Animal Death Before the Fall: What Does the Bible Say?

by Rev. Lee Irons | Web Site:

animal death before the fallDid animals experience death before the Fall, that is, before Adam and Eve transgressed the creation covenant by eating the forbidden fruit? As one whose training lies in the area of biblical interpretation and theology, I am not qualified to speak on the scientific aspects of this question – although I will state at the outset that I find the empirical evidence for an old earth and universe to be compelling, if not incontrovertible. And I believe that this evidence is consistent with a firm commitment to the authoritative, inspired, and inerrant Word of God.

I do not believe that macroevolution, in particular an evolutionary understanding of the origin of man, is as strongly supported by science, and I do not find it to be consistent with the teaching of Scripture. However, I see no compelling biblical reason to deny the reality of microevolution, as long as it is understood within the context of God's providential control. Supernatural creation of the various kinds [1] must be posited throughout the creation era, a fact that is attested both in the Genesis account and in the book of nature (i.e., the repeated appearance of new kinds in the fossil record). Once the kinds have been created by divine fiat, however, there is room for evolutionary processes, including the production of many distinct new species within the kinds. Thus I would be comfortable with the label "old earth, progressive creationist," although I hold to the framework interpretation of the days of Genesis rather than the more widely known day-age view. [2]

If the above sketch is anywhere near to the actual historical truth, it implies that plants and animals died before the Fall. According to the fossil record nature was "red in tooth and claw." In view of the vast ages between the first evidence of life and the appearance of man, this description would necessarily be true prior to the Fall. But this conception of the pre-Fall state presents a jarring contrast with the typical Sunday School picture of Adam and Eve in the garden, dwelling peacefully in an idyllic state, where all the animals were herbivores and the wolf was dwelling with the lamb.

Appealing to the biblical doctrine of the Fall and the subsequent curse, many young earth creationists have argued that the Fall of man was the event that introduced biological death into creation. Prior to Adam's sin, they argue, there was no death in the human or animal realms, and no predatory behavior among the animals. Four biblical texts are commonly quoted in support of this view. We will examine each in turn, followed by a brief look at two passages that support the thesis that animals did die before the Fall.

(1) Romans 5:12-14

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned – 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

Those who appeal to this passage to deny pre-Fall animal death must assume two things. They must assume that "death" (Greek: thanatos) means the cessation of biological life, and that "the world" (Greek: kosmos) denotes the entire created order. Both of these assumptions are based on reading certain preselected meanings into these key terms…


Animal Death Before the Fall: What Does the Bible Say? | Reasons To Believe

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