Both the Old and New Testaments teach that death entered the world when Adam ate the forbidden fruit (e.g., Genesis 2:17 and Romans 5:12). Since fossils are the preserved remains of dead animals, Christians who believe these fossils are millions of years old claim animal death existed prior to Adam’s sin. They say the Bible allows for this possibility, since neither Genesis 2:17 nor Romans 5:1 specifically mentions animal death.
This claim may superficially seem plausible, but it ignores important clues from Scripture. Both pre-Fall humans and animals were vegetarian (Genesis 1:29-30). A vegetarian diet makes perfect sense in a world without death but seems out of place in a world containing it. If animal death was part of God’s original creation, wouldn’t God have designed some animals as scavengers to clean up carcasses littering the ground?
Acceptance of animal death before the Fall necessarily implies suffering. Some dinosaur bones show evidence of violence in the form of healed-over tooth marks, and even cancer.1,2 So, acceptance of pre-Fall animal death necessarily implies pre-Fall suffering and even bloodshed, not merely animals passing away peacefully and quietly. How does this fit a “very good” creation (Genesis 1:31)?
We instinctively know that bloodshed, even animal bloodshed, is not right. Many people react with horror upon seeing it, and some even faint. Yet, bloodshed’s horror is precisely the point. Sin is so horrific that God demands a horrific penalty for it, the shedding of blood. Although only Christ’s shed blood can provide true removal of sin (Hebrews 9:24-25, 10:4), the shedding of animal blood symbolized His future sacrifice and gives us an idea of the seriousness of sin in God’s eyes. But if bloodshed existed millions of years before Adam fell, then bloodshed can’t really be that bad. And by implication, our sin isn’t that bad, either.
Finally, Paul writes in Romans 8:22 that “the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” The natural sense one gets from reading the passage is that this “groaning” was imposed upon the creation at the Fall. This argument is greatly strengthened when one realizes that Paul compares this groaning to the pangs of childbirth. But when was pain in childbirth imposed upon women? At the Fall! Hence, Paul’s analogy strongly implies that God imposed groaning and laboring on the creation at the same time he imposed groaning and laboring in childbirth upon Eve and her daughters!
As noted earlier, the real reason some Christians entertain animal death prior to human sin is because secular scientists insist fossils are millions of years old. Christians who accept this claim are forced to argue that animal death entered the creation long before Adam’s sin, despite the obvious theological and biblical problems with this position.
But there is a better explanation. These fossils are found in water-formed sedimentary rocks.3 The global Flood of Noah (which happened after Adam sinned) provided the massive quantities of mud and sediment needed to rapidly bury and preserve the remains of billions of plants and animals.4
Thus, there is simply no good theological or scientific reason for a Christian to posit human or animal death before the Fall.
- Clarey, T. 2013. Tyrannosaurus rex: Scavenger or Predator? Acts & Facts. 42 (11): 13.
- Thomas, B. Triassic Tumor Raises Creation Questions. Creation Science Update. Posted on ICR.org March 5, 2019, accessed July 9, 2021.
- A secular geologist once told me that 90 to 95% of all sedimentary rocks are water-formed. Moreover, creation scientists think this figure is an underestimate as some sedimentary rocks are incorrectly attributed to wind deposition rather than water.
- Hebert, J. 2021. Is the Bible Evidence for Creation? Acts & Facts. 50 (5): 15.
* Dr. Hebert is Research Scientist at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Dallas.