A Biblically Based Taxonomy?

by Bodie Hodge
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A reader expresses disgust with the evolution-tainted taxonomy system in use today. What would a biblically based alternative look like?

I’ve been studying taxonomy lately, just as a hobby, and I am outraged at the amount of evolutionary bias that’s infiltrated this field! Birds classified as a subclass of reptiles, fossilized pig-like animals called ceteceans, fossilized reptiles called mammals based only on their teeth! It’s incredible! (literally - not credible)

I know absolutely that every animal can easily be placed into a specific group of animals . . . but because of this evolutionary bias, it’s getting harder to decypher the facts versus their opinions. For example; the difference between dromeosaurs and birds, or where exactly ambulocetus should be placed, or where the line should be between therapsids and mammals. . . .

Information is left out in most sites and books on these topics, and so these areas are made out to be “fuzzy” So my question is there a credible place I can go to get concrete info on this topic?

—M. W., US

It is nice to hear from you. You hit the nail on the head when it comes to taxonomy. Part of the problem with the current secular classification system is the heavy influence of evolution and evolutionary relationships. It is assumed, on the secular side, that life evolved from a single-celled organism, and this does not mesh with the biblical view. In the Bible, God created all animals after their kinds.

Classification Then and Now . . . Why?

In modern creationists’ studies, there is a field called baraminology that works to find the boundaries of the created kinds. The field is very much in its infancy, and we strive to encourage the research. From a big picture, it boils down to a difference of how things are viewed:

  1. Common features mean common ancestry.
  2. Common features mean common designer.

But first, let’s jump back to a time when taxonomy (classifying living things) really developed. Swedish creationist Carl Linnaeus was the founder of the modern classification system in the 1700s. Linnaeus original classification was:

  • Kingdom
  • Phylum
  • Class
  • Order
  • Family
  • Genus
  • Species

This system was a good start, but Linnaeus failed to use the Bible as the absolute starting point for each classification. To be fair, Linnaeus intended his system to be used only as a means of identification via physical characteristics, and did not have some of the modern study tools we have today. The biblical kind would be closer to the family level in many instances, but sometimes genus or even species level for others. Currently, secular scientists have added several new categories in light of their ancestral “tree-based” taxonomy, but use the old system for convenience. It is now:

  • Domain
  • Kingdom
  • Phylum
  • Subphylum
  • Class
  • Cohort
  • Order
  • Suborder
  • Infraorder
  • Superfamily
  • Family
  • Genus
  • Species

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says of the word kind (min in Hebrew),

Some have argued that when God created mîn, he thereby fixed the “species.” This is a gratuitous assumption because a link between the word mîn with the biologist’s descriptive term species cannot be substantiated, and because there are as many definitions of species as there are biologists.

In light of the distinctions made in #Ge 1, such as the distinction between herbs and grasses which are, however, members of the same class (Angiosperms), it is possible that in some cases the biblical term mîn may indicate a broader group, such as an order. Elsewhere, in #Le 11:14,15,16,19,22 (four times), #Le 11:29, mîn appears consistently as equivalent to nothing broader than genus. However, #Le 11:4 “the falcon after its kind,” and #Le 11:16 “the hawk after its kind,” refer to divisions within the order Falconiformes, yet both have subdivisions called mîn. Likewise, as Payne points out, the locust, bald locust, cricket, and grasshopper all belong to the order Orthoptera and the locust, bald locust, and grasshopper belong to the family Acridiidae, but again each has its subdivisions called mîn (genus?).

God created the basic forms of life called mîn which can be classified according to modern biologists and zoologists as sometimes species, sometimes genus, sometimes family or order. This gives no support to the classical evolutionist view which requires developments across kingdom, phyla, and classes.

This is a good reason to avoid limiting the biblical kind or baramin to modern classification systems. So, we really need to use kind in the context that it deserves—a biblical classification system.

Common Design or Common Ancestry?

Common ancestry is at the root of the evolutionary model proposed by theologian Charles Darwin in his books The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection for the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life and The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. This view is what dominates classification today.

However, the Bible clearly reveals a Creator God, who created living things according to their kinds, not by a single common ancestor. Obviously, today though, we have species that came from the original created kinds, but not from a common ancestor of all life. Dogs came from previous dogs, cats came from previous cats, and so on.

Being that God is the only Creator, then all of His designs come from the same source, and some similarities should exist.

In fact, people came from people—and ultimately Adam, who came from the dust of the ground and the breath of God, not from an ape-like ancestor or ultimately a single-celled organism (Genesis 2:7). Being that God is the only Creator, then all of His designs come from the same source, and some similarities should exist. Being a perfect Creator, one would expect to see some common optimal designs features. (However, in a sin-cursed world, we should expect some designs that are no longer upheld perfectly due to mutations and other factors.)

The platypus is an excellent example of utilizing various features that we find on many different types of animals, a common designer made both the platypus as well as the other creatures it resembles. It would be absurd to claim that the duck, duckbill dinosaur, and platypus all came from a common ancestor. However, the similarities make sense when we realize that each had the same Creator.

Furthermore, is the assumption that common design points toward common ancestry biblical? Obviously, Genesis 1 refutes this idea. But consider also Leviticus 11:13–19:

And these you shall regard as an abomination among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, the kite, and the falcon after its kind; every raven after its kind, the ostrich, the short–eared owl, the sea gull, and the hawk after its kind; the little owl, the fisher owl, and the screech owl; the white owl, the jackdaw, and the carrion vulture; the stork, the heron after its kind, the hoopoe, and the bat.1

Good science begins with good theology and careful analysis of the text of Scripture. The Bible gives us a great head start as to some of the various kinds, like the dove and raven kind that were aboard the Ark. Although some argue about the specific creatures listed above, there is sufficient evidence that there are multiple vulture and owl kinds—and this is significant. Such creatures as the two vulture kinds have incredible similarities, and yet the Bible calls them different kinds.

Even further, most of these listed are birds of prey with various commonalities (talons, sharp beaks, and so on), and yet such similarities do not make them the same kind. So, the argument that common design equals common ancestry is not good when looking at Scripture.

This is confirmed further in Leviticus 11:20–23:

All flying insects that creep on all fours shall be an abomination to you. Yet these you may eat of every flying insect that creeps on all fours: those which have jointed legs above their feet with which to leap on the earth. These you may eat: the locust after its kind, the destroying locust after its kind, the cricket after its kind, and the grasshopper after its kind. But all other flying insects which have four feet shall be an abomination to you.

Here we read of flying insects that walk on all fours, not counting the hind jumping legs (think of something like a grasshopper, which is mentioned). These creatures all have these similarities, and yet at least four different kinds are mentioned among them! So, again, just because creatures have similarities does not mean they are of the same kind. And Moses being responsible for both Leviticus and Genesis knew what he meant when he said kind (min) in both books.

Boundaries for “Kinds”—Reproduction?

Today many creationists point out that the Bible doesn’t say “reproduce after their kinds,” which was a common statement for years. It is true that the Bible says things are created “after their kind” in Genesis 1. Often creationists say things were to “reproduce after their kinds,” implying a boundary that the Bible doesn’t actually say explicitly.

However, the reproductive boundary is not without merit. Many commentators (Jewish and Christian) took reproduction as the boundary. Consider these for a moment:

  • H. C. Leupold2

    “first, these fruit trees bear fruit ‘after their kind,’ a peculiar and definite limitation, which all those understand best who have seen how the ‘kind’ sets limitations upon all who would mix kinds and cross them.”

    “The accomplishment of the things ordered in v. 11 is reported in this verse in terms that are not a wooden repetition of v. 11; for after ‘seed’ is inserted ‘after their kind’ to emphasize how the ‘kind’ limitation also applies to the herbs, though this had not been mentioned previously.”

    “Another distinctive thought conveyed by this half of the verse is the added assertion that these creatures appeared ‘after their kind,’ a phrase not new but as important in its bearing as above. (v. 12) and allowing for no transmutation of species.”3

    “A double ‘after their kind,’ first applying to ‘the living creatures’ as a whole then to the three classes separately, impresses this distinctive limitation upon all these creatures—a truth amply confirmed as not to be eradicated, as all who have engaged in crossbreeding of animals can abundantly testify.”

  • John Gill4

    “With a power to procreate their kind, and continue their species, as it is interpreted in the next clause; saying, be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas”

  • Josephus5

    “And on the fifth day he produced the living creatures, both those who swim, and those who fly; the former in the sea, the latter in the air. He also sorted them as to society and mixture, for procreation, and that their kinds might increase and multiply.”

  • John Calvin6

    “If therefore we inquire, how it happens that the earth is fruitful, that the germ is produced from the seed, that fruits come to maturity, and their various kinds are annually reproduced”

    “that Moses declares animals were created ‘according to their species’: for this distribution carried with it something stable. It may even hence be inferred, that the offspring of animals was included. For to what purpose do distinct species exist, unless that individuals, by their several kinds, may be multiplied?”

  • Adam Clarke7

    “Every thing both in the animal and vegetable world was made so according to its kind, both in genus and species, as to produce its own kind through endless generations.”

  • Matthew Poole8

    “for the propagation of their several kinds”

  • Basil the Great, The Hexaemeron 5.2

    “There is nothing truer than this, that either each plant had seed or there exists in it some generative power . . . since the kinds persisted through constant reproduction.”

From Jews like Josephus 2,000 years ago to Basil the Great (a leading church father) to various commentaries, it seems that people have recognized that the boundary for a kind implied reproduction.

Leading Hebraist of the time Dr. John Gill, in his famous commentary for Baptists in the 1700s, says in his notes on Genesis 1:22:

“With a power to procreate their kind, and continue their species, as it is interpreted in the next clause; saying, be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas” (Emphasis added).

Dr. Gill points out that “after its kind” was not merely referring to its creation, but that it is modified by the following clause of being fruitful and multiplying. The concept of “reproducing after its kinds” is more of a derivation. Most recognize that if things can breed together, then they must be members of the same kind.

Naturally, with extinct creatures, this becomes rather difficult to test. So, other means would be necessary to see if various extinct creatures may belong to a particular kind. But even these results should be kept tentative because we cannot know for certain. Here’s what the Bible actually says about kinds and reproduction (including man):

SubjectPassage9Reproduction Mentioned—Genesis 1?Reproduction Mentioned—Genesis 6-9?
VegetationGenesis 1:12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good.Yes, Seeds  
Sea creaturesGenesis 1:21–22 God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”Yes: be fruitful and multiply 
Flying creatures

Genesis 1:21–22 God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”

Genesis 8:17 Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you: birds and cattle and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.

Yes: be fruitful and multiply

Yes: be fruitful and multiply
Land animals (on Ark)

Genesis 6:19–20 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. "Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive.

Genesis 8:17 Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you: birds and cattle and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.

 Yes: a kind is referred to as a male and its mate, giving reproductive status

Genesis 1:28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.””

Genesis 9:1 So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.”

Genesis 9:7 And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; Bring forth abundantly in the earth And multiply in it.

Yes: be fruitful and increase in numberYes: be fruitful and multiply

These passages give great support to reproduction being the ultimate boundary for a kind. Some animals may have lost the ability to reproduce with others of their kinds. Think of a Shih-Tzu and Great Dane, where their size would inhibit any natural breeding. Of course, there are other reasons this can happen as well. For example, mutations could have caused them to lose this ability.

Toward a Biblically Based Taxonomy

The book of Genesis gives us a great foundation for classification beyond simply the kind (min). The Bible gives consistent data to develop a classification system from Moses through the rest of Scripture. Consider for a moment that Creation Week gives us the first major breakdown of creatures by the day they were created: Day Three, Day Five, and Day Six (Genesis 1).

Genesis reveals that there was vegetation on Day Three (Genesis 1:11–13). Then there were two broad classes (flying and sea creatures) on Day Five (Genesis 1:20–23). Then, on Day Six, there were land animals and man (Genesis 1:24–31).

Further classifications of vegetation could be offspring-bearing plants verses offspring-bearing plants with fruit. On Day Five, sea creatures could be classed as living or moving. And, with Day Six, we get a further breakdown into creeping things, beasts of the earth, cattle/livestock, and mankind.

From here, we can extrapolate a couple of other classes from other verses in Scripture. We could also construct a class to distinguish if the creature has a soul or not (i.e., nephesh chayyah, the Hebrew for living soul). Plants, for example, were not called living creatures.

After the Flood, we must also consider the new diversity that has arisen. Thus, we have various sub-categories we could construct based on the changes that occurred.

Biblically Based Classification
Class 1Day ThreeDay FiveDay Six
Class 2VegetationSea creaturesWinged/AirLand creaturesLand
Class 3Offspring bearing plantsOffspring bearing trees with fruitLiving sea creaturesMoving sea creaturesWinged/flying creaturesCreeping thingsBeasts of the earthCattleMan
Class 410 Grasses, Pine trees, associated microbes11, and so on.   Mammals, fish, sea dragons, associated microbes5, and so on. associated microbes 5, and so on. Birds, bats, flying insects, associated microbes5, and so on. Land Insects, smaller lizards, serpents, associated microbes5, and so on. Beasts of the field, dinosaurs, associated microbes5, and so on. Cows, sheep/goats, hogs, associated microbes5, and so on. Man (associated microbes5 with man)
Class 512Non-livingNon-livingLivingNon-livingLivingLivingLivingLivingLiving/Image of God
Kind (original baramin)
Sub-kind 1 (sub-baramin 1)
Sub-kind 2 (sub-baramin 2) and so on.13

Using the Biblically Based Taxonomy

The system should be fairly straightforward to use. As an example, let’s examine two variants of the dove/pigeon kind: the mourning dove and the passenger pigeon.

Classification of the mourning dove by the biblical standard:

  • Class 1: Day Five
  • Class 2: Winged/Air
  • Class 3: Winged/Flying creatures (owph)
  • Class 4: Bird
  • Class 5: Living
  • Kind: Dove kind (yownah)
  • Sub-kind 1: dove
  • Sub-kind 2: mourning dove
  • Others within the kind: passenger pigeon (now extinct), turtle dove, fantails, pouters, Jacobins, tumblers, homing pigeons, carrier pigeons

Classification of the passenger pigeon by the biblical standard:

  • Class 1: Day Five
  • Class 2: Wing/Air
  • Class 3: Winged/Flying creatures (owph)
  • Class 4: Bird
  • Class 5: Living
  • Kind (baramin): Dove kind14 (yownah)
  • Sub-kind 1: pigeon
  • Sub-kind 2: passenger pigeon
  • Others within the kind: mourning dove, turtle dove, fantails, pouters, Jacobins, tumblers, homing pigeons, carrier pigeons


This is but a taste of what a biblically based taxonomy could look like. And this is, of course, not set in stone. Our hope is that creationists will take this lead as a stepping stone and dive into the subject in greater detail using the Bible as the basis. Perhaps in the future, creationists can reignite the flame for classification in accordance with God’s Word and not be forced to use the one now heavily tainted with evolutionary ideas.

With kindness in Christ,
Bodie Hodge


  1. A similar listing can be found in Deuteronomy 14.
  2. H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis, Volume 1, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/leupold/genesis.iii.html.
  3. Some commentators use the word species, which was developed in the mid 1500s and meant “sort” or “kind.” Linnaeus also tried sticking with this terminology. Since then the term species has been redefined in scientific terms over the years and no longer means “kind,” as represented in the Bible. Species still lacks a solid definition in today’s scientific culture.
  4. John Gill, Exposition of the Bible: Genesis, http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/genesis-1-22.html.
  5. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book I, Chapter 1, http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/josephus/ant-1.htm.
  6. John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis, Volume 1, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom01.vii.i.html.
  7. Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Bible, http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cmt/clarke/gen001.htm.
  8. Matthew Poole, English Annotations on the Holy Bible, http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/genesis-1.html.
  9. All passages are NASB or NKJV.
  10. Since all creatures are not mentioned in the Bible, then some of these will have to be inserted the best we can.
  11. Note that all things were originally perfect/very good (Deuteronomy 32:4; Genesis 1:31), so bacteria, fungi, protists, and so on would have been purely beneficial and in perfect symbiotic relationships when originally created (though, these would not be classed as living creatures).
  12. Non-living would basically be things that have a body or structure (this includes all microbes). Living things would contain a body or structure and nephesh chayyah or a living soul according to Scripture. Things that are living with the image of God would contain a body, nephesh or living soul, as well as the image of God or eternal spirit ( 1 Thessalonians 5:23). Though there are places in Scripture where soul and spirit are interchanged, this is because both are classed as non-physical. The spiritual aspect of being made in the image of God is an added benefit, like having something etched on the flip side of this same coin, whereas a living soul would have no etching on the other side.
  13. Further sub-baramin or sub-kinds could be inserted here. For example ,there are various types of pigeons and sub-types of those.
  14. Keep in mind that pigeons and doves are known to interbreed.


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