Created kinds vs Ark kinds—implications for creation research
The science of baraminology is based on the understanding that the biblical phrase appearing in the creation account (and in later texts) “according to their kinds”, conveys important information for an accurate understanding of natural history. Baraminologists attempt to identify which creatures are related, in that they descended from the same created kind. This information can then be used to infer other historical details within the creation model. This includes details from genetics, such as genomic variability at the time of the Flood, to geology and paleontology, such as the Flood/post-Flood boundary. A key issue is understanding if the kinds mentioned in the Genesis 1 creation account are identical to those mentioned in Genesis 6 and 7 in the Flood account. Here a review of the underlying Hebrew word translated ‘kind’ suggests that they are not necessarily identical, and caution should be used in inferences made about the kinds of animals on Noah’s Ark.
Baraminology is the study of created kinds. The term is derived from two Hebrew words: bārā’—(he) created and mîn—kind. In this system of study, an entire baramin (holobaramin) is considered to be the originally created members of one kind plus all of their descendants. If a group of plants or animals today are determined to be quite similar based on the ability to hybridize or other multiple measures that show significant, holistic continuity, then they are considered to belong to the same baramin.1 Thus, the word baramin has strong taxonomic implications.
As scientists, it is easy to see things in taxonomic terms. Yet, studies on the Hebrew word mîn as it is used in various biblical passages have repeatedly warned that the word is unlikely to carry the taxonomic significance that the word ‘baramin’ implies. Williams did an analysis of mîn, considering its use in the Old Testament, later Hebrew writings, and translations; he also considered the etymology of the word.2 He suggests the word is likely of biological origin, and has a basic meaning of ‘division’. This seems to support creationist ideas of biological taxonomy involving major discontinuity (between baramins), but he points out where caution is warranted.
Over a decade later Turner revisited the topic, again attempting to address the significance of mîn in Scripture as it relates to the interests of creation biologists.3 He has many similar conclusions, namely that in Scripture mîn plausibly refers to biological subdivisions, and that it most likely refers to “a general, observable category—a lot like the English, ‘kind’ [emphasis in original]!”4 Both Williams and Turner should be read in their entirety by anyone interested in the subject.
In this paper we want to build on these foundational works and ask some deeper questions. We want to know if the kinds of terrestrial and flying creatures created in Genesis 1 were the same as those taken on the Ark during the Flood. To do this, it is useful to review how mîn is used in Scripture, revisiting some points that have been previously made. We also need to examine what is known from biology, to see what may be helpful in understanding the scriptural patterns. Finally, we will be able to address the question: Were the created kinds of Genesis 1 the same as those at the Flood (Genesis 6–9)? And how should this affect creationist interpretations of scientific evidence?
The basic pattern
Hebrew mîn is found in several different parts of Scripture: the creation account (Genesis 1; 10 times); the Flood account (Genesis 6–8; seven times); the unclean/clean animal lists (Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14; 13 times), and in Ezekiel (47:10; once).
Each time mîn appears, it has a lamed prefix.5 This lamed prefix is the most common preposition used in Scripture, and it is always attached in front of its noun. When attached to the noun mîn in the book of Genesis, it is most commonly translated as ‘according to’.6 Additionally, mîn always occurs with a pronominal suffix referring back to the original noun (sea creatures, flyers, etc.) this phrase modifies.7 This is generally rendered ‘its’ or ‘their’ depending on if it is singular or plural. Thus, mîn with its associated affixes is often translated “according to its/their kind(s)”.
The creation account
The Hebrew ‘lamed + mîn + pronominal suffix’ is used ten times in Genesis 1 and is applied to plants and animals (table 1). In the first three uses it is applied to vegetation, seed-bearing plants and trees (Genesis 1:11–12). It should be noted that the Hebrew word for seed has a broad semantic range and would include plants that reproduce by what botanists refer to as spores.8
The next two uses occur when God created the “great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems” and “every winged bird” (Genesis 1:21 NIV).9 As with the plants, these were created “according to their kinds/its kind”. The final five uses are applied to ‘living creatures’ created on the sixth day and three subgroups of them, often translated as livestock, wild animals, and creatures that move (or creep) along the ground (Genesis 1:24–25).10
It is significant to note that after the above creatures have been created ‘according to its/their kind(s)’, humans are then created in the image of God. Humans are not created according to their kind; they are unique. Each time the term ‘according to its/their kind(s)’ occurs, it is believed to convey the idea that there were two or more groups that comprised the broad category mentioned. So, we have two or more ‘kinds’ of plants and trees; two or more ‘kinds’ of aquatic life; two or more ‘kinds’ of birds (or more correctly: flying creatures), etc. This type of division was not created in humans (Acts 17:26).11
In the Hebrew text, the broad groups are not always repeated verbatim (table 1). This is consistent with how ordinary language is used; there are several ways one can word things to convey the same meaning.12 The narrative provides the context for understanding what is being communicated.
The Flood narrative
There is tremendous similarity between how animals are described in Genesis 1, and how they are described during the Flood account (table 2). Hebrew ‘lamed + mîn + pronominal suffix’ is used seven times in the Flood narrative. In Genesis 6:20 (NIV) it refers to ‘birds’ (or more accurately, flying creatures), ‘animals’ (from the Hebrew word translated livestock in Genesis 1:24, 25; 7:14), and everything that “moves along the ground”. In Genesis 7:14, the same basic groups, with minor differences in modifiers, are mentioned along with “every beast” (cf. Genesis 1:25).
As alluded to previously, the variation in the large general groups that are created or preserved ‘according to their kinds’ should not be troubling when one considers this was written in a natural language, not as a book on taxonomy. In any language a specific word can have a range of meanings. For example, in English the word ‘animal’ can be used in several slightly different ways. It may refer to anything in the animal kingdom (Animalia); this would include humans, dogs, fish and birds. It may be used of animals as distinct from humans, as in the phrase ‘man and animals’. It may distinguish between terrestrial animals and other animals, as in ‘animals and birds’ or ‘animals, fish, and birds’. In each case, an English speaker can tell from the context what is being discussed. Many of the terms used in Genesis 1, 6, and 7 have similar flexibility. Rather than try to overly dissect the meaning of each individual word, it is important to read the words in the natural flow of the narrative.
Despite the minor variation in the larger groups identified, the ‘lamed + mîn + pronominal suffix’ seems to be conveying the same idea: there are two or more subdivisions in each general group mentioned. We are not told how many, and the text does not help us discern if it was two, or more than a thousand. Yet these ‘kinds’ were identifiable to the people of that time. There does seem to be considerable similarity between the kinds at creation and those at the Flood. Were they identical? In other words, was every created terrestrial and flying kind represented by exactly two individuals, or seven (pairs?) for the clean animals, on the Ark? Before exploring that question, it is worth examining two things. What do we know from observations of creatures today, and how is ‘lamed + mîn + pronominal suffix’ used in the rest of the Pentateuch?
Observations of God’s creatures
Plants and animals, as we observe them today, are not comprised of static species with invariant traits. Rather, they can change over time in certain ways.13 New variation can arise, as is well documented in domestic plants and animals. One only needs to look at breeds of livestock, or varieties of garden plants, to see variety that has arisen under domestication.14 In domestic species we do not generally identify new breeds or cultivars as separate species, despite some profound phenotypic differences.15
Variation occurs in wild animals as well. For example, in the well-studied threespine stickleback fish (Gasterosteus aculeatus), those that live in the ocean have pelvic spines and body armour that protect them from predators encountered in the marine environment. However, those that inhabit freshwater habitats have lost these traits, which appears to be adaptive in avoiding different predators (figure 1). The loss of pelvic spines is controlled by a deletion in a regulatory region for the pitx gene. The remaining regulatory regions for this gene are maintained, which preserves pitx expression in other tissues where it is essential. Since the deletions are not identical across different freshwater populations, they are reasonably inferred to have occurred separately.16
It had been assumed that these changes take thousands of years, based on the neo-Darwinian idea that change is slow and gradual. However, these changes have been documented to occur rapidly, within decades.17,18 This suggests that designed pathways are involved. Moreover, the regulatory region affecting pelvic spines has stretches of thymine-guanine (TG) repeats that make the region unstable. The intact region present in marine sticklebacks was shown to form alternative DNA structures, dramatically increasing the rate of double-stranded breaks and deletions.19 This design feature is consistent with an omniscient Creator, who created life to be able to reproduce and fill the earth.
Rapid changes have also been observed in many other vertebrates. For example, when lizards have been introduced to a new island, rapid phenotypic changes have been documented (figure 2). These changes include: 1) alteration in head size and shape, associated in at least one case with changes in the gut, to adapt to a different diet;20,21 2) changes in hind limb length to adapt to locomotion on vegetation of a different diameter;22 and 3) increase in relative toe pad size after exposure to hurricanes.23
Studies of birds on islands have revealed interesting information on rapid changes, as well. Peter and Rosemary Grant studied finches on Daphne Island in the Galapagos, documenting changes in the size and shape of finch beaks (figure 3). These changes were influenced by migration, hybridization, and severe droughts.24 During their 40-year study, they observed a new species arise.25 Other studies in island birds provide evidence that adaptive changes in plumage and structure can be so dramatic that they confuse taxonomists attempting to classify them.26
How much time?
It is important to recognize that under certain situations organisms can diversify far more rapidly than scientists used to believe. Explaining the diversity of life in a creation model is not difficult when tied to this observationally based evidence.27 These profound changes that are documented to occur within decades in the wild populations described above, or centuries in the case of plant and animal breeding, should be compared to the chronology of Scripture.
Based on the genealogies in Genesis 5, the time from creation to the Flood is around 1,600 years. The estimates can vary a little depending on which textual tradition one relies on. Using the Septuagint, the estimate is over 2,000 years; while the Samaritan Pentateuch would have it closer to 1,300 years.28 In any case, this is considerable time for diversification of plants and animals to occur. Several examples discussed in the previous section involved rapid changes in response to a new environment. This is a commonly observed pattern, as God designed His creatures to reproduce and fill the earth, because He intends the earth to be inhabited (Genesis 1:22, 28; Isaiah 45:18). If the creation narrative implies that life was created in one area and was to reproduce to fill new environmental niches, then diversification in the first few hundred years after creation should have been profound.
After the Flood, we know all land animals and flying creatures diversified from one location (Genesis 7:20–23; 8:17). Again, this is the type of circumstance where rapid adaptation and diversification tend to be observed. Of course, it is also possible that the environmental changes were too much for some organisms, and they died out; this is another observable outcome when the environment profoundly changes.
The time from the Flood to the Exodus was around 800 years. If the Septuagint or Samaritan Pentateuch are considered, it is well over 1,000 years. Fairly soon after the Exodus, the laws regarding clean and unclean animals were given. That is where we will turn our attention, next.
Unclean/clean lists in the Law
There is a noticeable difference in the categories modified by the ‘lamed + mîn + pronominal suffix’ in the lists of unclean and clean animals (table 3) compared to Genesis. Instead of broad groups of creatures, specific animals are named. For example, the raven, which is mentioned at the time of the Flood (Genesis 8:7), is listed in Leviticus 11:15 and Deuteronomy 14:14 ‘according to its kind’.
Some creationists are excited about the specific mention of different birds in these passages. They assume that the passage identifies baramins. So, the raven would be one baramin. However, this is ignoring the fact that this construction with the word mîn is viewed in Genesis as identifying two or more subgroups within the larger, named category. Thus, the passages would be indicating that there are multiple kinds of ravens when the Law was given.29 This is consistent with how modern translations handle these passages. The prohibition is against eating ‘any kind of raven’, not any individual of the ‘raven baramin’.
If God had intended to give us taxonomic information here, it doesn’t make sense that mîn is still being used in the ‘lamed + mîn + pronominal suffix’ format. In Genesis, this construction is understood as meaning there are two or more ‘kinds’ in the group. If the word mîn had taxonomic significance, there should be some change in the prefix and/or suffix to indicate that we are now identifying the named category as a baramin. However, that is not what the text gives us. Thus, it seems clear that these passages do not hold promise for identifying baramins.
If these lists do not identify baramins, then what do they tell us? Clearly, at the time the Law was given, the birds and insects modified by ‘lamed + mîn + pronominal suffix’ had diversified enough that there were different kinds, in the common sense of the word. This could be what we today would recognize as different species, subspecies, or colour morphs. So, while we cannot identify baramins, we can say this suggests diversification within these named groups, since colloquial words to identify various flying creatures were already broad enough that variants were known.
Created kinds vs Ark kinds
It seems reasonable to infer that the kinds of Noah’s day were similar to those at creation, as the language is similar. I and other creationists often equate them.30 However, is there a sound biblical basis to assume this? Probably not, for several reasons. There were around 1,600 years between creation and the Flood based on the genealogies in Genesis 5. In this time, some created kinds may have become extinct, while others could have diversified greatly. The kinds of animals Noah brought on the Ark would have been kinds recognizable to him, but not necessarily baramins in the taxonomic sense. Thus, some unclean baramins may have diversified enough that two from several distinct lineages were preserved. This allows for 2, 4, 6, or more descendants from a single baramin to be preserved. The fact that the wording of the Hebrew text allows for this possibility has implications for creation research.
If several lineages from a single baramin were preserved on the Ark, then it could give an unexpected signal in baraminological statistical analyses. A bit over a quarter of Earth history is before the Flood. If a baramin diversified greatly before the Flood, resulting in several ‘kinds’ at the time of Noah, and the lineages remained separate and continued to diversify after the Flood, one might find clustering (associated with a specific lineage) within a larger cluster (encompassing the kind). Certainly, this pattern could happen with even post-Flood diversification; however, multiple ‘Ark kinds’ from a baramin is likely to increase the frequency of and intensify such a signal.
The Flood was clearly a severe bottleneck in terrestrial and flying life forms. I have attempted to distinguish created genetic diversity from mutation by recognizing a maximum of four alleles (versions of a gene; every animal has two copies of a gene, one inherited from each parent) in any given unclean baramin making it through the Flood.31 The logic is that we are not told how individuals were created in each baramin at the beginning, but we are told how many made it through the Flood; two for every unclean kind. If created kinds are not identical to Ark kinds, then one needs to take this into consideration so incorrect inferences are not drawn. Now, in the specific case I used, there are still good reasons to argue that several of the alleles are from mutation.32 So, the fact that I carried a questionable assumption did not automatically invalidate my conclusions.
Finally, one needs to exercise caution in using baraminology to identify the Flood/post-Flood boundary. If, for example, we have strong evidence that the baramin includes a family, it is not necessarily a problem if multiple genera cross the proposed Flood/post-Flood boundary. As with the previous argument for identifying created versus derived alleles, there are other lines of evidence that are also part of the argument. For example, when different genera are unique to specific continents, and they remain so right through a proposed boundary, it suggests that is not a viable option as a Flood/post-Flood boundary.33-35 So, here again, even if there was a flawed assumption in the argument, it cannot be used to ignore the other components of the argument. In fact, Arment considers the possibility they are not equivalent in a paper explaining the implications of a Neogene-Quaternary Flood/post-Flood boundary.36,37
In summary, it cannot be supported linguistically that the ‘kinds’ Noah took on the Ark have a one-to-one correspondence to the ‘kinds’ God created in Genesis 1. Given the years life had to diversify and fill the earth before the Flood, it would seem doubtful this is a reasonable assumption in many cases. This adds a level of complexity to baraminology and its application to creation-related questions. Hopefully, this initial analysis of the issues involved will further strengthen a responsible use of the relevant biblical data as we apply it to our scientific models.
References and notes
- Wood, T.C., Wise, K.P., Sanders, R., and Doran, N.A., Refined baramin concept, Occasional Papers of the Baraminology Study Group 3:1–14, 2003. Return to text.
- Williams, P.J., What does min mean? J. Creation 11(3):344–352, 1997; creation.com/min-kind-hebrew. Return to text.
- Turner, K.J., The kind-ness of God: A theological reflection of Mîn, “kind”; in: Wood, T.C. and Garner, P.A. (Eds.), Genesis Kinds: Creationism and the Origin of Species, Issues in Creation 5:31–64, 2009. Return to text.
- Turner, ref. 3, p. 54. Return to text.
- The lamed prefix has an associated reduced vowel when attached to its noun. Return to text.
- See versions such as NIV, ESV, CSB, NET. The KJV and NAS use ‘after’ instead of ‘according to’. Checked using BibleWorks v. 7. Return to text.
- Since Hebrew nouns have gender, the pronouns can be masculine or feminine, but they serve the same purpose as the English word ‘it’ in that they are referring back to a non-human entity in the usage described here. Return to text.
- It even includes offspring of humans (Genesis 3:15, 12:7, etc.) and animals (Genesis 7:3). Most lexicons will detail its multivalent uses: e.g. Holladay, W.L., A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament Brill, Leiden, 2000; BibleWorks v. 7. Thus, the word does not convey the modern botanical distinction of coming from an angiosperm or a gymnosperm. Return to text.
- The Hebrew word translated ‘bird’ in most versions is more adequately rendered ‘flyer’ as it also describes bats (Leviticus 11:19; Deuteronomy 14:18) and flying insects (Leviticus 11:20–23). Return to text.
- I am not condoning the translation of these terms as it is not germane to this discussion. It has been pointed out the Hebrew word translated as ‘livestock’ (behemah) can refer to many animals that are not domesticated. See Holladay, Return to text.
- W.L., A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament Brill, Leiden, 2000; BibleWorks v. 7. Return to text.
- Discussed in depth in Turner, ref. 3. Return to text.
- Discussed in more detail in Lightner, J.K., Hebrew Scriptures as an aid to developing a creationist taxonomy, J. Creation 24(1):77–81, 2010; creation.com/Hebrew-Scriptures-creationist-taxonomy. Return to text.
- This is, by definition, evolution. However, in contrast with the popular model, the changes require the Creator to design pathways and mechanisms by which the organism can change. Also, change is limited, as many changes in complex biological organisms are lethal if they occur. Variation has arisen that 1) increases usefulness to man (agriculture), 2) adds interesting variety (beauty), and 3) allows the creature to adapt. There is no evidence that one kind of organism can change into a fundamentally different kind of organism. There are no plausible pathways by which this could be accomplished. Return to text.
- For example, breeds of livestock can be found at afs.okstate.edu/breeds/; a seed catalogue normally has a number of varieties of any given species. For a discussion of the variety that appeared in the domestication of the fox, see Lightner, J.K., Selection for behaviour, and the phenotypic traits that follow, J. Creation 25(3):96–101, 2011. Return to text.
- An interesting, dramatic example is Brassica oleracea, which includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussel sprouts, and other important vegetable crops. Although the species name remains the same, these are recognized as different vegetables, each of which have a number of cultivars. Return to text.
- For a creationist review see Lightner, J.K., Matters of fact … adaptation in three spine stickleback fish, Creation Matters 24(3):7–8, 2019. Return to text.
- Bell, M.A., Aguirre, W.E., and Buck, N.J., Twelve years of contemporary armor evolution in a threespine stickleback population, Evolution 58(4):814–824, 2004. Return to text.
- Lescak, E.A., Bassham, S.L., Catchen, J., Gelmond, O., Sherbick, M.L., von Hippel, F.A., and Cresko, W.A., Evolution of stickleback in 50 years on earthquake-uplifted islands, PNAS 112(52):E7204–7212, 2015. Return to text.
- Xie, K.T., Wang, G., Thompson, A.C., Wucherpfennig, J.I., Reimchen, T.E., MacColl, A.D.C., Schluter, D., Bell, M.A., Vasquez, K.M., and Kingsley, D.M., DNA fragility in the parallel evolution of pelvic reduction in stickleback fish, Science 363:81–84, 2019 ǀ doi.org/10.1126/science.aan1425. Return to text.
- Herrel, A., Huyghe, K., Vanhooydonck, B., Backeljau, T., Breugelmans, K., Grbac, I., Van Damme, R., and Irschick. D.J., Rapid large-scale evolutionary divergence in morphology and performance associated with exploitation of a different dietary resource, PNAS 105(12):4792–4795, 2008. Return to text.
- Eloy de Amorim, M., Schoener, T.W., Santoro, G.R.C.C., Lins, A.C.R., Piovia-Scott, J., Brandão, R.A., Lizards on newly created islands independently and rapidly adapt in morphology and diet, PNAS 114(33):8812–8816, 2017 ǀ doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1709080114. Return to text.
- Kolbe, J.J., Leal, M., Schoener, T.W., Spiller D.A., and Losos, J.B., Founder effects persist despite adaptive differentiation: a field experiment with lizards, Science 335(6072):1086–1089, 2012 ǀ doi.org/10.1126/science.1209566. Return to text.
- Donihue, C.M., Kowaleski, A.M., Losos, J.B., Algar, A.C., Baeckens, S., Buchkowski, R.W., Fabre, A.C., Frank, H.K., Geneva, A.J., Reynolds, R.G., Stroud, J.T., Velasco, J.A., Kolbe, J.J., Mahler, D.L., and Herrel, A., Hurricane effects on Neotropical lizards span geographic and phylogenetic scales, PNAS 117(19):10429–10434, 2020 ǀ doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2000801117. Return to text.
- Grant, P.R. and Grant, B.R., 40 Years of Evolution: Darwin’s finches on Daphne Major Island, Princeton University Press, NJ, 2014. Return to text.
- Lamichhaney, S., Han, F., Webster, M.T., Andersson, L., Grant, B.R., and Grant P.R., Rapid hybrid speciation in Darwin’s finches, Science 359(6372):224–228, 2018. Return to text.
- Alström, P., Jønsson, K.A., Fjeldså, J., Ödeen, A., Ericson, P.G., and Irestedt, M., Dramatic niche shifts and morphological change in two insular bird species, R. Soc. Open Sci. 2(3):140364, 2015 ǀ doi.org/10.1098/rsos.140364. Return to text.
- Lightner, J.K., Matters of fact … the origin of diversity, Creation Matters 21(4):7–8, 2016. Return to text.
- Hardy, C. and Carter, R., The biblical minimum and maximum age of the earth, J. Creation 28(2):89–96, 2014; creation.com/biblical-age-of-the-earth. Return to text.
- Today the family Corvidae is made up of 133 species of jays, magpies, crows, and ravens. The genus Corvus includes 45 species of crows and ravens. The Fan-tailed Raven (Corvus rhipidurus), common raven (C. corax), brown necked raven (C. ruficollis), and hooded crow (C. cornix) are found in the Middle East today. Gill F., Donsker, D. and Rasmussen, P. (Eds), IOC World Bird List (v11.1), 2021 ǀ doi :10.14344/IOC.ML.11.1, worldbirdnames.org/new/bow/crows/, accessed 1 June 2021. Return to text.
- For example, Lightner, J.K., Hennigan, T., Purdom, G., and Hodge, B., Determining the Ark kinds, ARJ 4:195–201, 2011. Return to text.
- Lightner, J.K., Karyotypic and allelic diversity within the canid baramin (Canidae), J. Creation 23(1):94–98, 2009; creation.com/genetic-diversity-in-dogs. Return to text.
- I was only looking at one species, rather than broadly across canids. They were copy number variants, a very common type of mutation with known mechanisms. Return to text.
- Ross, M.R., Evaluating potential post-Flood boundaries with biostratigraphy—the Pliocene/Pleistocene boundary, J. Creation 26(2):82–87, 2012; creation.com/biostratigraphy-post-flood-boundary. Return to text.
- Ross, M.R., Reliable data disconfirm a Late Cenozoic post-Flood boundary, J. Creation 28(2):66–68, 2014; creation.com/reliable-data-disconfirm-late-cenozoic-post-flood-boundary. Return to text.
- Arment, C., To the Ark, and back again? Using the marsupial fossil record to investigate the post-Flood boundary, ARJ 13:1–22, 2020. Return to text.
- Arment, C., Implications of creation biology for a Neogene-Quaternary Flood/post-Flood boundary, ARJ 13:241–256, 2020. Return to text.