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Drawing power: People get the point when they see these two pictures

The famous ‘Eden on bones’ illustration has a new stable mate, ‘Thorns before sin’, doubling the impact


Published: 16 August 2012 (GMT+10)

Fifteen years ago, I attended a weekend seminar on the creation/evolution issue addressed by two presenters from a Christian organisation now known as Creation Ministries International. Little did I know beforehand that it would change my life.

At the close of the Creation Week, God called everything He had made ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31). This is powerful evidence against the wrong idea (illustrated above) that long ages of suffering and dying took place before the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, appeared.

I was already a Christian, having converted from atheism 12 years previously, when I was in my mid-20s. But my views on origins certainly did not match CMI’s. Instead I held a nebulous personally-concocted hybrid of views that I now know more formally as ‘theistic evolution’, ‘day-age theory’ and ‘gap theory’. I confess that I went along to the seminar to tell the presenters, Dr Carl Wieland and Dr Don Batten, where they were wrong.

Well, I never got around to doing that. Because I soon realised that I was the one in the wrong! It was at that seminar that I let go of my long-age and evolutionary views, realising instead that the earth could be no older than about 6,000 years. And I can point to the exact moment in the five-session seminar when it happened. It was when a simple drawing of Eden was put up. It was the simple features of the illustration (also evident in the recently-drawn version shown below left) which turned my thinking around.

At the close of Creation Week …
At the close of the Creation Week, God called everything He had made ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31). This is powerful evidence against the wrong idea (illustrated above) that long ages of suffering and dying took place before the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, appeared.

It’s important to note that the illustration did not portray the actual Garden of Eden (which instead might be represented by the strip illustration shown earlier at the top of this article) but rather my ‘Garden of Eden’ (and that of any other long-age Christians attending the seminar). The top of the picture showed Adam and Eve in the garden at the end of Day 6 when God looked at everything He had made, and declared it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). But the illustration showed that underneath my ‘Eden’ were layers of sedimentary rock chock-full of fossils. And so this simple picture made the powerful point that my ‘Garden of Eden’ was built upon the secular interpretation of the ‘fossil record’, which says that millions of years of death and struggle brought man into existence. You see, to get a fossil something has to die. What’s more, the fossil record shows bloodshed—examples of one animal eating another abound, even cannibalism among dinosaurs—and terrible suffering and diseases like cancer and osteoarthritis. So as long as I held to the secular dinosaurs-became-extinct-before-man-appeared timeline I was putting death, carnivory, disease and suffering before Adam sinned, in direct opposition to what the Bible says (Genesis 1:29-30; Romans 5:12,17; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22). Today we can see that the same sorts of tumours as occur in humans also are found in fossil dinos as well—I realised with a jolt that it made no sense for God to have looked at tumorous dinosaur bones on Day 6 and then to say that these cancers that would cause such future human misery were “very good”!

The presenter also pointed out that the Eden-on-bones scenario raised a fundamental doctrinal issue too. If we put the shedding of blood before sin, then why did God in Jesus shed blood because of sin? (Genesis 3:21,1 Hebrews 9:22, 10:4-10) In such a contorted view of Genesis, how does the shedding of blood have anything to do with sin? Confronted with the Eden-on-bones illustration, I could see that my compromising of God’s Word by believing the secular millions of years completely destroyed the whole basis for the Atonement (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).

From listen-and-learn … to show-and-tell!

Little did I know that two years later I would be joining Drs Wieland and Batten on the [now-CMI] international panel of speakers. And so for 13 years now I’ve many times had the heart-warming experience of seeing others ‘switched on’ by the simple Eden-on-bones illustration, as I had been. They’ve come up to me excitedly after a presentation at their church to say something like this typical response: “I actually came along today believing in millions of years, but not anymore. While everything in your talk was good, it was that drawing of Eden on the fossils that turned me around—can you believe it?”

Sure I can, I reply, because that’s just the way it happened for me, too.

The Eden-on-death/suffering/disease/bloodshed drawing highlights the divided thinking of theistic evolution and day-age theory—and gap theory, too, for the fossils can’t be the result of a supposed a pre-Adam ‘Lucifer’s Flood’ as God looked at everything that He had made at the end of Day 6 and declared it “very good”, including Satan, who had clearly therefore not yet fallen.

And now, a new companion pic to the ‘Eden on bones’ illustration is doubling the impact, it seems.

Caleb SalisburyChristians who believe God’s infallible Word (no thorns before sin) cannot also believe in man’s fallible ‘word’ (millions of years of thorns before people).
Christians who believe God’s infallible Word (no thorns before sin) cannot also believe in man’s fallible ‘word’ (millions of years of thorns before people).

No thorns before sin

As well as being evidence of death and suffering, the fossil record also contains thorns. Cactus spines and rose prickles, thistles and other spiky, thorny plants are found in the Miocene (supposedly 5–23 million years ago), Oligocene (23–35 million years) and Eocene (35–55 million years).2–4 In fact, by evolutionists’ reckoning, spiny plant fossils are even ‘dated’ to the Devonian (360–410 million years),5–8 which is way before their ‘age of dinosaurs’ (65–230 million years ago), in turn way before man. We had an article on this in the most recent issue of Creation magazine9 (which also explained how evolutionists get the origin of thorns and leaves back-to-front, which creates a conundrum for them—but that’s another story). One of the article’s graphics (drawn by CMI artist Caleb Salisbury10) is reproduced at right. The significance of the picture is that it shows the stark contrast between the long-age Christian’s thorny ‘Eden’ and the real Eden in which there were no thorns, because thorns only came into the world after (and as a consequence of) Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:17–19).

I confess that I was pleasantly surprised by the excited response that the ‘thorny Eden’ illustration generated whenever I displayed it during a recent ministry tour of churches in South Africa and the UK. People came up to me afterwards to say, “When I saw those thorns below the dinosaur fossils—that’s what clinched it for me. I’m a young-earth creationist now.” I was amazed by this, because I’d presented the thorns-before-sin ‘Eden’ pic near the end of my presentations (as a ‘sneak peek’ sample of the current Creation magazine), i.e. after I’d already shown the Eden-on-bones drawing earlier in my talk. So it seems the illustration of the thorns-before-sin Genesis distortion was necessary to ‘mop up’ the listeners who’d somehow missed the significance of the Eden-on-bones compromise.

As one English lady said, “It was only when I saw the thorny Eden that I finally ‘got the point’, if you’ll excuse the pun. I realized that not just the thorns but the dinosaurs, too, can only have been buried and fossilized after Adam sinned. I can see now that the fossils had to be the result of some event after the Fall, and that the Noah’s Flood event fits the bill perfectly. I can’t wait to tell my inter-denominational Bible Study group.”

Such enthusiastic pass-it-on behaviour might well multiply the impact of the original church presentation many times over, as others, too, ‘get the point’.

We hope that you, too, will ‘pass it on’ to good effect.

Download ‘Eden-on-bones’ image

Download ‘Thorns-before-sin’ image


  1. To get hold of skins, given that God had finished his work of Creation, God would have had to have killed an animal—at least one—the first-ever blood sacrifice as a covering for sin. That was the first-ever death of an animal in the history of the universe. Return to text.
  2. Chaney, R., A fossil cactus from the Eocene of Utah, American Journal of Botany 31(8):507–528, 1944. Return to text.
  3. Becker, H., The fossil record of the genus Rosa, Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 90(2):99–110, 1963. Return to text.
  4. DeVore, M. and Pigg, K., A brief review of the fossil history of the family Rosaceae with a focus on the Eocene Okanogan Highlands of eastern Washington State, USA, and British Columbia, Canada, Plant Systematics and Evolution 266(1–2):45–57, 2007. Return to text.
  5. Rayner, R., New finds of Drepanophycus spinaeformis Göppert from the Lower Devonian of Scotland, Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh: Earth Sciences 75:353–363, 1984. Return to text.
  6. Rayner, R., New observations of Sawdonia ornata from Scotland, Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh: Earth Sciences 74:79–83, 1983. Return to text.
  7. Kasper, A., Andrews, H. and Forbes, W., New fertile species of Psilophyton from the Devonian of Maine, American Journal of Botany 61(4):339–359, 1974. Return to text.
  8. Banks, H., Reclassification of Psilophyta, Taxon 24(4):401–413, 1975. Return to text.
  9. Catchpoole, D., A thorny issue, Creation 34(3):52–55, 2012. Return to text.
  10. Other samples of Caleb Salisbury’s handiwork can be seen in the illustrated children’s books Adam and Family and the Please Nana series. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Refuting Compromise, updated & expanded
by Dr Jonathan Sarfati
US $17.00
Soft Cover
15 Reasons to Take Genesis as History
by Dr Don Batten, Dr Jonathan D Sarfati
US $3.50
Soft Cover

Readers’ comments

Henry M.
What caught my attention first was that Adam and Eve are mid-brown. Finally, the artists are getting the message. Thanks for getting the message out on that issue.
Daniel R.
Some good points are made here. Of course Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden was not God’s finished work or intended to be. It was our beginning. And it all played out exactly as God intended. We are not going back to the beginning, the Garden of Eden. God has not intention of regenerating Garden variety Adam and Eve. We are new creatures in Christ, having knowledge of Good & Evil, redeemed out of sin and death unto everlasting Life, light years ahead of our roots. We are the finished product of His Creation, the Bride of Christ, exactly what God wanted. Of course the sacrificial shedding of animal blood can cover sin, but the Precious Blood of Christ takes sin away. The interesting point alluded to is the in the Beginning (of physical creation) was God. I had always held to the opinion Lucifer and the heavenly host, the angels, etc, being non physical, timeless, were present when God created the Heavens and the earth. Of course, God would have to have created them at some point. Lucifer was once one of the highest angels of praise and when he fell, a third of the angels went with him. I wonder at the time frame. I wonder how long Adam and Eve were in the garden before the serpent deceived them. Regardless, if what your saying is so, it’s groundbreaking. It means all the heavenly host was also created for man, man being the focus of all His creation.
Joel B.
What a great read showing how so many of us having been "darwinated" in our school days end up as "creavelutionists". So many more out there who need to take the time and read your wonderful resources showing that science, as is everything else, is from God.
Phillip B.
No surprise that a false understanding of the Bible exalts death, I have noted that all the world's religions exalt death, even worship it without realising it,(even evolution). It is only Christ who destroys it.
Andrew B.
Thanks for another great article. Notwithstanding the indocrination we have been subjected to from birth, that the earth is billions of old, I can imagine how uncomfortable the idea that the world is probably only around 6000 years old can make people feel. It brings the truth of the Lord that much closer to us, Adam and Eve and the Fall only around 200 or so generations removed from us. We lose the comfortable cushion and veil of billions of years of mystery that even for many Christians gives them a place and standing in the universe through antiquity. A young earth is scary at first, creation a mere stones throw back in time, a very finite short period of time and space of only a few thousand years that God's will be played out on and may even end in our lifetime on the day of the Lord. Yes it's scary and people are scared of the truth but it's also amazing and mind blowing and should brings God's truth all that much closer to our hearts and minds and to turn back to him rather than men for truth. "Deceptions so great as to even fool the elect" in the end times our Lord warned. Evolution and billions of years must rank as one of the greatest deceptions of all time, only bettered by the myth of there being no God and no Satan.
Michael F.
Where can I download those illustrations?
David Catchpoole
See the two 'Download' hyperlinks now added at the end of the main text.
Jay M.
An EXCELLENT article David, and it couldn't have arrived on the featured section of the homepage at a better time, as not only am I trying to make a video concerning Theistic Evolution, but I am also discussing the topic with a Theistic Evolutionist. That's two sources God has sent me in a row, and I wouldn't put it past him to drop a third before I receive a reply. Your point on the thorns and thistles especially interested me, as it is one I have overlooked until now. Again, thank you for writing this amazing article.

God bless,

- Jay
Patrick D.
I wish people could realise the importance of the creation/evolution debate. I love the thorny pic. May I use it? God bless you all.
David Catchpoole
Of course!
Stefan N.
Are we allowed to translate the text on the images into our own languages?
David Catchpoole
For sure! That's just what this ministry is all about: getting the word out.

Incidentally, if anyone wants to translate this entire article or any other articles on our website (which we would then publish on our website for the benefit of those who speak that language), see the 'Articles' section in our Translation Guidelines.
Peter M.
I pray that the use of pictures in this article will give many people a 'light bulb moment' so they see the contradiction between the Genesis account and theistic evolution.

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