By Greg Neyman
© Old Earth Ministries
First Published 28 January 2003
(This article can be freely copied and distributed, as long as it is unaltered and a link back to the original article appears on the page)
Young earth creation science advocates have long argued against the occurrence of death before the fall of man. There are actually two issues that we must deal with here. The primary issue is that there was or was not death before sin. The second issue is...did Adam and Eve's sin bring the punishment of physical death.
First, we will deal with the issue of animal death prior to sin. This mistaken doctrine stems from two verses in the Bible. The first is Genesis 1:29-30, which states,
"And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. 30And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, where-in there is life, I have given every green herb for meat; and it was so."
Yes, the Bible says that God gave the green plants to all animals to eat. This is a completely true statement. Adam and the animals could eat the plants for food. However, nowhere does the Bible say that animals "cannot" eat meat. There was no general prohibition against meat. However, it's not that simple a matter. One must also consider the location where God spoke these words.
God was addressing Adam within the Garden of Eden, which was a unique, special place. Eden was paradise, where there was no death, and where animals got along with each other. It is clear from Scripture that God created this Garden to be different from the rest of the world.
Some young earth creationists have argued that the entire world was originally created perfect and free from death. However, if this was true, then why did God plant a Garden, and place man in it? The Scriptures are clear that the Garden was separate and distinct from the rest of the world. We have no reason to suspect that there was no death outside of the Garden.
Also, nowhere does the Bible claim that there was no animal death before sin…it is inferred from the Genesis text and this verse, Romans 5:12, which states,
"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."
When Adam sinned, he did indeed introduce physical death (through his expulsion from paradise) for humanity. However, this verse has nothing to do with animal death prior to sin. There are several other good reasons for the existence of animal death prior to man's sin.
Genesis 2:17 is God's direct instructions to Adam. God told Adam...
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Using a common, literal interpretation, when Adam ate the fruit, he should have died physically that day. Did Adam die the same day he ate the fruit? No, he did not. There are three possibilities. First, God lied to Adam. We know that God cannot lie, so this cannot be the case.
There are two other possible alternatives from which you must choose. The first is that God did not mean physical death at all, but spiritual. When Adam ate the fruit, he sinned, which caused separation between him and God, or spiritual death. The other alternative is that although the sin did not bring about instant death, it did bring about gradual death, making man susceptible to death. Adam and Eve, by their expulsion from the Garden of Eden, became vulnerable to death. Another viable alternative is that Adam did die that day. A day to God is different than a day for us. The six creation days were millions of years long. After the creation, God entered His rest...the seventh day, and we are still in that day. Thus, Adam and Eve died on the seventh day.
Apparently, young earth creation science experts are a little weak when it comes to understanding the ecosystem and the food chain. God designed nature to be self-renewing. As creatures die, their remains decompose, and nourish the plants. As the plants grow, they are eaten by the animals. The animals are killed by predators, and what is not eaten is left to decompose to nourish the insects and plants, and the cycle starts all over. This IS the way God designed nature. There is no reason to believe this process was different prior to sin. The creation was made to "perfectly" renew itself through this process.
Another reason to consider is animal design. If God never intended carnivores to eat meat, then He would have designed them differently. For example, lions with molar teeth for chewing plants. A lion, with sharp teeth for killing, is not an efficient creation for the processing of plant matter. Therefore, God’s design is flawed, because He intended the lion to eat plants, but equipped it for killing. If you believe in young earth creation science, then you MUST believe in a flawed creation!
With that said, let's examine a few creatures of God's creation that proves there was death before Adam's Fall.
Spiders are wondrous creatures. They spin their silk webs in order to ensnare their victims before consuming them. How would they have survived in a pre-death world? Would their webs have been used to catch falling leaves? No, they could just simply go into a tree, or to the ground, to feast on the leaves. Spiders were created with only one diet in mind...a dead insect.
Also, why were some spiders created as venomous? What is the purpose of this venom? They didn't need this venom to subdue the leaves, or whatever else they were supposed to eat in the Garden. And, it could not have been for self-defense, since there were no predators in the Garden? In fact, the same thing goes for venomous snakes. Venom only has one purpose...to kill. Even venoms that incapacitate are for the same thing in the end, for once the creature is incapacitated, it is consumed.
The only logical conclusion is that God created venomous creatures to kill their prey. Venom serves no purpose in a calm, friendly Garden with no death. If God did create venom, according to the young earth model, then His creation was not perfect, as the venom served no purpose.
I'm sure everyone has seen one of these carnivorous plants. Before the fall of man, did it catch falling leaves? It certainly could not have evolved this trait after the Garden.
Other plants that eat insects are the Sundew and the Pitcher Plant. These plants live in wet places, where there is poor nitrogen content in the soil. The plants get the nitrogen they need from the insects.
Bats feed off of flying insects. Before the Fall, did they use their natural radar to catch falling leaves and eat them?
The previous three examples list insect-eating organisms. Many young earth creationist organizations now teach that insects do not fall in the category of "nephesh creatures." Their current teaching is that death before sin only applied to these nephesh creations.1 This term is generally applied to land-dwelling creations, which Adam named in Genesis 2:19. By picking and choosing the type of creatures this "no death before sin" rule applies to, young earth creationists avoid problems such as insect and micro-organism death. The "nephesh rule" of interpretation allows them to ignore clear evidence that insects died before the Fall.
All of these marine mammals feed on fish. To get around this argument, young earth creationists could again claim that fish are not "nephesh creatures," since they were not named by Adam.
This list could go on for many pages. But, I'm sure you get the point already. There was clearly death before sin. Young earth creationists resort to the "nephesh" rule in order to avoid any problems, picking and choosing which creatures are truly "nephesh" and which ones are not. Naturally, if the evidence for an organism's death contradicts the young earth view, the organism is said to be non-nephesh.
According to the young earth creation science, there is no death before sin. However, why did God create creatures designed specifically for killing? God is perfect, and his creatures in the Garden would have been created perfectly to fit into the ecosystem. Venom has no purpose but to kill. According to the young-earth model, the "perfect" animal created by God would not need venom. Yet venom exists. Young earth creationism cannot explain this.
This is not so much an issue of old earth / young earth, as it is about biblical interpretation. This debate stems from their inaccurate assumptions that "death before sin" equates to animal physical death as well as human physical death.
If you are not a Christian, and you have been holding out on making a decision for Christ because the Church always preached a message that was contrary to what you saw in the scientific world, then rest assured that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and you can believe in Christ and receive salvation, while still believing in an old earth. Click here for more.
Are you a Christian who believes in young earth creationism? Now that we have shown the many difficulties of the young earth creation science model in this and many other articles, how does this impact your Christian life? If you are a young earth creationism believer, click here.
To learn more
about old earth creationism, see
Old Earth Belief,
or check out the article
Can You Be A
Christian and Believe in an Old Earth?
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