What is a Biblical Kind

What is a Biblical Kind

Editors Note: This article will be part of an ongoing series that will be discussing the concept of a Biblical kind.  Respectful reader input is invited. This series will appear periodically, as these articles will be quite long and likely will take some time to write. 


What is a Biblical kind? This seems like such a simple question to answer. Anyone who has any familiarity with creation literature will know creationists generally posit that the kind is roughly equivalent to the Linnaean family[1]. However, this is a broad, sweeping generalization, which we will cover more in a future article.  Because we are comparing to a fallible, man-made system, sweeping generalizations, while they make good statements for lecture overviews, are only moderately valuable. This is because they ignore the vast amount of variation present in the natural world and the manner in which they have been classified. Classification has been the domain of evolutionary naturalists for the past 160 years. Organisms have been classified based on presumed ancestry, not functional relationship. While we do not, and in all practicality could not reject Linnaean classification, it is wise to be skeptical of classifications which are outside the expected norms.

Since we are seeking a Biblical definition of kind, we cannot simply tie the words of Scripture to levels of a human classification system. In fact, it is far wiser to examine the Scripture to ensure we first have a thorough understanding of the Biblical kind before studying the classification systems. This is a key point to understand. As creationists, the Bible is our ultimate authority. Thus to understand kinds, one must understand the Bible.  It is important, therefore, before attempting to impose a definition on the Biblical kind that we first understand what it means when the Bible uses it.

The word translated “kind” first appears in the Bible in Genesis 1:11. The word used is the Hebrew word miyn.  Miyn is found 31 times in the Old Testament in 18 separate verses[2]. All these verses, with one exception in Ezekiel, are found in the Pentateuch. Genesis, unsurprisingly, contains the majority of the references. However, deriving the meaning of miyn requires digging a little deeper.

While the word miyn  is not terribly common, this should not be a surprise. The Bible is a historical book, containing an accurate record of events that happened in the past. It is not explicitly designed to convey scientific information. Thus it does not often speak of animal kinds.  However, when it does convey science, it does so accurately.   This is a presupposition that every Christian must accept on at least some level. If the Bible contains error, then everything within is suspect, including the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  By this simple logic then, when the Bible speaks about creation, it must be accurate, just as it is about everything else. This must include the Biblical kinds because the Biblical kinds are part of the Scripture.

What then does the Bible say about kinds? The word miyn shows up first in Genesis 1:11 describing fruit trees that have internal fruit.  It then shows up repeatedly throughout Genesis 1.  In order to formulate a definition of the Biblical kind, it behooves us to examine each place it is found and determine what it means in the context in each place.

“And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:11-12

In verse eleven, kind seems to have a fairly straightforward meaning.  In this verse, a kind is a reference to the type of fruit that each tree yields. This makes sense in light of how fruit trees would have been classified in the ancient world. Without access to our modern genetic sequencing mechanisms, the ancients would have grouped trees based on their flowers and fruits.  They would not have spoken of a Granny Smith apple versus a Red Delicious apple. Instead, they would have referred to red and green apples.  While fruit breeding was certainly active in the ancient world, the variety we observe today would not have been present.  Thus kind in this verse does refer specifically to different types of fruits, such as oranges, bananas, pineapples, and apples.  What the original created kinds of fruit were will be addressed later in this series.

In verse twelve, miyn is used twice, once in reference to fruit trees and once in reference to herbs yielding seed.  The fruit tree reference has a similar meaning to its meaning in verse eleven.  The point of interest from this verse comes from the reference to the herds yielding seed.  The word for “herb” used in verse twelve is the Hebrew word eseb. Eseb is used thirty two times in the Old Testament and is translated either herb or grass in the KJV every time.  Throughout the book of Genesis, it is translated “herb” where it is used.  The first time it is translated “grass” is in Deuteronomy 11:15 where it speaks of food for cattle. Interestingly in 2 Kings 19:26 the Hebrew words for “grass” and “herbs” are used in reverse of their use in Genesis. Deshe is used for “herb” and eseb is used for “grass”. While this is a descriptive passage about how God had previously defeated Israel’s enemies, it is interesting that the two words are swapped. Clearly, they both can be used interchangeably in some instances.

Since eseb and deshe can be used interchangeably in at least some cases and eseb can be used to mean both “grass” and “herb”, it is difficult to get an exact meaning of the word in Genesis 1. However, with both words in the same verse makes the meaning clear. Assuming that the deshe does mean grass in verse 12, which there is no reason not to, and that eseb means herb of the field in that verse, we can draw some conclusions. Herbs of the field were prescribed for man to eat in Genesis 1:29. This restriction was not lifted until after the Flood in Genesis 9:3. Thus when God speaks of kinds of herbs of the field, He means the numerous plant families, such as the Composite, Nightshade, Mint, Mustard, Rose and Legume families, apart from the grass family. Apparently, the grass family, such as wheat, oats, barley and so on, were considered different enough from the other plants that they deserved their own special mention.

Since there are six hundred and forty-two known plant families under the Linnaean classification system, setting grasses apart is certainly significant[3]. Grasses were not said to reproduce after their kind and were separated out from the rest of the herbs of the field when God discusses what He made on day three. Since God never does things without purpose, there must be a reason why the grasses were considered separately.  There are numerous possible reasons. One potential reason is that grasses look significantly different than the families of flowering plants covered in the herbs of the field. Grass flowers are tiny, insignificant and easy to miss, unlike most members of the rose or composite families of plants.  This could be one reason to put the grass family apart from the rest of the plants

A second reason might be that the key importance that grasses have played in human history. Wheat and other grains have been a staple of humanities diet for millennia, and, in many countries, still provide the primary source of nutrition for most of the population.  Without grasses, notably wheat, oats, and rice, millions of people would starve. It may be that God put the grass kind apart because He wanted to subtly emphasize its importance to humanity.

Having established what is meant by herbs and grasses in verse twelve, finding the meaning of miyn in that verse becomes significantly easier. However, the use of the word “seed” also complicates things. Did God create only the flowering plants that produce what we define as “seeds” on day three? If so, what about ferns, cykads, and conifers which do not produce seeds in the traditional sense of the word?  This is actually much less of a problem than it appears.  The word for “seed” in verses 11-12 is the Hebrew word zera. The word is used in 201 verses in the Old Testament.  It is used for a number of different things. When Eve refers to Seth as the seed that replaces Abel whom Cain killed in Genesis 4:25, zera is the word used. When God tells Noah in Genesis 7:3 why He is sending the animals to the Ark, He uses this word to refer to keeping reproductive ability alive. Thus the word “seed” in Genesis 1:11-12 does not specifically refer to the seed of the plant.  Instead, it refers broadly to any plant which contains something which, when removed from the plant, is able to reproduce it.  We will discuss this further in a future article.

Since the word “seed” is a broad statement about the reproductive abilities of the plant, the meaning of miyn in this verse becomes clearer.  It obviously relates to groups that reproduce similarly. There is really no other way to view it since the herb is described in terms of how it reproduces.  The kind ties directly to the reproductive ability of the plant.  Thus in Genesis 1:11-12 miyn seems to consistently refer to reproductive groups of plants.  However, two verses of use are not entirely definitive.  Since miyn is used elsewhere, we need to examine those verses as well to derive a full definition.

The next use of miyn is in Genesis 1:21.

“And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.”  Genesis 1:21-22.

Verse 21 uses the word miyn twice, once relating to sea creatures, once related to birds.  In both cases, its meaning is illuminated by Genesis 1:12 which clearly is talking about reproduction.  “Be fruitful and multiply” is the same command God gave Noah and his family in Genesis 9 when they came off the ark. It clearly refers to an increase in human population. Since reproduction is the mechanism for such an increase, the command must be referring to reproduction.   By extension, then, we can say that the command also refers to reproduction in Genesis 1:22.

However, simply establishing that it refers to reproduction does not explain what the word “kind” refers to specifically.  It simply gives a general idea.  From these two verses, the meaning is not straightforward. It does seem to refer to reproductive groups. This is in line with the meaning from Genesis 1:11-12. Since not even evolutionists claim that things like sharks, whales, and sea stars are closely related, the reference to kinds in Genesis 1:21 must mean multiple, separate reproductive groups. This would apply both to the sea creatures and the flying creatures.

It is worth noting here that the word “fowls” in verse twenty-one is a broad word. The Hebrew word owph is the word used and it is translated multiple ways in the KJV.  It is used repeatedly to mean birds, but it is also used generically to refer to flying creatures. Leviticus 11 uses owph twice to refer to flying creatures that are not birds. They are referred to as “creeping things” which sounds like a description of flying reptiles, such a Pterodactyls. This broad use of owph is important to note because it establishes an important point. When the Bible speaks about animal biology, it rarely does so in anything other than a broad sense.  It will occasionally identify creatures by names lower on the level of Linnaean classification, such as lions.  However, usually, when discussing kinds it does so in broad generalizations.   Such is also the case with the next occurrence of the word miyn in Genesis 1.

“And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:24-25

Miyn is used five times from Genesis 1:24-25 and in each case it is used the same way.  Much as we have seen in the previous verses, it points to a reproductive group. In these verses the reproductive groups are slightly more broadly delineated. There are three groups listed. The first group is the cattle. The word used here in Hebrew is b@hemah  which shows up in 172 verses of the Bible.  It is alternately translated as either “cattle” or “beast”.  When it is unclear exactly what a word means, context is the key to making a correct determination. Since “beast” is used later in the sentence, it would appear cattle is correct. However, it seems likely that, since a broad word is used in this verse for “cattle” that the term is broader than we currently understand it.  The various ungulates have been suggested as the meaning of the word in this context. While obviously no one alive witnessed the creation to be certain, ungulates do seem a likely candidate for the meaning here.

The second group of kinds addressed here is the “creeping thing”.   The word for “creeping thing” and “creepeth” is the same, the Hebrew word remes. Remes appears in seventeen separate verses in Scripture and sixteen of those times it is translated along the lines of “creeping thing” or “creepeth.” The one exception is in Genesis 9:7 where instead of “creeping thing” it is translated “moving thing”.  Remes is thus one of the easier words to determine since it has a near standard usage in the Bible.

However, knowing how remes is translated is not the same as knowing what the translated words mean.  “Creeping” has different contexts to different people. For me, it means lizards, snakes, frogs, and other amphibians and reptiles. However many women I know would undoubtedly include invertebrates such as spiders and insects. This being the case, we need to derive a definition. The meaning of the Hebrew word is quite broad, able to mean creeping things, moving things, or gliding things[4].  This is very broad and can easily cover both vertebrate and invertebrate creatures.

The third group of kinds listed in Genesis 1:24-25 are the “beasts of the earth”. The phrasing makes it seem like a sort of “catch-all”, meant to cover anything that was not already mentioned. Turns out, that’s a pretty good approximation of the Hebrew. The Hebrew phrase for “beast of the earth” is chay erets. Chay is the word translated “beast”, erets is the word translated “earth”. Both are very common words in the Old Testament. Chay appears in 452 verses while erets appears in 2191 verses. Since they are both used frequently, you might expect that they are translated multiple ways depending on the context and you would be correct. Both come with different meanings depending on context. Chay is even translated two different ways in the same verse in Genesis 1:24! However, the general meaning is the same for both words. Chay carries the idea of life or flesh while erets implies dry land or earth. Thus the phrase “beast of the earth” carries the meaning “living land animal.” It is a very broad term, meant to cover any land creature God had not previously mentioned and it performed this task well.

The use of miyn in these verses parallels what we have seen previously. It is a reference to the reproductive abilities of these creatures. Bringing something forth after its kind carries the idea of giving birth to offspring resembling the parent.  It also implies a knowable boundary between the kinds. This is a key point to understand because in the evolution model, there should not be such a boundary.  The creation model predicts otherwise. This is just one of the many inconsistencies between the two views.

The word miyn does not appear again until Genesis 6.  However, when it does appear again, it is important because it is God telling Noah what animals will be on the Ark. This is key to understanding the modern creationist kind concept.

“And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.” Genesis 6:19-20

The word miyn is used three times in verse twenty.  It refers separately to fowls, cattle, and creeping things.  The three Hebrew words used are identical to their previous uses in Genesis 1, owph, b@hemah and remes . The translations and the usage are also identical to their previous uses in Genesis 1.  Thus miyn can reasonably be viewed in the same light it was in Genesis 1: as a reproductive group.   Defining that reproduction group will have to wait until we have discussed all examples of miyn in the Scripture.

As a side note, Noah was only commanded to take the land animals on the Ark. This issue regularly comes up from evolutionists who have not bothered to educate themselves about basic creationist positions.   This would not have included sea snakes, sea turtles, plesiosaurs, dolphins, whales, and so on.

A second side note here is that Noah was not commanded to take all the species onto the Ark. This argument regularly comes up both from Christians who believe in a local flood and evolutionists and generally runs something like this: “Noah couldn’t possibly have taken all the species on the ark!” They’re right, but they are missing the point. No creationist I’ve heard of claims that Noah took all the species that exist today on the Ark.  They claim he took all the “kinds”, the miyn.  Arguing otherwise is creating a strawman fallacy and misrepresenting what creationists actually believe.

Resuming the discussion of miyn, it occurs again in Genesis chapter seven. It is used exactly as it is in Genesis six, except one extra group of creature is mentioned that being the beasts.

“They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort.” Genesis 7:14

Interestingly, this verse introduces two new words that seem at first glance related to the discussion of kinds.  The word for “bird” in the Hebrew is the word tsippowr which literally translates as “little bird.”  Since owph is translated “fowl” it would seem that there is a distinction between fowl and bird in this verse.  Tsippowr is used in thirty-six separate verses in the Bible.  It is alternatively translated as “bird”, “fowl” and twice as “sparrow”.  Generally, it conveys the idea of a small bird.  We will return to that thought in a moment.

The other word of interest from Genesis 7:14 is the word kanaph. Kanaph is used in eighty-five verses of the Bible and is translated a multitude of ways depending on context. Generally, it conveys the idea of an “edge or border” or “wings” when referring to birds.   Substituting “wings” in for “sort” in Genesis 7:14 does not make much sense until you stop and think about it. Saying “birds of every wing” actually means a vast variety of birds. This does seem to separate the larger fowl from the smaller birds. Perhaps this is a differentiation between birds and flying reptiles? It’s a question is interesting, but will likely remain confined to the realm of speculation this side of glory.

These two words are unique to Genesis 7:14 when it comes to reproductive groups.  They are frequently used throughout the Scripture but do not play into the kind discussion.  Thus, while interesting, they will not factor into our discussion of kinds beyond what has already been mentioned.

From Genesis, we have observed that kinds are reproductive groups of some nature. Exactly where they are on the Linnaean classification chart is unclear.  However, whatever they are, Genesis six and seven establish one very important fact. Whatever these kinds were, they could interbreed with one another.  This is demonstrated by the fact that only two of most kinds, got on the Ark. When they got off the Ark, they were able to reproduce and create the massive variety we observe today.  That requires reproduction and a lot of it. The concept of interbreeding groups is key to understanding creationist kinds. We will come back to this concept in a future article.

From Genesis, we move forward to the next mention of kinds in the Bible which is in Leviticus 11.  This is part of God’s dispensation of dietary laws to the Israelites. This being the case, it is wise not to view the use of kind here quite as definitely as in Genesis. God is no longer speaking about His original created kinds. He is speaking to the Israelites who need to understand what He is talking about.  It’s been hundreds of years since the flood at the point God gave the Law and people groups have been scattered. They spoke different languages and, as such, had different names and groupings for the animals.  For God to give the dietary laws to the Israelites using kinds they were not familiar with would have completely defeated the purpose of the laws. Thus the kinds in Leviticus should not be considered definitive. Since this passage in Leviticus 11 is echoed in Deuteronomy 14 when Moses reiterates the Law to the people before they enter the Promised Land, we will deal with the two passages as one.  That said, let us examine the passages and see what the word “kind” means.

“And the vulture, and the kite after his kind; Every raven after his kind; And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind.” Leviticus 11:14-16

“And the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.” Leviticus 11:19

“Even these of them ye may eat; the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind.” Leviticus 11:22

“These also shall be unclean unto you among the creeping things that creep upon the earth; the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind,” Leviticus 11:29

“And the glede, and the kite, and the vulture after his kind, And every raven after his kind, And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind, The little owl, and the great owl, and the swan, And the pelican, and the gier eagle, and the cormorant,  And the stork, and the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.” Deuteronomy 14:13-18

The two passages listed above run heavily parallel to one another. Both discuss dietary permissions and restrictions for the Israelites and use very similar wording in both the Hebrew and English.  The use of miyn in these verses clearly refers to groupings of organisms. However, because this is not meant as a grouping of kinds, but as something the Israelites could understand, attempting to discern specific kinds from this passage is unwise.  This is especially true as the meanings of English words may have changed since the translation of the King James, and the meanings of the Hebrew words can be somewhat unclear.

There is one further use of miyn in the Bible. That use is found in Ezekiel 47:10. Since this is a prophetic passage, attempting to gain much information from it regarding the meaning of “kinds” in a Biblical sense is foolish. However, we will briefly examine it.

“And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand upon it from Engedi even unto Eneglaim; they shall be a place to spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many.” Ezekiel 47:10

As should be obvious by reading the above passage, this passage is prophetic, not historical or narrative in nature.  However, we can glean one small nugget of information from the verse.  It tells us there are multiple kinds of fish, most likely many separate kinds.  This does make sense based on what we know from Genesis.  When God talks about creating the water creatures, He refers to creatures being “brought forth abundantly” which implies a vast variety. This is what we observe in the oceans as well.  Thus this passage in Ezekiel does have a use for the purposes of determining Biblical kinds.

Having examined all the uses of miyn in Scripture, we can draw some conclusions.  The most obvious conclusion is that miyn is not always used in the same fashion.  In Leviticus, for example, it has a slightly altered meaning than from what we observed in Genesis. This also holds true of its use in Deuteronomy.  Thus, for the purposes of this discussion, we will focus on the use of miyn in Genesis to derive a usage.

Looking at miyn based on its usage in the first seven chapters of Genesis is somewhat illuminative.  Based on Genesis 6:20 and Genesis 7:14, we can deduce that “kinds” are reproductive groupings. We know this because of the context of the verses. In each case, God is talking to Noah about the animals that were on the Ark.  He refers to them “after their kind” multiple times in both verses.

Since God never speaks without purpose, then we can assume there is meaning to His use of “kind” in Genesis 6:20 and Genesis 7:14 is no accident.  Consider the purpose for which these animals were going on the Ark.  Genesis 6:20 tells us why the animals came onto the Ark. It was “to keep them alive.”  While God was executing righteous judgment on the earth, He wanted life to flourish on the earth again. Thus He sent the animals to Noah to keep them alive for the future.

However, keeping the animals alive was only part of the solution. Obviously, once they got off the Ark, they would need to be able to reproduce or there would have been no point saving them in the first place.  Genesis 8:17 even tells us that reproduction was expected of the post-flood animal couples. God commands Noah:

“Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth.”

God wanted to refill the earth with both human and animal life. Since there had only been two of every kind on the Ark, they had to have been a reproductive group.  Each reproductive group had to be distinct from the others, else there would have been no need for separate kinds.  However, the kinds needed to be genetically diverse enough to create all the variety we observe in today’s world.

Variety aside, reproductive groups also could not be too broad. If the reproductive groups were broad enough, there would have been overlap between the kinds, thereby eliminating the kinds and forming one overall kind. Since the Bible refers to multiple separate kinds, this cannot be the case. Thus there must be a limit. There has to be a boundary between kinds which cannot be breached. This is important because of the implications.

If there are boundaries between kinds which cannot be passed, as we have just observed, then evolution from a common ancestor as evolutionists and many Christians postulate could not have occurred. Since Darwin, evolution has postulated a single common ancestor for all living things. If this is true, and it must be for Darwinian evolution to be true, then there cannot be multiple kinds. Because kinds are reproductive groups which are separated from each other, they are opposite of evolutionary prediction. Evolution predicts a blurring of sorts between groups, leading to just one reproductive group in the past.  No evolutionist postulates that birds could breed with reptiles in the present (though this seems contradictory since many evolutionists are claiming birds actually are reptiles)[5]. However, in the past, they shared a common ancestor in the evolutionary paradigm and thus would be members of the same kind, if creationist phrasing was applied to them.

Since kinds are separate entities and they are reproductive groupings according to the Scriptures, this is how biological research into ancestry should be framed. Viewing miyn as a reproductive group enables us to explore further and attempt to define these originally created reproductive groups.  Defining exactly what that reproductive group is, and how it interfaces with the traditional Linnaean classification system will be the focus of the remainder of this book.



[1] (No author listed) “Counting Kinds” Answers in Genesis March 13, 2014. Accessed October 12, 2018. https://answersingenesis.org/creation-science/baraminology/counting-kinds/

[2] Brown, Driver Briggs and Gesenius “Hebrew Lexicon entry for Miyn” Bible Study Tools  Accessed October 12, 2018 https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/kjv/miyn.html

[3] (No author listed) “The Plant List”. The Plant List September 2013. Accessed October 14, 2018. http://www.theplantlist.org/

[4] Brown, Driver, Briggs, and Gesenius. Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon Bible Study Tools Accessed October 15, 2018 https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/kjv/remes.html

[5]Jaffredo, Thierry  Julien Sulien Fellah, and Dominique Dunon. “Immunology of Birds and Reptiles.” In Encyclopedia of Life Sciences John Wiley and Sons. (2005) Accessed October 18, 2018  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/229705654_Immunology_of_Birds_and_Reptiles

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