Seemingly basic yet difficult question


I am currently wrestling with these passages from the Bible:
Genesis 1:29-30
Genesis 9:3
Which seem to state that every living thing was originally a herbivore, eating only plants. And it was only after the Flood that Man became carnivorous.

Yet we know that various species always were carnivorous. They just weren’t designed for anything else. An ecosystem consisting of breeding animals demands predation to remain healthy. Right? God knew this, He designed the system after all. We also know that the flood was not a Global event and Man is quite new on the scene as far as life goes. There was no time when Man and all other creatures shared some vegetarian paradise.

So are these passages contradicting reality. Or is there someone here who has been down this road and managed to clear it up?

(Christy Hemphill) #2

Welcome to the forum.

I agree that some animals have always been carnivores, the Flood was not a global event, and humanity is late on the evolutionary scene. No vegetarian paradise. How familiar are you with the evolutionary creationist approach to Scripture? This is a good article to get started with.

(George Brooks) #3


If you already accept the points i have quoted above, why do you even expect a solution? There was no global flood. And there was no paradise.

It would seem natural to conclude that the Genesis scribes were writing about something they wished were true… rather than something they KNEW to be true!

(Matthew Pevarnik) #4

Since Genesis 9:3 seems to suggest that mankind can now eat meat, does this also apply to animals? It doesn’t say anything about them. Also just because you can eat green plants doesn’t mean you can’t eat meat too. My wife continually gives me every green plant to eat and tells me its good for me but still cooks meat too.

Also I’d probably add in light of:

I’d simply say that a rather ridiculous interpretation of them is contradicting reality. I don’t think the Bible teaches no animal death of any sort before the ‘fall’ of mankind.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #8

What problem are you referring to? I don’t think the Bible teaches no animal death before the so called fall and if we are going to use Romans 5:12-20 then I think at best we can think of it as a spiritual death only that comes through sin.


The problem of what the Bible seems to clearly say, versus what we know to be true. How do you reconcile the above scripture with this knowledge? I’d love to read an interpretation that takes all these apparent contradictions in the Bible, and marries them to what we know in a concise and honest way.

I do wonder what hope God thought the people of ages past had in properly understanding what He was sharing… Since it takes what seems like a lifetime to make sense of it today.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #10

What does the Bible seem to clearly say? It says nothing about animal predation in Genesis. Genesis 9:3 would only apply anyways to humans if it means we were supposed to be vegetarian before that, not animals.


You’re missing the other passage I provided. The one that clearly mentions only plants being given for animals to eat.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #12

Yes animals can eat plants in Genesis 1:30. But that doesn’t mean they can’t eat meat.

(Christy Hemphill) #13

Here is another old thread where this question came up, in case there is anything useful there.

(Mitchell W McKain) #14

It is a problem if you presume Genesis is a some kind of complete account of the history of the species, which is frankly absurd.

The scientific evidence, to be sure, does not support this at all. It suggests that our ancestors were omnivorous and ate whatever food they could scavenge from a variety of sources which changed significantly as the environment changed. There is excellent evidence that our species was down to small remnant in southern Africa surviving largely on shellfish for some time, 100,000 to 200,000 years ago. At another time we adapted to become the long distance running primate (thinner hair and cooling by well developed sweat glands) which strongly suggests a lifestyle of hunting down prey. But at the same time we do not have the digestive system of a carnivore and it seems quite likely that we could have survived for long periods of our evolutionary history on a meatless diet.


Thus, you have just proven Genesis incorrect.
An account of our history written by God Himself (indirectly, of course) wouldn’t contain any discrepancies with the natural world. And yet here we all are… Is God the author of confusion?

Only, it never says they did. At all. Or… Does it?

(Christy Hemphill) #17

Could you elaborate more? What do you think it does or doesn’t do?

If they mean that their literal interpretation has to somehow be forced into fitting with scientific realities, that does become problematic. But personally, I get pretty far with just repeating “the Bible isn’t a science textbook.” So what if people thought the sky was a solid dome and the earth rested on pillars over a watery abyss filled with sea monsters. That was their reality and the message of the Bible was contextualized in their reality.

What do you do with the fact that many people arrive at a non-literal interpretation of Genesis with absolutely no reference to science, an ancient earth, or evolution? I think it’s a misconception that all non-literal interpretations are a direct result of science trumping Scripture and people being forced to make Scripture fit a scientific reality. That’s not really the approach most Bible scholars around here use. They are more interested in understanding what the ancient texts meant to the ancient audiences. And it’s no surprise that since they did not have access to knowledge about modern science, their understanding of the world does not reflect knowledge about modern science. A good deal of the re-interpreting of Scripture passages came about not because of developments in biological or geological sciences, but because of developments and paradigm shifts in the discipline of hermeneutics (getting meaning out of texts). We know a lot more (from research in cognitive psychology and linguistics) about how communication works, how people make meaning, how cultural frames influence interpretation and things like that. Bible scholars approach texts differently now, no matter what they know or believe about science.

What does it mean for you to claim “the Bible is true”? Factual? Accurate? Correct? Are there other standards of truthfulness that you would be willing to consider?

I think a lot of people get things backwards because they think the foundation of Christian faith is Scripture. So, they have this idea that if they can just subject the Bible to enough tests and proofs and have it pass with flying colors, then we know the Bible is true and we can trust what it says about Jesus. But the foundation of the Christian faith is the risen Jesus Christ who reconciles us to God. We can be united with Christ through faith and the power of the Holy Spirit, and we can encounter God and relate to him as a person. The Bible has authority because the God we relate to personally claims the Bible as his revelation to humanity. It’s true because of the character of God, a character we can experience relationally. It’s true because God is truth, not because it passed a fact-check test. So when we approach the Bible to learn and be convicted and sanctified and discipled, we are doing it in the context of a relationship with God. If someone is not open to the possibility that God is a person who can relate to them and reveal himself through his word, then the Bible really is just another ancient text.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #18

So I made a series of slides for one of my courses- primarily I get students from a more YEC/fundamentalist background that think Genesis teaches no animal death before the fall. Let me summarize a few things here and maybe this will clear up where I’m coming from:

  • Genesis 1:29-30 says that the animals and humans God just made can eat plants (though says nothing of meat)
  • Genesis 9:3 explicitly says that mankind can eat meat now- but says nothing about animals
  • Romans 5:12-20 contrasts the death of Adam to the life in Christ. What death did Adam experience in the story about the Garden? He didn’t die physics for another many hundred years if reading it literally. Then it is only talking about spiritual death through the fall. Animals could die a plenty before that time.
  • Isaiah 65:25 is supplied as evidence that in the Pre-Fall era the lion could lay with the lamb - however reading this in context is some kind of future era as reading the passage in context is some kind of era where people can still die (obviously not consistent with a no death pre-fall, i.e. a YEC who uses these verses is cherry picking and taking out of context)
  • The Bible describes predator-prey contexts in a rather neutral manner - that is not in a manner that is evil: see Wild beasts tear their prey (Isa 11:6-9, Mic 5:8, Nah 2:12)
    • God implies his own responsibility for animal predation in Job 38:39-41 (Do you hunt prey for the lioness, and satisfy the appetite of the lions, when they crouch in their dens, when they wait in ambush in the thicket? Who prepares prey for the raven, when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?)
    • You make it dark and night comes, during which all the beasts of the forest prowl around. The lions roar for prey, seeking their food from God. When the sun rises, they withdraw and sleep in their dens.—Ps 104:20-22
  • All of your creatures wait for you to provide them with food on a regular basis. You give food to them and they receive it; you open your hand and they are filled with food. When you ignore them, they panic. When you take away their life’s breath, they die and return to dust. When you send your life-giving breath, they are created, and you replenish the surface of the ground.—Ps 104:27-30
    • The glory of God is linked to all creatures receiving food from God (including predators) and He takes their breath away and creates new creatures
    • Animal predation by definition is also not “sinful”—a lion devouring an impala is not morally culpable of intraspecies murder—it is simply doing what lions do

(special note: this is in part thanks to @TedDavis - I do not have the article on hand and this is a little sloppy I will clean it up later as I’m copying from a few slides I made with his inspiration and other readings)


The Bible was indirectly written by GOD. The God that created the physical world. He oversaw the entire project. He would know better than to allow solid domes and sea monsters to slip into His authoritative message to mankind. Yet He did not even describe our origins in anyway similar to how they actually occurred. To the extent that here we are, dedicating our lives to trying to make sense of it. Twisting what is written in His message so that it fits with what we have uncovered about the world around us.
This does not seem like something God would do. How can we believe that the dead have returned to life, if it cannot even get the basics correct?
I cannot stress this enough… This is a book from God! A God that wants us to believe Him. A God that we are to accept as OBJECTIVELY REAL.

But despite what you claim to believe, we CANNOT commune with this being. We CANNOT feel His presence anymore than paranormal fans can feel the presence of Ghosts in an old house… And so scripture MUST be reliable in order to know ANYTHING about this being in the first place, let alone actually believe what He is trying to communicate to us through it!


I mean no disrespect to anyone in my replies. My frustration is not aimed at any individual here. However, what you have demonstrated is that some of the authors of the Bible knew more than others. The ones that knew little let the entire thing down with their contradictions and bogus cosmology/origins of life etc. Where does an objectively real God fit into this? Where is His prevention of bogus information making it’s way into His message for Mankind?

(Matthew Pevarnik) #21

Here’s an aside. Genesis 49:25 reads:
…who will bless you with blessings from the sky above, blessings from the deep that lies below, and blessings of the breasts and womb.

Why does it say Jacob will be blessed from the deep, blessings of the breasts and the womb? It turns out that there was a motif that existed in the ANE (ancient near east) where a great sky god defeated the chaos monster (who was often associated with a female goddess). And in Babylonian cosmology, Marduk defeated Tiamat, the great goddess. So guess what? For an original hearer to hear that they receive the blessings of the defeated Tiamat would have been of great comfort and encouragement. That is to say reading the Bible in context is really important. He did speak to people in ways they could understand- but that world is drastically different than ours- thus the community and main BioLogos site are trying to learn of this culture and hear from God in how He meant us to understand things.

Alright so let’s say there was an inflation event with regards to how the universe began. Here are some equations of inflation.

Is that a better reading for Genesis 1:1? I think not. I think its rather crazy to demand that God have written such- when it would have been meaningless for 99.9999999999% of all people who ever lived.


Maybe you have never felt his presence but I assure you that I and more than a few others have.


And there are many people that truly believe they experience Ghosts, dead loved ones and Aliens… You get me? As a Human Being, you are capable of believing and experiencing things that are not actually real. You are therefore not a reliable source of truth. Or rather, your extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Of which there is none.


Oh but there is. The evidence is in my changed life. You are free to ignore this evidence if you so desire.