The idea that follows is my attempt to solve the death before the Fall conundrum, and I hope you find it intriguing. What if, rather than Genesis 2:4 through Genesis 3 is not a sequel or even an elaboration of the events of Genesis 1, but rather a prequel? What if in fact the events of Adam’s formation in Eden and his subsequent fall happened prior to the creation outlined in Genesis 1? You may think this to be a fanciful notion, but consider that Adam and Eve existed in the Garden alongside God and other angelic beings (ie, the Serpent and the Cherubim). Also, there is a long rabbinical tradition that states that the Garden of Eden was not an simply an Earthly domain, but rather was a Heavenly one. In addition, the theology of the ruin reconstruction theory, or gap theory, suggests that there was a world that existed prior to the one created during the six day creation week when interpreting scriptures such as Genesis 1:2 and 2 Peter 3:5. What if this prior world was the world of Genesis 2 and 3, with Satan’s rebellion and fall resulting in the “without form and void” state of the world in Genesis 1:2? In this interpretation, Genesis 2 and 3 (and possibly the War in Heaven scene of Revelation 12) would fill in the “gap” between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2.
With the Fall of Man and Lucifer’s Rebellion happening prior to the Creation Week, there would be no conflict in assuming that animal death occurred during the Creation Week. Taking a Day-Age approach to the Creation Week in light of this reordering would allow for the entirety of the fossil record to be laid down during days 3-6, with absolutely no conflict with what has been inferred from observational mainstream science.
I encourage you to try and read Genesis 2 and 3 and then Genesis 1 to see how it affects the flow of the narrative. If you find any merit to this idea or have any questions, please contact me. I relish the opportunity to discuss this subject with you.
Thank you so much for your time!
Bryar Kader, RN
Welcome to Peaceful Science, @Bryar_Kader!
There are several textual/literary problems with this proposal that come immediately to mind. First, why put Genesis 1 up front? Second, what to do with no toledot for Gen 1:1-2:3, but one for 2:4-4:25 (so how can you separate chs. 2-3 from ch. 4)? Third, while heavenly connections with Eden have merit, what to do with the very earthy geographic indicators in ch. 2? Fourth, how does the gap theory help, since that view is dismissed straightaway by the grammar and syntax of 1:2 (e.g., v. 2 is not pictured as a result, but as a background starting point; and “be” cannot mean “became” here)? Fifth, the day-age view is ruled out also by Hebrew grammar, and the underlying concordist assumption is problematic.
Finally, theologically, what exactly is the problem with death before the fall?
Hello @deuteroKJ! Thank you for the welcome and for the feedback! While I am no Hebrew scholar and I admit I do not know the text as intimately as you do, please allow me to present some additional information regarding my proposal.
Responding to your first point, I would say that there is no need whatsoever to divide Genesis 2 and 3 (and by Gen 2 I really mean Gen 2:4 and onward) from Genesis 4. The three chapters together form the narrative of Adam, Eve, and their first children and their interaction with Yahweh Elohim. Literarily, I would not separate these at all. However, while Gen 2-4 form a distinct narrative, Gen 1 is a completely different narrative. Several scholars agree that Gen 1 and Gen 2-4 represent completely different accounts, possibly having even been written at different times. Additionally, while Adam and Eve leave the Garden in Gen 3, they do not leave Yahweh’s presence. This becomes evident in Gen 4 when Cain is exiled from the presence of the Lord (Gen 4:16) to dwell in the Land of Nod. If Cain was still in God’s presence prior to his exile, it stands to reason that his parents were as well. Perhaps not just the Garden of Eden was part of a divine realm, but the entire Land of Eden as well. Therefore, Gen 1 could be seen as an account of creation of the physical realm we know and love today, whereas Gen 2-4 could be read as an account of the happenings in Yahweh’s divine realm that Cain is subsequently banished from to wander the realm created in Gen 1.
Regarding your third point (as I feel I have addressed both one and two in the previous paragraph), geographical locality does not exclude something from metaphysical nature. For instance, in the Book of Daniel, the angel Gabriel speaks to the prophet of his fight with the Prince of Persia. There is no doubt he is referring to a metaphysical hostile spirit being, but at the same time, the enemy is assigned the title Prince of Persia, indicating the being’s geographical jurisdiction. Also, the ladder Jacob saw in Genesis was nothing less than a gateway into the heavenly realm that angels walked up and down. However, this gateway had geographical locality, ie, Bethel where he had seen it. Yes, this was a dream, but Jacob at least believed the location of Bethel itself was where the divine touch the mundane, evidenced by Gen 28:17. I admit this was a point I had struggled with myself, but I do believe the answer may lie in the Land of Eden being metaphysical in nature, while still retaining a physical geographic locality.
I do have an answer for your fourth point, but my response is already lengthy as it is, so lets start here and hopefully I will be able to work in the remaining points in a future response!
@Bryar_Kader thanks for the back-an-forth. So, just to be clear, you would put Gen 1 temporally after Gen 4 as well?
You did respond to the unity of Gen 2-4, but not the absence of toledot for Gen 1.
Possibly. Would just need to be teased out. I myself do see Eden as the original meeting place of the divine council, so I’m more open to this than most.
I look forward to digging into the grammar & syntax, if you’re so inclined.
So I would not technically place Gen 1 after Gen 4. Rather I would place the earthly realm created in Gen 1 as a parallel to the divine realm of Gen 2-4. The below illustration will help to clarify.
The Heavenly and Earthly realms were once one in Gen 2. Then as a result of the Fall and War in Heaven, the Earth became formless and void, prompting the Creation Week. Eden is still within the Heavenly Realm as it is in God’s presence, but the world “outside” of Eden is a part of the Earthly Realm, apart from God’s presence.
And I am glad you take the view that Eden is the original meeting place of the Divine Council. The Sons of God in Gen 6 copulating with Adam’s descendants may lend more credence to the idea that Eden was an intersection between the Heavenly and Earthly Realms.
I would love to explore the finer points of the syntax as well!
This is where there’s confusion on my part. Is the “world” of Gen 4 the same world created in Gen 1 or not? It’s hard to imagine Gen 4 as part o the “divine realm.” Seems like Gen 4 is “this worldly”–a world already populated beyond the family of focus in Gen 2-3. (I myself don’t know what to do with the inherent tensions…and sort of wonder if the text is able to answer the questions we generally ask of it.)
Glad to know my heterodoxy is not alone!
Genesis 4 is the intersection between Eden and the Earthly Realm beyond. The presence of God dwells in Eden in Gen 4, as Cain and Abel brought offerings before Him, Cain conversed with Him, and the chapter says Cain left God’s presence to dwell in Nod, where there were other potentially hostile humans. This can be likened to Dr. Swamidass’ “people outside the Garden,” except I would expand it to “people outside of Eden.”
Another piece of evidence that the Land of Eden is divine is that Adam is formed from the “adamah” and is later cursed to work the very same “adamah” from which he was taken. If the ground Adam was formed from was the same ground he lived on afterward, it stands to reason that the Land of Eden exists within the divine sphere.
Perhaps this graphic will help to illustrate what I am trying to convey. I picture the account of Genesis 2:4 through the first part of Genesis 4 as occurring in the Edenic Realm, within the presence of Yahweh.
I picture the account of Genesis 1 and the portion of Genesis 4 recounting Cain’s time in Nod as occurring in the Earthly Realm we live in today.