Help with one more Montana Bible College Student Inquiry

Hey my name is Alec Dorcheus. I have talked to one of your members before, which by the way really edifying conversation, I just have really one question that was brought up from that conversation. This is the question.

Does death happen before the fall of Adam(humankind) and how does that affect Romans five in our interpretation of it?


Hi again, Alec! You must be the least procrastinating of your friends for knocking out most of your assignment weeks ago. My former teacher’s heart is proud of you.

I’ll put in my two cents and other people might chime in too.

Short answer: Yes, there was death before sin. The fossil record shows that physical death of living creatures happened for billions of years before humans arrived on planet earth. Modern humans evolved from earlier humans who died and humans evolved as a population with no clear boundary marking of when exactly the first “human” (however you define that) was born into the world. I agree with Dave Miller, who looks at how the whole Bible deals with human death, that the Bible doesn’t really teach that human sin caused human physical death.

This quote from that article is especially relevant to your question:

The various ways the Bible speaks of death are crucial to understanding Romans 5-8. In Romans 5:12-21, Paul famously compares Adam’s disobedience to Christ’s obedience, and the death that came through Adam to the righteousness and life that come through Christ. How should we understand death in this difficult passage, given that the life received from Christ is spiritual life now, and eternal life following biological death? If the death Adam’s disobedience brought is biological, Paul’s logic seems to require that Christ’s obedience brought the end of biological death. Yet, Christians still die.

The following chapters, Romans 6-8, clarify the senses of “death” on Paul’s mind. In these chapters, he repeatedly speaks of death in relation to spiritual and eternal death, not physical death. Sinful humanity is described as dead, though biologically alive. Christians have died to sin, died in baptism, and died to the law. Having the Spirit, Christians will live. Twice, death is contrasted with eternal life in Romans 5-6, implying eternal death.

Jesus speaks of “death” in the same way as Paul. He describes as “dead” the physically alive Pharisees, the prodigal son, and those who prioritize tradition, burying their dead, over following him. In the Gospel of John, Jesus often uses death to represent eternal death, as opposed to eternal life, and thus he can say that Christians have “passed from death to life” and “will never see death.”


One thing that I always consider , and mentioned in other places , I even think to one of your college mates, is this.

In the story of Adam and Eve it opens up with them in a garden and only one tree was off limits. The tree of knowledge of good and bad. All other trees were ok, including the tree of life. Now the tree of life gives eternal life.

My first question would be of death did not exist, and Adam and Eve was immortal then why would there be a tree that grants eternal life in their garden? If they could not die, why have that tree there? If they would only need that tree if they were dying because they lost their immortality due to sin, but if they sinned they would be cast out unable to eat from it then it makes the tree really useless.

So how could I create a situation where that tree makes sense.

For me it’s that Adam and Eve were not immortal. They were mortal and so they needed that tree to eat from. That tree sustained their life. I have no reason to believe that one bite from the tree meant eternal life no matter what. I believe that eating regularly for that tree sustained life eternally. It was a gift from God to Adam and Eve in the garden.

That’s also why I believe that Cain was afraid of others beyond Eden. I don’t believe it was his brothers snd sisters but other humans. Humans that were perhaps jealous over Adam and his family being called out as Gods chosen people. That they are safe in the garden and that the others were even afraid to come near Eden. They avoided it. When Cain was cast out , he was afraid of what these others would do that lived well beyond the garden and Eden.

The Bible said that sin has always existed, but before the law was given there was no accountability to it. ( Romans 5:13 ). That law can’t just be to Moses. After all Adam sinned as well. He was given laws and broke it.

So sin did enter because of Adam because Adam was the first human God reached out to and made a covenant with. He was the first man able to break that covenant.

Now because Adam was given a tree that sustains eternal life , when he sinned, and lost it, for him he did begin to die. It does not matter that others could die or that animals could die because the story opens up with them in the garden, blessed with everlasting life. We also have to consider that Adam did not just drop over dead. He from dying until he died. But there was more lost than physical death.he was now also able to be dead in his sins. Something God would have to judge. The first man open up to the judgement of God.

So for me all of this ties I to the questions you asked.

It doesn’t seem likely to me that God would warn them that they would die when they ate the fruit if Adam and Eve had no idea what that was.

Most of the Bible talks like there are two kinds of life and death: physical and spiritual. Jesus says in Luke 9:60, “Let the dead bury their own dead.” So in the Genesis 2:17 warning and in Romans 5 the death spoken of is a spiritual death.

Hey thank you so much for your input!

Hey I appreciate your input and willingness to answer.

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One more detail to remember is that Genesis speaks of “the adam”(the earthling) being made out of dust (not clay). For the ancient Hebrews this means that we were created mortal. Anything made out of dust was mortal.

Hi Alec. All organisms die, that’s an attribute of life, as the 4 Ga fossil record shows. Montana’s a great place to see that as you’ll know. All the way back to the billion year old stromatolites with their additional 2.7 to even 3.5 Ga ancestry.

As for what it has to do with salvation.

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The evidence that God has given us in creation shows that death has been around for a very long time, longer than mankind has been here.

And that evidence in the fossil record is a gift from God. Paul did not understand all that.

The impact on Romans 5 may be the realization that Paul did not know everything and had an imperfect understanding. That should be no surprise to Paul, who acknowledged we see through a glass dimly.

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Hi Alec, welcome!

Here are some other BioLogos articles besides the one from @Christy that you may find helpful to find out about BioLogos’ beliefs on the subject:

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In Romans 5:12, which speaks of death as the result of sin, the text limits that death to human beings.

It clearly specifies the spiritual death of humans, “death through sin … came to all men because all sinned” (for which physical death follows as a God-bestowed blessing), not the physical death of plant and animal species.

Likewise, 1 Corinthians 15:20–23 (the only other Bible passage directly addressing death as a result of sin) does not extend the death brought by Adam’s sin beyond the human species.

  • Plants and non-human animals cannot sin and cannot die through sin. Rather, the same kind of rebellion or sin nature was incurred, and passed to every human, as when Adam and Eve first chose to place their own inclination above God’s command.

  • Prior to Adam and Eve, they were not humans

Hey thank you for so much for all of your responses! I really appreciate the feed back that I have gotten from you all. But there is one thing that I must point out that I see a disagreement on. I understand that Romans 5 is spiritual death. But the looking at verse 21 of this chapter. “… so that as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal light through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Just as Christ brings spiritual life, so does he bring us into a resurrection. That why the comparison of baptism in chapter 6 is being brought up. Since Jesus is the New and Better Adam, more than likely referring to Genesis 3 as literal, as Paul talks about physical and spiritual death. He uses Christ physical death as well. It wouldn’t make since within both the chapter 5 and 6 for Paul to be interchanging between physical and spiritual death without letting the church in Rome know. Also in verse 6:12 it states “Let sin therefore not reign in your mortal body, to make it obey its passions.” From the logical argument of the gospel within these chapters, Paul does have physical death connected with spiritual death. Which does come from Adam who brought it in. Just as Christ will bring in life through His finished work on the cross and resurrection on the last day. Again thank you so much you all have really got me thinking. I have truly appreciated your responses and willingness. Don’t let my response make you feel like I am bashing that is not my intention. I am just seeing that there is physical death in both of these chapters. Also I am a foolish Bible student. But I hope I can make you really consider that Paul truly read Genesis 1-3 literally.

He might have thought Adam was a historical person. But he also might have been wrong about that and his theological truth claims stand even if Adam is “real” only in the way literary figures are real to the people with a shared cultural heritage familiar with their literary reality.

I don’t think the issue for most people here is insisting Paul thought Adam was just myth, symbol, metaphor, whatever. I think the issue is we know from everything we learn about the world that it was not created 6,000 years ago in seven days, we are not all descended from a single couple 6,000 years ago, and humans share common ancestry with other life forms. These are scientific realities that Paul was not confronted with. So how we interpret the significance of Paul’s truth claims has to take into consideration other things that we know are true. All truth is God’s truth. We don’t get to throw out facts about the world because they don’t line up with what Paul may have thought or what Jews or Christians in other eras of history may have thought. We have to contextualize the gospel in our own modern era of scientific knowledge. Nothing that we find out through science threatens or surprises God. It sometimes threatens our theological constructs though, and that’s something we have to work through.

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It is quite impossible to read Genesis 1 and 2 literally, as the two creation stories literally disagree on the method and order of creation.

A literal reading of the first creation story (Genesis 1.1-2.4a) says God created by decree in the order plants, animals, man and woman. (For example, He told the earth to bring forth plants and it did.)

The second creation story (beginning in Genesis 2.4b) says God created with His own hands in the order man, plants, animals, woman.

The two are incompatible as literal history.

Paul may have read one story or the other as literal history, but he could not have read all three chapters as literal.

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