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By Gerald L. Schroeder

From his book "The Science of God" pp 95-96



The archaeopteryx lived 150 million years ago, in the late Jurassic period, the era when reptiles dominated the main ecological niches. At the time, central Europe, including what is now Germany, had a tropical climate. The specimens of the archaeopteryx appear to have fallen into a saltwater lagoon and been covered with silt. Their preservation by nature was so gentle that the structure of their feathers has been retained in the fossil.

Feathers on wings speak of a bird. So does the archaeopteryx's furculum or wishbone. The wishbone arises from the fusion of the two collarbones and provides the necessary solid base for the wing muscles. The feathered tad is further evidence that the archaeopteryx was a bird. But this animal also had jaws with teeth, not a beak, a long bony tail, and claws on its wing-like arms and its feet. It begins to sound like a reptile and not a bird.

Or was it a mix of the two? It is called "the perfect example of a transitional form in the evolution of modern birds from reptiles."26

It combines two distinct classes (reptile and bird) in a single animal. So impressive is this link in the line of evolution that "a visiting professor actually fell upon his knees in awe" when he first saw the specimen housed in Britain's Natural History Museum.27

In the third book of the Bible, Leviticus, there is a list of ritually pure and impure animals. The list divides animals into categories: the insects in one place, fish in another, and so forth. In Leviticus 11:18 birds are listed. Among them we find the tinshemet. Twelve verses later (Lev. 11:30), the reptiles are listed. And behold, the tinshemet appears again. The same name, spelled identically (tuf nun shin mem tuf in the Hebrew) is given for a bird and for a reptile because at one level of biblical meaning the animal fell into both categories.

In the entire Bible, there is the one reference to an animal that falls into two categories, the tinshemet. In the entire fossil record there is one fossil that falls exactly midway between two classes of animals, the archaeopteryx. And both the archaeopteryx and the tinshemet are part reptile, part bird. It is the "link" that never was missing.

26 P. Wellnhefer, "Archeopteryx." Scientific American, May 1990

27 R. Gore, "The Cambrian Period Explosion of Life" National Geographic 184:125, October 1993

p.s. For those who don't have the original Hebrew, the translations of Tinshemet vary from version to version. In the King James the words are:-

Lev: 11:18 Swan

Lev: 11:30 Mole

Michael S. Sanders

Irvine, California

February 20th 1999


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