Re: Death before the Fall

Mark Phillips (
Mon, 02 Aug 1999 15:10:40 +0930

Dear Glenn,

I'm not a young-earther so perhaps there's a bit of talking at
cross-purposes here, but never mind.

basically that the Hebrew word for "good" is one step down the rung
from the Hebrew for "perfect", so by God using "good" rather than
"perfect", he is actually saying that creation is good but not
perfect, ie it has some flaws or negative aspects. Perhaps I have
misunderstood your argument slightly though?

What I am asking is whether there is necessarily such a linear
ordering between the words. That is, is the Hebrew word for "good"
always to be understood as representing part way towards "the ultimate
in good", "perfection"? Perhaps the Hebrew for "perfect" was
inappropriate --- not because creation had flaws, but because the word
"good" conveyed the true meaning more accurately. Let me illustrate.
Supposing someone bakes me a cake and it tastes delicious. I might
tell them "This cake is good! This cake is very very good." Now I am
not saying
"this cake is good but has some flaws, in fact it's mostly
good, it's 99% good, but there are still small improvements which
could be made."
No, there's nothing about the cake which I think needs improving upon.
The reason I don't say "this cake is perfect", is because this doesn't
quite convey the correct message. To talk about perfection, is to
emphasise a comparison with the less than perfect. To talk about
good, is to emphasise the positive nature of the thing. The good cake
may be perfect in that there is nothing about the cake I want to
improve on, but I want to emphasise how good it is, not on the fact
that it is without flaw. Likewise, I might have a perfect carrot cake
--- nothing could be done to improve on the carrot cake. But if
carrot cake is not my favorite, I might not describe it as very very

So in creation, perhaps God is emphasising how good it is. Perhaps it
is perfect, but this is not his emphasis --- he wants to emphasise how
really darn good it is, not emphasise that it is without flaws though
this may be true.

> At 10:13 AM 08/02/1999 +0930, Mark Phillips wrote:
> >So what does the word for good, "towb" really mean? Is it not the
> >opposite of evil? Perhaps God is saying the world was "without evil"?
> It basically means the same as our word good. Lot used it when he told the
> crowd outside his house to do what was good in their eyes to his daughters.
> To me this single example clearly points out that the word can not mean
> perfection. Lot was not offering perfection and the crowd wasn't looking
> for perfection. Lot was not expecting that the crowed wanted to shower the
> daughters with agape love. Good is not perfect! Yet Young-earthers want to
> make it that way.

I have a Kohlenberger interlinear that renders this part of the
passage about Lot as "and you do to them (the daughters) as the good
in eyes of you". So in the eyes of the men, perhaps what they would
do to the daughters would be perfect, without negative side?

> >Perhaps the word "tawmiym" has connotations that God is not wishing to
> >express? "Perfect" has with it the idea that any other creation would
> >be lesser than it.
> First, Tawmiym was used of the paschal lamb--it was to be perfect
> without blemish. And tawmiym was said of Noah, a man perfect in his
> generations. Now if God created a world that was as good as it
> could be, then to use perfect would be correct and descriptive. But
> if God created our universe not quite as good as other possible
> universes, then to call this world perfect would be inappropriate.
> Good would be an apt description. But if good was an apt
> description, then this world is not perfect as the YECs claim .

If God created a world that was as good as it could be, then the word
"perfect" might be correct, but not descriptive enough. Someone
serves me up some carrot cake and a chocolate cake. The carrot cake
is perfect --- couldn't get a better carrot cake. The chocolate cake
is perfect too. The carrot cake is nice --- I liked it. But you
should taste the chocolate cake, it is good --- very very good! The
words "perfect" and "good" are conveying slightly different ideas. To
describe this world as good, doesn't necessarily mean it is not

> Perhaps there were many possible creations which
> >could have been described "good" --- in the sense of "without any bad
> >parts" --- and to describe any one of them as "perfect" might be to
> >suggest that the others were less than perfect. This is pure
> >conjecture, but what I am trying to point out is that the use of the
> >word "good" does not necessarily imply that there are some flaws.
> I find this to be quite a stretch in order to maintain the myth of a
> perfect creation, a myth totally unsupported by the Bible. I thought we
> were supposed to pay attention to what the Bible says, not what we want it
> to say.

I accept that Genesis 1 doesn't clearly say that the creation was
perfect. Nor does it say (from what I understand to date) that it had
imperfections. Its emphasis is on how good creation is. If this is
all you are saying then fine, but I get the impression you are saying
more than this.

> My Bible doesn't say wholly good. It says very good or good, but not wholly
> good. And the Jews didn't see it your way either. Consider the Rabbi Ramban
> :
> "The meaning of the word me'od (very) is 'mostly.' On this sixth day He
> added this word because he is speaking of creation in general which
> contains evil in some part of it. Thus He said that it was very good,
> meaning its me'od is good [thus conveying the thought that even the small
> part of it which is evil is basically also good, as is explained further
> on]. It is this thought which is the basis of the saying of the Rabbis in
> Bereshith Rabbah: And, behold, it was very good. And, behold it was
> good--this refers to death.' Ramban (Nachmanides) Commentary on the Torah,
> Trans. by Dr. Charles B. Chavel, (New York: Shilo Publishing House, 1971),
> p. 58
> The Young-earth creationist idea is not consistent with the way the Hebrews
> understood the terms!!!!

Certainly the sense I get of Genesis 1 meaning "wholly good" is only a
sense, and could be wrong. This sense is obviously on conflict with
Rabbi Ramban, though is he representative of Hebrews in general? I
don't know. Perhaps Ramban is wrestling with the problem of creation
containing evil and this is biasing his interpretation of me'od??

> >Prove me wrong by all means, but your argument at this point seems a
> >little light.
> Explain why God created that incredible death machinery if He didn't want
> death. Your claim that my argument is 'light' is in a note that, to this
> moment, has not explained why God created and uses death to accomplish His
> purpose. In fact you simply ignore this fundamental fact. Why did God
> create the machinery of cellular death by suicide?

The argument that I was calling "light", is your argument about the
use of the word "good" in Genesis 1 rather than "perfect". I dealt
with your argument about cellular death later in my email.

> >If I were a YEC, I would be arguing that the cells of our body are not
> >animals. And that by "no death before the fall" it is meant that
> >there is "no death of animals before the fall". I mean, presumably
> >there is plant death before the fall, because the animals eat the
> >plants. Cells "die" and a replaced, but this is all part of day to
> >day body mechanics. It would be possible to envisage a system whereby
> >a human's cells continually died and were replaced, but where the
> >human themselves remained alive and healthy forever. Christians
> >believe that the continued operation of all of creation requires God's
> >continual sustenance. This fact is not viewed as a notion of death.
> >Indeed, I would presume heaven will be a place requiring God's
> >constant sustenance. In fact, life in the bible is viewed as being
> >the result of God's sustenance, and death the opposite of this. So in
> >the light of this, what is wrong with the idea of pre-fall life
> >requiring the constant sustenace of God in that God ensures that
> >celular death never gives rise to real animal death?
> Nothing, except that is not what the Bible describes. And it leaves the
> Tree of LIfe in the garden as a useless thing, unneeded for any purpose,
> certainly not the imparting of immortality. Why did God place the useless
> tree of life in the garden?

Because the tree was the means God used to provide this sustenance.

> >Yes, if I were a YEC, I would argue that cellular death is not real
> >death, as I have done above. The problem with your rebuttal is that
> >all it points out, is that without God's sustenance, cellular death
> >could lead to real death. Yes, cell death in the heart could lead to
> >human death, but if God ensured that this never happened, there could
> >be eternal life in spite of the fact that this life was supported via
> >mechanisms of cellular death.
> >
> >Imagine a world in which this was the case. Sure plants were eaten
> >and died, and with scientific investigation it was discovered that
> >biological processes involved the death of cells, but animals and
> >people never died. People never died, never grew old and weak.
> >Animals never died. Pets remained alive and healthy for ever. Okay,
> >I can see lots of problems with this such as with population grow etc,
> >but lets put these objections asside for now. If this kind of world
> >did exist, surely the description "death has not entered this world"
> >would be a reasonable one? All the suffering and trauma associated
> >with human and animal death would be non-existant.
> Then there would be no need for reproduction whatsoever. God created
> reproduction but reproduction on a world in which no one dies, quickly
> leads to an overpopulated world. In fact, you eventually could have the
> animals outweighing the entire planet. Nothing could die, yet they have 10
> offspring per year. Where does the material come from to make up the mass
> of these offspring? An ocean sunfish can give out 300 million eggs in one
> spawning. Very quickly ocean sunfish will cover the earth and none of them
> could die. That certainly would not be an appealing place to live.

You will notice that I deliberately put objections such as population
growth asside. Population growth is a good argument against believing
that God intended Eden to be a world without death for perpetuity.
But that is not your argument. Your argument is that cellular death
is real death and as such, existed before the fall.

> >Putting my non-YEC hat back on... I would have thought a slightly
> >more potent argument in favour of pre-fall death, would be the
> >involvement of actual animals in biological systems. I am no expert,
> >but isn't it true that bacterial death is intimately involved in human
> >biological systems? And bacteria are considered animals aren't they?
> >And wouldn't there be examples of the death of even more developed
> >animals than bacteria, involved in biological systems?
> I don't know exactly what you mean here, but I can envision the strange
> case of a cow biting a clump of grass upon which an ant, an aphid and a
> grasshopper were resting. Since there can't be any animal death in your
> scenario, then the ant, aphid and grasshopper must be able to resist the
> tons per square inch pressure of the cows teeth, the grinding of the teeth,
> the gastric juices and all other stuff and then be able to emerge unharmed
> again into the sunlight from the other end of the cow. That certainly seems
> silly.

Yes, that would be difficult to believe, though perhaps God played a
much more active role in nature, ensuring that ants didn't walk on
grass about to be bitten by a cow?

What I was really referring to is say our bowel system. I have not
studied biology, but it is my understanding that we have lots of
bacteria in our bowels who play an integral part in the processing of
our food. Without bacteria death, we couldn't process our food. And
surely there are lots of examples of symbiotic relationships where the
death of one type of animal is crucial for the life of the other type?
Well, there are carnivors for a start!



"They told me I was gullible ... and I believed them!"