In a previous article, I made a case for the propriety of allowing Scripture to be illuminated by scientific evidence, in contradistinction to the popular perception among young earth creationists that to interpret Scripture in light of science is to elevate man’s authority above God’s and compromise the authority of Scripture. Having now set forth my proposed paradigm for the intersection of general and special revelation, I wish to proceed to publish a careful analysis of the early chapters of Genesis. As stated in my previous article, even if it be supposed (as I am perfectly happy to concede) that the young earth interpretation of Genesis 1-11 is the most face-value reading of the Biblical text, it does not necessarily follow that this is the reading that is to be preferred by the rational inquirer. Given that we have strong independent reason to think both that the Biblical text (including Genesis) is inspired and authoritative Scripture and that the earth is very old (on the order of billions of years), plausible readings that harmonize those respective conclusions should be favored over an interpretation that puts them in conflict, even if the latter is somewhat more probable than the former. If the text of Genesis 1-11 is found to conflict in fact with science (as opposed to merely on first appearance), then that would, for reasons articulated in my previous article, constitute evidence against the Christian faith. The potency of that evidence will depend on our level of confidence that Genesis and science do indeed conflict, which will in turn relate to the plausibility of the interpretations I offer in this and subsequent articles.
In this article, I intend to focus my attention on the Biblical record concerning human origins and the consequences of the fall. It is perhaps the most popular young earth argument that no death of any kind existed prior to the fall, when mankind rebelled against God. This entails, so the argument goes, that there can be no fossil record prior to the creation of man. Thus, according to young earth creationists, the existence of creatures (such as the dinosaurs) millions of years before man is precluded. It is these concerns that I will attempt to tackle in the present article.
Some may wonder why I have chosen to address this topic prior to engaging with other topics (such as the meaning of the ‘days’ in Genesis 1). I have done so because many young earth creationists consider this to be the more pressing concern, and perhaps even the strongest argument for their position from Scripture. Furthermore, I was recently told by a young earth creationist that he groans when the debate focuses on the meaning of the ‘days’, since he regards this argument as much more decisive. Having addressed thoughtfully and carefully this issue, therefore, I intend to, in later articles, also discuss at length the other relevant texts, including the creation ‘days’ of Genesis 1.
Did the Fall Result in Physical Death, Spiritual Death, or Both?
Young earth creationists typically point to the words of Paul that “Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned,” (Romans 5:12). My own view is that the death referred to here is probably not, as some have suggested, only spiritual (though it definitely includes that) but physical as well. Some old earth creationists, in arguing that only spiritual death is in view, appeal to the fact that Adam and Eve, upon eating of the tree, though they had been told by God that “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die,” (Gen 2:17), did not die that day but went on to live a full life afterwards. I would argue that this verse suggests that the primary reference of God’s threat is to spiritual death rather than physical death, though physical death is also in view, since the reason given for God expelling Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden was “lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” I would suggest that mankind was not, contrary to common belief, created immortal. Rather, immortality was attained by eating from the life-giving fruit of the tree of life in the midst of the garden of Eden. By blocking mankind’s access to the garden of Eden, Adam and his seed were sentenced to eventually die, since they would no longer have access to this life-giving fruit.
If physical human death was a consequence of the fall, does it follow that animal death resulted from human sin as well? I would argue that the answer to this is ‘no’. Note that Romans 5:12 does not say this. Instead, it says that “death spread to all men because all sinned.” In fact, there is no text in Scripture that unequivocally indicates that animal death was a result of the fall of man. Furthermore, there is a significant problem, often overlooked, with the idea that, as young earth creationists maintain, animal predation did not exist until after the fall. Genesis 2:2-3 tells us that God rested from His creative activity — that is to say, He did not bring anything new into being after the commence of His rest on the seventh day. If there were no carnivorous animals before the fall, then the young earth creationist must indicate from whence they acquired their teeth, claws, fangs, muscle mass, and other animal anatomy that is aptly designed for killing — not to mention defensive mechanisms that presume the existence of carnivorous predators. There is no indication in Scripture whatsoever that there was a subsequent act of creation where those bodily features were designed by God after the fall.
It should be noted that there are a few texts that are used by young earth creationists to support the idea that animal predation did not exist prior to the fall, and it is to those that I now turn.
Does Isaiah 11:6-9 Indicate That There Was No Animal Death Before Sin?
One of those texts is Isaiah 11:6-9, which describes the Messianic age:
6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. 9 They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
Young earth creationists often interpret this text to mean that the creation, during the Messianic age, will be restored to its pre-fall condition, which includes the absence of animal predation. However, it is very possible to interpret this text figuratively (to describe the state of global peace that shall exist) rather than literally. Scripture uses figurative imagery elsewhere to describe the peace that will exist during the Messianic age. For example, in Isaiah 2:4, we read that people “shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.” This will not literally be fulfilled, but is a symbolic figure of speech. Another example is in Isaiah 19:1-8, which prophecies the drying up of the Nile. Alec J. Motyer, in his classic commentary on the book of Isaiah, argues that “The drying up of the Nile is a figurative description of coming economic decay—such a decay as would make one wonder if the Nile had gone!”  This interpretation, of course, is by no means certain, but it seems very plausible. The description in Isaiah 11:6-9 may be similarly interpreted, as utilizing symbolic imagery. Biblical scholar C. John Collins comments, “it makes good sense to read Isaiah 11:6–8 as a figurative description of the peaceful reign brought in by the Messiah: it will be as startling as if wolves and lambs were to dwell together! In the historical context of Isaiah, this works extremely well: the large imperialistic nations, such as Assyria and Egypt, could easily be likened to predators, and the small countries, such as Israel (the northern kingdom) and Judah (the southern kingdom) could easily be likened to their helpless prey. In fact, within a few years of this prophecy Assyria would swallow up the northern kingdom, and soon thereafter threaten to swallow up the southern kingdom as well. Under the Messiah’s reign, all peoples will love the Lord and will no longer threaten one another (see Isa. 19:19–25).” 
However, even if the description in Isaiah 11:6-9 is taken literally, it does not necessarily entail that the state of the earth during the Messianic age is identical to the condition before the fall. Perhaps the condition of earth during the Messianic age is an even higher exaltation than the pre-fall state.
But Wasn’t God’s Creation Described as “Very Good”?
A further argument that is sometimes used to support the common view that death did not exist in the pre-fall world is the allusion to God describing His creation several times throughout the account of Genesis 1 as “good”, culminating in God declaring His creation “very good” after the creation of man (Gen 1:31). However, this argument too runs into problems. For one thing, the apostle Paul seems to have thought that things created by God have retained their “good” status, even after the fall (1 Tim 4:4).
Second, there is a Psalm that praises God for the way in which the present world continues to reflect the good creation of God. In Psalm 104:24-31, we read,
24 O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. 25 Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great. 26 There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it. 27 These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. 28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 30 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground. 31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works…
Notice that, in the midst of this Psalm that is a song of praise to God because of the goodness of His creation, the inspired writer mentions the fact that the small and great living things look to God to give them their food — which presumably includes carnivores. Furthermore, immediately prior to this exclamation of praise to God for the goodness of His creation, in verses 21-23, we read,
21 The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God. 22 When the sun rises, they steal away and lie down in their dens. 23 Man goes out to his work and to his labor until the evening.
Thus, to the Psalmist, the carnivorousness of meat-eating animals such as lions is a part of the goodness of God’s creation, even something that God can be praised for.
Third, what does it mean for something to be “good” in the sense in which it is used in early Genesis? In Genesis 2:18, God declares that “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” In other words, it is not good for man to be alone since he is not functioning properly without a helper. Likewise, in Genesis 1:31, the expression “very good” (and elsewhere where God’s work is described as “good”), is best interpreted as a goodness of function — that is, things operate as they were designed to.
Biblical scholar John Walton notes that “This verse has nothing to do with moral perfection or quality of workmanship — it is a comment concerning function. The human condition is not functionally complete without the woman. Thus throughout Genesis 1 the refrain “it was good” expressed the functional readiness of the cosmos for human beings. Readers were assured that all functions were operating well and in accord with God’s purposes and direction.”  Abraham Kuruvilla likewise notes, “…’good’ signifies optimal function; thus the ‘not good’ (the first such state in Scripture) indicates less than optimal function.”  John Hill concurs: “The word ‘good’ refers to the value, purpose, or function of something. This shows the fact that the item in question fulfills its intended purpose. In other words, the light [of day 1] fulfilled its function.” 
Were All Animals Originally Vegetarian?
Another text that is sometimes used to indicate the absence of death prior to the fall is Genesis 1:29-30, where God says,
Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.”
This text is taken by young earth creationist to indicate that all animals, including humans, were originally created to be vegetarian, and carnivorous animals did not exist until after the fall. The text does not technically say that all animals were created to be vegetarian. Rather, it indicates that God provided the plants for food. This does not entail that plants were the exclusive diet of humans or animals. Furthermore, C. John Collins further observes that “even if we take Genesis 1:29–30 as prescribing a strictly vegetarian diet for man and beast, it only applies to land dwellers and flying creatures: that is, it leaves out everything that lives in the water. But the things that live in the water include jellyfish, starfish, crabs, trout, sea snakes, penguins, otters, orcas and seals, all of which eat other animals. So eating meat isn’t ruled out for all animals.”  Moreover, even if we take Genesis 9:3 as indicating that man was not allowed to consume meat prior to the flood (which I will challenge — see below), it does not follow that this was the exclusive diet of the rest of the animal kingdom. And even if God prescribed man’s diet to be restricted to green plants only prior to the flood, there is also no guarantee that they obeyed this command (in fact, man’s corruption was motivation for the flood in the first place — Gen 6:5-7). Further, there is in fact some textual evidence to suggest that humans were consuming meat prior to the flood, since we read that “Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering,” (Gen 4:4). This offering of the firstborn would be recognized by an Israelite as a peace offering (Deut 15:19-23), which involved the meat being eaten by the worshiper.
Furthermore, as previously stated, there is no indication in Scripture that animal anatomy and physiology (including digestive systems) was radically redesigned after the fall, and the anatomy and physiology of many creatures, such as the Tyrannosaurus Rex, is exquisitely designed for killing and eating meat — not to mention the defense mechanisms, such a scorpion’s pincers and stinging tails, that presume the presence of carnivorous predators. Some animals, such as the cheetah, are built for speed, but this makes no sense at all in a world without predation and carnivorousness. There is also no evidence in Scripture that God created animal immune systems, as a defense against pathogenic microorganisms, only after the fall. This seems to fly in the face of the Scriptural assertion that God rested from all His work on the seventh day.
In fact, the common view that Genesis indicates that all animals had a vegetarian diet prior to the fall has been challenged by Joshua John Van Ee in his 2013 doctoral dissertation.  Van Ee focuses on God’s command to mankind in Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Van Ee surveys the usages of the Hebrew words כִבְשֻׁ֑ and רְד֞וּ (to subdue and to have dominion). He observes that the word כִבְשֻׁ֑ (to subdue) is found 13 other times in Scripture. In six of those occurrences it refers to war conquest of hostile lands (Num 32:2; 32:29; Josh 18:1; 2 Sam 8:11; 1 Chr 22:18; Zech 9:15). In five of those instances it refers to enslavement (2 Chr 28:10; Neh 5:5; Jer 34:11,16). On one occasion it is used as a locution for sexual assault (Est 7:9) and once it is used of trampling underfoot (Mic 7:19). The word רְד֞וּ (to rule or have dominion) is also a very harsh term. Van Ee notes that this word “is not used for someone ruling over his own people unless that rule involves some sort of oppression or injustice.”  Its usages include Genesis 1:26-28, Leviticus 25:43, 46, 53, Leviticus 26:17, Numbers 24:19, Judges 5:13, Judges 14:9, 1 Kings 4:24, 1 Kings 5:16, 1 Kings 9:23, 2 Chronicles 8:10, Nehemiah 9:28, Psalm 49:14, Psalm 68:27, Psalm 72:8, Psalm 112:2, Isaiah 14:2,6, Isaiah 41:2, Jeremiah 5:31, Lamentations 1:13, Ezekiel 29:15 and Ezekiel 34:4. While this usage may make sense in the case of domesticated livestock, it hardly makes sense to speak of humans subduing and having dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the non-domesticated beasts of the field. What use could mankind have for such animals besides using them for food? Peet Van Dyk, in commenting on Genesis 1:29-30, notes, “When reading the verse, the first inclination of the ecologically sensitive reader is to try and interpret the words ‘subdue’ and ‘rule over’ in a less damaging way…However, within its immediate context the Hebrew words…cannot be softened in any way. Even Tucker[‘s study]…acknowledged that the term ‘subdue’ is a potentially violent verb, referring to ‘trampling under one’s feet’ in absolute subjugation.” 
Some readers may be concerned that these observations imply animal cruelty. However, we must understand this text in view of the context of the Pentateuch as a whole. Various passages in the Jewish law forbid animal cruelty. For example, the Israelites were instructed that “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk (Exod 23:19); that “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain” (Deut 25:4); that “On [the Sabbath day] you shall not do any work, you, or…your livestock…” (Exod 20:10); and that “If you come across a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. You shall let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, that it may go well with you, and that you may live long,” (Deut 22:6-7). There is even a proverb that says “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast,” (Prov 12:10).
One objection that may be raised here is that God specifically grants mankind the permission to eat meat in Genesis 9:3, where God says to Noah and his sons, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” However, the most literal translation of this text is “Like a green plant, I give to you everything.” Furthermore, Van Ee notes that “Even though 9:3 should not be separated from 9:2, it has an even tighter connection with 9:4. Together they form a dietary law similar in form to those in Leviticus; an entire class of animals is designated as proper for food (or as improper) with the following restrictive clause providing the exceptions. Thus 9:3 is a necessary (or at least formulaic) introduction to 9:4-6. Humankind’s right to eat animals is stated more explicitly in 9:3 than in 1:28 because of the prohibitions that were going to be introduced.”  A similar construction to that found in Genesis 9:3-4,where God states what is permitted followed by the exceptions that are not permitted, can be observed in Leviticus 11:3-4, 9-10, 20-21, as well as Deuteronomy 14:6-7; 9-10, 11-12.
A further implication of Genesis 1:28 is that the earth was in need of subjugation. If the earth was, in its original condition, a paradise that was free of pain and suffering, why would God command humans to make a warlike conquest? This only makes sense if the creation was still wild and untamed. Thomas Keiser notes, “The utilization of [subdue] implies that the earth needs to be subdued, thus logically creating the impression that something with creation required such action. But this notion goes against the nearly universal presumption that God’s creation was perfect in the sense of being unimprovable or finished; however the characterization of creation is not as something which is unimprovable and finished.” 
Wasn’t the Creation Subjected to Futility?
Another text that is often used by young earth creationists to support the notion that no animal death existed prior to the fall is Romans 8:20-22, in which we read,
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
This passage looks forward to the day when those who have placed their trust in Christ will be made holy. C. John Collins notes that “until then, our being out of kilter affects the creation. And how does it affect the creation? Because God made man to rule it (Gen. 1:26), and after man’s fall, man rules it badly.”  Collins further observes that “The creation also groans because…it is the arena in which God chastises man. Hence it suffers when man is punished (as in the flood of Genesis 6-8). So the creation ‘waits with eager longing’ for the day when this is no longer needed.”  He concludes, “None of this, though, supports the claim that the processes of the creation themselves — the way that plants grow and die, or that animals eat and reproduce, or that chemical reactions increase entropy — are morally corrupt.” 
Were Thorns and Thistles a Consequence of the Fall?
What other consequences did man’s rebellion have? In Genesis 3:17-19, we read,
…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…
Does this text indicate, as many young earth interpreters have suggested, that thorns and thistles did not pre-date the fall? I would argue the answer is ‘no’. Rather, the text only indicates that man was expelled “out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken,” (Gen 3:23). Recall that Adam had previously been fashioned outside of the garden of Eden and subsequently placed into it (Gen 2:7-8). Now Adam will have to work outside of the garden of Eden, where the ground produces thorns and thistles. Thus, “the ground that he works does not enjoy the blessings of Eden — that is, it just keeps producing the thorns and thistles it had at first because the man has fallen from his original assignment.”  The “plants of the field” are what naturally grew from the ground, apart from Eden’s influence — the same sort of plant that had not yet sprung up in Genesis 2:5.
Why is There So Much Animal Suffering?
One might reasonably inquire as this point as to why God would allow there to be so much animal suffering and violence apart from as a consequence of humanity’s sin. Indeed, one of the attractions of young earth creationism is that it offers a theodicy — that is, an account of why there exists so much evil and suffering in a world created by a good God. One approach that has been taken to resolve this is that of William Dembski, who has argued that the fall is retroactive with respect to its cause and effect relationship.  That is to say, just as the cross of Christ accomplished the salvation of individuals not only living after Jesus’ death, but of individuals living prior to His death as well, so likewise the fall has affected the creation not only after human sin, but before human sin as well. Dembski asks an interesting question: “Now, ask yourself why God would need to plant a garden in a perfect world untouched by natural evil. In a perfect world, wouldn’t the whole world be a garden? And why, once humans sin, must they be expelled from this garden and live outside it, where natural evil is present?”  According to Dembski, “Two worlds intersect in the Garden. In the one world, the world God originally intended, the Garden is part of a larger world that is perfect and includes no natural evils. In the other world, the world that became corrupt through natural evils that God brought about in anticipation of the Fall, the garden is a safe haven that in the conscious experience of Adam and Eve (i.e. phenomenologically) matches up exactly with their conscious experience in the perfect world, the one that God originally intended.”  When Adam and Eve rebel against God by eating from the forbidden tree, according to Dembski, they are expelled from the garden into the world that God had prepared in anticipation of the fall. Though Dembski’s idea is highly speculative, it is certainly interesting and I do not consider it to be implausible.
Another possibility, that I myself lean towards, is that animal death and suffering was the result not of the fall of man but of another fall entirely — that is, the fall of Satan. We know from Scripture that the fall of Satan, which had taken place prior to the fall of man, had in some sense affected the animal kingdom, since Adam and Eve are tempted by a serpent that was presumably possessed by Satan, and the serpent is described as “more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made,” (Gen 3:1) Perhaps Satan is responsible for the death and suffering of animals. This may be why the pathogenic particles we call viruses give evidence of being exquisitely well designed and yet cause us harm. Possibly, viruses were originally designed as an efficient way of moving genes between cells (a process known as transduction), but were in some way manipulated by Satan and the forces of evil to cause us harm. Viruses in fact do have friendly roles, even today. Bacteriophages (viruses that infect only bacteria) might well be among our first lines of defense against bacterial infection. On the view that I am proposing, then, there are two intelligent designers — God and Satan. This hypothesis accounts for the overwhelming evidence of design seen in the pathogenic processes that occur in bacteria and viruses and yet also accounts for the fact that many of these systems are designed to kill us or at the very least to cause us harm. Though this is to some extent speculative, there is some Biblical evidence that is consistent with it. For example, when Jesus is confronted by ruler of the synagogue about healing a disabled woman on the Sabbath day, Jesus replies, “And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (Lk 13:16, emphasis added) This text suggests that the woman’s disability was, at least in part, brought about by Satan. This indicates that Satan has some ability to manipulate God’s biological design in order to cause us harm.
In summary, while I think a good case can be made for the physical death of humans being a consequence of the fall, it does not follow that animal death was also a consequence of the fall. Though young earth creationists have a number of ‘proof texts’ that are supposed to support this conclusion, a closer inspection of those passages reveals them to be at best inconclusive. There is also some reason to believe that animal predation did exist prior to the fall. For one thing, the Scriptures assert that God rested on the seventh day from all of His creative work. How then is this to be harmonized with the view, which a young earth creationist is all but compelled to accept, that there must have been a radical recreation of animal anatomy after the fall?
In my next article, I will address the topic of what the Bible has to say about the historicity of Adam and Eve, and will investigate what Science and Scripture might tell us about when they might have lived.
 Alec J. Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary (Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1996), 165.
 C. John Collins, Science & Faith: Friends or Foes? (Illinois: Crossway, 2003), 157.
 John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (Illinois: Intervarsity Press Academic, 2009), 51.
 Abraham Kuruvilla, Genesis — A Theological Commentary for Preachers (Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 2014), 60.
 John Hill, Foundations: A Commentary of Genesis 1-10 (North Carolina: Lulu Press), 75.
 C. John Collins, Science & Faith: Friends or Foes? (Illinois: Crossway, 2003), 153.
 Joshua John Van Ee, “Death and the Garden: An Examination of Original Immortality, Vegetarianism, and Animal Peace in the Hebrew Bible and Mesopotamia,” (PhD diss., University of California, San Diego, 2013).
 Ibid., 210.
 Peet Van Dyk, “Challenges in the Search for an Ecotheology,” Old Testament Essays 22, no. 1: 90.
 Joshua John Van Ee, “Death and the Garden: An Examination of Original Immortality, Vegetarianism, and Animal Peace in the Hebrew Bible and Mesopotamia,” (PhD diss., University of California, San Diego, 2013), 245.
 Thomas A. Keiser, Genesis 1-11: Its Literary Coherence and Theological Message (Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 2013), 67-68
 C. John Collins, Science & Faith: Friends or Foes? (Illinois: Crossway, 2003), 158.
 Ibid., 158-159.
 Ibid., 159.
 Ibid., 151.
 William A. Dembski, The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World (Tennessee: B&H Academic, 2009), kindle