Was death present in the Garden of Eden?

Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
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This is from a conversation yesterday

But the LORD God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden — except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” (Gen 2:16-17 NLT)

My contention is that ‘everyday’ death was present in the Garden.

First, how would Adam and Even know to fear death if death in some form was not present?

Second, considering that they had to eat, and eat requires killing, and killing by necessity of the act, results in dying, then they knew of death. For example, eating fruit would kill that piece of fruit. Or, take the banana. Eat half the banana and the other portion begins to decay.

So, if you take the text as woodenly literal, you must read broadly into Scripture and create stories not supported by either Scripture or reality.

Further, in speaking about evolution and the compatibility with Scripture wherein death comes by Adam, and insisting on a literal understanding of that theology, then the idea that evolution contains death by necessity is mirrored in the fact that the Garden by necessity of feeding humanity contained death as well. Unless we understand human death in other terms. In speaking of the Resurrection, which is the power given over death and given as proof of death in the Garden, or rather the absence thereof, we must surely note that animals and other things which we consider to be alive and to have died will not be given the Resurrection.

So, if we take the Resurrection and the Fall as important, and believe that the former repairs the death brought about the latter, even then some sort of evolution doesn’t hinder the soundness of Scripture. Why? Because Scripture assigns Life to Adam in a radically different way than it does to other creatures. And it was that Life which death had not touched until the Fall; it is that Life which is repaired by the Resurrection.

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24 Replies to “Was death present in the Garden of Eden?”

  1. Good points, to which you could add that the presence of a tree of life, and the fact that being prevented from having access to it is interpreted as being prevented from living forever, means that the natural state of things in Eden was for them to die – even for humans.

    1. And with all of this, Dr. McGrath, those who accuse of reading into the text must themselves place story after mind-bending story into the text itself.

      They would not have feared death had they not known death.

  2. Paul told the Romans that we and the whole of creation were subjected to futility, NOT WILLING BUT BY HIM, in hope! Hmmm.
    God put man in a garden with a tree and a tempter and then SPOKE about death. Considering that He created the whole world by speaking it into existence, God’s speaking of death certainly lends to a further understanding as to why the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world. At least it does for me and my understanding that Adam was earthly and could only choose the earth. Christ came from heaven and with His spirit within us we no longer have to live dominated by our fives senses or live soul-dominated. What a marvelous salvation was given to us! He who gave us His Son freely , will He not also give freely give us all things?

  3. *They would not have feared death had they not known death.*
    I don’t know death… yet. Does it it mean I enjoy thinking about it? I don’t have to die, and Adam didn’t have to see death, to know that it is not good. Least he could do is trust God that death isn’t awesome.
    *Second, considering that they had to eat, and eat requires killing*
    No, it doesn’t. To you banana is a living creature. But by Bible definition it isn’t, it isn’t called living soul. It is created for our consumption (unlike animals who are living creatures by Bible definition, they do have living soul).

    1. Vlad, have you seen things die? People or objects? Surely, you know what death is.

      No, to me a banana is not a living creature, but it does die and does show decay. And I would disagree about the animals as well.

      1. You didn’t read the rest: I don’t have to die, and Adam didn’t have to see death, to know that it is not good. Least he could do is trust God that death isn’t awesome.
        *banana is not a living creature, but it does die and does show decay.*
        -If it is not a living thing than how can it die? You are using your own concepts, not Biblical.
        *show decay*
        – My car shows signs of decay. So, by your logic, it is alive.

        1. No, Vlad, your car is not a living creature. Creationists insist that nothing dies, and yet, plants are said to die. Adam feared death because he saw death.

          You don’t have to die to know about death because you live in a world where death is.

          1. *your car is not a living creature. *
            – So, neither are plants by your definition, since decay isn’t indication of death.
            *plants are said to die*
            – By who? By people? I agree. By you are trying to understand the Bible and have to use Its definitions, not yours. Nowhere Bible said that in any case plans ever die or live.
            *You don’t have to die to know about death because you live in a world where death is.*
            -Again, you ignoring what I said further: Adam didn’t have to see death, to know that it is not good. Least he could do is trust God that death isn’t awesome. We are not neutral towards unknown, people either fear it or not even without experiencing it or seeing other experience it. Most often description is good enough.

          2. Vlad,

            Um…. you are jumping to a lot of conclusions. Decay would indicate death in some form, however, observable death would rather place the fear and knowledge of death into someone.

            You should read the Bible. Plants are always dying in the bible.

            You final paragraph is rather weak on logic.

            You can continue to try to put words into my mouth, or you can read the text and be honest to it.

  4. ‘fruitless, ineffective, corrupt or perverted’. This is from the Greek word ‘mataioteti’. It’s clear that Adam and Eve was intentionally subjected to the above. This throws-off a great deal of evangelical and mainstream theology.

  5. Joel,

    I just would like to say that bananas don’t die. They decay, yes, but bananas are not in and of themselves living organisms.

    And, it seems that for God to get his point across in your scenario that he probably should have said, “If you eat of this fruit, you will surely rot like a banana.”

    And then the serpent (apparently all animals talked or Eve would have been really surprised, right?) would have said, “You will not surely rot like a banana.”

  6. Joel, hi; I found your blog a short time ago and enjoy reading your point of view when I come here to read. However, I’m just wondering in what way you perceive Adam and Eve were acquainted with death, and what do you consider “reading into the text”?

    I have my own pov which I’ve discussed from time to time with folks on various discussion boards, but I am wondering how you perceive the question of death in Eden. Thank you for any response you submit.

    Lord bless,


    1. Eddie, thanks for visiting.

      I believe that if we take Adam and Eve ans literal figures, then we might suggest that they were acquainted with the concepts of things ceasing to exist/grow or perhaps watching as they rot and the like. Or even animals dying as they reached a natural progression or the like. In this, they would have feared the fact that they would grow old/die/rot or the like.

      I think that if we were to read science in Genesis 1, we read into the text. Or even actual history – 6 days, and the like. Further if we make such foreign notions that nothing died in the Garden, then we are reading into the text. I say just let the (con)text present itself and let Scripture speak that way.

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