How could there be? Dragons are mythical or legendary creatures. They constitute the stuff of fantasy and fiction, and are certainly not the material on which history and revealed religion are based—at least that is the prevailing view today. The dragon has a long and widespread tradition in the world. See, for example, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon
Answering the question, "are there dragons in the Bible?" is more complicated than one might suppose, however. It is complicated because translators practice the art of translation differently in rendering ancient words into what they take to be a modern equivalent, and because we must work in two ancient languages Hebrew and Greek. The Hebrew Lexicons indicate the following: Brown, Driver, and Briggs (1st edition 1907) and Gesenius-Robinson (1857) agree in the translation of "land-serpent, dragon" as being appropriate for the following passages: Deuteronomy 32:33; Psalm 91:13; Exodus 7:9, 10, 12; Jeremiah 51:34; Nehemiah 2:13).
Not all translators acknowledge this information in the seven English translations I checked. The following translations use "dragon" to translate Psalm 91:13, Deuteronomy 32:33: New American Bible; An American Translation (AT). The New American Bible (NAB) and the New English Bible (NEB) render Jeremiah 51:34 with "dragon." The following translations render Nehemiah 2:13 by "dragon": Today's English Version (TEV), New International Version (NIV), NEB, and NAB. The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) renders the following passages by δράκων (drakōn: dragon, serpent): Deuteronomy 32:33, Psalm 91:13, Exodus 7:9, 10, 12. Of the translations I checked, except for Nehemiah 2:13, the NIV never used the word "dragon" to translate the ancient Hebrew text. The King James Version translated all passages with "dragon," except for Exodus 7:9, 10, 12. The NEB translated Isaiah 51:9 using "dragon"; the TEV also used "dragon" for Isaiah 27:1. The NAB used "dragon" in the translation of Psalm 74:13, Isaiah 51:9, Isaiah 27:1, and AT used "dragon" in translating Psalm 74:13, Isaiah 27:1, Isaiah 51:9.
The word "Dragon" (δράκων) appears in the following passages in the New Testament: Revelation 12:3, 4, 7, 9, 13, 17, 17; 13:2, 4, 11; 16:13; 20:2, where dragon is twice secondarily identified as an ὄφις, which the lexicon terms a "snake, serpent" (Revelation 12:9; 20:2). The Latin translation of the Greek text uses draco, which the lexicon identifies as "a sort of serpent, a dragon."
Is the mythical or fantasy "dragon" actually described in the Bible? The answer is "Yes," and dragons were part of the landscape of nature in antiquity—at least to judge from the writings of some of the best known names of our classical Greco-Roman past, such as Aristotle, Herodotus, and Pliny, as well as others. Their reports on the nature of the creature, however, were not uniform. The description of the dragon in Philostratus (2nd century CE), the author of The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, is most similar to what we have come to know as the mythical creature. These ancient writers are not describing mythical creatures, however; they are reporting about creatures they claim to know—sometime serpent-like at other times dragon-like. The description of the creature in Revelation, however, is actually something more than simply a snake or a serpent. It is described as a species of reptile with a tail; snakes do not have tails. And this creature "stood on the sand of the sea" (Revelation 12:18). Serpents do not have legs, and hence cannot "stand." This dragon made certain sounds that enabled it to be identified as a dragon (13:11).*
What do we learn from this information? The lexicographers really didn't know the species of the creature on which they offered translation advice. The ancient classical writers are confident that they are describing actual existing creatures. And there actually are dragons described in the Bible.
As Oliver Hardy said to the second of the famed comic duo, his partner Stan Laurel, "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!" The Christian and Jewish Bibles, that are thought to report ancient history and are confessed popularly in conservative Christianity as "The Word of God," attest to the actual existence of what we today regard as a mythical and fantasy creature. Archaeologists and geologists, on the other hand, have given us the Pterodactyl and Pterosaur, a type of flying reptile that actually lived during the late Jurassic period (to judge from their petrified skeletons). These creatures, which actually did exist at one time, are not a part of the Biblical record.
So the "Word of God" (if I may call it that) leads us to a fantasy creature that never existed, but the modern scientific study of the earth gives us historical dragon-like creatures that actually existed. Go figure!
What do you make of dragons in the Bible?
Charles W. Hedrick
Missouri State University
*The Greek word for "spoke" in Revelation 13:11 can also be used of inarticulate sounds.