Death Before the Fall


I believe in the theory of theistic evolution, thus several species had to die by the time Adam and Eve were created/given souls/whatever in Eden (I think it may be plausible that Adam and Eve were the first ‘humans’ in the sense of, the first with souls and human traits).

The general consensus I’ve seen is that, after Adam and Eve eating the fruit - sin and death entered the world. How can we reconcile this with the theory of evolution, where species die out?


The easy way out of this quandary is to hold that only human death was involved in the Fall. I don’t really hold to this though.



1. Someone else should provide here a reference to St. Thomas and his interpretation of death before the Original Sin. In short words, only a sentient human being has an immortal soul, so immortality was part of human nature only with them, not anyone else.

2. Death as a process of entropy and death as the end of life are different thing. Although we die in the first meaning of the term, we do not die in the second meaning, as we live in God.

  1. Death as a process of entropy and death as the end of life are different thing. Although we die in the first meaning of the term, we do not die in the second meaning, as we live in God.

While such a redefinition works in philosophical Christianity, it does less well biblically. To the Biblical Hebrews, the human being was the live body, and the end of the body is the end of life. Biblical Hebrew doesn’t even have a separate word for “body.”



Immortality was never a part of human nature. It was a preternatural gift, i.e. something that elevated man *above *his nature. See. S.T. I, Q. 97.

The death that entered the world was, first and foremost, the death of the spiritual soul, i.e., the loss of sanctifying grace. Man’s loss of the preternatural gift of immortality was but a consequence of that greater, infinitely more significant death. Note that before the Fall, man was not incapable of death, but rather, able not to die. There is no contradiction between the existence of natural death before the fall from grace, and the entrance of death into the world as described above.


My question has always been, had Adam and Eve not sinned would they have never aged and become old and feeble before being taken to heaven bodily? If Christ had been accepted and not Crucified, being free if sin, would He have never aged?


Good question, I don’t think we can know.


Here are a few places where I’ve responded to questions about death before the sin of our first parents, or the question of what would have happened had our first parents not sinned:


When some angels fell from grace, a very long time ago, God permitted Creation to become fallen, because His angels were given a role to oversee His providence in material things as well as plants and animals. Thus, there was death on earth before the Fall of mankind. And that is why Adam and Eve were initially placed in the unfallen Eden (paradise) and not on the fallen earth. When Adam and Eve were as yet unfallen, they were fittingly placed in an unfallen place, which is called paradise because it is unfallen.

All human persons are descended from Adam and Eve, and so we are all in the fallen state, having inherited original sin from our first parents.


This is a difficulty for those who believe as the OP does (evolution leading to adam and eve, the first humans with a soul) - but to be fair, the Church leaves that as a possible interpretation (as is the literal 7 days of creation and immediate creation of Adam and Eve as without evolutionary pre-human process.

So, one way to harmonize the OP view with the verses that talk about sin bringing death into the world is as was noted earlier, this is referring to “spiritual death” - This interpretation is supported by Eve’s belief (based on God’s command) she would “die” if she ate the forbidden fruit and Satan’s statement she would not “die”. She ate - she did not “die” physically, but she did “die” spiritually, at that time - losing fellowship with God.

For those who believe God created Adam and Eve as more literally stated in scripture, there is no interpretive issue and they still suffered “spiritual death” upon eating the fruit, but also physical death entered the world for the first time.

We wont’ resolve this definitively in this life - We will know for sure when we are with Christ.




"… the text of Genesis itself would suggest that, while man was meant to be immortal, animals were not. … giving “every green plant” to animals as food does not mean that some of them weren’t also carnivores. It’s not as if, before original sin, lions ate dandelions and toadstools and only afterward did they begin picking on poor old wildebeest. This is something Thomas Aquinas wrote about in his Summa Theologica:

In the opinion of some, those animals which now are fierce and kill others, would, in that state, have been tame, not only in regard to man, but also in regard to other animals. But this is quite unreasonable. For the nature of animals was not changed by man’s sin, as if those whose nature now it is to devour the flesh of others, would then have lived on herbs, as the lion and falcon.

(We should add, lest anyone be tempted to think that this is a forced retreat in the face of modern evolutionary theory, that Thomas wrote these words nearly 550 years prior to the birth of Charles Darwin.)"

From “Was There Death Before the Fall?”

And as far as human death:

“According to the well-known Augustinian consideration, at the beginning of human history, God gave men and women, despite their being creatures, the “capacity not to die” (posse non mori, cf. De Genesi ad litteram, VI, 36,25: CSEL 28,197): resurrection (or a state of union with God no longer reversible) would have represented the immediate crowning achievement of each historical life, without the interruption of death. This does not mean that physiological laws would have been invalidated, and that human beings would have continued their earthy life indefinitely: what is promised as achievement of the universal history in a redeeming history marked by sin, could have been the achievement of each individual life if there had been no sin (cf. Schmaus, 1953)…”



In an attempt to sort out the second question-- If Christ had been accepted and not Crucified, being free of sin, would He have never aged? – we need to recognize that Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. Therefore, He is already accepted as True God and True Man. There is no wiggle room so what is the point?

Now, if Adam had freely chosen to remain in a friendship relationship with his Creator, that original relationship would be passed on to his descendants. (CCC 404-405)

Regarding general questions about Adam and Eve if they had not sinned. GEddie, post 7, has the best answer “Good question, I don’t think we can know.”


Way above my head…


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