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Did Adam and Eve have to eat before the Fall?

Published: 8 February 2015 (GMT+10)

In today’s feedback, CMI’s Shaun Doyle explores some questions regarding the coherence of Genesis 1–3.


G.S. from Australia writes:

I had a friend ask me a question and I am stumped with how to answer it.
“Why did Adam and Eve even have to eat in the garden? You believe there was no death or sickness before they ate the fruit, so why did they need to eat anyway? You can’t say if was to sustain life because there was no death at the time. You can’t say to keep them healthy because there was no sickness. So what was the purpose in eating?”

I have been pondering this for about a month now and cannot come up with a satisfactory answer for him. I know we do not need to know the answers to everything, but this was a genuine (and might I add, original—for me) question and I was wondering if you can help me here


CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:

Dear G.,

Thank you for your email.

The Bible doesn’t tell us whether Adam and Eve needed to eat to live and stay healthy before the Fall, but your friend’s questions can be answered regardless of which view you take.

First, let’s say that Adam and Eve didn’t need to eat to live and stay healthy before the Fall. Even if so, it’s obvious that Adam and Eve were designed to be eaters. God permitted Adam and Eve to eat from every tree in the Garden of Eden (except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil), which implies that He didn’t need to command them to eat. Moreover, our bodies are designed to eat and digest food, and there’s every reason to think Adam and Eve were no different. And we get more out of eating than just sustenance—eating (when the food is good) is a pleasurable experience, and meals are a common means of human fellowship. There is still plenty of reason to eat even if someone doesn’t need to.

Now, let’s say that Adam and Eve needed to eat to survive and stay healthy before the Fall, and thus were physically capable of suffering malnutrition and starving to death. Even if so, just because they could starve to death doesn’t mean they would starve to death. God can create a world in which they would not have suffered malnutrition or died through starvation before the Fall. All He would have to do is create a world in which the desire to eat is sufficiently strong in Adam and Eve that they would always choose to eat sufficiently to stave off malnutrition and death. In this scenario, God planned not only the end (avoidance of malnutrition and death before the Fall) but also the means to that end—eating food. Thus, your friend’s objection that “You can’t say to keep them healthy because there was no sickness” has it backward—it was because they would always choose to eat that they would have always stayed healthy!

Either solution works, given the biblical data—which one you prefer depends only on whether you think God would make eating food part of the means by which Adam and Eve were kept alive before the Fall or not. But plumbing the depths of what God would do is beyond my abilities, so I leave you with both solutions.

Kind regards
Shaun Doyle
Creation Ministries International

A.C. from Australia writes:

I am researching the Garden of Eden for my bible class at school. I am puzzled by the detailed reference to the garden and the mention of gold, onyx and aromatic resin. I am battling to see why such seemingly trivial details are mentioned in such a critically important passage. Any thoughts?

CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:

Dear A.C.,

Thank you for your email.

The details are most likely meant to convey that Eden, and the Garden situated in Eden, were real places. Genesis is a historical narrative that likely originated with separate units of history passed down from Moses' ancestors that he synthesized into a written volume. However, in the original unit of history that came from pre-Flood times, it was meant to convey the location of the Garden of Eden. The key to remember is that the geographical details mentioned in Genesis 2:10–14 don’t convey any location discernible in the modern world because the Flood completely changed the geography of the world. The river names and place names mentioned in Genesis 2 were likely reused by Noah and his sons as place names in the post-Flood world; much like Newcastle in New South Wales is named after the city Newcastle in northern England.

Helpful Resources

Readers’ comments

Nathan W.
In all this discussion, I believe an important part of the Genesis account has been overlooked. Genesis 2:16 is a command. The Lord God COMMANDED the man to eat! Most English versions read "may freely eat," but the words "may" and "freely" are not in the Hebrew text; they are interpretations of the intensive infinitive of the Hebrew verb "to eat" in this verse followed by the imperfect tense of the reduplicated verb "eat." This grammatical structure would just as accurately (and I think should) be translated "you shall surely eat," just as the same grammatical structure is translated "you shall surely die" in the following verse. In the context of the verb "commanded," it is perfectly reasonable to interpret the imperfect tense verb "eat" as an imperative, just as it is done in the 10 Commandments. The practical upshot of this is that if we treat this passage as a command to eat, then to disobey this command of God would have resulted in God's punishment of death just as surely as the eating of the forbidden tree did.
Shaun Doyle
The NET Bible translation note on Genesis 2:16 is representative of every study I've been able to find relevant to the question: "The imperfect verb form probably carries the nuance of permission ('you may eat') since the man is not being commanded to eat from every tree. The accompanying infinitive absolute adds emphasis: 'you may freely eat', or 'you may eat to your heart’s content'." If verse 16 were a command, God would be commanding Adam to eat from every tree (besides the exception in the next verse). It makes better contextual sense to interpret verse 16 as a liberal permission against which the prohibition of the next verse makes sense. The command is found in the prohibition of verse 17.
Peter P.
To clarify:
Wiseman and Cooper agree that Moses probably used clay-tablet source documents in compiling Genesis. Cooper writes:

“We begin by taking on board the fact that Genesis consists of several successive documents that were written under inspiration at successive times. This is no way subscribes to the entirely spurious and misguided Documentary Hypothesis of the ‘Higher Critics’ though. Most of the documents of Genesis are clearly marked out for us by the appearance and function of the toledoth, and if we must look for a source of these various documents, then we can look no further than God. He is the source and Author, and each document in Genesis is as much the Word of God as is the next. … when Moses brought together, or was given, these successive documents to make a single book of them, either he himself provided under inspiration the toledoth which ‘stitch’ these documents together, or the toledoth already existed in the documents themselves. The latter seems … most likely … “.

Cooper concludes:

“… we may assume that a whole collection of clay tablets contained the already-inspired records and histories of Genesis … came into Moses care and keeping. In itself, that suggests an antiquity of the Book of Genesis which far surpasses any of those modernist notions which would have us believe that this most ancient of Books is but of late compilation and the work of 6th and 5th–century BC forgers.”

Whether colophon (end) or toledoth (beginning) is immaterial: both indicate transition from one tablet-document to the next, and often indicate tablet author/owner. Wiseman notes that the first transition states no Author of creation events before human witness, but later transitions relate events occurring during the lifetime of the named human author
Daniel S.
There is another layer of depth to the description of Eden.
Eden was the original Holy of Holies/Tabernacle/place where humans could meet with God face to face, the resources mentioned as being available in Eden allude towards this: gold, onyx and aromatic resin are temple-building materials. Gold was used to cover just about everything in the tabernacle, and later the temple; onyx was used in the priest's garments; and aromatic resin (of which myrrh is one kind) was used in the temple incense.

(Source: I got this from my pastor, who I assume at some point got it from a commentary)
Jameson J.
This is a excellent article. There is no reason to believe that we do not experience pleasure in the spirit form. It's really not clear why God did not allow Adam and Eve to eat the fruit, other than it was food of knowledge. I know there is assumptions, speculation, and theory. This is a open door to many questions!
David S.
Unfortunately, I failed to paste in my entire comment. Thank you for the response to may partial comment.

I understood Mr. Doyle's argument to be that order doesn't matter, but Gen. 3:22-24 seems to indicate that order matters (hence my confusion) at least for the case of eating of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil before eating of the Tree of Life (the only possibility the text seems to mention explicitly since Adam and Eve are not recorded to have eaten from the Tree of Life, thought maybe they did).

I don't see how Gen. 2:17 is an absolute in the spiritual and physical sense, but Gen. 3:22 is not. It seems that Gen. 3:22-24 indicates that order does matter (answer to my rhetorical question asking how we know). Serious consequences seem to be in mind, and verse 22 says, "live forever."

So how do we know order doesn't matter? That is the case where we don't seem to have biblical data. Could Gen. 2:17 have been contingent (at least in the physical death sense) on them not eating of the Tree of Life? It seems having cherubim and a flaming sword guarding the Tree of Life to be a very serious precaution for a symbol. (Side note: Wouldn't humans, the ones not wanting to challenge the cherubim--obviously foolhardy, have wanted to communicate with an angelic being? Would they have gotten used to seeing the cherubim there enough to have attempted communication? Did this situation last until the Flood?)

I like the concept of the Trees being two mutually exclusive paths, but that point would be clearer to me if the other option dissolved or disappeared as soon as the other option was selected. Gen. 3:22 seems to give the reason explicitly (so mankind won't "live forever"), though we would obviously like to know more.
Shaun Doyle
In Genesis 3:22, why would God be concerned that they might live forever if they ate from the Tree of Life (TL) after eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (TKGE)? Your scenario, that TL grants irrevocable immortality after eating from only once, is one possible answer. But if Genesis 2:17 presents a genuine conditional, then the way to TKGE would have to be barred (or TKGE destroyed) if they ate from TL first, otherwise we run into a contradictory scenario—they have eternal life with God as sinners. And while this does reasonably well at explaining Genesis 3:22, there's no indication from the text that this would've happened. Moreover, it seems strange that nothing is said about why they didn't eat from TL first, since this would seem to be a significant plot hole if this scenario was real. After all, they were permitted to eat from TL, and most humans would be curious about such a unique tree, so it seems highly unlikely they would eat from TKGE before they ate from TL. When satisfying curiosity isn't a sin, why wouldn't we satisfy our curiosity?

However, I think there are scenarios that can explain Genesis 3:22 in the context of the whole Genesis 2–3 narrative:

  1. TL functioned so that continued access to it sustained life indefinitely.

  2. TL was symbolic of the life that God directly sustains.

In both scenarios, God would've barred access to TL after they sinned, since in every scenario TL would've functioned as the prime signifier of eternal life, and so continued access to it would've signified their possession of eternal life, which God rescinded because of their sin. If continued eating of TL sustained immortality, then the issue would not have been preventing Adam and Eve a one-time access to TL, but preventing them from continued access to TL. Such a view is defended in Creation, Fall, Restoration, pp. 203–204.

If TL was symbolic, then lack of access to it symbolized their lack of access to God, which results in death. This view is defended in The tree of life.

Neither of these scenarios cause problems for Adam and Eve eating from TL before eating from TKGE like your scenario does. As such, they seem to provide more plausible explanations of the whole narrative. For more on this, please see Interpreting the early chapters of Genesis.
Dan G.
I have wondered how digestion and waste elimination fit into the pre-fall world. Until recently reading about how God created entropy in the original GOOD creation, I couldn't see how the Second Law of Thermodynamics could fit. The observation that God sustained all things perfectly in the original Creation seems to provide the answer. Yet it is still difficult to see how human and animal waste could exist before the fall, unless digestion was originally perfect. Any insights from CMI?
Shaun Doyle
There's nothing evil about human and animal waste, and they are inevitable byproducts of the digestion process. Moreover, there was no such thing as 'unsanitary' before the Fall in the sense of disease inducing, since there was no disease. As such, infection would not have resulted from contact with fecal matter. However, that does not mean human and animal waste was pleasing to the senses before the Fall; and that would be enough reason to partition it to specified areas even before the Fall. Nonetheless, animal waste is an important part of the modern ecosystem, and it does not necessarily involve any death in the biblical sense, so there is no reason to suppose that it was not an important part of the pre-Fall ecosystem.
David S.
Regarding Mr. Doyle's comment: "Genesis 2:17 still would've obtained even if they had eaten from the Tree of Life before eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil."

I've been confused by this verse (Gen. 3:24): "He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life."

Would Adam and Eve only had a problem (i.e. eternally living in a permanent sin state) eating from the Tree of Life after eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil but not before? If so, how do we know that order matters regarding the purpose/function of the Tree of Life?
Shaun Doyle
My point is that order doesn't matter; if they ever ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, whether they had eaten from the Tree of Life or not, they would die. Why? Genesis 2:17. The only way around this is if God would've barred access to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (or destroyed the tree) if they ate from the Tree of Life first. The Scripture doesn't say God would do that, though it's possible to draw that inference if we think that the trees represented a 'two ways' scenario; i.e. choosing one means choosing against the other. But the text underdetermines the scenario, so we can't be sure.

Moreover, there are other ways to conceive of the precise function of the Tree of Life; it may have been a symbolic representation of a healthy relationship with God, or it may have sustained us indefinitely if we kept eating from it. On either of these scenarios the Tree of Life doesn't does not instantly and irrevocably grant those who eat from its fruit immortality, but there would still be sufficient reason for God to bar them access to it after they sinned. I'm not saying that either of those scenarios is true; I'm just saying that the Bible doesn't give us enough data to choose between the different scenarios.
Gerald D.
I've heard that someone can't will themselves to death by choosing not to breath. Hold your breath sufficiently long enough and you will faint, and non-voluntary nervous systems would take over and you'd start to breath.

I oftentimes relate to the passage (Is. 11:6) 'lion will lie down with the lamb'. This passage indicates that the lion and the lamb may have eaten things (though not each other), and their biologically designed systems handled those things just fine. Eating wasn't commanded by God, but it was done out of 'obedient' life, that is by not sinning animals and people were filling their God given purpose. Sin didn't block the fulfillment of purpose. I currently understand that many bacteria, and other creatures likely required the existence of excrement to survive, so therefore there would have been the need for this for their abundant life.

I also wonder if the statement, 'made garments of skin' (Gen. 3:21), means that God had created the microbiomes that are essential to our health now, but seem 'extraneous' to our DNA in actuality. These protect us from many different threats that would not have likely existed before the fall.

The world before the fall and the world after affect our ability to see, and need to be noted when trying to make observations about one from the other.

Best Regards,
David W.
I am not sure that GOD's warning applied to the physical death as much as It applied to what we call the SECOND Death. Remember there was TWO forbidden trees. The Tree of Knowledge, which Adam and Eve did eat from. There was also the Tree of Life. GOD put them out of Eden before they could also eat of that tree also. The Tree Of Life would have , the way I read it, made then Immortal. So obviously they would have had at some time or the other had to suffer the Physical( First) Death.
Shaun Doyle
Adam and Eve were only forbidden from one tree to begin with: the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They were only forbidden from the Tree of Life because they ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

On the nature of 'death' in Genesis 2 and 3, please see The spiritual death of the Adam tribe?.
John R.
I'd say they needed to eat just like we do today, but the fall occurred because they ate from a "forbidden" tree (fruit). They may have been tempted by Satan, but the reason was that they had no knowledge of anything around them and Satan convinced them that if they ate from the tree, they would gain knowledge and be like GOD. This may have been GOD's way of testing their loyalty, faith and trust in obeying GOD's word.
Shaun Doyle
God told Adam that eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil would result in death (Genesis 2:17), and Eve clearly knew this (Genesis 3:2-3). Adam and Eve had been given all the knowledge they needed to avoid sin. The tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was indeed a test of loyalty, but God didn't hide that fact from them. Their problem wasn't a lack of knowledge; it was ignoring what they knew to be true.
D. D.
My wife was looking up which supermarket does the best food deal the other day. Tescos? or Morrisons? Both of them claim to beat the other and both are always trying to milk the others achilles heal. Sound familiar? As for Adam and Eve – of course they needed to eat. Consider If Adam and Eve were actually meant to be eternally spoon fed by God. This would have meant that the idea of sustainable agricultural development never entered the pairs' minds. No challenges? No full time employment? This would never have sustained them physically or mentally, nor their off spring – unless the intention was for them to remain as zombies. I don't really think this article has any spiritual nourishment.
Shaun Doyle
This article addresses a very specific question; it's not aimed at providing a full examination of human fulfilment in a pre-Fall scenario, though I don't doubt that life would have been fulfilling in that world.
David M.
I would like to offer a slightly different explanation for the mention of gold, onyx and aromatic resin in the Garden of Eden. If we compare Eden with the holy city new Jerusalem spoken of in Rev 21:2 and Rev 21:18-20 we might perceive some similarities i.e. God dwelling or fellow-shipping with his people, the city made of gold and the wall of jasper, the foundations adorned with every kind of jewel. If we take the bdellium as the pearl-oyster, as some commentators mention, then we have a match with the twelve gates of Rev 21:21. A river flowed out of Eden and the river of water of life Rev 21:1 flows from the throne of God and the Lamb, with the tree of life on either side. Bookends to the whole Bible?
Shaun Doyle
I have no problem with seeing them as ways to mark the start and the end of the canon. However, we certainly can't say that even Moses intended Genesis 2:10-14 to be a bookend of the canon corresponding to Revelation, let alone Moses' source for the narrative. If God intended that, then it was only in addition to the original intent of the human author, not in place of their intent.
G. T.
I agree that the details of the gold and minerals of the land of Eden are historical and geographical. As an observation, gold is one more detail that correlates between the first creation and the second. The new earth will be a greater expression of what the original creation was meant to be. We have so much to look forward to!
Mark R.
Genesis 3:22-24 informs us that although Adam and Eve were allowed to eat of any tree in the Garden of Eden, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17), that up until the point of their act of disobedience, they had not yet eaten of the Tree of Life and were therefor still mortal. After they ate the forbidden fruit, the Lord barred their way to the Tree of Life. It would appear that the Lord created Adam and Eve with bodies that if they had not sinned, would have allowed them to eat solely for pleasure, but because they sinned the consumption of food became a necessity in order to survive outside the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:17-19).
Shaun Doyle
You may be right, and my second scenario allows for such an explanation, but your conclusion that Adam and Eve were mortal before the Fall does not follow from your premises. Genesis 2:17 still would've obtained even if they had eaten from the Tree of Life before eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Your conclusion only follows if Adam and Eve would've been barred access to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (or the tree would've been destroyed) if they had eaten from the Tree of Life first. However, nothing to that effect is stated in Scripture, so there are other possible ways to synthesize the biblical data on the situation.
Doug L.
I have a couple of thoughts about eating. First, does your car die if it runs out of gas? No. You just get more fuel and your car runs again. I believe Adam and Eve were immortal (before the Fall) so if they didn't eat they would start to run out of energy. God designed the body to crave food so at that point hunger would drive them to seek food. Food was God's designed way to give fuel into the body.

The second thing that comes to mind is Jesus himself. After his resurrection he had the same immortal, resurrection body that a redeemed person will have. The Bible specifically mentions that he ate fish his disciples! This implies a LOT about our resurrection bodies but in this case it shows that eating will always be in God's plan for Man.
John C.
Did Adam & Eve have to eat before the fall? I think that every machine needs fuel to run efficiently & that the fruit in the garden, also the river of life, were fuel for humans to have top energy to perform at maximum, & possibly to give humans more extra power to perform beyond ordinary capabilities, possibly supernatural.
Shaun Doyle
Whether or not it was required for supernatural feats, food is fuel for us, so it certainly seems Adam and Eve would've needed to eat, if not for survival, at the very least to be able to do their job properly.
Peter P.
“Genesis is a historical narrative that likely originated with separate oral units of history that Moses synthesized into a written volume. However, in the original oral unit, it was meant to convey something of the location of the Garden of Eden”
could easily convey a wrong message.
‘Oral’ history readily translates into denigration as campfire stories, while those who don’t believe the Biblical account of creation may assume “meant to convey that Eden (was a) real place”, means we don’t really believe it was a real place.

Hence I’d suggest a changed wording such as:

“Moses most likely compiled Genesis from historical records passed down from his ancestors – some of whom obviously lived before Noah’s flood, and for whom the details of geography and place names etc. were important to establish where Eden actually was.”

And perhaps there could be a link to a discussion re evidence suggesting that Moses compiled Genesis from written records available to him. E.g. Wiseman: “Clues to Creation in Genesis” discusses colophon clues in Genesis that give Title, Author, Beginning and End of sections of Genesis history that were arguably written as contemporary or eyewitness accounts described by the named owners/authors of the various sections.

Did Adam and Eve have to eat before the fall?
Interestingly, some argue that they did not defecate before the fall. I think that was a view held by at least one of the Russian Orthodox patriarchs. But feel free to delete any or all of this paragraph.
Shaun Doyle
I have changed the wording to reflect the notion that Genesis may consist of either written or oral units of history, or both. At any rate, I was not intending to convey the idea that oral units of history are necessarily unreliable; they can be reliable. However, this probably isn't the case for Genesis 1-11, especially since there were e.g. ancient Flood traditions that rather grossly distorted the details of the narrative, such as the Babylonian accounts, that seemed to have arisen only a few hundred years after the Flood (thanks to my colleague Lita Cosner for that insightful point).

Nonetheless, we generally do not follow Wiseman's ideas about the 'toledoths' of Genesis being colophons; please see The Authenticity of the Book of Genesis by Bill Cooper, and Creation, Fall, Restoration by Andrew Kulikovsky, which both address this issue.

As to whether or not Adam and Eve defecated before the Fall, it would not surprise me that some people thought it didn't happen, especially since it is viewed as such a 'dirty' thing and may thus be classed as unbefitting a perfect world. But I think this there is no need for such a value judgment, especially when it would not have been 'unclean' in any medical sense before the Fall. Of course, there are obvious reasons why it would be good to cordon off a special place for the disposal of human waste away from human settlements. Nonetheless, it retains a very important use in our ecosystem which need have nothing to do with biblical death and suffering, so I think even digestive waste had a part to play in the pre-Fall world.
Nil L.
This is a very good question, but here is a thought that I had over it. Death did not exist before the fall simply because there was no fall ! But as soon as Adam & Eve disobeyed God, death appeared. There was no suffering, no death, no sickness before the fall, simply because Adam and Eve obeyed to the command of god TO EAT, all of the fruit of the garden except the forbidden fruit. Just because there are no mentions of dying if they did not eat, doesn't mean that it would not happen. The only difference here is that god was talking about spiritual death first of all, and one of the consequences would be physical death also. Adam & Eve's well being depended uniquely on there obedience to God, just as it did for Israël later on and does for us today. We know that God prefers Obedience to sacrifices.
James M.
Dear Shaun,
Adam and Eve were indeed born to be eternal beings on planet Earth but God did create plant life and different types of edible fruit which were to be consumed for nourishment. Also, in Heaven we will indeed be eating, again, at this point we are eternal beings. So, food is a perk, yea, God!
Thomas J.
Good responses to these questions. With regards to eating it should be enough to cite the obvious fact that we are told that the green plants were given to eat and Adam was specifically told to freely eat from the trees of the garden with one exception. As for the three items mentioned, all are what we would refer to as natural resources that may be used to enhance and beautify life. What would be human freedom were we deprived of the scope to exercise our creativity? Surely being in God's image must include creative expression. All our senses were given us as signs of the pleasure God Himself takes in being and relating. The presence of such resources and their mention must signify God's imprimatur. "The gold of that land is good."
George J.
I think both of the scenarios regarding Adam and Eve eating in the garden miss a key point; namely, God gave them a job to do. They were to tend the garden. I'm a farmer. Tending the garden takes energy. that would have been so for Adam and Eve. They could not have obeyed God's instruction had they not eaten.

About the second question: Wiki writes, "Plate tectonics is the underlying mechanism for generating gold deposits." In another article, the bands of onyx are related to different time periods. If bdellium refers to amber, as some suggest, then all three minerals are shown to be present shortly after creation week and no long time was required for their formation. It's the details that help give the creation story its great credibility.
Shaun Doyle
I would suggest that Adam and Eve were not even commanded to eat; they didn't need to be commanded, in part for the reason that you suggest. This obviously would be consistent with my second option (where food was needed to survive, so clearly was needed to work), but it may also be compatible with my first scenario. In my first scenario, we could perhaps decouple sustenance needed to work from sustenance needed to survive, and thus create a distinct non-survival sustenance purpose for eating, though we don't experience such a decoupling in our need for food today.
Gennaro C.
Of the two answers Shaun gave to G.S. although both are good I like the first one because is more poetic; and it looks like the touch of the Artist that "everything was (would be) "Very good". However, grounded on the Rev. statement about Jesus - "the Lamb slain from the creation of the world"(Rev.13:8), it seems to me that there is a third possibility. Knowing about the consequences of the fall, our Extraordinary heavenly Creator created our body in order to face the new condition. This doesn't prevent this body of ours to be translated in the new heart at the Jesus' return. Didn't He eat after His resurrection? Besides, was the appendix created just after the fall?
Thank you Shaun Doyle, well done. May God be with all of you at CMI.
Shaun Doyle
Your third option would be consistent with my first option, though it adds an extra level of explanation.
Richard L.
Thanks, Shaun, for your insightful answers to both G.S. and A.C.!

Dear A.C., re the geographical details related to the Garden, 2 other thoughts:

1. Please be aware of--and safeguard against--culture-centric bias which makes it difficult for us to see the importance of biblical supposed 'trivia'. These details are vital to someone. For example, as noted by CMI, the Gen.-5 chronogenealogy--which to Westerners can seem boring--was pivotal for a tribal group believing the Bible and coming to Christ.

2. Speculatively, the Gen.-2 reading original audience might have been pre-Flood.

Sure stuff first: Jesus ascribes the "Law" to Moses (Luke 24:44). Therefore, through Moses, Genesis (the 1st part of the Law) was in final form and presented to the Exodus Israelites by Moses.

In addition, Gen. 10:19 refers in the present tense to the cities of the plain (Sodom, etc.) The human author God-breathed to write that verse (and probably all of Gen. 10) has to be alive then, most probably Abraham. Moses, therefore, in at least this element of Genesis, was inerrantly-inspired editor rather than original author.

Thus, perhaps, Genesis 2 was inerrantly-inspiration-written by a pre-Flood human author, with the original pre-Flood audience finding special significance in the mineral and other details provided in Genesis 2. For example, even if Adam was the original author, he might have written it many centuries later, when most of his audience would have been living far away from the Garden. In such a scenario, these mineral and river/country details would have helped his audience identify the geographical location of the district of "Eden".

For sure, the main application for us is Shaun's point--these details signal the true historicity of the Garden and events.
P. R.
Just another thought. Perhaps eating in the pre-fallen world is like breathing. We can control our breathing, we can breath fast, we can breath slow, we voluntarily can stop breathing. But I was taught it is not possible to voluntarily stop breathing to death for your body reflexes will overrule your voluntary control and you will take a breath before you die. The same could have been for food. I find when I fast, the hungrier I get the harder it is to walk past the cookie jar without eating one. Perhaps in the garden of Eden with so much delicious food around that Adam could not starve himself.

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