Biblical usage of Death

It’s the religious equivelance of Ronnie Barker’s “four Candles/Fork Handles” although this is just one word that gets confused. When Paul talks of sin and death is he talking the Natural physical death or a spiritual one? And the same applies to the Adam & Eve narrative in Genesis. And it makes all the difference in the world.





Very unhelpful.

Ambiguity is no friend of Doctrine or faith.


“Are you with us, or with our enemies?” he asked.
“No” was the reply.


This is a great question. I do think that Paul thought it would cause death; but that’s not clear to me from Genesis. I think some believe that eventual death would be from the Fall (as opposed to living forever). Thanks.

William Lane Craig explores this-- I don’t agree with him about the Tree of Life (or even the existence of Eden), but this does bring up some interesting thoughts.
The Relation between Adam’s Sin and Death - The Good Book Blog - Biola University

From Genesis – and I think that Paul is following this concept – there is no difference between spiritual death and physical death since it requires a spirit and a body to be a “living soul”, and it is the living soul which dies.


Interesting indeed! It fits well with the fact that being created from dust was an ancient near eastern way of indicating mortality.

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Who tells the truth and who is the liar: God or the serpent? God said on the day they eat of the fruit they would die, and the serpent said they would not die. If the death God speaking of is physical death then God is the liar and the serpent told the truth, because Adam and Eve did not die physically on the day that ate the fruit. It is only if God was speaking of a different kind of death like when in Luke 9:60 Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their own dead,” is it God who spoke the truth and Lucifer who lied. And is this the only time in the Bible that such a basic word has two totally different meanings? No it is not.

John 3 Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicode′mus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicode′mus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’ 8 The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicode′mus said to him, “How can this be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things

And they are connected. For if there is both a physical birth and a spiritual birth then it is only natural to speak of both a physical death and a spiritual death. Birth and death are but the beginning and end of life, and so if there is both physical life and spiritual life, then one might think each has their ending just as each has their beginning. Of course there is a promise of eternal life in Christianity also and it is most consistent with the Bible to understand this as referring to an eternal spiritual life rather than a never-ending physical life.

The former implies very twisted thinking – that a child or an infant dies because of sin – that there are no innocent victims. It sounds like the thinking of a serial killer to me.

In summary making these passages about physical death is to turn the Bible on its head, God into the father of lies and victims into the criminals. To me this sounds like a theology straight out of hell from the devil himself.

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Revelation speaks of the second death, so there are at least 2 different deaths.

So whenever you read “death” in your Bible you have to figure out about which one the passage is about.

My understanding without saying I am right, the first death was the separation between God and mankind in the Garden, the second death (maybe) means the final separation. Oh, and there is a third death, the dying of our body.

Just to make it even more complex.

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The second death is the bad one…only the wicked literally die twice. Btw, i dont believe the wicked who are dead see the second coming…they have alreasy died once…their second death is the fire and brimstone that cleanses the earth after the millenium when the new jerusalem comes down from heaven.

For Christians, we die to self and are born again to Christ, but its not a literaly physical death like that which the wicked experience in Revelation.

This is why i harp on so much about Christ physically dying on the cross as atonement for the wages of sin is death (romans 6.23)

Conversion and baptism are the spiritual death and spiritual resurrection…Christ received the holy spirit descending upon him like a dove after His baptism…the long story short…thus converted + baptised Christians are called spiritual Israel.

(Christ baptised with the spirit…not just water)

Are you really telling me that God said these words? Adam stole his intelligence and God was unable to stop him? So God did not want us to have the knowledge of good and evil? How are we supposed to have dominion without it?

All this death nonsense is due to taking the Eden Story at face value.

Weeds and birth pains as punishment? Yeah right!

Eden is impossible for any person with full cognisance. That is what excludes us, not some fiery sword.


Do you believe God actually speaks to people? Or is it all some metaphor for internal dialogue and psychology? I think a real belief in God includes an acceptance that God can speak for Himself and I would be very wary of people thinking God requires them to speak on His behalf. The latter is WAY too convenient for people using religion as a tool of power, and I think it is the pattern of human behavior to turn anything at hand into a tool of power. To think religion is an exception to this is unbelievably naïve (even the Bible recognizes that people use religion in this way).

I do believe God speaks to people and I think the Bible is the authoritative word of God for Christianity. Now I don’t buy into Biblical inerrancy (nor infallibility nor perspicuity). Human beings had their hand in making it and even if they were God’s writing instruments in doing so, they were clearly imperfect tools for the task. Our very language has severe problems for the task of communicating things perfectly.

My Biblical hermeneutic is to maximize the meaningfulness of the Bible. Taking it so literally that it contradicts the objective evidence would diminish its meaningfulness. But I think making it nothing but some vague metaphor or homiletic would also diminish its meaningfulness, or even worse be entirely too convenient for those seeking to use the Bible to push whatever they want. So without getting too bogged down in unimportant details, YES I will take the Bible at face value as far as that is possible. At the very least, this is needed in order to understand what it is trying to communicate.

Yes. I can see a reason for those. Adam and Eve turned to the bad habit of blaming others for their mistakes rather than trying to learn from them. They had to learn the lesson that responsibility for our own actions is an unavoidable part of life itself – to live by the sweat of their own efforts. And I think their failure struck at the very heart of the institution of parenthood. Not only was it the damage to their relationship with God by making Him into the biggest scapegoat for their own problems, but I think the meaning of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was all about parenthood. It is not real knowledge of good and evil which is a problem – that comes over time in a relationship with God. The problem all throughout history is having the authority to dictate the difference between good and evil without real knowledge and understanding of it, and that is an authority we get automatically (and rather abruptly) with parenthood. So I think that increased pain in childbirth was to protect human parenthood by making it a serious event which could not be ignored or treated lightly.

I disagree. I think there are many places on earth for which the label Eden is quite apt. To be sure it requires limits on human behavior dictated by responsibility (and regard for others which the Bible shows is quickly lost when responsibility is discarded). So NO, I don’t think Eden is made impossible merely by cognizance! Though… I do think the real meaning of Eden was having God with a more active role in our lives to guide us – I take this to be the meaning when it says God walked in the garden with them (for no I do not take this literally like the Mormons might).

The “fiery sword” employs two common symbols for truth used everywhere in the Bible. The relationship with God which would have made life so much easier was lost. How is it possible to lose the relationship with ones parent? There is only one way. That is when the presence of the parent in the child’s life becomes more of a detriment to their life than a benefit. That is what happened when it became our habit to blame God for our problems rather than take responsibility for them ourselves.

So to sum it up, I take Genesis as generally historical but that story of Adam and Eve as employing a considerable amount of symbolism. No, I do not believe in magical fruits, golems of dust and bone, or talking animals, but yes I believe Adam & Eve really existed and the story is about events which really happened. The only books in the Bible where I doubt historicity are the book of Job (100% iconic fictional fabrication to justify the following philosophical dialogue) and Jonah (50% convinced that this is fictional satire). Again my hermeneutic is to maximize the meaningfulness of the Bible and these are cases where historicity doesn’t add to this.

Aw come on! That has nothing to do with what I said. If I didn’t thin God spoke and responded to my continual conversations with Him I would not be a Christian. Although He does not usually speak in English, nor so obvious as the narrative would suggest.

Part of the incredulity of the story is God wandering around like the giant of Jack the beanstalk. The whole thing is just fantastical and unrealistic. I really do not see how anyone can take it as any sort of reality.

I guess your take is inevitable with your obsession with Bad habits. but you seem to be missing the point. The point is that the so called Punishments are irrelevant. Weeds are just plants that have grown naturally in a place where we don’t want them. A rose in a wheat field is a weed.
The garden is a rant against the world not being what we want it to be. It can seem cruel and heartless when all it is doing is getting on with living. The earth has to continually rectify differences in heat and air pressure. The more radical the difference the more violent the remedy. If we happen to be in the way, well, tough. Animals in general will not actively seek out humans or be aggressive unless provoked or sensing danger,. Humans on the other hand have “sport” which serves no benefit apart from a perverse pleasure in cruelty.

I was talking about the Biblical Eden. Whether there are paradises on earth is probably more dependent on taste than anything else. One man’s Heaven is another’s Hell.

The Biblical Eden is a fantasy where there is no work or harm, or danger. In truth I would probably die of boredom if I went there.


PS if you think Jonah is satire you have missed the point(s) of it.

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I think so. If God speaks to people then what He says can be remembered and written down.

No. But that is one of the unimportant details.

That an understanding of bad habits gives sense to the Bible when otherwise I would have no reason to credit it with much truth does not make “bad habits” an obsession on my part.

The word “punishment” is not in the Bible – there is only the word “because.” These are consequences not punishments (not in a judicial sense). And I explained there ARE reasons for them. It is not about justice but about what we needed in order to preserve our potential.

??? what difference are you referring to ???
…because I think I covered that pretty thoroughly… and God walking with us as a substantial part of our lives was pretty central to what I think it means.

I think it is YOU who miss the point! That is not what I said and not my words about it.

Many scholars regard the book of Jonah as an intentional work of parody or satire .

I think they make a credible case, though I am only 50% in agreement. The point is that I don’t automatically take everything as historical (let alone literally), and YOU have made a 0% case for why we should take Jonah as historical (let alone explained why taking it as satire voids this so called “point” of yours) so your comment is completely off the wall, arrogant, and pointless!

I never said that either. We seem masters of miscommunication/misunderstanding.

I think we should leave Jonah for now. There is enough material in that book for three sermons or more.

Is not used literally to my knowledge

The point is that the Eden story is so full of fantasy and symbolism, to take it literally would seem to be folly. Yet people seem to want the apple bit to be real and I have no idea why… The whole concept of God withholding sentience and man stealing it is abhorrent.

And the notion that man can overturn and corrupt God’s perfect creation is equally abhorrent.

That God could not predict sin is equally ludicrous. Sin is the natural byproduct of sentient choice. It has neither form, nor genesis. Sin is.

God could have made us sinless but in doing so He would have had to limit our actions and choices. Instead He has provided an antidote in Christ. Now, whether that antidote is for our benefit or His is highly debateable. (And how we interpret the specific methodology is subject to individual preference and doctrine, and i would rather not go there again now)

The ultimate point is that God has never lost His sovereignty over His creation. He just chooses to let us live our own lives (and forge relationships) but some Christians want God to dictate and take it upon themselves to try and make it happen. You see it, and so do I. I am not one of them.


It would disconnect the story from reality and yes that would be folly for Christianity for it would greatly detract from meaningfulness of Christianity for the actual living of our lives. So… I don’t take the story literally, but yes I do see considerable meaning in the story by means of symbolism.

It is not a matter of “could” but “would.” Absolute prediction equals absolute control as well as the absence of life or consciousness. I see only three options:

  1. God is simply the author of a book/dream (i.e. pantheism/panentheism).
  2. God just watches to see what will happen (i.e. deism).
  3. Or we (God and ourselves) write the story of our lives together (and that is theism).

I believe in a God who chose love and freedom over power and control in the third of these options.

The possibility of sin is an unfortunate side effect of sentient choice. If we participate in our own creation deciding what to do with our life then it is possible to make the perverse choice against life itself. That is what sin really is. It dominates us because it grows like a rolling snowball or a degenerative disease until it consumes all free will and everything of goodness in us. But the more we make the choice for life instead the less significant this perverse possibility becomes.

And that somewhat looks like a fantasy to me which agrees with neither the Bible nor human history. Clearly a lot of things happen which God would very much prefer did not happen. You use the word sovereignty and it sound to me a little bit too much like control. What I would say instead is that God is not defeated. Sometimes a change of strategy is required when things don’t quite go as He hoped. That is what I see in both the Bible and human history.

I was desperately trying to avoid that understanding…

There is no doubt in my mind that God could control, but He chooses not to.

Mot views of the New Heaven and new Earth have God controlling completely… I , for one, do not actually see that as desirable. I value my freedom and thank God for it.

In truth the utopian view of Heaven on earth would constitute my Hell.
(\though, if my understanding is correct, I would be blissfully ignorant of that)


It is certainly not good… far more like what I would expect of a devil than God. I would definitely opt out choosing defiance at any cost.


The kingdom of God on earth which I envision is much the same as what we have with only one difference: a better understanding of self-destructive habits and a way to oppose and deal with them – a more consistent choice for life and learning from our mistakes. Some might say the preterist view is that we are already headed in that direction and that Christ was the turning point. I don’t know of if that is true because so many horrors in human history make this difficult to see. But it does seem possible because our experience is so relative… we keep moving the line and the horrors of the past become difficult to fathom.

I think there is an underlying reality which Paul is trying to put into words: the physical and spiritual are inseparably united in man. Each has a different “life” source: the physical life needs food, health, etc. but the spiritual life is supported by something like moral force: it must be told somehow that it is good and justified. It builds itself on top of a foundation of either self-righteousness or Gods forgiveness. The former is delayed spiritual death after the body expires, while the latter is well founded and results in eternal existence, including inheriting a new undying physical body.

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I think my idea is too scientific - the force that feeds the spiritual is called “love”, and the moral and righteous are means to acquire that love, that is, gain approval from God or man. That’s my intuition of the underlying framework that Paul is working with. Spiritual death is where God turns his love and attention away from a spirit (Mat 7:23 - “I never knew you”).