Death Before Adam?

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Excerpt Despite all attempts to do so, there is no way to reconcile evolution and the Biblical account of Creation. Examining the theological basis of the Biblical Creation, Austin Robbins demonstrates there is simply no room for evolutionary thinking... Continue reading

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This article was first published in the Spring 2000 issue of Bible and Spade.

Despite all attempts to do so, there is no way to reconcile evolution and the Biblical account of Creation. Examining the theological basis of the Biblical Creation, Austin Robbins demonstrates there is simply no room for evolutionary thinking.

Evolutionary doctrine is insistent on a very long history for the earth’s formation. Long ages, even exceeding 4.5 billion years, are deemed essential for development of the earth’s crust and formation of living forms from some primeval origin.

The Bible, in contrast, indicates a relatively short history for both the earth and the entire universe. Even a superficial reading of the Biblical account demonstrates apparent conflicts between it and the popular evolutionary views of our society.

Is there any way to reconcile these two opposing view-points? For over a century many have made serious attempts to do so. Underlying all such attempts is an uncritical acceptance of the basic tenets of the evolutionary philosophy, as well as an unspoken (sometimes openly denied) rejection of normal rules of Biblical interpretation.

Man’s Place in Creation

It is not the purpose of this article to address the so-called scientific basis of evolution. The issue here is theological. If God created the universe, and I believe He did, He certainly could have given us details about it. This, too, I believe He did. The question is: “What did He tell us and how does it relate to our understanding of the world’s history?”

Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth (Gn 1:26, KJV).

... and God said unto them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Gn 1:28, KJV).

The NIV is even clearer for the modern English reader:

Let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock and over all the earth and over all the creatures that move along the ground (Gn 1:26).

The words in these passages leave no room for doubt about the extent of man’s dominion over the earth. “Every,” “all,” and the extensive listing of various creatures (including fish, birds, living things, cattle, beasts, creeping things) indicate the totality of man’s rule over the earth.

Man’s total dominion over all God’s creation was restated by David:

What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of Your hands; You put everything under his feet, all flocks and herds and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim in the paths of the sea. (Psalm 8: 4–8)

The writer of Hebrews, a millennium after David, reinforced the idea. Quoting Psalm 8, he added “ putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him” (Heb 2:8). He stressed the point as if knowing someday someone would say man never really ruled all Creation, he only controlled part of it. Today, some Christians say that very thing! So the writer of Hebrews emphasized, “God left nothing that is not subject to him,” or, as New Testament scholar Kenneth Wuest (1966: 57) wrote, “He left not even one thing that is not put under him.”

Implications of man’s universal dominion over all Creation are devastating to evolutionary doctrine and all attempts to accommodate Scripture to fit it. Evolution says man was a late-comer on earth with eons of time rolling by before the first creature possibly considered to be man appeared. Millions of creatures lived and died, myriads were already fossilized. Even the soulless brutes who supposedly gave rise to Adam’s race met their deaths. For eons before Adam, death struck everywhere, from lower forms to remarkably humanlike creatures!

Yet, a history of long ages before Adam, myriads of creatures living and dying long before Adam had a chance to name them, and the ground which Adam trod being the final resting place of his physical, if not spiritual, ancestors, is all in direct contradiction to what God said. Scripture could not be clearer. Mankind, in Adam, was given rule over all Creation, and that includes fossilized creatures!

Hebrews 2

In objection to this is the possibility that the writer of Hebrews and David, a prophet himself, were not speaking of Adam, but Jesus. Hebrews 2:9 is taken as upholding that view. “But we see Jesus...” We don’t see man having dominion, but Jesus with that authority. Unfortunately, this misses the point of 2:8–9 entirely.

Verse 8 is clear that man was in charge of everything. Nothing was left out. No creature existed that was not subject to man. The question is: was that man Adam or Jesus? The last half of verse 8 and the beginning of verse 9 gives us the answer. “Yet at present, we do not see everything subject to him (man). But we see Jesus...” Thus at the beginning of 2:8 man was in charge, but at the end of 2:8 he is not. What we see today is not the original order of things; something in history altered it.

What happened? Genesis 3 tells us man, who had dominion, sinned. He disobeyed the loving God who made him and lost the high position in which God placed him (“a little lower than the angels”). So, today we cannot see everything subject to him. Furthermore, man’s sin permeated all Creation. “The whole creation groans...” (Rom 8:20–22) with disease, destruction, decay and death.

“But we see Jesus...” What a contrast! Not the sinful, lost, struggling with nature “him” (Adam) at the end of 2:8; but “...Jesus, Who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (2:9).

Death before Adam? NO!

Death because of Adam? YES!

Just as death entered the world because of Adam, we can have life because Jesus tasted death for everyone. Jesus tasted death for you. He took your sin in His own body on the tree. He died to be your Savior. In Adam you are dead. In Jesus you can be made alive forever!

The Second Adam, Jesus, who “tasted death for everyone,” will one day be “the death of death itself!” He will reign and He will put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death! (1 Cor 15:25–26).


Smith Jr., Henry B.
2007 Cosmic and Universal Death from Adam's Fall: Journal of Creation, 21.1, p. 75-85.

Wuest, K.S.
1966 Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, vol. 2. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids MI.

Comments Comment RSS

2/27/2010 8:59 PM #

By "death" don't the biblical scriptures mean "the spiritual death of men" and not the physical death of all living creatures"? The day Adam "died" was a specific day, not an era or age. But Adam lived on long after his first "death" (that is, his spiritual death), ultimately dying physically centuries after his expulsion from the Garden of Eden. So the "death" which occurred the day Adam sinned could only have been the spiritual death (that is, the removal) of Adam's spirit, thereby leaving him as a being of physical body and spiritual sould only. The "Last Adam" makes possible the "new birth" which is the creation of a spirit within the person who is covenanted in the blood of the Messiah, Jesus. The covenanted person thus is restored to the condition which Adam enjoyed before his spiritual death in the Garden of Eden---he is made a threefold being of physical body, spiritual soul, and spiritual spirit (see 1 Thessalonians 5:23). Since that is the "death" of which the biblical scriptures speak, your reasoning is based on a false premise which assumes the scriptures are speaking of the physical deaths of all living creatures. It isn't.  


none - 2/27/2010 8:59:25 PM

3/12/2010 6:23 PM #

Dear "None",

The Fall of Adam plunged the entire universe into a death sentence. I refer you to my own work on Romans 8 here:

Pertaining to the meaning of "die" in the Genesis narrative, I quote from the following article by Bodie Hodge:

"The Hebrew is, literally, die-die (muwth-muwth) with two different verb tenses (dying and die), which can be translated as “surely die” or “dying you shall die.” This indicates the beginning of dying, an ingressive sense, which finally culminates with death.

At that point, Adam and Eve began to die and would return to dust (Genesis 3:19). If they were meant to die right then, the text should have simply used muwth only once, which means “dead, died, or die” and not beginning to die or surely die (as muwth-muwth is used in Hebrew). Old Testament authors understood this and used it in such a fashion, but we must remember that English translations can miss some of the nuance.

There are primarily two ways people translate: one is literal or word for word (formal equivalence) and the other is dynamic equivalence or thought-for-thought. If this is translated word for word, it would be “dying die” or “die die,” which is difficult for English readers to understand, as there is no changed emphasis when a word is repeated. The Latin Vulgate by Jerome, which permits such grammatical constructions, does translate this as “dying die” or “dying you will die” (morte morieris). So, most translations rightly use more dynamic equivalence and say “surely die.” "

I hope this helps in your study of the Scriptures.

Henry Smith

ABR - 3/12/2010 6:23:19 PM

4/21/2010 5:19 AM #

There is certainly death before Adam. Since "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23), we must remember that sin was already in creation long before Adam, and that was the devil's sin. The whole context must be taken; otherwise, we just interpret Scripture only from one view.

Eugene Canoneo - 4/21/2010 5:19:43 AM

4/21/2010 3:25 PM #

Dear Eugene,

Thanks for commenting on this article.

I am afraid your characterization of the Biblical teaching on death is in error. The fall of Satan did not affect the creation, per se, because Satan had no authority over it. Only when Adam disobeyed God, THEN that authority was abdicated to Satan. (Luke 4:6). Further, Romans 6:23 has to do specifically with human sin. It says nothing about Satan's fall.

There is no indication that there was death of the animals or man prior to Adam's disobedience. Genesis 1:31 is clear that God declared everything to be "very good".

Lastly, I would refer you to Romans 8:19-23a on this. This is my own study of the subject here:


Henry Smith

ABR - 4/21/2010 3:25:00 PM

4/21/2010 4:52 PM #

I beg the different on both statements, only because we certainly have given our opinions before waiting for the answer which have been the fail attempt of man seeking and leaning to his own way of seeing the works of faith. just think about what you are saying before you fall farther into error.


willie j - 4/21/2010 4:52:06 PM

5/14/2010 4:50 PM #

Dear Henry,

You are a gentleman and a scholar!  Laughing  Seriously though, beautiful article.  I've debated this point many times with atheists who love to bring up the "inconsistency" of the 'promised instant death' in Genesis.  I haven't ever put it as eloquently as you did in this article.  I think in the future I'll just direct people to come here, so you can answer this question for me!

Mr. Willie J,


Joel Gabriele - 5/14/2010 4:50:02 PM

8/20/2010 6:11 PM #

Dear Henry,

It is a beautiful article indeed!


Joshua - 8/20/2010 6:11:32 PM

9/25/2010 8:44 PM #

I really don't understand, I was brought up to believe Adam was the first, so how could there be sin before Adam?  The Devil was an angel and was cast in to the pits of Hell, not that his sin did not exsist but was not the same.

willie j - I think you can get a point across with out shouting - we will still read it.

michael - 9/25/2010 8:44:38 PM

9/21/2011 11:03 AM #


Romans 5:12 tells us how sin and death entered into the world. "Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world (notice it was man not satan) and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned." If there was sin and death prior to Adam, then Romans 5:12 is a lie as is the entire doctrine of the first man Adam and the last Adam of I Cor 15:45-47.

People think somehow that satan was around a long time before the creation of the world. This is false. Ez 28:15 tells us that he was created on a day. When did days begin? Gen 1:5 tells us when days began! And Ezekiel tells us speaking of Satan, "Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the DAY that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee."

Just because we have always believed something doesn't mean it is right! Check it out by the Bible!

K.T. - 9/21/2011 11:03:56 AM

9/21/2011 1:48 PM #

Interesting article, I have given this subject some thought myself over the years.  There are two considerations that I feel must be addressed.
     The first is that God's admonition not to eat of the fruit, at the penalty of death, would have been without meaning to Adam unless he had some  understanding of just what death was.
     The second, and perhaps an answer to the first, is that the Bible in no way insinuates that animals were created to experience eternally living. If this were the case, the Earth would have quite soon been over run with animals, and men, had Adam obeyed and not eaten the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Especially considering that the consumption of meat didn't exist among animals or men.
     In fact, it seems to me that the knowledge of good and evil, which is possessed by God, presupposes that death exists, and being the antithesis of the goodness of God, is evil.
     It seems likely that man, being the only creature created 'in the image of God' in the six days of creation, was was also the only creature granted eternal existence. It's as vital a part of being created in God's image as having a soul and conscience is, it seperates us from the animal kingdom, and is compatible with the charge of being given dominion.
     Even satan, and sinners live eternally, although in hell and seperated from God.  It appears that God, being a God of life, never snuffs out life once it is given, He just creates a niche where that life can continue forever.
     The righteous. on the other hand, will experience eternal life in the presence of God, in fellowship and communion with him, sharing in ruling "all that His hand has created" for eternity in heaven.
     These are the things I have thoughtfully considered, it's a bit different than your take, so please let me know what I'm missing that will lead me to your conclusion.  

Terry - 9/21/2011 1:48:17 PM

12/2/2011 7:24 PM #

Dear Micheal Satan has never been to hell though some of the fallen Angels have been in the pit.  Revelation clearly states that he will indwell a person who has been mortally wounded in a counterfiet of Christ resurrection he will only be consigned to the pit for 1000 years and than will be losed one last time but when he and those who willfollow him will be thrown into the Lake of Fire He does not rule in hell he is just another fallen angel who will be tormented forever along with all sinners who have never called on the Name of Jesus the Christ asking for their sins to bewashed in the Blood of Christ so whoever taught you that Satin was in hell and rules that domain unfortunately was at the very least mistaken but also remember Satan can diguise himself as an angel of Light and his follower can deguise themselve as people of rightiousness.  I hope thisclears up your confussion and helps you to come to a closer relationship with Jesus the Christ nd read the bible daily and Gods Holy Spirit will lead you to all truth.  

John R Bloxson Jr - 12/2/2011 7:24:48 PM

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