Were animals carnivorous?
Hello Chuck. Since you asked
From a paleontological standpoint, there are numerous indications of carnivorousness in the fossil record including but by no means limited to a Daspletosaurus found with partly digested juvenile hadrosaur bones in it
, and the triconodont mammal Repenomamus found with juvenile Psittacosaurus
(a dinosaur) bones inside it. Unless you're one who advocates a pre-Mesozoic post-flood boundary as some do, that's a pretty good indication of pre-flood/early-flood predation.
From a biblical standpoint, below is the text of an essay I wrote many years back on the subject of predation before the flood which was published in the RMCF
Newsletter (although it predates the issues they now have available online). I think it plainly spells out my position on the question of whether animals were carnivorous before the flood from a biblical standpoint.
It has become popular in Creationist circles to suppose that animals were not carnivorous before the Flood. When I first encountered this idea some eighteen years ago in Paul S. Taylor’s children’s book “The Great Dinosaur Mystery and the Bible,” I dismissed it as an odd curiosity based on poor hermeneutics that would simply fade away. To the contrary, however, I seem to encounter it more than ever today. On the surface this idea seems to be consistent with Scripture. In Genesis 1:30, for example, God says "Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food" (all Scripture quotations are from the New King James version unless otherwise noted). The next time that diet is specifically mentioned is not until after the Flood in Genesis 9:3 where God tells Noah, "Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.” Despite this apparent confirmation, the assumption that animals were not carnivorous until after the Flood is not consistent with what Scripture says about the condition of the Pre-Flood world.
In order to see this inconsistency we first of all must do a simple word study, or more properly, a phrase study. The phrase “all flesh,” which in the Hebrew is (kol basar), occurs thirteen times in Genesis chapters 6-9, or, in other words, in the context of the Flood and its aftermath. Specifically, it is found in Genesis 6:12,13,17,19; 7:15,16,21; 8:17; 9:11,15a,15b,16,17. Three of those times it is explicitly defined. In Genesis 6:19, for example, God tells Noah “And of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark,” and He lists them in Genesis6:20--"Of the birds after their kind, of animals after their kind, and of every creeping thing of the earth after its kind.” In Genesis 8:17 He gives a similar listing--"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.” In Genesis 7:21 we are given an exhaustive listing of what “all flesh” refers to where it says “And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man.”
In many of the other occurrences the phrase “all flesh” is implicitly defined in the same way. In Genesis 9:9-11, for example, God tells Noah “…I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth…Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood.” In short, the phrase “all flesh” is clearly and consistently defined and used throughout this context to refer to all terrestrial creatures and not just man. It includes man, and the fact that man is also flesh is what God gave as being the problem with man in Genesis 6:3. Nowhere, however, is the phrase “all flesh” defined as a synonym for only man. It is important to recognize this usage of the term “all flesh” because the first two times it is used in Genesis 6:12 & 6:13 has a direct bearing on the question of whether or not animals were carnivorous before the Flood.
The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. (Emphasis added)
The main problem with the notion that animals were not carnivorous before the Flood is presented by the verses above. If animals were not carnivorous before the Flood, if animals were not killing and preying upon and eating each other before the Flood, then what was the violence with which they had filled the earth? Granted not all violence that occurs among animals is predation. When a Cape buffalo mauls and kills a lion cub, for example, he is not doing so to feed a hungry belly. When two male Hippopotami battle each other over territory and one fatally wounds the other, dinner is not what is directly on their mind. The most common form of violence among animals today, however, is predation and without predation verse 13 becomes almost inexplicable. Were animals just arbitrarily battling and killing each other for any or all reasons other than food? The more reasonable explanation is that animals had begun preying on each other long before the Flood. Regardless, the image of animals complacently and peacefully coexisting is not consistent with the picture Scripture paints of the Post-Fall, Pre-Flood world.
As an afterword I would like to point out that the New International Version (NIV) erroneously mistranslates “all flesh” as “all people” in Genesis 6:12 & 6:13. Then it obscures this mistranslation by either not translating it at all (e.g. Gen 6:19), or rendering it as “every living thing” or “all life” where, without resorting to another version or the original Hebrew, you would never know that God uses the exact same phrase in Genesis 6:12 & 6:13 that He uses when referring to animals. Be very wary of building or basing doctrines on interpretive paraphrases like the NIV without consulting other more literal and consistent translations.
P.S. Wow! I just previewed my post and I love that RefTagger for the scripture verses.