The Counsel of Trent

writing is thinking

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Fall of Man: Literal or Metaphorical?

How can a Christian believe in an old Earth (more than 6,000-10,000 years) since this would imply that there was death before the fall of man and Paul says in Romans 5:12 that death came after the Fall?

The “one man” Paul speaks of is clearly Adam, so to know whether Paul is speaking of physical death or spiritual death we need to look back at the creation story (the one beginning with Gen 2:4). I think it’s abundantly obvious that this story is heavily metaphorical. First consider all the clear metaphor in the passage:

"the LORD God had planted a garden"
"the tree of the knowledge of good and evil"
"he took one of the man's ribs"
"the serpent said to the woman..."
"the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day"

Then there’s this:
25 "The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame."
6 "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye"
7 "Then the eyes of both of them were opened"

Clearly the “sight” they got was not literal physical eyesight it was *spiritual* sight. In the presence of so much metaphorical language the context compels us to take the “death” of which Paul speaks as not *physical* death, but spiritual death.

Note also that the extensive curse does not explicitly mention death as part of the curse (though it mentions that they will die because it says they will toil until they die) nor is there any mention of the incurrence of physical death elsewhere. The role of the tree of life is speculation.

Of course, even if it were interpreted—contrary to context—as physical death, it could only be that physical death of *human beings* was a consequence of the Fall and that there was death of other plants and animals prior to this. I say this to re-emphasize that—from the point of view of logic alone—old earthers are not compelled to hold that there was human death before the human fall and thus not *logically committed* to reading these passages metaphorically as I do. I don’t know why someone wouldn’t, but logical points are important to me so I made it.


At Saturday, March 11, 2006 12:53:00 AM, Blogger B. D. Mooneyham said...

"It could only be that physical death of *human beings* was a consequence of the Fall and that there was death of other plants and animals prior to this."

Is it logically sound to argue that if the curse of humans after the Fall entailed their physical death (though it did not explicitly mention it), then since the ground and at least one "animal" was cursed (the serpent) at the same time, those curses entailed their death as well, and thus there was no death at all before the Fall?
Also, is there something in Paul's Greek in the Romans passage that suggests that he is referring only to spiritual death and not any death at all?
I'm just looking for some clarification here.

At Saturday, March 11, 2006 9:16:00 AM, Blogger Trent_Dougherty said...

I don't think that follows. The "serpent"'s curse was pretty specific.

The Greek is of course no help here whatsoever since metaphor doesn't depend on special terminology (in fact, it depends on the abscence of special terminology).

I'm sure the word in Greek is thanatos though.


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