Death before the fall?

I’m going to prefix my comments saying that I’m interested primarily in answers from Catholic who also hold to the theory of evolution- I don’t want this to end up as an evolution debate. Of course I can’t restrict who responds but I’m mostly interested in hearing views from people who hold- in whatever form, the theory of evolution (as I do).

How is it that you can reconcile the theory of evolution to the idea that human mortality came with the fall? If Adam and Eve had evolved bodies and were infused with an immortal soul, were their bodies immortal?

Also perhaps if you hold to a part theory of evolution- that Adam and Eve were created separately but the other animals evolved, did animals die before the fall? Are we allowed to believe that they did.

Thanks in advance, I have been confused of late.

I think that, from the perspective that evolution speaks of material processes, and that the creation of humanity speaks of a creation in “image and likeness” – that is, in terms of our soul – then there’s no reconciliation necessary. In other words, the infusing of a soul in the creation of a human person created an *immortal * reality, but the fall created the situation in which there was true death and separation of the human person from God.

Also perhaps if you hold to a part theory of evolution- that Adam and Eve were created separately but the other animals evolved, did animals die before the fall? Are we allowed to believe that they did.

I would assert that this belief is permissible. After all, to hold otherwise would mean that there would be no death prior to the fall – no seasons, no animal or plant mutability, nothing. That would require a whole set of contortions worthy of the game of Twister, forcing us to imagine a sort of stasis in the universe, just waiting for Adam & Eve to sin. That doesn’t make any sense at all. Rather, then, material or physical death would be seen as possible, but ‘real’ death – the separation of a human from God – only proceeds from the sin of Adam.

I was under the impression that we had to believe that physical death, as well as spiritual death, was the result of the fall?

CCC 1008 Death is a consequence of sin. The Church’s Magisterium, as authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition, teaches that death entered the world on account of man’s sin.571 Even though man’s nature is mortal God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin.572 “Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned” is thus “the last enemy” of man left to be conquered.573

But I’m glad I looked that up, here the Catechism says that man’s “nature is mortal” but we would have been immune from death. So evilution can fit it, we evolved with a mortal natre and God would- miraculously I guess- preserve us from death.

This is still difficult for me to understand- was there no aging? How then were they to “be fruitful and multiply”?

It was human beings who were preserved from death prior to the fall, not the rest of creation.

Even in the case of humans, the mere fact that they were sinless did not make them immune to human frailty. Jesus and Mary were just as sinless as Adam and Eve and they persevered in virtue, but Jesus and probably Mary were subject to death.

In a state of pure nature Adam and Eve would still have been subject to all the ailments and ageing that normally go with human bodies, and eventually to physical death even if they never sinned. As it happened God gave them, out of pure generosity, a preternatural immunity to all these things and the ability to pass this immunity down to their children, though it was predicated on their remaining faithful. When they sinned they not only died spiritually (entered a state of mortal sin) but lost these preternatural gifts for both themselves and their descendants. From then on all of us, even Jesus Christ, have been subject to physical frailty just like any other animal.

Right, thank you Aelred Minor, I guess that makes sense

Yes, as the catechism says man’s nature is mortal (in a state of pure nature we would die just like any other animal) but we were originally preserved from this through an additional gift of God.

As for how the world would not become overpopulated without death, I think there are a few possibilities. At some point we might have been brought up to heaven body and soul like Elijah or like Mary. Also, though it is only putting off the problem by some billions or trillions of years, perhaps we would have had interstellar space travel and have spread throughout the universe.

2 possibilities, that I can think of.

(I am going to skip the whole issue of polygenism, which I really don’t care enough about to study, and assume that there were an “evolved” fully human Adam and Eve.)

Case 1. A&E had standard-issue, mortal human bodies, which absent the events of a “fall” would have been kept alive indefinitely (via the tree of life).

This would have solved the natural death issue, but would not have helped any of their descendants who drowned, broke their neck, etc.

Case 2. A&E had standard-issue, mortal human bodies, and without a “fall”, after a centennial or millennial length of life, would have transitioned seamlessly and grieflessly into the immortal body or pneumatikon soma. This would have looked more like a deep sleep followed by the formation of the new body, than like the hideous shamefulness we know as death. However, the importance of the tree of life isn’t clear in such a case.

Either way, the mortality of the standard-issue human soma would not prevent a seamless embodiedness.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit