A new Bible museum has opened in the U.S. which portrays a world that once included dinosaurs. But we all know that dinosaurs have been extinct for millions of years, while the Bible places Creation some 5700 years ago. Isn’t this an impossible contradiction?
The Aish Rabbi Replies
First, one should realize that Judaism has always been compatible with science. The medieval philosopher Maimonides wrote that seeming conflicts between science and the Bible arise from either a lack of scientific knowledge or a defective understanding of the Bible. Our Sages always viewed Torah knowledge in light of prevailing scientific theory.
Maimonides wrote that science is one of the primary paths to knowing God, and for that reason the Bible commences with a description of the Creation.
The Torah itself may hint to dinosaurs, as it says: "And God created the giant Tanin" (Genesis 1:21). What is a Tanin? In Exodus 7:10, when Moses throws down his staff before Pharaoh, it turns into a "Tanin," translated as a "snake." Thus a Tanin is in the reptile family. They are also the only creatures in the creation account referred to as "giant," and indeed, reptiles were the largest creatures ever to walk the earth.
What happened to these creatures? The Talmud (Baba Batra 74b) reports that God caused the extinction of the giant Tanin soon after their creation, because had the Tanin been fruitful and multiplied, the world would not have been able to endure before them.
More explanation is put forth by Rabbi Yisrael Lifshitz (19th century author of the Tifferet Yisrael commentary on the Mishnah) who addresses the topic of dinosaurs in light of the discovery of a fossil of a wooly mammoth. He quotes the Talmud (Chagiga 13b) which states "there were 974 generations before Adam." This suggests the existence of fossilized layers beneath the world in which we now live.
For more on this, see essays on:
• “Age of the Universe” - www.aish.com/jl/i/mn/48951136.html
• “Evolution” - www.aish.com/ci/sam/48951611.html