The problem of evil: pre-Fall animal death?

Published: 29 March 2011 (GMT+10)
iStockphoto lion lamb

Richard H. from Canada contacted us after reading Philip Bell’s book review article, The ‘problem’ of evil and the supremacy of Scripture, with questions relating to the type of death that is biblically permissible prior to the Fall of Man into sin. His message is printed in full followed by Philip Bell’s response.

I read with great joy daily articles from Creation. I hold strongly with a six day creation and death coming from the sin of Adam. I agree with Rom. 5 that tells that there was no human death before Adam sinned. But there are several biblical observations that I never encountered in Creation discussion.

Genesis is quite clear with the fact that eternal human life was dependent on eating the fruit. Adam and Eve, according to Genesis, were dependent on eating the tree of life to live eternally. The scripture is really clear, it was a real tree with real fruit with a real effect: conserving the life given by God. God, after the Fall, said :
Genesis 3:22 (ASV) And Jehovah God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever …

Gen. 1:30 … clearly teaches that every wild animal, flying creature and creeping creature was intended by God to eat plants originally (God Himself speaking). The verse ends ‘And it was so.’ This obviously implies that God’s intention was a reality in that pristine, sinless Paradise. That being the case, death by carnivory was certainly absent.

The text is quite clear. The eternal life was dependent on being able to go in the garden, taking the fruit of the tree of life, and living eternally. Being driven out from the garden guarded by angels, and not being able to take from the fruit of the tree of life meant death. That was the sentence, and from there on … death for any human being.

If my exegesis is good, it means that death was there in latent form in Adam & Eve, and it was only by his faithful obedience allowing him to take the tree of life, that this life would be permanent. It seems clearly to indicate that eternal life for Adam & Eve was not an “autonomous eternal life”.

My observation then is: could it be that death would also have been present in the animal kingdom which were probably not allowed to take the tree of life like Adam and Eve?
It would mean that a certain animal death would have been a reality in the animal kingdom even in paradise.

This means that a certain reality of death would have been possible in the animal kingdom. I know that Rom. 8 says that “all creation growns” now because of Adam’s sin. So when we talk about the animal kingdom, we have to make a distinction between consequences of Adam’s sin in the animal kingdom (thistles, pain at birth, and many other problems in all the earth), and the situation of death because of natural creation being dependent on the tree of life. It would mean animals could die in the perfect order.

I don’t think it is biblically solid to say that death in Rom. 5 (First Adam) is talking of death in general. Paul is talking of human death because of Adam’s sin imputed to us all. Death imputed to us because of the failure of the first Adam to obey the only commandment given by God with the consequence of human death.

Other Scriptures seem to back up this idea of animal death. Rev. 22:2, Isa. 65:20 where in the millennium, in the perfect order, men will die at a very old age.

I really think we need to study more the Scriptures on this line.
I fear we are exposing ourselves to deny the possibility of some animal death even before the Fall.

If we say that the tree of life was not real and did not have this capacity to sustain life so it became eternal, we are not taking Genesis as a real historical narrative like we claim.

It doesn’t mean that lions were not grass feeders like Genesis says. It only means that some kind of natural death was present in the animal kingdom before the Fall. It would explain some phenomena unexplained before.

Hope I don’t create much of a stir.

Dear Richard,

Thank you for your feedback on my review article of William Dembski’s latest book. You make some very thought-provoking points and raise some interesting questions. I will do my best to respond.

In what follows, I’m assuming that you believe that sin caused human death (and suffering in the rest of the created order). Also, please understand that the answer I’m going to give to your question is partly my own understanding. Of course, we cannot be dogmatic on any point on which Scripture itself is not clear and emphatic—we have to leave those things in a sort of pending tray. However, from what I have to say below, you’ll see that I’m inclined to take a different view. Please don’t take the following to imply that I’m point scoring—I recognise that you’re a fellow creation-believing Christian and that you aim to be consistent with what Genesis teaches.

So, with those introductory comments in mind …

Regarding your point about the way being barred for Adam and Eve to the Tree of Life, following the Fall, I agree with what you have written, up to the point where you write:

It means that death was there in latent form in Adam & Eve, and it was only by his faithful obedience allowing him to take the tree of life, that this life would be permanent. It seems clearly to indicate that eternal life for Adam & Eve was not an “autonomous eternal life”.

I have always understood God’s statement in Gen 3:22 to refer to Man now in his sinful condition. I can see what you are saying, but it doesn’t logically follow that they would have died in their pre-Fall sinless condition had they not eaten of this tree (which I believe was a literal tree, for the record).1

For what it’s worth, the Tree of Life as referred to in Revelation 22:2 is for the healing of the nations, implying that there is some ailment or harm from which rescue is needed. Romans 5:12 clearly teaches that human death was consequent upon Adam’s sin, as does 1 Corinthians 15:22. Death could have no dominion over Adam in his un-Fallen, perfect state. Likewise, death had no authority over Christ, the sinless Son of God. When He died at Calvary, this was only because He had willingly been made a sin offering (2 Cor. 5:21), thus bringing Him under the curse and the penalty of sin, namely death—but even then, having disarmed the evil principalities and powers, death was powerless to hold Him and He was able to take His life again, thus rising from the dead (see also The Incarnation: Why did God become Man?). The point is that if Christ in His sinless perfection could not die (except by becoming a sin offering), the first Adam (a type of Christ obviously) would also have been utterly unable to die as long as he remained in perfect obedience to God.

The Bible doesn’t teach in Gen. 3:22 that Adam and Eve would have needed to eat from the Tree of Life to stay alive prior to the Fall and while I understand your reasoning, I respectfully submit to you that it is incorrect exegesis at the final hurdle (i.e. the sentence of yours I quoted above). This is precisely because it doesn’t take account of other Scriptures, such as those I’ve mentioned from Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, plus many others; e.g. Ezekiel 18:20 makes clear that the soul that sins is the one who dies—the obvious implication being that sinless souls don’t die.

By the same token, although you suggest:

My observation then is: could it be that death would also have been present in the animal kingdom which [was] probably not allowed to take the tree of life like Adam and Eve?

It would mean that a certain animal death would have been a reality in the animal kingdom even in paradise.

God clearly regards the life-blood as tantamount to the life of a human being, and since nephesh animals are like us in this regard, there is really no Scriptural warrant for the assumption that such animals would have died ‘naturally’. But in any case, death is clearly unnatural today (hence the grief that most human beings feel even for an animal that dies).

However, this doesn’t square with Genesis 1:30—this clearly teaches that every wild animal, flying creature and creeping creature was intended by God to eat plants originally (God Himself speaking). The verse ends “And it was so.” This obviously implies that God’s intention was a reality in that pristine, sinless Paradise. That being the case, death by carnivory was certainly absent. By “certain animal death” I presume you are referring to death by natural causes, other than by sickness or carnivory that does not involve suffering. While the death of plants and single cells2 is not death in the same sense as that of animals (clearly not, because plants were intended for food in that Edenic perfection), the Bible teaches that “the life of the flesh is in the blood.” (Leviticus 17:11). Thus, animals which the Bible describes as having the ‘life principle’ (i.e. nephesh in the Hebrew) are those that are not only air (nostril) breathers but also those with blood coursing through their veins, as it were—see chapter 6 of the Creation Answers Book for more on this. Adam became a “living soul/being” (נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה nephesh chayyāh) when God breathed His spirit into him (Gen. 2:7, also 1 Cor. 15:45). In my view, the death of such animals is thus ruled out by association, since they are also described as nephesh chayyāh in Genesis 1 (though I recognise that some of my fellow creationists, yourself included, will perhaps disagree). Gen. 9:3-6 is also pertinent in this regard—God clearly regards the life-blood as tantamount to the life of a human being, and since nephesh animals are like us in this regard, there is really no Scriptural warrant for the assumption that such animals would have died ‘naturally’. But in any case, death is clearly unnatural today (hence the grief that most human beings feel even for an animal that dies). I have observed childhood and adult grief over pets on dozens of occasions (even over something as humble as a mouse, but very keen grief over something like a cat or a dog, and even keener when a blind person’s guide dog dies, for example). I have often used the death of such animals, and the grief associated with it, to teach my own children the obvious lesson that this was not how God intended things to be originally—a lesson that is not at all difficult to put across! Few people will argue against death being an enemy (1 Cor. 15:26) and most children or adults who are pet lovers would readily apply this to their beloved pets.

vultures lion
“The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God.” (Psalm 104:21)—this is how God now sustains His fallen creation, but it was not that way in the beginning, and won’t be that way in the future restoration.

Interestingly, for what it’s worth, I’ve often noticed that people rarely exercise such grief over the death of invertebrates (including pets) or even fish. It’s possible that this is telling us something about the status of these animals (or some of them) prior to the Fall; i.e. I am open to the possibility that the death of some of these types of creatures might have occurred back then. This is because I can’t give chapter and verse to say that this didn’t occur and my observations of a lack of empathy in human beings upon the death of certain invertebrates might be hinting at the fact they did die in a perfect world, albeit not death in the strictest biblical sense (since they are not described as nephesh chayyāh in Scripture). If asked to jump down on one side of the fence, I’d still say, no, I don’t think so. Incidentally, I’m not sure why you quoted Rev. 22:2 in relation to animal death.

Finally, you may be familiar with Jonathan Sarfati’s book, Refuting Compromise. In this book, he writes (p. 202; 198 in the 2011 Updated and Expanded edition):

Was immortality part of Adam’s original state?

God prevented Adam from eating from the Tree of Life after the Fall, lest he live forever in sin (Genesis 3:22). From this, some argue that Adam was not created immortal. However, this does not follow, because God ordains both the means and the end. RTB [Progressive creationist organization Reasons to Believe, USA] theologian Kenneth Samples is a Calvinist, so would argue that God predestines who will be saved (the end) as well as the means (preaching the gospel). Similarly, in the original creation, the end is that Adam would be without death, and part of the means could have been the Tree of Life. I won’t argue for or against Calvinism because it’s outside the scope of this book, but it shows that a RTB staffer can have no problems in principle with my explanation. In the Eternal State, where death and Curse will be no more, the Tree of Life will once more flourish (Revelation 22:2).

In this view, God had ordained the Tree of Life as providing eternal continuance of life. Since God’s will cannot be thwarted, even by the Fall (which He foreknew), the tree’s property would need to be true even after the Fall. Since Adam and Eve would not be allowed to live forever in sin, they could not be allowed to eat any of this fruit. If they had, God would have been forced by his own perfect truthfulness to keep them alive forever. So the Tree of Life was not to become accessible till the Eternal State, when we will no longer have even the possibility of sin.

Another argument is made in 1 Timothy 6:16, quoted as God ‘who alone has immortality’. But here the Greek text is saying that God alone possesses (Greek ἔχω echō) everlasting undyingness (Greek ἀθανασία athanasia). So in God’s case, immortality is part of His essence, while creaturely immortality is based on God’s moment-by-moment sustaining power (Col. 1:16–17). This passage has nothing to do with teaching that Adam would have died without sin.

This section of the book was brought to my attention after I’d written my reply, but as you can see from what I’ve highlighted, Jonathan argues similarly to myself.

Yours sincerely,

Philip Bell


  1. This would commit the formal logical fallacy of denying the antecedent. Return to text.
  2. In fact, cell ‘death’—really the orderly breakdown of cells called apoptosis—would have played a vital role in all multicellular creatures from the very beginning; see this in-depth article Apoptosis: cell ‘death’ reveals Creation. Return to text.

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Reader’s comments

S. V.
Insects also have different blood too don't they? I thought it was green or something. Also I get VERY upset when I see someone kill a live fish, to a point I will not even eat the fish.
Philip Bell
Regarding the question of insect death prior to the Fall of man, please see my response to Ash M., Australia, 30 March 2011, at the foot of the article in question; this includes a brief discussion of insect blood.
The colour of the blood of certain invertebrates (insects and other creature) may be different from the red that we tend to associate with blood; e.g. see this article discusses how hemocyanin gives cuttlefish blood a blue-green colour: Horse-shoe crab blood is also a blue colour (we discuss other fascinating properties of the blood of these crabs here: Regarding insects, yes, their blood (properly termed hemolymph) may be a green colour but is often yellowish or even colourless.

Regarding your comment about fish, and the question of whether they died before Adam's Fall, see
Bob S.
As I read this, I thought about Deut 29:29 and Psalm 131. We have no way to know anything beyond what God has revealed about the world before the fall or after the redemption of our bodies. I doubt that we would be able to grasp the extent to which things might have been different before the fall. Perhaps even energy and matter worked totally differently in that world before the fall. How would we know unless God reveals it to us?
Logie U.
What happens to a plant, if the plant is eaten ??

Physical death doesn’t equal moral evil.
Philip Bell
The short answer to your question is that, of course, the plant cells die—though not in the same biblical sense of animal cell death.
Death of plant cells and bacteria, for instance, does not equate to the death being discussed in that article (nephesh chayyāh). Since God explicitly gave both people and animals green plants to eat in the originally created, perfect world, plant cell death is not a problem.
Neither, for that matter, cell death in general of the programmed kind, namely apoptosis. See Apoptosis: cell ‘death’ reveals creation and The non-evolution of apoptosis.
You are correct, therefore, that “physical death doesn’t equal moral evil”. However, the Bible is very clear that animal carnivory did not occur until after the Fall of Man—as discussed in the article. Thus, parasitism, bloodshed, disease and suffering—and the death consequent upon these things—is very clearly the result of Adam’s moral evil and the judgement of the Curse.
Yours sincerely,
Philip Bell
Mark J.
A great article where the issue of possible animal death is presented in an intelligent and consistent way. Philip Bell’s answers, in a similar way, are thoughtful and courteous. What a marked contrast with the way in which such personalities as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens conduct themselves. For what its worth I tend to agree with the thoughts of your reader as I have always struggled with the concept ‘immortal’ mice etc. In the animal kingdom, accidental death must have also been a possibility. However we are all in agreement with the authority of God’s word and the illogical absurdity of the evolutionary hypothesis.

Kind regards.

Mark J.
Grahame G.
This is not a directly scriptural issue, but I wonder about having dead animals lying around (if Richard is correct). This is more a practical issue of the problem of having death before the fall.

One, no vultures or other scavengers to clean up (as all animals ate plant matter before the fall). Would other natural processes be enough to clean up?

Two, the bible implies no decay before the fall (as it’s one of the things implied to be fixed in heaven). And no more dying, sorrow etc.

I find it hard to imagine there being the stench of decay in paradise (which is not sufficient argument, but does add to the issue).

Death is clearly linked to Adam’s sin, not his expulsion, lack of ability to eat from the Tree of Life etc (although it is obvious that those things are a consequence of his sin, but why does the bible not give us a direct link). The wages of sin: death (side note: I struggle to use “is” as the noun is plural.)

Fascinating discussion and I hope there is more on this and similar issues to get us digging into God’s word looking for gems that may be hidden.

Thank you Richard and Philip!
David T.
Just thought I’d point out that your illustration of the lion lying down with the lamb perpetuates the false idea that the Bible mentions this. In fact, it is the wolf and the lamb that lie down together. The reference to the lion is in relation to eating straw with or like the ox.
Philip Bell
Thank you for your note about our choice of illustration. It was not intended to illustrate the well-known reference to some yet-future time in Isaiah 11:6 (to which you alluded), rather the original(Edenic) lack of enmity between creatures that we think of as carnivores and herbivores in today’s world—a world in which lambs and lions might well have lain down together.
Regarding Isaiah 11:6, since the picture we used will call to mind that verse for many Christians, I do understand the point you have made. With hindsight, a picture of a wolf and a lamb might have been a slightly better choice. This verse, regardless of which version is used, mentions those two creatures living peacefully together, as well as a leopard and a kid/goat. The latter is particularly interesting in light of the strange friendship of a domestic cow with a wild leopard in India, witnessed by many people some years ago: see our Focus item on The leopard s friend.
As a matter of interest, however, the latter part of Isaiah 11:6 is rendered slightly differently in different versions of the Bible. While the King James says “the calf and the young lion and the fatling together”, other versions vary considerably. The YLT, ASV and NAS also speak of a ‘fatling’, but the NIV and NLT have ‘yearling’—technically, any animal in its second year of life but often used to refer to a young deer or horse. The ESV renders this word as ‘fattened calf’ and some other versions variously translate this as ‘fatted beast’ (Darby), ‘young bulls’ (NCV), ‘year-old lambs’ (GWT), ‘the sheep’ (Douay-Rheims, a catholic bible). The rendering used in these latter cases perhaps explains why some think of “the lion lying down with the lamb”. Nevertheless, my US colleague, Lita Cosner, tells me that her good Hebrew dictionaries all render the word “fattened animal”, usually referring to a calf—so “fatling” would seem to be the most literal translation, not a lamb.
Jim H.
If animals were created on the fifth day and man on the sixth day then it leaves little time for animals to die unless there was a considerable amount of time before eating of the tree.
Philip Bell
Thank you for your comment. I am inclined to agree with you. In CMI, we take the view that, for good reasons, the Fall of Man is likely to have followed rather soon after the end of Creation week—see Slipshod logic in Creation for Kids?
However, had the Fall not occurred (theoretically), the Bible still rules out the possibility of carnivory, suffering and death of nephesh creatures in that originally pristine, perfect world.
Robert P.
Great article.
A comment on another reader’s comment:
Logie U., United Kingdom, 25 March 2011
“What happens to a plant, if the plant is eaten ??
Physical death doesn’t equal moral evil.”

I would respond yes Physical death (or in the case of non “Breath of Life” or soulish creatures, “dissolution” may be a better term) doesn’t equal moral evil, but Moral evil does equal death … “The soul that sins shall die” in Ezekiel.
Eugene D.
Thank you for your article.
I have one question that I couldn’t find answer to so far. It was the question asked by my theistic evolutionary friends.
What if Adam would fall from the tree in Eden? Wouldn’t he die by breaking his neck or a similar fatal trauma?
Philip Bell
This is a question that is perhaps best answered by asking another question—and one that I would certainly put to theistic evolutionists. “Does it concern you that Christians in the eternal state might stub their toes or otherwise come to harm?” Of course, the answer is no but why is that? Simply put, because God perfectly sustains and upholds things so that harm/pain and so on are not even possible—those ‘options’ don’t exist (see Revelation 21:4) because the curse has been removed (Rev. 22:3). In our theorising about life prior to the Fall, the same conditions and reasoning apply.
Our website has a number of articles that explore aspects of this sort of question, for instance the question of whether Adam needed an immune system. The following comment in this in-depth article is also pertinent and could equally be applied to human beings: “The … strong implication about Isaiah 65:25 is the last phrase: “and they shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.” The language strongly suggests animals neither harmed nor killed each other in the pre-fallen world. This must mean no death, violence, or bloodshed if it is to be consistent with the character of a holy God who declared all of his original creation to be good.
Ash M.
Hi, I was wondering about if insect death would have been a problem before the fall?
Would birds have been able to eat insects? Is an insect life similar to a plant life?
If an insect dying is a form of death what would have happened when Adam stepped on an ant or any other insect that you might accidentally step on?

God bless,
Philip Bell
Thank you for your question. However, I would largely limit myself to what I wrote in the article when I said “I’ve often noticed that people rarely exercise such grief over the death of invertebrates … ”
Insects are a large sub-category of the umbrella group we term the invertebrates (creatures lacking a backbone) so my comments in the last paragraph apply to them too. As I said there, I think the death of such creatures unlikely prior to the Fall of Adam.
I am inclined to place them in a similar category to plants, biblically speaking, because I would not contend that they are alive in the same sense as air-breathing organisms are; i.e. those possessing circulatory systems (i.e. heart, lung, blood vessels and blood). Having said that, my background is in zoology and I am well aware that insects’ body organs are bathed in haemolymph (which can be viewed as insect blood). Also, research now indicates that insects actively circulate air that has entered their bodies via spiracles (holes along the body) and along tracheae (tubes leading from the spiracles) and smaller tracheoles, permitting gas exchange with body tissues. I recommend you read this fascinating and helpful article: Insect inspiration solves giant bug mystery.
With this in mind, some creationists may consider that this blurs the line between (at least) certain invertebrates and mammals/reptiles/birds (which are clearly nephesh chayyāh (נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה) and argue that insects are included in the biblical definition of what is living. If so, their death is logically ruled out in the pre-Fall world.
As to your last question, please see my response to Eugene D. as the same logic applies.
Harold H.
I fully agree with you that animal death did not occur prior to the Fall. However, I am not sure I agree with you on the Tree of Life. Genesis 2:8-9, refers to two trees in the middle of the Garden (1-Tree of Life, 2-Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil). However, Genesis 2:15-17 specifically refers only to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and not the Tree of Life. Scripture does not specifically state the source of Adam and Eve’s immortality. When combined with Genesis 3:22, the Tree of Life is a reasonable interpretation for the source of immortal life.
Terence T.
I wish to just add my own pondering to the letter written by Richard H. Isn’t it great we can share our faith and challenge each other to think? Richard certainly did that for me. I battle with the statement that the animals were probably not allowed to feed from the tree of life. To my thinking this is assumption. I think Richard would agree for he added the word “probably”. Yet I cannot agree with that. I see no probable evidence to support the “probably”. Further to that I also got lost on the logic of the argument. It is clear and obvious that God created His creatures to live off of energy that would come from all provided in the garden for us to feed upon, including the tree of life. The logic that follows does not make sense to me. That death was there in latent form. It seems to me a similar argument would be that when the first car was designed to run on petrol, it was designed to stop driving at some point. Yet if the designer of such a vehicle also supplied petrol in abundance and for free and forever it would appear to me said designer fully intended the vehicle to go on forever. I would see the design of sustaining our strength through food rather as a pleasure granted us in our design; not latent death. Lastly it appears to me the fate of animals on earth is very similar to that of humans because just as humans lived longer lives closer to the fall which gradually became shorter; it would appear animal lifespans have also shortened like those of humans. It appears we all suffered the same fate, to me.
Keith E.
Why do we try and put limits on God. Noah brought animals onto the ark, they did not eat each other or him nor his family. I believe there was no death before the fall of Adam. Again in Revelation it dose state the lamb shall lie with the lion, a child shall be with a serpent with no harm. It shows God will restore everything to a sinless state.
Dave G.
I want to agree completely with one side; but God has given me a mind to use, so I must ask questions when I may not fully understand.
Sin does indeed equal death; but that could have two meanings in reference to the tree.
  1. Sin equals death simply because it was sin, and God removed some of his sustaining power because man chose to “do it his way”—to overly-simplify.
  2. Sin equals death because it was the catalyst for why God would no longer allow any creature to eat from the tree of life; which was part of the curse caused by the choice to sin.

If option 1 is the truth, then why was the tree of life created and the author of Genesis give the impression that it gave literal life?
Philip Bell
Thank you for your feedback/question on this recent article. In your option 1, I take it that you are suggesting the following. After the Fall, God withdrew some of his sustaining power so that animals and people would die of ‘natural causes’. If so, this describes a situation where the curse is really passive.
However, the language of God’s pronouncements of the curse (Genesis 3) emphasise that it was active—and compare Romans 8:20-22 on this point also. At no point in the narrative is any direct link explicitly made between the consequences of these curses and denial of access to the tree of life; indeed, these curses are all listed before (verses 14-19) the mention of the tree (v. 22)
However, verse 22 reads: “And now, lest [the man] put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever
What are we to make of this? Was it necessary for Adam and Eve to continually eat of this tree in their perfect state in order to avoid growing old and eventually to die? Personally, I think there is strong reason to doubt that this is the case. Otherwise, I suggest to you that God would have added to His words of warning along the lines of what follows in square brackets in Genesis 2:16-17:

Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat [and you must eat of the tree of life or you shall die]; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.

That the act of Adam’s sin was sufficient to result in his physical as well as his spiritual death seems clear from God’s pronouncements referred to above, including (v. 19) “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” However, the plain language of v. 22 indicates that his physical death (certainly not his spiritual death) could have been avoided by partaking of the tree of life (its fruit or leaves presumably had healing qualities). Again, Adam’s sin was a sufficient cause of physical death but would only be an efficient cause of physical death if God barred the way to the tree of life.
These comments represent my personal thoughts on the matter but I trust they are helpful.
David F.
The first animal death recorded in the bible was the need for God to sacrifice an animal to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve. Also if Adam lived 930 years, would we also assume that at the time of the fall animals would have lived longer lives than they do today. If there was natural death in animals before or after the fall, then it is conceivable that they lived 100 years or more. So man would be unaware of natural death in animals for many years.
Philip Bell
This is a pertinent question. While we agree that it is very difficult (impossible?) to truly envisage what a perfect, un-fallen world would have been like, I don’t believe that animals would have died of ‘natural causes’ (old age) any more than they would have done at the hand of carnivorous predators—this seems to me to be the clear teaching of the Genesis record.
Wayne S.
I appreciate Philip Bell’s review of William Dempski’s book. I am also firmly a young earth creationist and have written articles for CMI’s publications. I think Richard H. has raised valid questions that Philip’s response doesn’t fully address. If I understand Richard correctly, I think Richard and Philip would agree that both animals and humans were vegitarian before the Fall and that there was no carnivory before the Fall. Richard and Philip also agree, as do I, that sin brought about the death of humans. The usual young earth creation point of view is that animals would not have died prior to the Fall. I would not say that this is wrong but I would say it may not be the only possibility. We must not take the view of Hugh Ross either, which Dr. Sarfati ably refutes in his Cosmic Catastrophe article. The possibility not often considered here is that it may have been God’s original design that humans would be immortal but animals would not be immortal. I’m inclined to agree with Richard’s comments about the Tree of Life. Was the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden intended for animals? Scripture doesn’t say but I suspect not. As Richard points out, eating from the Tree of Life would have made humans immortal.

Adam and Eve’s sin did affect animals but not necessarily the same way as humans regarding death. Death does not necessarily have to have a physical or medical cause, nor involve suffering. It is about the spirit leaving the body. Deuteronomy 34:7 points out that at the time of the death of Moses (at age 120), Moses was strong and could see well. Doctors would say people sometimes die “of natural causes.” This could have been similar to what would have happened to animals before the Fall. If this were so, then man’s sin brought suffering to animals. But to human beings sin brought both suffering and death. Philip shows that the Hebrew word nephesh applies to animals and humans. I agree, but this does not in itself argue that animals were the same as humans regarding death. On this, Scripture is not explicit. If animals did not die from the beginning, and there had been no Fall for a long time, that raises questions about whether Earth would have enough resources to support all life for thousands of years. But I suspect the Fall happened shortly after the Creation week. If so, there was no time for animals to die before the Fall. I think this means two points of view are possible from Scripture, 1) that sin caused the death of both animals and humans, or 2) that only humans were originally intended to live forever, not animals (in which case sin caused human death). The key issues to me are that human sin brought suffering into the world, and the origin of human death becomes the basis for Christ to die for our sins.

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