Did God forbid Adam and Eve to include hamburger in their diet?
Many vegetarians and vegans would agree with that. But an even broader group of Christians today believe that Adam and Eve’s restricted diet demonstrates that there was no animal death before Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden. Young Earth Creationists, whether they be vegetarians themselves or not, claim that in God’s good Creation there would be no animal suffering or death. This all changed once Adam and Eve fell from God’s grace. It was not until the time of Noah and the Great Flood that humans were finally allowed to expand their diet to include the eating of meat.
But Adam and Eve were not the only ones required to have such a restricted diet. Visitors at the Creation Museum in Kentucky have at times taken a photo of a sign that asks, “What did dinosaurs eat?” Unlike what you see in all of those Jurassic Park movies, T-Rex would not have been a carnivorous, meat-eater. Instead, he would have feasted primarily on perhaps flowering plants.
No Animal Death and Suffering Before the Fall: Rationale for Adam and Eve’s Vegetarianism?
There are many arguments advanced by Young Earth Creationism, but this argument about “no animal death before the Fall,” which leads to the corollary belief that Adam and Eve were vegetarians, is probably the strongest argument in favor of a Young Earth Creationist interpretation of the Bible.
After all, it really is hard for many to imagine how God could create the animal world, and then allow for animal death and suffering to exist, and still call such a creation “good.” It is reasonable to conclude that God’s good plan for the redemption of humanity would also include a solution for the suffering experienced in the created world of the animals. As the Apostle Paul tells us:
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now (Romans 8:19-22 ESV).
The argument is summarized by Ken Ham, the President of Answers in Genesis, on a rainy Kentucky day by a graveyard:
Three Claims at the Center of the “No Animal Death Before the Fall” Argument
There are three primary claims that undergird Ken Ham’s argument as to why animal death before the Fall is such a huge problem:
- Those who say that there is animal death and suffering before the Fall are questioning God, and thus are compromising and undermining the authority of the Word of God, putting the Bible under attack.
- Those who say that there is animal death and suffering before the Fall are basing their view on man’s understanding of science, that teaches an ancient earth. This is opposed to looking to the Bible alone for learning about the history of God’s creation, which teaches a young earth.
- Those who say that there is animal death and suffering before the Fall are going against the traditional view of the Bible, held by Christians for 2,000 years. If someone is going to challenge this traditional view, that someone must bear the burden of proof that the Scriptures have been interpreted incorrectly.
How well do these claims themselves stack up to the evidence… from the Scriptures? Or to put it another way, is there anything in the Bible itself that might disconfirm the above primary claims?
A Deep Dive into the Bible, Regarding Adam and Eve’s Vegetarian-Only Diet
Many Christians do not take the time to carefully study these issues. I, myself, have learned a lot just in researching for this blog post! Furthermore, I have friends who love Jesus on both sides of this issue.
Studying such issues do not necessarily disprove the notion that Adam and Eve were strictly vegetarians or that animal death only came about as a result of human sin. Rather, such issues do raise questions that are often not considered. Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., at Third Millennium Ministries, enumerates several of these issues:
First, the discussion about animal death often ignores the issue of plant death. Jesus himself taught that there is a cycle of plant life and death:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24 ESV).
Seeds must sacrifice themselves and die, when sprouting, before they can grow and become a plant. This explains the rationale behind the life cycle:
And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:11-12 ESV).
Alas, an objection could be raised: This is about plant life, and while it could be easily applied to animal life, this is not necessary, as animals are not mentioned here. Later in Genesis 1, we read about God’s provision for the humans for their food, which mentions nothing about animals:
And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so (Genesis 1:29-30 ESV).
Notice however, that while the text gives a positive command about eating plants, it does not explicitly prohibit humans from eating meat. The context for Genesis 1 is important as it tells us something that the reader will later encounter in Genesis 2.
Was God simply providing the menu for the early humans to eat from, to only include plants and the fruit from “every tree?” Or is the reference to “every tree” a clue, setting the stage to help us understand the restriction God places in the Garden? In Genesis 2, Adam was commanded not to eat from a particular tree, that of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17). All of the other trees, as generally stated in Genesis 1, were eligible for food. Once again, we find nothing positively or negatively said about eating meat in Genesis 2.
Where Did the Skin Garments Come From?
Things get more complicated when we get to the Fall itself. After Adam and Eve sinned, we read:
And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them (Genesis 3:21 ESV).
The clothing was not simply to cover their outward nakedness. It was more than that. This also indicates that God offered a type of animal sacrifice as an atonement for their sin. After all, the command in Genesis 2:16-17 specifically states that the eating of the forbidden fruit had terrible consequences, “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” And yet, they did not physically die on that day.
So, was God lying when telling Adam, “”for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die?”
No, not at all. Scholars have argued that the original Hebrew is somewhat ambiguous here, but this much can be established: While one can argue that Adam and Eve died spiritually on that day, there is also another answer to consider along side of that as well. Adam and Eve’s physical death was postponed, due to God’s own actions to intervene and provide atonement for their sin.
But note what was required to provide these animal skin garments. It required God himself to kill an animal (or animals) to make the sacrifice. It would be very odd for God to have commanded Adam and Eve to refrain from eating meat, prior to the Fall, because it was forbidden by God, and then for God to personally kill some animals after the Fall. If the Young Earth Creationist argument is correct, that Adam and Eve’s sin introduced not only human death, but animal death into the world, then how does that square with the idea of God (and not Adam) being the first one recorded to have killed an animal?
You could say that God picked up a dead animal, resulting from Adam and Eve’s sin, to make the sacrifice to fashion the garments of skin, but this would not have been a legitimate sacrifice according to how animal sacrifices are made elsewhere throughout the Bible. An animal must be slaughtered in order for the sacrifice to be valid. However, this does not necessarily mean that God himself introduced animal death here, for if animal death existed before the Fall, that would indicate there was something else going on prior to the Garden that precipitated animal death in the first place (more on that a bit later below).
God’s Sacrifice For Adam and Eve’s Sin Prefigures the Atoning Work of Christ
Furthermore, the language of animal sacrifice shows that the shedding of blood is a requirement for the forgiveness of sins (Leviticus 17:11, Hebrews 9:22). This type of sacrifice anticipates what Jesus accomplished once and for all on the cross, through the shedding of his own blood. It is the work of Christ that saves us, and not our own feeble attempts to save ourselves. Adam and Eve were not spared the consequences of their sins by their own fig-leaf type of works (Genesis 3:7). Rather, God provided the animal sacrifice.
In the Bible, animal sacrifices were often accompanied by meals. God’s portion of the sacrifice was placed on the altar while the worshipper ate the rest in a meal (Gen 26:28-31; 31:54; Exod 24:3-11; Deut 27:7; 1 Chron 16:1-3; 2 Chron 7:1-10). Notice also that Abel brought “fat portions” when he made his sacrifice (Genesis 4:3-4), which incidentally happened before the Great Flood. Noah himself knew of the practice of offering animal sacrifices, when he was instructed to bring both clean and unclean animals onboard the ark (Gen 7:2-3), partly so that he could perform a sacrifice of clean animals himself (Genesis 8:20-21).
It was not until after Noah had performed the sacrifice that any mention is made of eating animals:
Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood (Genesis 9:3-4).
However, it is important to note that the specific command here is about not eating meat that still has blood in it. Just because Noah and his descendants were forbidden from eating meat with blood in it does not necessarily imply that all animal meat was forbidden to be eaten, prior to the Flood.
Were Humans Only Permitted to Eat Meat After the Flood?
The late theologian Meredith Kline, as summarized by Charles Lee Irons, offers an even stronger argument, showing that the permission to eat meat in Genesis 9 must be read more closely in the context of Genesis 7:1-10, whereby Noah is commanded to bring onboard the ark certain quantities of unclean and clean animals. Where does this language of unclean versus clean animals come from?
Leviticus 11 gives us an extended treatment differentiating between unclean versus clean animals, but the last two verses of the chapter provide a nice summary:
“This is the law about beast and bird and every living creature that moves through the waters and every creature that swarms on the ground, to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean and between the living creature that may be eaten and the living creature that may not be eaten” (Leviticus 11:46-47 ESV).
Does it really make sense for God to require Noah to separate out unclean from clean animals, if there was no permission to eat the clean ones? Instead, this would suggest that Genesis 9:3-4 is about lifting the restriction against eating from unclean animals, which would have been known about in the days before the great Flood. Now after the Flood, all animals are eligible to be eaten. This would be like an “Acts 10” moment, where in the New Testament Peter is given permission to eat from formerly unclean animals. Presumably, the distinction between unclean and clean would be introduced once again later in Israel’s history, in the days of Moses, with the giving of the Ten Commandments, and the rest of the Law associated those commandments.
Evidence for Animal Death Before the Fall?
An even more challenging argument can be made that pushes back the appearance of animal death to the days of creation. Psalm 104 is a well-known psalm extolling the virtues of God revealed at Creation. Yet the psalm goes into showing how God made a world where carnivorous lions would be able to operate as God designed them:
He made the moon to mark the seasons;
the sun knows its time for setting.
You make darkness, and it is night,
when all the beasts of the forest creep about.
The young lions roar for their prey,
seeking their food from God.
When the sun rises, they steal away
and lie down in their dens (Psalm 104:19-22 ESV)
The lions are enabled to seek their prey, which are other living animals (not plants), during the nighttime, which God instituted during the days of creation. No mention of the Fall of Adam and Eve is mentioned here with respect to this carnivorous design. Perhaps T-Rex was a carnivore after all?
The typical counter-argument raised by Young Earth Creationists is to divide Psalm 104 into different parts. Some verses pertain to Creation, but other parts of the psalm are placed after Creation, but still long before the current day when the psalmist was writing. In the passage above, verses 19-22 are placed after the Fall. In other words, the Fall of humanity somehow transformed herbivore lions into becoming carnivorous. But are there any clues in this passage that would indicate the context is something other than Creation itself? I have trouble finding any.
Another Young Earth Creationist counter-argument claims that because Psalm 104 is an example of poetry, and Genesis 1 is historical narrative, that Genesis takes some type of priority over Psalm 104. Really? On what basis are we to say that a psalm is any less part of authoritative Scripture than what we read in Genesis?
At the Final Resurrection: Do We Go Back to the Garden, or Onward to the New City of Jerusalem?
Another counter-argument raised by Young Earth Creationists suggests that God’s intended plan for the future, at the Final Resurrection, is to bring us back to the state of being in the Garden at Creation:
“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6-9 ESV)
The wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
and dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain,”
says the Lord (Isaiah 65:25 ESV)
These passages from Isaiah suggest that in the eschatological future world of the Final Resurrection, when taken non-metaphorically, animals that are carnivorous in this world will be supernaturally transformed into becoming herbivores again, as it was at Creation, from a Young Earth Creationist perspective. But is it really true that God purposes to only take us back to the Garden? Or is it more faithful to acknowledge the full contour of Scripture, that we will experience a Glory in the future that was not fully realized at Creation? After all, the great climax of the Bible at Revelation 21 talks about going to the “New Jerusalem,” with no mention of going back to the Garden of Eden.
In other words, Creation was not the ending point of God’s purposes for humanity, but rather it was the starting point. The Fall delayed God’s plan to bring about a transformation in Creation to reveal its true Glory. The true Glory of the Creation would only be fully revealed at the Final Resurrection. If the later is the case, then the language offered here by Isaiah should be taken metaphorically and not non-metaphorically.
If There is No Eating of Meat at the Final Resurrection, Why Did the Resurrected Jesus Eat Broiled Fish?
However, if the former is the case, suggesting that there will be no more meat-eating at the Final Resurrection, then we run into a really sticky problem with an important event described in the New Testament. In Luke 24, Jesus appears to the disciples after the Resurrection, just a few days after the Crucifixion. Here the Risen Jesus is giving a preview of what life will be like for Christians when the Final Resurrection of believers comes. The disciples were having trouble believing that the Resurrected Jesus was standing before them. Jesus sought to prove it to them that they were not seeing a ghost:
‘And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them’ (Luke 24:41-43 ESV).
If the resurrection is only about restoring God’s original purposes in creation, then there is a real problem with Jesus eating broiled meat from a dead fish, if we insist that there was no animal death before the Fall.
Would that not be a contradiction?
So, Jesus’ broiled fish for breakfast does not fully resolve the question at hand. Jesus could have settled the matter by eating baked asparagus instead. But he did not. It is therefore reasonable to say that if there will be animal death in the eschaton, there could have easily been animal death at creation. Sure, you could argue that Jesus was only eating broiled fish for a one-off, demonstration purpose only. But that just seems odd.
Nevertheless, even if there is no filet mignon or ribeye steak in the eschaton, the food will be more than we could ever imagine, even better than filet mignon or ribeye steak, or the best vegetarian dish you could ever dream of. Whatever it is, even vegetarians will be pleased with what food is to be enjoyed in the “New Heaven and the New Earth” (Revelation 21:1). One thing is for sure: in the Young Earth Creationist view of the Final Resurrection, you will not be eating filet mignon or ribeye steak!! Ken Ham will be eating plant burgers!!
New Testament Evidence for Animal Death Before the Fall?
But these passages discussed above are mostly from the Old Testament. Is there anything further from the New Testament that would settle the matter? In 1 Timothy, Paul is addressing false teachers who would impose legalistic restraints on young believers:
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV)
Not only were these false teachers forbidding marriage, something that was permitted prior to the Fall, at Creation, the false teachers also were imposing restrictions against eating certain foods, which were canceled in Acts 10. Yet notice what Paul is saying here about both marriage and the eating of foods, which would include the eating of meats. “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” This would suggest that Paul believed that just as marriage was created by God for our enjoyment, the eating of meats was also created by God for our enjoyment as well, from the very beginning. This would preclude the idea that Paul believed that the death of animals only came about after the Fall.
Paul is not condemning a life of singleness, nor is he condemning a vegetarian diet. Rather, he is opposed to legalistic restrictions that are keeping people from marriage and eating certain foods, including certain meats, that God makes available to us.
Furthermore, if we read what Paul says in his most important letter, the Book of Romans, we learn that Adam’s sin led to death among humans:
“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—” (Romans 5:12 ESV)
Notice that even here, Paul makes no reference to Adam’s sin introducing death and suffering among the animals. Humans are different.
The Mystery of What Might Be Lurking Unsaid in Genesis 1
A closer look at Genesis 1 might give us a clue as to why Paul says what he says in 1 Timothy and Romans. In the very second verse of the Bible we read:
“The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2 ESV).
Many Bible scholars comment that the language of “without form and void,” “darkness was over the face of the deep”, and “waters” are symbols that represent chaos. Later on in Genesis 1, we read about the culmination of God’s creative work:
‘So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth”’ (Genesis 1:27-28 ESV)
As the story unfolds in Genesis 1, God is bring order out of chaos, with the climax being God’s desire that humans be co-regents who rule the established order. Notice also that at every step along the way in Genesis 1 that God creates things that are “good” and even “very good.” The Hebrew word “tov“, translated as “good” is used seven times in this chapter.
But it is important to notice also what is not being said. The text does not explain to us why the first step in the Creation story begins with chaos. Where does the chaos come from? The text does not tell us.
Nor does the text say that what God created was “perfect.” Instead, God called what was created “good” or “very good.” There is a Hebrew word for “perfect,” but that word was not chosen to describe Creation. Why does the text not say God’s Creation was “perfect?”
Again, the text does not tell us. But It might have something to do with the creation of humanity, who is called to rule over this Creation. Notice that in Genesis 1:28 that the humans were to “subdue” the earth. That word in Hebrew has a somewhat harsh meaning to it, as in to “force, keep under, bring into bondage.” The word “subdue” has a forceful connotation, indicating that something drastic needed to be done to correct the situation. Another way to think about it might be to “tame” or “domesticate.” Some may object that “subdue” has a rather negative meaning, but it could have a positive meaning as well, to bring certain things under God’s good control, as when David dedicated the spoils of war to the Lord (2 Samuel 8:11).
For if the created world was created “good,” even “very good,” why would there be a need to tame or domesticate it? If the world was created “perfect,” there would be no reason to “subdue” it. So, why “subdue” the earth?
Some suggest that the second phrase in Genesis 1:28, to “have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth,” sometimes translated as to “rule over the fish of the sea,” etc. means that humans are to rule over the animals in a more gentle way, whereas to “subdue” the earth, the first phrase, means something different, as in subduing non-living creation, like rocks. However, this is rather speculative, as there are no grammatical clues in the verse that indicate that “have dominion/rule over” and “subdue” carry any different meaning from one another. In other words, to “subdue” the earth and to “rule over” it is just another way of saying the same thing. The Hebrew word for “dominion” or “rule” can be just as harsh as “subdue,” as it can mean “to rule, have dominion, dominate, tread down.”
This might very well indicate that even though God created a “good” world, there was still a problem with it, that had something to do with the original state of chaos. Context is key in understanding the Hebrew language, so the reference to the original state of chaos in Genesis 1:2 offers the clue as to what is going on this first chapter of the Bible, especially when it comes to this intriguing concept of “subdue.”
God’s “good” Creation was about bringing order out of chaos. Was this because there was some unnamed evil power at work in the world, prior to the sin of Adam and Eve? Instead of suggesting that God somehow created a “good” world with animal death and suffering with it, perhaps the plan of God was to deal with the underlying problem behind animal death and suffering by bringing some kind of order to the world. Was part of Adam and Eve’s purpose to work towards combatting this chaotic power, and bring about the perfection of Creation, as God was directing?
Some say that there were angelic powers created before humans that might have rebelled against God, prior to Adam and Eve’s arrival. This might explain the Satanic origins of the serpent in Genesis 3. Unfortunately, the Bible does not specifically address this, and there is considerable debate among Bible scholars as to what might be going on here. Nevertheless, the language of chaos at the beginning and the command to “subdue” the earth raises such questions.
One More Look at Romans 8: What is the Creation Groaning About, in the Mind of Paul?
What about the Romans 8:19-22 passage that was cited near the beginning of this blog post, and quoted by Ken Ham in the above video? Is the “groaning” of Creation that Paul mentions here an indication that Paul had the problem of animal death before the Fall in mind? Charles Lee Irons cites the work of Meredith Kline again to answer “no.” Instead, Meredith Kline argues that Paul was not coming up with the language of “groaning” all on his own here. Instead, Paul was recalling a prophecy from Isaiah that looks forward to the Final Resurrection. Paul was completely saturated with the mindset of the prophets, a perspective that very few Christians adequately possess today:
The earth mourns and withers;
the world languishes and withers;
the highest people of the earth languish.
The earth lies defiled
under its inhabitants;
for they have transgressed the laws,
violated the statutes,
broken the everlasting covenant.
Therefore a curse devours the earth,
and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;
therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched,
and few men are left (Isaiah 24:4-6 ESV).
Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the earth will give birth to the dead (Isaiah 26:19 ESV).
For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place
to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity,
and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it,
and will no more cover its slain (Isaiah 26:21 ESV)
Young Earth Creationists will say that “the creation was subjected to futility” from Romans 8:20 is about Paul’s concern for animal death and suffering, triggered by Adam’s Fall. But in Isaiah “the earth mourns” is tied to the reality that humans have died and are buried under the earth, due to sinful human disobedience. It was never the intended purpose of God that humans would be buried under the earth. Isaiah says that “the earth mourns” because the creation has been forced to “cover its slain,” a reference to the death of humans, buried under the earth.
Notice how the language of “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now,” found in Romans 8:22, is stated as a promise of the future Resurrection of the dead as found in Isaiah 26:19, “the earth will give birth to the dead.” In other words, the future Resurrection of the saints will deliver the earth from its groaning.
Romans 8:19 states: “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” While Paul was considering the perspective of creation as a whole, including the animal world, Paul was not thinking about the problem of animal death and suffering here. “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23 ESV). Instead, Paul was thinking about human death and the promise of Resurrection, through “the revealing of the sons of God” and “the redemption of our bodies.” No longer will creation be subjected to being the graveyard of humanity. Instead, the creation will then become the renewed dwelling place of the glorified saints.
Does the Evidence from Scripture Alone Meet the Burden of Proof Against the Traditional View?
While this study in Scripture does not definitively settle the matter as to whether or not Adam and Eve were vegetarians, or if there was animal death before the Fall, it does challenge the primary claims that undergird Ken Ham’s argument. First, to suggest that there is animal death before the Fall can not be regarded as an “attack” on the Scriptures, nor is this suggestion a “undermining” biblical authority. There are several texts from Scripture that indicate that animal death before the Fall was not only possible, but quite plausible.
Secondly, none of the arguments presented here make any appeal to science, or any historical narrative derived from scientific claims. Aside from right here, there is no reference to “evolution” or “Charles Darwin” to be found in this article. Every single point of evidence above comes from passages we can read from the Bible.
The third element of Ken Ham’s concern is a bit trickier to deal with, as it involves looking at the history of Christian interpretation of the Bible. Is the Young Earth view that teaches of no animal death before the Fall a 2,000 year view of the church? If so, does the evidence presented here sufficiently challenge that view, and meet the burden of proof?
While a strong case can be made that many in the early church did not believe that there was any animal death before the Fall, there is evidence to show that this view was neither universal nor uniform. For example, in the Book of 2nd Enoch, written probably by either a Jewish or Christian writer, generally dated to the first century C.E., the author claims that Adam’s sin did not precipitate a curse involving the animals, and therefore was not a cause of death for animals. For God in 2 Enoch says:
“But I cursed ignorance, but what I had blessed previously, those I did not curse. I curse not man, nor the earth nor other creatures, but man’s evil fruit, and his works”. (2 Enoch 31:6)
Even the Jewish Talmud contained statements, that some Jews have found confusing, that suggest that Adam and Eve may not have been vegetarian, while other Jewish commentators believed otherwise.
The great African early church father Augustine saw no problem with God creating harmful animals, that may lead to death (Augustine, Against the Manichees, 1.16.25). The harm inflicted by such animals was brought about neither by their sin nor Adam’s sin (Augustine, Ancient Christian Writers, 41:91-92).
In other words, the claim that the “no animal death before man’s sin” view was the definitive 2,000 year old doctrine of the church is simply not consistent with all of the available historical data we possess.
But assuming the “no animal death before man’s sin” view was the doctrine of the early church, does the counter-evidence meet the burden of proof against the tradition?
This all depends on how you weigh different aspects of the evidence presented, and how convincing they are. As for me, I have a strong aversion against anything that suggests that there is any contradiction within the Bible. So, if we think about the presence of animal sacrifices in the days prior to Noah, even upon the occasion of Adam and Eve’s sin, the differentiation between clean and unclean animals prior to the great Flood, and the idea of Jesus eating fish in his fully Resurrected body, to name just a few points of evidence, I am greatly concerned that the Young Earth position is somehow inserting ideas into the text that invite the reader to find contradictions in the Bible that need not exist. I am not very excited about that, to say the least.
A Plea to Let Go of Dogmatism Regarding “No Animal Death Before the Fall” or “Adam and Eve Were Vegetarians”
I am not persuaded by the Young Earth Creationist argument. But I do have one thing important in common with the Young Earth Creationists, and that is a love of Scripture and desire to interpret it responsibly and rightly, as the basis for a sound theology.
I recently read an article given to me by a friend, written by Dr. Terry Mortenson of Answers in Genesis, who says, “A vast number of conservative theologians accept animal death before Adam’s Fall……But based on my reading and interactions, it is clear that most of them have never really considered the theological implications of allowing animal death, disease, predation, and extinction prior to Adam’s sin.”
Dr. Mortenson is rightfully concerned that Scriptural authority has been under attack, during the modern era, but has he drawn the battle line in the right place? While I understand that Dr. Mortenson has the best of intentions, I find it baffling that he does not see the negative theological implications associated with his view, which would invite the reader to discover inadvertently the kind of “contradictions” in the Bible that have been discussed in this blog post.
On the other hand, if Dr. Mortenson, and his boss, Ken Ham, are correct, then we need to figure out how such “apparent contradictions” in the Bible really are not contradictions.
The point of this exercise is not to say that the Young Earth Creationists are necessarily wrong about no animal death before the Fall or that Adam and Eve were vegetarians. There are many sincere Christians who hold to such Young Earth Creationist views who are good friends of mine. The same could be said about friends who are vegetarians. The point is to say that we should not be dogmatic on these issues. We simply can not make a definitive answer to these type of questions simply on the basis of what Scripture teaches. But whatever Scripture teaches, we must as believers seek to be obedient to what it says.
For more information, see this previous Veracity blog post from several years ago regarding animal death and suffering prior to the Fall. I have linked to a few videos that I have found helpful in examining what the Scriptures say about this very sensitive yet important issue. The first is a brief, 4-minute segment from a class given by Dr. Michael Heiser, perhaps my favorite Old Testament evangelical scholar these days. The second is from Ben Stanhope, an apologist and researcher who recently completed a Masters Studies program in ancient Semitic manuscripts traditions, with a deeper dive into this issue. for about 18 minutes. The final video is from Michael Jones, at the Inspiring Philosophy YouTube channel, an apologist with interests in resolving the disputed conflict between science and the Bible, with a 25 minute exploration of what God’s Word is teaching in Genesis 9. Enjoy!!
June 22nd, 2022 at 11:10 am
Alistair Roberts on Death Before the Fall:
September 20th, 2022 at 2:24 pm
Thanks for sharing this detailed examination of animal death before the fall. I’ve noticed few pay attention to the fish of the seas. They are frequently left out of these discussions and are technically not included in Genesis 1:29-30. Sharks don’t have the “breath of life” so no plants for them? If one is being technical then technical is fair game. Certainly throws a wrench in idea of no animal death before the fall.