This is a page that focuses on religious and theological issues, as well as providing comprehensive teaching from a classic Catholic perspective. As you read the articles, it is my hope they will educate and bless you.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Biblical Truths Behind Legends Part II - Dragons and Dinosaurs: Are they one and the same??

It has been a while since dealing with this particular subject area, due to the fact that work and other responsibilities have prevented me from posting as I wanted to.  However, this is the 2nd part of a series I will be doing intermittently concerning some legends and the fact that Biblical truth may be in them somewhere.   It has often been said, and I do believe, that behind every mythology there is a kernel of truth that forms the basis of the myth.  As I dealt with the Nephilim earlier, I discussed how this could be the source of myths and legends such as those of Hercules and Gilgamesh, and now I want to deal with something else that is becoming more of a topic of discussion both among secular scientists and among theologians and Christian academics, and that subject has to do with the creature called a dragon. 

The inspiration for this came to me when watching a couple of documentaries over the past couple of years, both of which were so good I bought them on DVD recently.  One of them, a secular production that was aired on Animal Planet a couple of years back, is entitled Dragon's World - A Fantasy Made Real, while the other was a release that came out a few months ago from a Christian perspective entitled Dragons or Dinosaurs? that was released by Peter and Paul LaLonde's company, Cloud Ten Studios.   Both of these I highly recommend you watch if you get the opportunity, as both were very interesting programs.  And, although coming from hugely variant perspectives - one devoutly Christian, the other secular and scientific - it is weird in that the compliment each other!  Watching stuff like this got me studying and thinking that perhaps dragons were not merely a figment of some medieval peasant's imagination, but could have actually been real creatures.  After all, the Bible even mentions dragons on several occasions, and the thing about Biblical references, allegorical and literal, is that they draw from existing creatures.  To begin this, I want to first talk about that, and then I am going to give you some perspective on some of this stuff.  However, I want to say that any perspective I give here is NOT gospel truth necessarily; it is just conclusions of mine personally that I have drawn from my own examinations of the evidence, that is all.  That being said, whether you accept the existence of dragons as real creatures or not has NO bearing on your salvation; the only thing your salvation depends on is accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior.  So, whether you agree or disagree, that is fine; I am not infallible, and thus may even revise my own opinions as I study more too.   I am just discussing a fascinating topic that will hopefully get YOU thinking about some stuff, and please see it in that light.  

The etymology of the word dragon comes, according to my Webster's New World Dictionary, from a Greek root word drakon, which literally translated means "the seeing one," but a similar Hebrew word for dragon designates the meaning as something roughly between a jackal (a predatory scavenging wild dog) and a snake.   How these two concepts connect escapes me and requires further research, but the picture I am getting is one that a widely diverse plethora of cultures have accurately pictured this beast - it has four legs like a dog, is a reptilian creature, and apparently has keen sensory perception.  And, it is also immense - the creature is usually portrayed as big, flying (in most cases), and it can breathe fire.   The book of Revelation in particular makes reference to a dragon as being an allegorical image of Satan.  Again, when the Bible uses animals to represent something else, the animals used in the analogy are often real creatures, which means it is all the more likely that these dragons did exist, or God wouldn't talk about them so much in His own Book.  Another cryptic reference to such a creature is found in Psalm 104:26, which (quoting from the New King James version) says this:

There the ships sail about;
there is that Leviathon
which you have made to play there.

In the Byzantine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, which is celebrated weekly during the Great Fast (Lent) in many Orthodox and Eastern-rite Catholic parishes, this Psalm is read as Psalm 103, and from a more up-to-date translation, the verse that is used and actually chanted says it like this:

Upon it there are ships a-sailing,
and that great beast You made to have fun.
(from The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts {Passaic, NJ:  Byzantine Catholic Eparchy, 1998} p. 9)

For many years, people had thought this verse refers to dolphins, seals, or whales, which naturally are rather playful as they do swim the seas (some say even dugongs or manatees, which surprisingly some early sailors mistook as mermaids and thus started that legend - these guys spent WAY too much time at sea honestly!).  However, when you look at what a Leviathon actually was, that theory goes out the window, and here is why.  My dictionary describes the word "leviathon" as coming from a Hebrew or Akkadian root meaning a "surrounding snake," or in contemporary language, a sort of thing like a huge anaconda or something.  In other words, definitely reptilian and NOT a whale or a dolphin!  Being the Bible mentions the existence of this creature, and of course we can substantiate dinosaurs existed, it is my theory that a leviathon was a type of aquatic dinosaur, and interesting enough there are all these Loch Ness sightings and other things even today of a creature that looks remarkably similar to the Psalm 104:26 description.  Being dinosaurs' existence is not an issue of debate, their survival though may be a different story.  Some creationists and even a few secular scientists have even insinuated that there was a possibility that dinosaurs and humans existed simultaneously,  and I tend to lean in that direction myself.  And, if a psalmist in the Bible could write about these creatures, then I would have to say the evidence for their continued existence today even is quite strong.   Therefore, I believe that one day Loch Ness may be established as a fact instead of just an elusive quest for only cryptozoologists to follow.  And that, my friends, would rock the scientific community at its foundations and would prove the folly of Darwinism once and for all.  That being said, I say that the idea of actual species of dragons existing even well into the Renaissance period may not be such a crazy speculation after all!

There are a couple of schools of thought that those who are advocating dragons as real creatures that may have (and possibly still do) existed hold to, and each of the two aforementioned videos I noted expound on these three main theories regarding dragons:

1.  Dragons and dinosaurs are synonymous with each other, and what ancient myth and legend call "dragons" could have actually been dinosaurs.  This means that humans then co-existed with dinosaurs at a point in time, meaning we and they are not mutually exclusive.

2.  A dragon may have been a species of dinosaur that had special adaptations, including the fire exhalation.  Two theories explain that possibility as well:

a.   The species had a special organ in its abdomen that allowed methane or some other gas bi-product of digestion to be stored, and the dragon ate either flint or platinum to cause a spark-plug effect at will.  This same organ would have also given it the ability of flight, since the creature had wings.

b.  Some others have said that in its skull was a cavity that stored the digestive gas, which upon contact with air through exhalation could have produced fire.

3.  Dragons and dinosaurs were two distinct species of super-reptiles that existed and competed with each other side-by-side, and both could have co-existed with humans.

These theories - and that is all they are at this point, as it has only been fairly recently that this subject has been seriously researched - have a lot of merit, and any of them could be possibilities.  For one thing, as mentioned, too many diverse cultures, from the Chinese to the Aztecs, have some sort of legend and mythology about a similar creature that they call a dragon.  Also, even into medieval times people have talked about such encounters.  This tells me that once you cut through the mythology, embellishments, and sensationalism surrounding these accounts, there is a consistent kernel there somewhere that matches with other accounts elsewhere.  And, that is where there may be substantiation for the RECENT existence of such creatures.  And, the most authoritative and truthful book on planet Earth, the Holy Scriptures, makes reference to dragons quite often.  Those references are peppered all over both Testaments, which also says something.  That being said, there is one last aspect I want to discuss before concluding that may bring some sense to all this.

Back in the day, it must be understood that oxygen levels were quite different from what they are today, thus megafauna like dinosaurs and later mammoths and such creatures could comfortably flourish.   Until mankind became industrialized and oxygen levels decreased, this was pretty much the situation even up until fairly recent history came into play.  Even today, there are some parts of the planet that are more oxygen-rich than others, and places like New Zealand still have some rather exotic wildlife and flora that you would not see anywhere else and would not survive elsewhere - up until the late 1700's, as a matter of fact, a HUGE bird called a moa roamed New Zealand's forests uninhibited actually; a moa was about 3 times the size of a modern ostrich too.  Aboriginees in Australia also talked about a HUGE lizard, a big cousin of the Komodo dragon, called Megalania that roamed Australia as recently as 400 years ago.   Even the Sasquatch legend of our own nation has some connection with this, as some researchers (both mainstream scientists and cryptozoologists) say that this may be a surviving species of big ape called Gigantopithicus, that is twice the height at times of a modern human.  Gigantopithicus fossils, interesting enough, have been found near the Tibetan border in China, home to a Sasquatch cousin called the Yeti according to some accounts, and that in itself says something.  One thing common to all these areas where either remains or alleged spottings of these creatures are located is their pristine remoteness, and their absence of human civilization in such places.  I would almost wager as well that the oxygen levels in such places may read slightly higher as well.  That being said, who is to say that dragons did not exist, and may still do?  Ultimately, only God knows his creation that well, and if it be his will for us to discover these things today, he will reveal them to us.  As to whether they exist or not, I am very positive the evidence suggests that they may, or at least did at one time, and therefore I am not going to be quick to dismiss these things in lieu of new discoveries, etc.

That being said, you as the reader have a right to draw your own conclusions about these things, and to be honest there is much research I need to embark on myself before I can be truly dogmatic about the existence of dragons or anything else.  However, ancient accounts, Biblical references, and recent scientific research are ever more affirming that this is a very real possibility, and it is an area of study to definitely keep attention focused.  God bless you all, and my best to you until next time.