Death in the garden before the fall

First off I’m not a scientist or a theologian but I am a just a lay type Christian so this may be very elementary. If so please bear with me. We are taught in the Christian tradition that before Adam and Eve made the fatal decision to succumb to the tempters offer to eat of the forbidden fruit and be like God, that death was not a part of their world. But they were told which food they could eat. Was this not to sustain life and if they ate nothing would they not have physically died? Were the cells of their bodies not constantly going through a life cycle of birth and death? Or would they have physically died whether or not they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? I know they died spiritually when they ate that fruit but didn’t the fruit and plants they did eat die going through the digestion process? This is just something I’ve wondered about. Thanks for any clarification or insight. David


@DavidKH Great question :slight_smile: There are two views on this topic.

  1. When the Bible says that death came through Adam, it is referring only to human death. In this case, animals and plants still could have died prior to the fall.
  2. Plants cannot “die” and neither animals nor humans died prior to the fall

In both views, plants cannot die in the same way that animals or humans are able to die, so plants would have been eaten, dug up and ended their life cycle similar to the way they do today.

First View - No Human Death Before Fall

Well, I would say in response to James that when you read the Bible, there’s nothing in the Bible that suggests that animal death is the result of the fall of man. In the book of Genesis the earth was cursed to bare thorns and thistles, woman was given pain in child-bearing, but there’s no suggestion in Genesis that animal death is the result of the Fall, that’s simply not there. Similarly, in Romans 5, Paul is talking about how human death is the result of the Fall – because Adam fell death spread to all men, he says, because all sinned – and even there I think it’s pretty clear he’s talking about spiritual death, not merely organic, biological death. So I find it ironic that so many young-earth creationists should believe that animal death is the result of man’s fall into sin when this isn’t taught in the Bible at all. This is one of those clear cases where, I think, people are reading things into the text rather than of out of the text; they’re reading in-between the lines. And scientifically speaking it would be inevitable that prior to man’s fall, during those six days preceding man’s fall, even taken literally micro-organisms and insects would be dying. There’s no reason to think that there wasn’t animal death prior to the fall of man into sin. William Lane Craig

Second View - No Animal or Human Death

We know that animals and man were not eating meat originally according to Genesis 1:29–30 . So, meat-eaters today were all vegetarian originally, which also points to death not being part of the original creation. Plants are not “alive” in the biblical sense of nephesh chayyah, only animals and man. So, plants being eatendid not mean death existed before the Fall. One would not expect a God of life to be a god of death. When we look at God’s restoration in Revelation 21–22, there will be no death, pain, or suffering.

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Thank you for all the responses. I appreciate it very much. I’m still not sure if man, ie. Adam and eve had to eat to sustain life or would it have been purely eating for the pleasure of it. I really don’t mean to be asking trivial or nitpicking questions it probably really doesn’t matter except that I would like a more accurate understanding.

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@DavidKH Presumably they had to eat to sustain life. In fact, the text says that God evicted from the Garden so that they would not continue to eat from the Tree of Life and live forever, which suggests that the Tree of Life was somehow sustaining their youth.

Good point brother. Thank you

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Hello David, I really liked your question and agree with SeanO answer. Genesis chapter one gives me the thought that a complete digestive process was part of thier anatomy.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.
Genesis 1:26‭-‬29 NKJV
Merry Christmas and happy new year

So probably Adam and Eve would have died physically if for some reason they refused to eat or couldn’t eat. The command not to eat if the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or " thou shalt surely die" speaks of a spiritual death as I’ve always understood it and not necessarily a physical death which would probably happen eventually.

I would think the fall resulted in both spiritual death (separation from God) and physical death (eventually). I don’t think physical death of humans was part of God’s plan prior to the fall.

I remember an interesting analogy - from theBibleProject guys podcast from memory:

Imagine a fish swimming in water, happily living and thriving in it’s designed environment. If the fish jumps out of the water and lands on the riverbank, then it doesn’t die instantly; but starts to die as it gasps away struggling and failing to get oxygen;

In the same way; when Adam and Eve decided to rebel against God and sin, it was as if they jumped out of their designed environment. God designed humans originally to fellowship with Him, sustained by His power and love. We jumped out of the ‘water’ of God’s presence (because of Adam’s sin nature we inherit), and are sitting gasping on the riverbank slowly dying (physically). Romans 5:12-21

It’s not a perfect analogy, but I thought it was an interesting one…

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You may find the conversation at the end of this thread helpful.


David, on a separate thought, it says
thou shalt surely die" that statement is interesting does anyone really grasp what it feels like to die.

That’s a thought-provoker. It seems to me that we can understand some of their “death experience” by the results.

They went from knowing a perfectly loving God to imagining Him as being hostile, angry, out to hurt them. (Which He later disproved by making them clothes.) They lost their carefree life to experience guilt and shame for the first time. They limited their own freedom by hiding from His presence.

They went from being in intimate relationship with one another to blaming each other, and the serpent. And from being comfortable living naturally to being ashamed of nakedness. From knowing endless life to knowing they would one day die physically.

It must have been a very sinking, empty feeling to be separated from Christ-Life, which is spiritual death. And to be told of the curses they had brought upon themselves must have increased their remorse.

Which means they realized they now needed a Savior…

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Point well taken. On one hand my question sounds trivial and probably not really critical enough to pursue at least from one Christian to another. Would knowing that there was physical death in the garden before the fall or at least the possibility of it change the traditional interpretation of the creation story in Genesis or the Christian world view? I think not for there would still be the fall and the need for a savior.
On the other hand the question has come up before from non-Christians and I could only infer that since the first man had to eat to sustain life there was the possibility of physical death before the fall. Thanks for the input from everyone. I will not pursue this question sny further. David

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Thanks everyone, enjoy your family and loved ones today. Merry Christmas

Thank you also and merry Christmas to all

Hi @DavidKH,

The comment that shows up in the link is just a part of the whole conversation. It was not meant to be something to shut down the conversation. I wasn’t aware that that particular comment would show up when I linked to it. Please click the link and read the conversation and then we can definitely continue talking about this topic. It is an interesting point of discussion. It is becoming a bit more mainstream so it would be good to have more conversations around this point!

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There we go. I fixed the link.

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