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Leviathan has at last been found—according to a broad definition of “Leviathan,” anyway.
Described as “a kind of a sea monster” by Paris Natural History Museum director Christian de Muizon, the whale—what remains of it—was discovered in Peru two years ago. Most prominent are the fossil’s large, menacing teeth. Although similar in many ways to the modern sperm whale, the fossil has teeth on both upper and lower jaws (unlike the sperm whale), and its teeth are more than twice the length and diameter of the modern sperm whale’s.
“Leviathan is not merely the stuff of myth and legend.”
The whale’s fearsome teeth, combined with an estimated length for the body of 56 ft. (17 m), suggests the creature was a fierce predator—feeding on prey up to 26 ft. (8 m) long. That may have included ancient dolphins, seals, and even other whales.
Just as interesting are the names the scientists have given the fossil and its ilk. Drawing on literary inspiration from both the Bible and Moby Dick, the scientists dub the creature Leviathan melvillei in their description in Nature. The authors also note that, in the BBC’s words, “Leviathan is not merely the stuff of myth and legend.”
We agree, of course—because the Bible describes or refers to Leviathan in several places: Job 3:8, Job 41, Psalm 74:14, Psalm 104:26, and Isaiah 27:1. But while Leviathan is, indeed, described as having “terrible teeth all around” his face (Job 41:14), it is also described as having “rows of scales” (Job 41:15) that deflect swords, spears, darts, javelins, and arrows (Job 41:26, 28). Beyond that, Leviathan is called a “serpent” and a “reptile” or “dragon” (Isaiah 27:1). The Bible therefore paints a clear picture of Leviathan as a creature very much like a plesiosaur or other ancient marine reptile—not a whale. The reporting scientists can get away with the use of this term given its broad meaning as a frightening sea creature, and given problematic biblical interpretations that suggest Leviathan was a whale even while ignoring what the Bible actually says. Based on a plain interpretation of Scripture, however—and therefore concluding that humans shared the earth with dinosaurs and other ancient reptiles—we think fossils such as this one found in Dorset may more accurately be called “Leviathan.”
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