In which a reader asks about death before sin.
You say in your FAQ that both Genesis and the NT are clear that homo sapiens existed before the creation of Adam. Yet Genesis and Romans are both very clear that death came about as the result of sin. How do you reconcile these two statements?
I believe Gerald Schroeder is correct that it was spiritual death, not physical death, that resulted from sin. After being told, “on the day that you eat [the forbidden fruit] you shall surely die,” (emphasis added) and then eating the fruit, Adam lives for another 930 years. Instead of being physically killed as a punishment, he and Eve are thrown out of Eden, and God never addresses them again. In God According to God, Schroeder explains why this is a far worse punishment:
The Bible does not imply that eating of the forbidden fruit brought physical death for the first time into the world. The death that this first of human couples experienced was the death of their unbounded spirituality. Loss of spirituality for one who had conversed with the Creator, a separation from that infinite light, would be far more devastating than actual physical death. For this unfortunate couple of the Bible, only the physical remained.
Cain suffered similarly. At Cain’s exile, following his murdering Abel, he pleaded: “My punishment is greater than I can bear… From Your Presence I shall be hidden” (Gen. 4:13-14).
Hugh Ross points out that we have a tendency to forget the first fall was Satan’s, not man’s. I suppose God knew Satan would corrupt the world, so he mercifully built physical decay and death into this fallen world so that neither would it last forever nor would we even have enough time to grow more corrupt than we already are.
Scripturally, there is no problem whatsoever with physical death preceding Adam. In fact, as strange as it sounds, we should be grateful to God for it.