One of the central areas of controversy in the Genesis creation account concerns the entrance of sin into the world and its affect upon the animal kingdom. We know that humanity and the earth were cursed as a result of the Fall but what about the animal kingdom? Did the Fall have any affect on them? Was there struggle and death among animals before the Fall?
Case For Animal Death Before The Fall
Those who believe animals did die before the Fall list the following reasons for their belief.
The only perfect place on earth after God's creation was the Garden of Eden. Outside of it was sin and death.
The term very good when referring to God's finished creation only means relatively good and not necessarily perfect.
Animals with sharp teeth and large claws had to be meat-eaters. This demonstrates animals were created to feed upon one another.
There is no physical connection between Adam's sin and the animal kingdom. Why should they have to suffer for it?
The built in defense mechanisms of animals shows they were created to fend off attack. This suggests struggle and death.
1.Perfection In Eden Alone
The first issue revolves around the perfection in God's creation. Some Bible students believe the Genesis account teaches perfection only in Eden. Outside the bounds of paradise there was a fallen world with death and destruction. Sin had entered the universe through the fall of Satan and the earth was subject to his dominion. If the Devil had already sinned before Adam and Eve, then evil had already been brought into the universe. Adam's sin, therefore would affect only the earth, not the heavens. Some Bible commentators want to restrict Adam's sin to Eden - the small plot of ground on the earth that had not been tainted by sin.
Win Back Dominion
The human race was now to win the dominion from Satan by obeying God. Little by little the earth was to be taken back by humanity from the Devil. If humankind was obedient to God and had redeemed the entire earth, then the curse upon it would be removed from the animal kingdom.
Guard The Garden
The biblical support for this view is the statement that man was to guard the Garden of Eden. This hints that there must have been some danger present outside of Eden.
Why New Heaven And Earth Someday?
If sin only affected our earth then why would God promise to make a new heaven and new earth someday?
2.Good Doesn't Mean Perfect
The word good has been interpreted by some to be only relatively good. Some understand the phrase to mean according to His plan.
The divine judgment it was very good causes many to picture Edenic conditions throughout the earth. But it means no more than complete conformity to God's plan (H.L Ellison, Genesis, in The New Layman's Bible Commentary In One Volume, Editors G.C.D. Howley, F.F. Bruce, and H.L. Ellison, Grand Rapids, Zondervan 1979, p. 136).
3.Why Huge Claws And Sharp Teeth?
Others argue that the nature of the animals shows they were carnivorous before the Fall. Theologian Bernard Ramm writes:
The Bible ascribes death from sin to man alone. Plant life had to die even in pristine Eden. To insist that all carnivora were originally vegetarian is another preposterous proposition. Why such huge teeth and sharp claws? Its application to sea life is impossible, for the large fish could not possible survive on seaweed (Bernard Ramm, The Christian View Of Science And Scripture, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1954 p. 143).
4.Only Humanity Affected
It is also argued that only humanity was affected by the Fall and not the animal or plant kingdom. Death spread only to all humanity
not to all living creatures. Death, therefore was limited to humanity and not to the animal and plant world. Animals and plants had already died before this time and were unaffected by the Fall. Perfection, therefore, was limited only to the Garden of Eden.
Animals Eat Plants
Furthermore, animals would have had to eat plants before the Fall. It is contended therefore, that Paul (Romans 5:12
) could not have been referring to sin affecting the entire world but rather only humanity.
No Sin Nature
It is also contended that animals could not have inherited Adam's sin nature because there is no physical connection between humans and the animals. Present day animals are not under the curse of Adam's sin, they died before and after the Fall.
5.Animal's Defense Mechanism's
If there was no animal death before the Fall and animals were not carnivorous, then how do we explain the defense mechanisms that they have?
These points have convinced many that animals did die before the Fall. They believe this is the correct understanding of Scripture and the proper observation of nature.
The Case Against Animal Death Before The Fall
Though many good Bible interpreters believe that animal death did exist before the Fall, Scripture seems to indicate that this was not the case.
1.Perfection Not Limited To Eden
To begin with, perfection was not limited to Eden alone. The command of Adam to tend or keep the Garden does not imply guard it from danger. The idea behind the word means to serve God in worship, rather than protect the Garden from evil forces. Whether Adam's sin was limited to the earth is not the real issue. When God creates a new heaven and new earth He will eradicate sin entirely no matter where it originally came from.
2.Very Good Means Perfect
After each act of creation, God pronounced it good. When God finished creating, the heavens and the earth were perfect:
Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good (Genesis 1:31).
We find two superlatives in this verse - everything and very good. Most take the phrase very good to mean perfection. Kyle Yates expresses the traditional view of this passage.
When the Lord looked upon the completed result of His creative acts, he expressed peculiar delight and extreme satisfaction. Everything in the universe, from the biggest star to the smallest blade of grass, brought joy to his heart. It was a beautiful symphony. The Creator's satisfaction is here expressed in terse yet vivid language (Kyle M. Yates, Genesis, in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Edited by Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison, Chicago, Moody Press, 1962, p. 4).
There was no imperfection in God's original creation. Imperfection eventually entered the universe as a result of humanity's sin, not God's design. Thus, the universe as it exists today is not the same as God created it. Sin has brought into it abnormality and imperfection.
The idea that God created everything very good seems to carry with it the idea of perfection. Though there are those who see it as relatively good, or limited to a particular area of the earth, this does not seem to fit with the biblical account.
3.Death To Humanity
Adam and Eve died as a result of their sin. The Scripture is clear on this:
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned (Romans 5:12).
There is no question that death to humanity was a result of sin.
4.Plant Death, Not Animal Death
God did not ascribe the life-principle to plants. Therefore Adam and Eve eating fruits and plants would not mean death in the biblical sense. Death did not affect creatures that had self-conscious life (animals, human beings).
5.Creation Was Made Subject To Futility
The entire universe was created perfect and when God said that everything was very good, He meant exactly that. Creation was subjected to futility as Paul writes.
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits 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; because the creation itself will be delivered from the of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Romans 8:19-21).
Several things seem clear from these verses. First, it informs us that sin brought distortion not only to humanity but to the entire universe.
Creation refers to the animal kingdom and nature (and possibly humanity). Creation was made
subject to futility - decay, instability and vanity. It did not subject itself - it was not the choice of nature. Therefore it was not by the original creation (Genesis 1:31
). This supposes a previous state not
subject to vanity.
Hope For Deliverance
The phrase earnest expectation is an expressive term. It is used only here and Philippians 1:20
. It refers to the upward and forward movement of the head that is the natural attitude of eager expectancy. It speaks of waiting with the head fixed on the point of the horizon for the object to come. This means creation has an eager expectation of being redeemed.
The three expressions 'was made subject' (passive), vanity (not sin), and 'not willing' (without any fault or choice on their own part) speaks of creation, not humanity. When was it made subject to vanity? At the time of the Fall.
Creation will someday be delivered from the curse. Even with this subjection of nature, there is hope that it will someday be changed. The creation that is in will someday be set free. Until that time, creation groans, waiting to be delivered from this .
7.Until Christ's Coming
This curse will continue until the Second Coming of Christ. The Bible says:
For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. And not only they, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body (Romans 8:22,23).
This judgment upon the earth sets the stage for another of the great themes of Scripture - that God will someday create a new heaven and new earth. The Book of Revelation testifies to that eventual reality.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea (Revelation 21:1).
The prophet Isaiah wrote:
Instead of the thorn shall come up the myrtle tree; and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off (Isaiah 55:13).
During the millennium the curse will be removed from the earth and the animal kingdom. Peter spoke of that time:
Whom heaven must receive until the time of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began (Acts 3:21).
Isaiah again wrote:
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:6-9).
There is also some evidence that both humans and animals were vegetarians before the Fall.
See I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food; and it was so (Genesis 1:29,30).
God said to Noah after the Flood.
And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given in your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood (Genesis 9:2-4).
This passage indicates a new relationship of humanity with animals. God told Noah that animals would now be a threat to humanity. If one of these animals killed a human being, then the life of the animal would be taken.
9.Vegetarians In The Future
In the future all animals, including lions, will be vegetarians.
The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox (Isaiah 11:7).
10.The Animals Were Tame
The fact that the animals were vegetarian's means they were tame as compared to what animals are today. This is another indication that sin caused them to become wild.
11.Animals Defense Mechanism
As far as explaining the defense mechanisms of animals, there are several ways of looking at the situation.
A.For Another Purpose
Some have argued that the defense mechanism in animals was originally for another purpose. This all changed after the Fall when animals would become afraid of one another, as well as being fearful of man.
Others believe that it was latent in each creature only to be operational after the Fall. God, therefore, placed the potential within each animal. When the Fall occurred, this potential became a reality.
C. Not Enough Information
Ultimately, we do not have enough information to decide when and how animals received their defense and attack mechanisms. Scripture does not tell us.
There remains a controversy among Bible-believers as how Adam's sin affected the animal kingdom. The Scriptures, however, seem to teach that animals were affected by the Fall. The new heavens and new earth will be free from all sin which testifies to the original state of creation-without sin and death.