Death Before the Fall

And you appreciate he did so through billions of years of death until we reached humanity?

He created through life, not death. But to your point, yes - things died before Adam and Eve. It is my opinion that those that believe that physical death only occurred after the Fall are misreading scripture.


Why do you think that? Which scriptures would you point to as evidence?

To answer what I think is misread, I would have to see what passages convince you that death only occurred after the Fall.

I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I highly recommend you read @jongarvey’s God’s Good Earth.


OK - may I ask you first, what’s the scientific explanation of what death is?

My engagement time is limited. If you want to see what I think you have wrong about “no death before the Fall”, you will have to get there quickly or wait several hours before I can resume the conversation.

I’m not sure where this is going, but to answer your question, I think the simplest (but still imperfect) way to define physical death is through the end of life. One of the chief criterion we have for life is the ability to metabolize. So when a body stops virtually all metabolic processes, it is dead.

Adam had apoptosis genes and Natural Killer cells, so he experienced cellular death at least.

I’m fine with waiting. We don’t have to have the conversation right now.

Probably the clearest passage is Romans 5:12

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned

@structureoftruth how does Garvey answer how death spread is it was already spread?

And God’s pronouncement:

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat[d] of it you shall surely die.”

“The Day” and “Surely” - you need to show evidence God took this back.

Would this be true for both flora and fauna? Is there a distinction in death that could be made between them?

Decay is not necessarily death. An immune response need not arise until disease because of death and sin was actually present.

This passage came up earlier…
Romans 5:12-13 - 12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

I think many misread this as though death did not exist before sin. But as James puts it:

James 1:15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

Both authors represent death as a result of sin, but not that sin creates death. Desire gives birth to sin, but sin already existed, sin brings forth death, but death already existed. So, it seems to me that many misread Genesis as the origin of death along with sin, but I don’t think that is the case. God kicked them out so they would not eat of the tree and live forever, which means death already existed but the tree could counteract it, not that kicking them out was the beginning of death. Gen 1 (to me) is about the origin of life (in a poetic sense), but then Gen 2 switches to the origin of sin and the origin of God’s chosen people, but death and people (the rest of humanity) already existed as evidenced in Gen 1 with the creation of ecosystems that require death.


I will add that the bible seems clear to me to be differentiating between physical death and spiritual death. I see Genesis addressing spiritual death more than physical death, and the lesson that disobedience in sin removes us from the presence of God and brings forth spiritual death (as well as physical death).

There is much in the NT about the difference between physical and spiritual death. The whole concept of heaven and hell assumes that physical death is imminent and inescapable, but spiritual death is a matter of individual choice in the state of having free will. Those outside the garden would have experienced physical death, but not spiritual death because they were ignorant of the law and sin was not yet imputed to them (Romans 5:13). However, Jesus changed that by sending the Spirit and writing the law on the hearts of all, so there is no longer an excuse for ignorance of sin. (Jeremiah 31:30-34/Hebrews 10:11-18) And James again adds his spin: James 4:17 - Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

We can also be alive in body, but dead in spirt, which Paul attributes to being dead altogether:

Romans 8:5-7 - 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be [a]carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the [b]carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.

So, the definition of death in terms of the bible (appropriate to the conversation of death before the fall), can be described in the scientific sense of cellular metabolism, but also in the theological sense of spiritual salvation (or lack thereof).


The passage clearly says desire leads to sin and sin leads to death. How are you proving the opposite that death exists before sin? This isn’t in scripture.

Jesus clearly put Genesis 1 and 2 together as one story. Does it make any sense to think that marriage wasn’t instituted until relatively recently or at the beginning of creation as a creation norm?

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’[b]? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Hell is the second death - in a spiritual sense death refers to being apart from God. This doesn’t happen until sin and does happens because of sin because God is life. Physical death is corresponding evidence of spiritual death and we can see its effects in disease. This is exactly why Jesus miracles were often about healing the sick or raising to life. His miracles weren’t arbitrary acts of magic.

Then why did Christ die a physical death?

“brings forth death” does not mean that death did not exist before sin, it means that sin activates the already existing function of death. “Sin leads to death” says the same, that death is there, and sin leads to it.

Jesus considers the entire bible one story…

The “second death” has not yet happened. It is referenced throughout revelation as the result of Jesus’ victory over Death and Hades in the second coming. It is where those that are not written in the Lambs book of life go. So…definitely apart from God, and a result of sin, but not related to physical death.

This implies that spiritually alive people do not experience disease and physical death, which is obviously not true. Everyone throughout history that has ever lived, has died physically, including Jesus.

I will have to respond later, Hebrews/Romans/1 John are the best responses, Jesus had to become flesh to become propitiation for our sin.

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This misses the point that he was clearly making an argument for marriage using both Genesis 1 and 2 and stating “at the beginning” - there aren’t two beginnings.

How and why does sin “activate this function”?

  1. Prove that scripture shows physical death DID exist before sin.
  2. Prove that sin somehow activates a function of death - is it spiritual or physical in this verse.

No. It doesn’t. Jesus is quite clear that we are born again spiritually now, but we are physically resurrected later. The two always went together in the miracles - Jesus forgave sin and he healed at the same time - they were pointing to the reality of both. It’s quite clear we still die physically now but our bodies are resurrected later, just as Christ died and is resurrected. That is what our hope is. That’s why evolution as an origins theory for humanity is evil IMO. It attacks our hope in Christ and creation norms if you follow it to its logical conclusions. Evolutionary biology via genetics, on the other hand, is a really cool aspect of creation and evidence of God’s goodness that creation can adapt even though we feel into sin.

That’s certainly very open-minded of you. Are evil theories less likely to be true than non-evil ones? Is a theory that has implications you don’t want to think about therefore invalidated?


I agree there is one beginning, but also think that it is not “one instant”. I see it as mankind created on earth (Gen 1:27) and God’s chosen created in Eden (separate from Earth, Gen 2:7)…Adam is not named until Gen 2:19. It is all ambiguous and leaves us to seek guidance from the Holy Spirit. “The beginning” can mean many things, the pentateuch is the “beginning” of the bible. The big bang was the “beginning” of the universe, doesn’t mean it happened all in one instant.

Jesus’ argument for marriage is not confirmation that Gen 1 & 2 are a combined story, it is an argument that God created man and woman to be joined spiritually (married) with the act of sex. He reinforces this with His conversation in John 4:16-18 talking with the Samaritan woman. His reference I believe is rather confirmation that the Genesis story is divine truth, that the law and prophets (collectively) are the divinely inspired Word of God (and that the one night stand I had in 1990 meant I actually took a wife that night and committed adultery over and over since).

My only answer to this is that the human species and carnivorous animal species (including dinosaurs) and carnivorous fish and birds and creeping things are all proven to be much older than 6000 years, which means that death existed long before sin entered the world…assuming we take Genesis to be about the origin of sin and the timeline from Adam to Jesus to be accurate.

John 12:24 - (Jesus speaking) 24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.

Genesis 1:28-30 commands that plants are for food so that animals can multiply. So then, Jesus confirms that death existed before the fall in that in order for life to be fruitful and multiply, something must die. God created everything in this manner, the laws of physics are similar in that respect, that there is always a contrasting force. I concede that He is talking about plants, and so is Gen 1, but it is fairly easy to conclude that animal life did not progress without animal death (including humans) long before Adam and Eve were removed from Eden. I am all for defending scripture as truth, but there is enough leeway in scripture to accept scientific truth also…which states that life (and death) are way older than 6000 years.

I would argue that most of the scripture that refers to sin and death is talking about spiritual death. Romans 5 through Romans 8 is a complete argument about how Adam brought (spiritual) death through sin and Jesus conquers (spiritual) death through justification, sanctification and reconciliation through propitiation. Jesus only conquered physical death for Himself (and a couple others he healed personally). Even then, after His resurrection He was transfigured and received into heaven. Everyone else that has lived in Jesus’ time died (physically).

Other notable scriptures: Proverbs 8:35-36, 1 Corinthians 15, Hebrews 10

1 Peter 3:18- 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring [a]us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,

No, we will not be physically resurrected. We will be transformed, we will be clothed in righteousness, we will not be in earthly “tents” as Paul puts it…

2 Corinthians 5:1-8 - For we know that if our earthly [a]house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our [b]habitation which is from heaven, 3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as [c]a guarantee. 6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

Yes, but this is a reference to the fact that all have sinned and do sin, and sin brings death, not that the absence of sin means absence of death. You and I are not capable of avoiding sin, no one is except Jesus. Only Jesus is worthy, which is why we hope in Him, because He died once for us all. (see also Isaiah 53, too long to post)

This doesn’t make sense to me. My hope in Christ is not affected by evolution in any sense. I don’t know what you mean by “creation norms” or “logical conclusions” (please elaborate). The only “creation norm” I have is that I believe God created the universe (I’m ok with that creation being the big bang or any other logical scientific reasoning). I can let science figure out all the how it happened stuff, and I can be confident that a poetic interpretation of Genesis is sufficient for my salvation.

The only “logical conclusion” I see is that evolution will continue until the second coming of Christ, when nothing will remain as it is now, the world will be completely obliterated and believers will be transformed into a new existence with God in heaven (I don’t really want to be resurrected in this broken flesh, looking forward to a new tent)…how could understanding the science of evolution, which is billions of years in the making, change my faith in Christ?

Creation cannot adapt, creation already happened. Nature can adapt if that’s what you mean by creation. Oh, light bulb!! you mean “creation” as the bible means it as “all life”. Now I get you a little better I think, Creation = Christianese for all life, therefore evolution is a threat to existence (all life) in general because it contradicts the literal creation account in Genesis…is that correct? That makes “Creationist” someone who embraces nature as God intended, whereas “evolutionist” is someone who embraces nature against the will of God? Am I close? Honestly trying to understand…I don’t get how evolution is a threat.

Their untruthfulness is what makes them evil, so your question doesn’t make sense. Jesus is the truth and the life.

I am thinking about the implications. That was my point.

Speculative rather than founded in science or Scripture, but…

Perhaps we don’t ‘die’ in this sense unless we are conscious of death and understand what it means. We could argue that animals that are not self-conscious do not fully experience death in the same way as conscious organisms.

If so, then the story of Eden and “knowledge of good and evil” could be the origin of self-consciousness (Julian Jaynes, bicameral mind, all that stuff).

So the ‘death’ that began in Eden was this kind of conscious death, and the billions of generations of unconscious life-cessation prior to that don’t make up part of the story.

Presented in the spirit of a @swamidass approach to seeking to harmonise accounts.

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Read on to see the full context and further explanation.

13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

It seems clear to me that Paul is comparing death to life through Jesus Christ, brought to an apex in verse 17. Since the life that we have in Jesus is spiritual life, it makes more sense to me that - in context - the passage is also discussing the spiritual death as a result of sin. Verses 13 and 14 support my understanding.

Since Adam did not physically die that day, I believe that again speaks of spiritual death, rather than physical death.