Feedback archiveFeedback 2012

Did fish die before the Fall?

Published: 21 April 2012 (GMT+10)

Jim M. from Japan writes:

I’m reading a website now that claims to debunk young earth creationist ideas and I came across the following claim:

Here is the website: [Weblink removed as per feedback rules—Ed.]

I think it is connected in some way with Hugh Ross, but anyway …

As you can see, it is about death before the fall. In it he says this:

Genesis 1:29–30 says that God created plants with seed and fruit and gave it to the animals for food. However, the verse does not say that all animals ate only plants. It merely says that the plants were given as food. Ultimately, all animals rely upon plants for food—even the carnivores. In addition, this decree was never rescinded as it was for humans. There is no verse in the Bible stating that animals could, at some point, start eating meat. Genesis 1:29-30 applies only to a specific class of animals. The text indicates that plants were given to the nephesh creatures—those that have a soul (mind, will, and emotion). A partial list is given, including the beasts of the field, the birds, and the creatures that creep around. Notably missing from the list are the large creatures of the sea, created on the fifth day. With few exceptions, these animals are all carnivores. Did God make them starve until after the Fall? Finally, as we shall see, Genesis 2 specifically tells us that animals did eat each other prior to the Fall.

“God created the carnivores on day 6, before mankind.

“Genesis one specifically describes the creation of wild animals, which are the carnivores. The Hebrew words used to describe the creation of these animals refers to animals that eat other animals (for more information, see Did God Create Carnivores on Day 6?).

“Adam named the animals, using terms that described their carnivorous activity.

“Before the creation of Eve, God brought the animals before Adam for him to name. The text makes it clear that Adam, and not God, named the animals. This is important for an understanding of what Adam had seen prior to the Fall. If the young earth creationists are correct, one would expect the names of the carnivores to reflect the non-carnivorous activities of these creatures prior to the Fall. However, Adam gave some very unusual names to some of the carnivores. For example, the Hebrew name for lion is derived from the Hebrew root that means ‘in the sense of violence.’ Was Adam referring to the violence with which the lion ate its vegetables? It doesn’t seem likely! In addition, Adam named some of the predatory birds using a Hebrew word with the meaning ‘bird of prey.’ Were these birds preying on fruits and nuts? In naming the eagle, Adam used the Hebrew word whose root means ‘to lacerate.’ Was the eagle ripping up plants with its talons? Likewise, the Hebrew root for the word ‘owl’ means to ‘do violence to’ or ‘treat violently.’ Although it is possible that Adam named the animals in some language other than Hebrew, and that those names were entirely different than the Hebrew ones, there is no biblical evidence for this idea. Even so, if the names were transliterated into Hebrew at a later point, one would assume that they would carry forward their original meanings, or else the Bible would have never made a big deal about Adam giving the animals their names. If the naming of the animals by Adam was important enough to be put into the Bible, one must assume that those names had meaning that related to their character. Otherwise, why would God have bothered to make Adam go through the exercise of naming the animals.”

I believe the “no death before the fall” idea. I guess we don’t count fish death in the idea of death before the fall since the Bible talks about creatures with the breath of life.

But the point about Adam using names with a carnivorous nuance to them to name the animals is interesting. Could it be that God gave Adam insight into their nature or what would happen to them in a fallen world? Seems strange though and that does seem like a hard position to hold. Anyway, just wondering if you have any comments on that. I haven’t checked his claim about the Hebrew words having carnivorous meanings. Maybe you have someone who can respond to that. Thanks.

Dr Jonathan Sarfati responds:

Dear Jim

Thanks for writing. Indeed, the owner of this site is an ardent Rossite with all the fallacies that go with it. But there is nothing that hasn’t been addressed in my book Refuting Compromise (recently expanded and updated). See also The Fall: a cosmic catastrophe.

Just look at some of the twisted logic:

“Ultimately, all animals rely upon plants for food—even the carnivores. In addition, this decree was never rescinded as it was for humans.” But this is an admission that the original diet was plants and was changed for humans by divine decree.

“There is no verse in the Bible stating that animals could, at some point, start eating meat.” That’s rich coming from a believer in billions of years which is not even remotely found in the Bible! In any case, there needs to be no verse, just simple logic. From the previous statement, animals were originally given plants; in Isaiah 11 and 65, there is an Edenic allusion to a time of no carnivory (see The carnivorous nature and suffering of animals); and animals eat animals now. So there must have been some sort of transition. Since fossils show carnivory, this change must have occurred before the Flood, likely at the Fall, partly due to the curse on the ground.

The names in the Hebrew Bible for specific animals came after the Flood; we don’t know if they were the names Adam chose. But although he ridicules birds of prey eating nuts, evidently he is ignorant of the palm nut vulture The bird of prey that’s not; and totally vegetarian “birds of prey” like The super-senses of oilbirds.

He is also ignorant of the fact that even today, carnivores can survive on vegetarian diets. See for example The cat who refuses to eat meat.

Fish were called nephesh chayyah in Genesis 1.

Bottom line: the owner of this site is committed to the billions-of-years dogma, and everything in the Bible must be twisted on this Procrustean bed to fit.

Hope this helps.

Jonathan Sarfati

Head Scientist, CMI–US (formerly CMI–Aus)

Timothy M. from the UK writes in response to Responses to our 15 Questions: part 1:

I do admire the effort you are putting into this website and its research. I do however have a question. If we were designed by some higher being, then why are we so immoral, irrational and cruel beings? One would think that if someone created a population of aggressive, opportunistic beings then it would be as some sort of sick experiment or entertainment.

I do not believe that we are being ‘tested’ by some higher being to show it our gratitude. Creating a species, to test them to see if they will act in a certain way is illogical; if this being designed us then it would have known the outcome before it had finished.

We may have been created by some being but by now I’m sure it has either given up and left us to our own accords like a disposed petri dish which didn’t have interesting enough results yet they were too lazy to wash out.


Dear Timothy,

Thanks for writing in.

Your question is a good one, but I think we need to ask another one first before we get to the issue of why we do evil things. That question is “Where does our awareness of evil come from?” Most people agree that murder, rape, and stealing are bad things—even most of the people who do them have some awareness that they’re bad. I would argue that our conscience could only come from a good Creator who is against murder, etc.

So if we were created by a perfectly good Creator, why aren’t we perfectly good? The Bible teaches us that God did create the entire world perfectly good. There was no disease or death of either people or animals, and human beings were able to perfectly obey all God’s commands. But God wanted His image-bearers to have a meaningful relationship with Him, so He gave our first parents the free will to obey or disobey His commands. Unfortunately, they disobeyed pretty quickly. This affected not only them, but the whole creation, since they were given dominion over all of creation.

God did know that Adam would disobey, and that consequently, all of humanity would rebel against Him. Not only are we separated from God in our unregenerate state, but we want nothing to do with Him because our hearts are evil. In this state of affairs, not only were we unable to do anything to fix our relationship to God, but we wouldn’t have wanted to if we could. So God Himself did something—He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sins so that anyone who repents and believes could be saved and become part of His people.

That’s not all though—Jesus has promised that He is coming again, and when He does, He will restore creation itself to an unfallen state where there will be no more sin, death, or suffering. At that time, the dead will be raised to physical, restored bodies, and believers will live and reign with Christ on the New Earth.

As you may have figured out by now, the Christian worldview believes that God has not disengaged from or given up on His creation. Rather, He has been closely involved from the beginning, intervening to save us from the penalty of our own sin. God hasn’t given up on us. See Good News!, and if you have more questions, please feel free to write in again.


Lita Cosner
Information Officer
Creation Ministries International (US)

Helpful Resources

Creation, Fall, Restoration
by Andrew S Kulikovsky
US $24.00
Soft cover
Refuting Compromise, updated & expanded
by Dr Jonathan Sarfati
US $15.00

Reader’s comments

George R.
The “Rossite” claims that, since Adam named all the animals before the Fall, none should have had carnivorous names afterwards. But why couldn’t Adam have named certain animals one thing before the Fall and another thing after they started devouring prey? Or, when the animals began to divide themselves into sub-species, why couldn’t he have given the more carnivorous among them a more suitably carnivorous name? Furthermore, it would seem to be at least plausible that the more aggressive sub-species would have been the ones to survive, whereas those that remained more-or-less herbivorous, and therefore retained their original name, would have gone extinct.
E. H.
When Lita says "Free Will," is she referring to libertarian free will (incompatibilism) or compatibilism?
Lita Cosner
Dear E.

I was referring to our first parents, and their state before the Fall was fundamentally different from what ours is today, because they were able to either perfectly obey or to disobey God's Law. God certainly foreknew the Fall, but the interrelationship between Adam and Eve's free will and God's foreknowledge is outside of the mandate of our ministry.
John T.
There is another possibility regarding the meanings of the Hebrew names of carnivores. Before the Fall there was no violence or predation, so probably there were no words for it in Hebrew (just as there was no word for ‘television’ or ‘radioactivity’, which would have been meaningless to people of ancient times.) After the Fall, when violent behaviour was exhibited by animals that became predators, words for violent actions may have been created from the names of the animals exhibiting such actions. In other words, perhaps the word for ‘lion’ does not come from a root meaning ‘violence’, but the root for ‘violence’ comes from the name ‘lion’.
Judie S.
Regarding the question of our knowing murder, rape & stealing are wrong, "even most of the people who do them":
Those who do them usually rationalise along the lines of, "Well, yes, usually it's wrong, but (eg) he was torturing his wife / the whales / the trees and had to die."
Again, there are a very few who would argue these things are not wrong at all (there being 'no such thing as right & wrong'), but I suspect that even they would react very strongly if someone offered to murder, rape or steal from THEM.

Article comments are only available for 14 days from publication.