day was created. Once that was done and a second dark/light cycle created, it was a second day. Something that somewhat duplicated the existence of a cycle a second, third, fourth, and fifth time. It was only with the creation of "the sixth day" that the universe reached the point of being able to continue "according to the laws of nature" and had enough parts in existence to be able to continue to exist. However, it was only with the creation of "rest" that the "program" actually began running.

Note that the third day was the "plant module" and the fourth day was the "sun moon and stars module". This implies that the light of the stars was created reaching the Earth no matter how far away the stars were. These "modules" could not run independantly.

Note that this also answers how vegetation could be created "before" the sun. It also answers why dinosaurs do not have to be mentioned. Just as trees were created with rings (showing an "age"), the stars were created already visible from Earth, dead trees were created to allow mushrooms to grow, etc. Thus, fossils would logically be created as part of the Earth. The sixth day just says that Hashem created all the land animals as they were found when Adam was introduced to the world.

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    I'm not sure this post addresses the question of dinosaurs – bondonk Oct 19 '14 at 16:13
  • @bondonk I added to the answer from another answer that deals with the same issue. This not deals with dinosaurs explicitly. – sabbahillel Oct 19 '14 at 21:41

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