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As retribution for sin, God declared a series of curses in Genesis 3. Below are some relevant quotes from the chapter:

14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. [Genesis 3:13, ESV]

17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” [Genesis 3:17-19, ESV]

Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 shed more light on this:

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. [Romans 5:12-14, ESV]

17 For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. [Romans 5:17, ESV]

21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. [1 Corinthians 15:21, ESV]

What I gather from these verses is that death entered the world because of Adam's fall. However, there is no explicit mention of animals being cursed with death, and instead the emphasis is placed on the death of human beings.

Question: did death enter the animal kingdom as part of the curses that followed the Fall (and not before)? If so, does this create any conflicts with secular theories that assume that massive animal extinctions (e.g. dinosaurs) took place before humans inhabited the Earth?

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  • The flood (over the whole earth) in the days of Noah, is that which killed the creatures which have since been exposed by excavation. I don't quite see the point of the question.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 3 at 4:52
  • @NigelJ - the flood happened after Adam & Eve according to the Bible. In contrast, secular scientific theories claim that massive animal extinctions happened before humans existed. So there is a clear conflict. Apr 3 at 5:21
  • . . . . but the argument about creatures dying consequent upon the Fall has no bearing on the argument about creatures perishing in the Flood. I see no connection.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 3 at 5:27
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I don't believe the Bible answers this question explicitly, but here are a few pieces of the puzzle I think can be supported by the text:

1. The state of the world changed as a result of the Fall

As noted in the OP:

cursed is the ground because of you (Genesis 1:17)

And it's worth pointing out that the ground which was cursed had been the source of food for not only Adam & Eve, but for animal life as well. This means yes animals were impacted by the Fall, but it is unclear to what extent.

2. The animals in Eden apparently were not eating each other prior to the Fall

And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. (Genesis 1:30)

3. Death was a consequence of the Fall

As noted in the OP, Romans 5:17 indicates:

because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man

Since Adam & Eve were given "dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth" (Genesis 1:28) it seems reasonable to believe that Adam & Eve's actions impacted their dominion as well.

Did that include death for animals? It's difficult to be sure, but it included death for at least one animal:

Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)

Some things we don't know

Unfortunately, I don't think the Biblical text is going to provide definitive answers about dinosaurs.

  • We don't know how long Adam & Eve were in the garden
  • We don't know how much time passed between their partaking of the fruit and their exit from the garden
  • We don't know how much time may have passed between the cursing of the world and Adam & Eve's entrance into that cursed world
  • We don't know where exactly they were sent immediately upon leaving the Garden
  • We don't really know much about what was going on outside the garden while Adam & Eve were in it.

I've heard numerous theories, including things like:

  • Death already existing outside the garden before the Fall, just no death in the garden
  • The earth being created from materials taken from previous worlds
  • Adam & Eve being moved forward in time ~4 billion years after the Fall

And the list goes on with much creativity. I would not be surprised if the answer ultimately ends up being something remarkably simple.

Science

Despite what we do not know, I am impressed by the degree to which the Genesis account has been verified in many points by scientific inquiry, including things such as:

  • The universe had a beginning
  • There was a point at which light began to propagate
  • The order of the development of animal life

I do not believe there is any cause for discarding what can be learned from science or what can be learned from the Bible. The first & second commandments do preclude worshipping science (my thoughts here), but certainly do not preclude using science to obtain knowledge.

After all, Adam was told "By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread" and it has been said "genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration" (apparently comments close to this were made by both Sanborn & Edison). I suggest then that God wanted humans to put in the effort to figure out how things worked.

Conclusion

I do not know the full answer to the OP's question--and I suspect if it were essential information it would have been given to us. Nevertheless, I do believe that God provides us multiple avenues through which we can obtain truth. God created a universe that follows rules and gave us minds capable of evaluating them. Thus it seems to me that God has provided truths through both revelation and the creation.

To modify a popular statement - I believe that perfect science and perfect theology agree perfectly; it is our imperfect understanding of both that creates the illusion of conflict.

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  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator The BioLogos article Did death occur before the Fall? complements this answer by leaning toward a NO answer. Quote: "The Garden of Eden has a reputation as a perfect place, with no death, pain, or even danger for humans or animals. Yet Genesis only teaches that the original creation is “good,” not “perfect.” Some verses in Genesis 1–2 suggest that God’s creation was not safe or pain-free. D. C. Spanner points out that God charged humanity to “subdue” (Gen. 1:28), a word that implies danger." Apr 3 at 20:57
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As pointed out in a previous answer, it would be close to impossible to support any view on this exegetically.

So we can only consider other known truths.

GEN 2:9 And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

First. Man avoided physical ‘death’ via the tree of Life. We have no record of any similar arrangement for animals. Once removed from accessing this tree, man ‘died’.

Next, we need to consider what ‘death’ is. Biblically, Death is separation. Physical death is man’s spirit separating from his [physical] body. This now leads onto the Q as to whether or not animals have spirits - which is a minefield - so I’ll mostly leave this, except for one point for consideration.

Man also had another ‘unique to man’ tree. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And, eating from this resulted in spiritual death. Man’s ‘life’ is in his spirit.

JOHN 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life;

Man is spirit. Are animals? In this debate, the wrong question is, do animals have a spirit - where as it should be ‘are animals spirit’. But, as said, this is where the debate lies.

The debate hinges somewhat around the soul. There is no doubt that animals have a ‘soul’. Feelings, emotions, personalities. And physical senses (instincts). But, are they spirit? Man is. Nevertheless there are many who consider soul/spirit to be ‘the same’. I personally say animals don’t, or are not spirit - but this is where the debate is centred, and this is where I’ll leave it.

And because of this, the ‘’’correct’’’ answer will lie wherever you are on this matter

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The tenor of the story of Gen 1-3 suggests that death came as a result of mankind's sin. That is the world came under the curse of sin and death in animals occurred as a result. This is confirmed by a few NT texts:

  • Rom 8:20, 21 - For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will, but because of the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
  • Rom 5:12 - Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned
  • 1 Cor 15:21 - For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.
0

Yes, death, which came into the world because of Adam's sin, kills even the innocent/sinless animals in the world. Animals cannot sin any more than a newborn child can, yet both die because death is in the world. We begin to die as soon as we are born. Some die before they are born, not because they are sinners in the womb, but because death is in the world and all living things die. Sin is an informed choice. As James puts it: "Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do, yet fails to do it, is guilty of sin." (James 4:17). IF Adam's sin is imputed into everyone's DNA, Jesus, by the same logic, imputed life to everyone's DNA as well. All are alive and able to make a choice to believe and be saved, because of Christ. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

I know this is not the popular flawed Catholic and Calvinist view, but it is the truth of the scriptures.

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