The importance of the distinction of nephesh chayyah life

It’s commonly said that biblical creationists believe in “no death before the Fall”. The problem is that there is a difference between what modern people conceive the word ‘death’ applies to and what the Bible applies it to. CMI writer and biblical scholar Lita Cosner points out the difference.

David H. from the United Kingdom writes in response to article Did God create over billions of years?, and CMI’s Lita Cosner responds, with her comments interspersed:

Dear David,

Your whole argument seems to hinge on the idea that there couldn’t have been any death before the fall.

Death of nephesh chayyah creatures, to be more precise. We don’t argue that plants and insects, etc., didn’t die before the Fall, and “what about skin cells” has always been a ridiculous straw man argument: we believe that certain forms of cell death would have had to be programmed at creation, as they are necessary for all multi-cellular life. Broadly speaking, there was no death of vertebrates.

But while humans clearly didn’t die before the fall, there’s no evidence that other life-forms didn’t die. The bacteria that help us digest food die every second, and if they didn’t die the world would be overrun with them in a few days-there would have been death of SOME things before the fall, whether creation took days or millions of years.

Again—bacteria are not nephesh chayyah life, so there’s no problem with them dying.

God told Adam he would die if he ate the forbidden fruit, and Adam apparently knew what death was-apparently he had seen it happen.

That’s not a strong argument. It is possible to understand a concept without seeing a concrete example of it….

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