Was Leviathan Real? | The Institute for Creation Research

Was Leviathan Real?

Scripture describes leviathan as a titanic terror roaming the ancient seas. Was it real, and if so, what was it? Historical hints help answer these questions.

The most complete description of leviathan comes from Job 41 and includes these observations: It lived in the sea but sometimes came on shore, had a scaly hide that deflected spears, was huge and terrifying, breathed fire, left luminescent wakes, and had a neck, nose, and a mouth with terrorizing teeth. From Psalm 104 we learn that leviathan played around in ancient shipping lanes.1

These historical hints from the Bible refute the idea that leviathan was a mythical creature that was being used as a literary metaphor. Metaphors don’t deflect spears or scare the daylights out of onlookers. In fact, leviathan must have really done these things for God to meaningfully compare it to His own might. Identifying leviathan as a myth smuggles in the destructive idea that anything in Scripture could be interpreted as a myth. But since the Bible has proven itself true over centuries of scrutiny, the leviathan must have really lived.

Some Bible translation notes and even conservative commentaries identify leviathan as a crocodile. While crocodiles do match several of leviathan’s attributes, they fall short of disrupting shipping lanes, breathing fire, generating luminescent wakes, being utterly unapproachable, and having impenetrable hides.

Since neither myth nor croc satisfies the Bible’s specific description, could leviathan have been a creature that is now extinct? Creation scientists have searched for fossils that match leviathan but without much success. Ichthyosaurs looked like dolphins—too small for leviathan. Mosasaurs had huge toothy mouths and were 45 feet long, but their fossils don’t indicate much of a neck. And could their flippers have pulled their streamlined bodies onto shore like a leviathan? Plesiosaurs might have been large enough, and they had necks and nostrils, but their heads seem too small to convey the awe that leviathan’s head did. Some suggest leviathan was like the super-croc Sarcosuchus. Perhaps so, but many remain unconvinced. Maybe no fossils of the created leviathan kind have yet been described.

However, leviathan bones may have been on display in ancient Rome. In his book The Authenticity of the Book of Jonah, historian Bill Cooper relayed a passage from Pliny the Elder’s Natural History:

The bones of this monster, to which Andromeda was said to have been exposed, were brought by Marcus Scaurus from Joppa in Judaea during his aedileship and shown at Rome among the rest of the amazing items displayed. The monster was over forty feet long, and the height of its ribs was greater than that of Indian elephants, while its spine was 1-1/2 feet thick.2

Marcus Scaurus transported and displayed the bones in Rome’s largest theatre around 64 B.C. Cooper also relates Pliny’s note of a washed-up carcass with 120 teeth, each between 9 and 6 inches long, and Pausanius’ mention of “an enormous sea monster’s skull which was kept at a sanctuary in Asklepios.”3 Many other accounts, plus paintings and carvings, convey encounters with monstrous marine reptiles.

What was leviathan? Unfortunately, no living or fossil example seems to provide an exact match, but hints from history support the accuracy of Scripture’s leviathan.

References

  1. Psalm 104:25-26. See Thomas, B. 2010. Why Do Animals Play? Acts & Facts. 39 (1): 16.
  2. Cooper, B. 2012. The Authenticity of the Book of Jonah. Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 19.
  3. Ibid, 23.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Cite this article: Brian Thomas, Ph.D. 2015. Was Leviathan Real?. Acts & Facts. 44 (2).

The Latest
CREATION PODCAST
Is There Evidence for a Global Flood? | The Creation Podcast:...
What really happened during the Genesis Flood? Is there scientific evidence for a global Flood? And how does geology confirm the book of Genesis? Host...

NEWS
Welsh Dinosaur Tracks Found in Flood Rocks
A group of evolutionary scientists from the United Kingdom and France recently unearthed a large track-bearing surface in southern Wales.1 They...

NEWS
Remembering Dr. Kevin Anderson
Dr. Kevin Anderson went to be with the Lord on January 16, 2022. He served the people of the Lord’s Kingdom with a lifetime of good scientific research. He...

NEWS
"Ancient" Fish Brain Evidence of Evolution?
A recent secular news article confidently asserts that a fish fossil discovered in 1995 “is an ancestor of the first land animals or four-limbed...

NEWS
The Role and Realm of Science
In society today, “science” often takes center stage as a significant influencer on policy decisions and public opinion. Climate change, pandemic...

NEWS
FOX News Discusses Creation, Evolution, and Adam
FOX News recently ran internet and television coverage discussing the creation/evolution controversy. Specifically, they discussed Adam’s place in...

CREATION PODCAST
Is Creation Science Really That Important? | The Creation Podcast:...
What is creation science, and why is it important? Why did an evolutionary scientist become a creationist? And how can you defend Christianity using...

NEWS
Evidence Supports Post-Flood Wet Climate for Egypt
Evolutionary scientists found evidence that the Sahara Desert was green and fertile at the end of the Ice Age, allowing people to live hundreds of miles...

NEWS
ICR Announces New Logo
After 52 years of fruitful ministry, the Institute for Creation Research is renewing its commitment to rigorous scientific research that affirms the...

NEWS
Inside January-February 2022 Acts & Facts
How can we use the Bible to guide scientific research? Why is counting ice core layers an insufficient way to determine Earth’s age? How does...