Why the gift of immortality for Adam in a mortal world?

I know this question is somewhat speculative because we know so little about the Fall and our parents - as testified by the many theories about what the images of Genesis correspond to, what the sin was, how much is literal, etc.

For this question, I would like us all to assume that physical evils including animal pain, death, storms, diseases, and the like have been present since the very beginning of the Universe. The Church only has us believe that human death and suffering resulted from the Fall. And this is good, for science shows us that our universe and our Earth go through natural finite processes that allow for decay, death, and the arrival of new organisms.

The question is: Why would God give our first parents the preternatural gift of immortality in the context of a world seemingly unfitting for that gift? The surrounding world consisted of things, such as microbes, storms, predator animals, etc – all of which could otherwise kill our first parents, had it not been for gifts of impassibility (no suffering) and immortality. We know that in Heaven, the world will be such that our immortality in the body will correspond quite nicely to the glorious environment around it.

But why this gift of immortality in such an otherwise contrary environment? Do we have any ideas to why this was the case?

Again, I will not appreciate answers that do not assume what the science tells us. I do not at all accept the view that the Fall of man introduced physical evils such as suffering, deadly storms, diseases among plants and animals, and so on.

The world was paradise before the Fall; it was quite worthy of immortal beings. Sin introduced everything unworthy into the world.

Maybe we lived on another planet and the fall included falling to this planet to suffer and toil until we die and hopefully are granted eternal existence in another galaxy in the once paradise of Earth.

No disrespect intended, but the replies so far do not take into account the facts of science. Please understand that I am in fact referring to the gift of immortality in a world that has always included natural, physical evils.

Since we have to accept everything you say and you can dismiss anything that is outside of your acceptance, it would be a waste of time to form an answer.

I think that the immortality God gave to Adam and Eve included complete perfection. That is, they couldn’t be harmed and killed and whatnot, if, as you said, evil existed in the world from the beginning. But if you’ve read Genesis, I think you’d be a bit more doubtful of that. Genesis 1:10 “God saw how good it was.” Genesis 1:12 “God saw how good it was.” The same goes for the ends of verses 18 and 21 and 25. Verse 31 tops it all off “God looked at everything He had made, and He found it very good.” Even the tree of Knowledge wasn’t evil; it was just a source of knowledge that opened the door to evil. The snake came around because he fell away from God; but he wasn’t on earth before that. Indeed, nobody knows how long Adam and Eve were in the garden, immortal, before that happened! Lastly, from Genesis, verses 28 to 30, God gives man dominion over everything on earth. Whether that stuff was evil or not, man - then immortal - had power over it, meaning the world was perfectly suited to immortality, especial immortal humans who aren’t gods, but creations. I hope this helps!

Even if we assume (and I agree with you that the evidence leads that way) that the world outside Eden was much as it is now, notice that Adam and Eve not only possessed the preternatural gifts but were sheltered in a sort of nature preserve (Eden). It is not unreasonable that God could have kept the worst of physical evils from a small portion of the world. The major punishment following the Fall was to be cast out of the garden into the larger world where labor and pain were necessary to survive.

Even in Eden, there might have been animals dying and such. The story does not portray Adam and Eve as ignorant of what death and pain even ARE, else God’s pronouncement that disobedience would result in death would not have made sense to them. But we can certainly imagine Eden as a tranquil garden with a pleasing climate, food for the taking, and a non-threatening animal population.


Yes, good point! Also, I never thought of that about death; Adam and Eve really must have witnessed it in animals, or else God’s warning would have made no sense. Thank you!

I assume that their bodies were standard issue human bodies; they had to be, for their descendants to be average human life.

Standard-issue bodies know pain; even in a putative Eden, they would have stubbed their toes, cricked their necks, etc. And with the fall, Eve was not told “ye shall now know pain,” but that her pain would be increased.

A body who can feel pain can die; toes that stub can become infected, necks that crick can get broken. In all likelihood, A&E never possessed true “immortality of the body,” but would have been actively kept from dying, potentially for ever.


Trying to sync allegory with reality is not going to work unless you are very familiar with the allegory, in this case A&E.

The story was not written to convey truths to 21st century theologians. It was heard by people who had little or no education. Thats not to say it’s not important or has nothing to offer, it certainly does. But it’s not meant to be looked at in the sort of detail your describing. It is a poem about God and man’s relationship. The truths it contains are fundamental and simple, it is not to be picked apart in this way.

If you blow off A&E (who may very well have had “evolved” bodies!), very little of the Gospel will then make sense.


No, I just refuse to think we must choose faith or science. All one must have to do is look at the skeleton of a dinosaur to get the gist of what I’m saying: Death, and physical evils in general, are part of the very fabric of the universe.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church admits this as well.

But why did God not create a world so perfect that no evil could exist in it? With infinite power God could always create something better. But with infinite wisdom and goodness God freely willed to create a world “in a state of journeying” towards its ultimate perfection. In God’s plan this process of becoming involves the appearance of certain beings and the disappearance of others, the existence of the more perfect alongside the less perfect, both constructive and destructive forces of nature. With physical good there exists also physical evil as long as creation has not reached perfection. CCC 310

Several points the Catechism makes here:

*]The world/universe has been created in a state of journeying.
*]God’s plan involves death of creatures, as it involves the **appearance **and disappearance of certain beings.
*]Creation involves both constructive and destructive forces.
*]There is physical evil in the world.
So you do not have to accept what I say. Accept what the Church admits, and what science has confirmed. The interpretation of Genesis is a spectrum, fully symbolic on one side and fully literalistic on the other. The challenge is to determine the truths contained.

And the Church has determined that the truth says humanity comes, spiritually, from a single pair of humans. And that this pair committed the first sin which rejected the grace of friendship of God. But it also rejected the gifts of immortality and impassibility. Any other interpretation, such that the Fall of man corrupted creation, initiated a chain of physical evils, death, thorns, thistles, microbes, diseases, etc. is pure opinion. And it is of my reading of science that says such an opinion is utterly false. And it seems the Catechism sees it this way, too.

And yet traditional teaching maintains that Adam was given the gift of immortality. So the question is: How is such a gift fitting in the context of what we know of the nature of the world? Immortality makes sense in “paradise” or Heaven or the New Earth, but not in a world full of physical evils, right?

Maybe the Church will develop its thought one day such that Adam never received the gift of immortality – only the gift of grace and friendship, which he rejected. As mentioned, the trouble is determining to what extent Genesis is figurative: The Church knows it is figurative, so what truths are we to maintain from it, if any? etc.

Physical evil has been around since the beginnings of creation. It simply means the imperfection of creation – a creation that is finite and follows laws that allow for storms, the evolution of creatures and diseases, death, pain, etc.

The Catechism admits as much. See paragraph 310 of the catechism. Or my previous post.

The issue is the interpretation of Genesis. The Church has generally determined the language to be figurative. The challenge is determining, at the same time, the truths contained. Among them are the unity of the human race in one man and one woman, Adam and Even, and the Fall of Man. Gradually, the church’s theology has disregarded traditional notions – aspects of the Genesis account that were also taken to be truth. For example, it was not uncommon 100 years ago to say that Eve was literally taken from the side of Adam, or at least in some way biologically formed from him. Nowadays, not much is emphasized as to Eve’s biological origin: The emphasis is on the first couple, their union with God, and the sin they together committed.

I would like to continue this strain of thought. Thank you.

Because of course, Adam and Eve or our “first parents” had a nervous system. (They more than likely had belly buttons too, but that’s another issue :rolleyes::D).

Just curious ~

What are the truths you think it contains?
Monogenism? Original Sin? Or something else?

  1. God is omnipotence and goodness
  2. Man has free will
  3. Our suffering is brought on by us.

In regards to physical evil, Adam and Eve simply did not perceive it as such. When they ate from the tree of knowledge they were made aware of such things.

The allegory of the Fall is that human sin did not just throw human nature out of balance, but the whole cosmos. All of God’s Temple was contaminated because man sinned. Prior to it all creation was a paradise. After we have physical evils and other things.

I’m not asking you to accept all of that as the literal history of the universe, but I don’t think the discussion can bear much fruit without stating that point.

I had never read that part of the catechism before, thanks for sharing! My question about your previous post is, who says faith and science have to be separate? Just curious. :slight_smile:

Second, I agree with you entirely about the ambiguity of Genesis. After thinking about it, I realize I’ve never really heard A&E referred to as “immortal”, just as the first (and therefore most perfect - but maybe not ENTIRELY perfect) humans. That said, where do you get the word “immortal” from?

With all of THAT said, I think just the gift of being alive (for however long) in this world while it was paradise would have been “worth it”. I can’t speak to how their minds worked or how the world worked or how anything worked then (part of the “faith” part of…faith. :D), but I think God knew what He was doing, and I’m sure A&E came up with stuff to do for the time they were there. :smiley:

Thank you for starting this thread, by the way. You’ve really helped me deepen my understanding of the whole Adam-and-Eve-in-Eden part of Catholicism; I’ve never really thought about it before!

“Immortal” by definition is “unable to die”.

So in the true sense, A&E were never immortal, but “conditionally mortal”, and went from that to “fully mortal.”


It is absolutely opposes to the historical and scientific record.

Unless you mean something figurative by “paradise.” What does that mean to you? Do you think the fall of man disordered natural laws and the physical universe such that natural “evils” came into being? If yes, this means you would believe things like animal pain, animal death, disease, the organisms that cause disease, floods, and all the rest did not pre-date the fall, no?

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