Genesis 2:17 gives the implication that Adam and Eve were exempt from death prior to eating from the tree of knowledge, and indeed many literalists take this view.

but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.

If Adam and Eve could not die, what would be the purpose of them eating, according to those that believe the premise?

  • This is a very interesting question, but not one that's answerable within this site's guidelines. Since Scripture doesn't address this, any answer given would be speculative at best. This would make for an interesting discussion, but unfortunately, this isn't a discussion forum. See the help page and How we are different than other sites? for guidelines about ht is on topic. Dec 13, 2013 at 1:20
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    Thank's for the feedback. Just affirming there isn't any scripture supporting, or refuting the question is answer enough for me. Dec 13, 2013 at 1:38
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    @DavidStratton I don't wish to be rude, but just because you can't think of a scripture passage off the top of your head that addresses someone's question doesn't mean that there is no such passage and the question should be closed. How do you know that others will not think of a passage that did not occur to you? In this case, I can think of several at least potentially relevant passages. "I don't know the answer" is not at all the same thing as "The question is unanswerable."
    – Jay
    Dec 13, 2013 at 6:24
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    I agree with @Jay. This is not obviously off-topic, as some of the answers below show. Even the speculations could be relevant -- who said what about this in the past (historical theology), and how are various speculations based on or related to exegesis of scripture and tradition?
    – metal
    Dec 13, 2013 at 16:16
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    "Is giving the implication that they are exempt from death prior to eating from the tree of knowledge." False conclusion. They had other trees to eat for food. BUT eating of those would not lead to death; just this one would.
    – Steve
    Dec 14, 2013 at 14:39

5 Answers 5


Presumably there is purpose to food other than just maintaining life.

Revelation describes the New Jerusalem, which is generally equated with Heaven, the place where the saved will spend eternity. And according to Revelation 22:2, in this city, "In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month." So there is food in Heaven, even though everyone there is presumably living as an immortal soul.

Likewise at the Last Supper, Jesus said, Matthew 26:29, "But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” As he died the next day, he must have been talking about something that would happen after his resurrection, when he presumably did not need food and drink to live. Also after his resurrection, he ate food on at least one occasion: Luke 24:40-43, "When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?” So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence." (John 21 also describes Jesus having breakfast with the disciples after his resurrection, though I find that on reading it carefully, it doesn't explicitly say that HE ate anything.)

At a minimum, people enjoy eating food. I certainly do. If some pill was invented that would provide all our caloric and nutritional needs more cheaply and conveniently, I think it very likely that most people would still eat food frequently just for the pleasure of the taste and the feeling of fullness.

Beyond that I think we can only speculate. Just because you won't die without something doesn't mean that it doesn't give you other benefits.

  • As jlaverde says in another answer below, Gen 3:22 is also relevant here: "In order to live forever, Adam and Eve must eat from the tree of life.... This is what the tree of life is for."
    – metal
    Dec 13, 2013 at 16:17

In addition to Jay's excellent answer, eating was also considered a sign of fellowship and therefore acceptance (see eg Mark 2:16, Luke 5:30-32 and Galatians 2:12).

Ultimately such fellowship is meant to be had with God, as it was presumably for Adam and Eve in Genesis and as it will be:

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Revelation 3:20


It's because the death spoken about in Genesis is not physical death. It's spiritual death. See this answer for a complete explanation.

The concept that no physical death existed before the fall doesn't make any sense from a biological standpoint. Although many who believe in the concept that physical death entered the world at the fall talk only about the death of animals, there's no scriptural reason to make this distinction. The death of a tree, a microbe, or even a skin cell, is still death. If the word "death" in Genesis meant physical death, then it ought to mean all forms of physical death of a living thing.

But that sense of death makes no sense, as every living thing of sufficient complexity depends on the death of other living things for survival. Eating (whether required or not) depends upon the death of the food (plants). Digestion involves the death of millions or billions of microbes in a persons gut and intestines. Plant life depends on rich soil, full of organic matter--organic matter is dead material from other plants and animals (insects, bacteria, etc).

  • Not necessarily. The Bible never speaks of plants as being "alive". The highest division of living things in modern biology is between the "animal kingdom" and the "plant kingdom". Even though there are many similarities at the cellular level, clearly the kind of life that plants have is very different from the kind of life that animals have. A light bulb and a computer both use electricity, but this doesn't mean that we can't distinguish them. I doubt that a plant has consciousness or a soul, and that would seem to be the relevant point.
    – Jay
    Dec 16, 2013 at 15:27
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    @Jay: "clearly the kind of life that plants have is very different from the kind of life that animals have" -- clearly two whom? Certainly not most laypeople. Is a bacteria a plant or animal? How about an amoeba? A venus fly trap? A mushroom? These all have answers, but they are not self-evident. Neither is any interpretation of "death" in Genesis, other than a spiritual one, self-evident.
    – Flimzy
    Dec 16, 2013 at 18:06
  • You don't think the average lay person can tell a plant from an animal? It seems to me that the difference is far more obvious to the lay person looking at things like, Does it walk around? Does it appear to respond when I try to touch it or talk to it? etc, then it does to a biologist examining things at the cellular level. I can't imagine anyone saying that he thinks a mushroom is an animal. A venus fly trap is certainly strange but I've never heard someone suggest it is an animal, just a strange plant. Microscopic organisms could be more mysterious, but the existence of non-obvious ...
    – Jay
    Dec 17, 2013 at 17:08
  • ... cases does not make a rule invalid.
    – Jay
    Dec 17, 2013 at 17:09
  • RE interpretation of "death" in Genesis: I don't know about self-evident, but I believe that my original assertion -- that nowhere does the OT refer to plants as "alive" -- is correct. While I don't dispute the distinction between physical death and spiritual death -- that's pretty routine Christian theology -- I don't think that's "self-evident".
    – Jay
    Dec 17, 2013 at 17:12

Just because they had the ability to live forever doesn't mean that they would live forever. This is evident by what actually happened; they died because of sinning and becoming imperfect.

A question similar to yours could be asked. For instance: 'If Adam and Eve could not die, what would be the purpose of them breathing air?' (I don't mean to be sarcastic or snarky here.)

The point is that they would have had to obey God's laws (even natural laws like the law of gravity or the "law" of eating) if they were to live forever.

  • I wish people would leave a comment when they vote down. I am more interested in knowing why someone disagrees with me than knowing that someone disagrees.
    – user8561
    Dec 18, 2013 at 20:53

From a Biblical point of view, it is a faulty premise to say that Adam and Eve were exempt from death. Most Christians believe that the soul is immortal because this is what they have been taught. However the Bible sustains that a soul can die. God says:

The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

Ezekiel 18:20

In fact, it was the devil's first lie.

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die.

Genesis 3:4

On the other hand is the quotation from God.

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Genesis 2:17

There are many profitable reasons why this belief came about. However the Bible sustains that a person that is dead simply sleeps until the Second Coming.

For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten.

Ecclesiastes 9:5

Jesus describes death as sleep.

These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.

Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.

Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.

Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.

John 11:11-14

Paul describes death like sleep and clearly shows that people who die, wait until resurrection at the Second Coming.

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Biblically, Adam and Eve COULD die. So Biblically, if you believe they could not die, God would have been lying to them and the devil would be telling the truth(See Genesis 3:4 and Genesis 2:17 above). Jesus Himself tells us that the devil is the father of lies.

You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

John 8:44

Adam and Eve COULD die like their Creator told them and this is why they were taken out of Eden.

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever

Genesis 3:22

In order to live forever, Adam and Eve must eat from the tree of life, according to the Scripture above. This is what the tree of life is for.

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    If you vote down, please provide a comment saying why it isn't helpful. Thank you. Dec 13, 2013 at 14:24
  • By the lack of comment I see you just didn't like my answer. Please be reminded that answers should not be voted down simply because it is not what you believe in. I believe my answer addresses the question from a Biblical point of view and answers it from this point of view. Answers SHOULD be voted down if they are not helpful, as in if they do not address what the question is asking. Dec 13, 2013 at 14:35
  • We're not here to argue right vs wrong doctrine, we want to hear extant Christian teachings put in context.
    – Caleb
    Dec 13, 2013 at 14:35
  • I am not arguing right vs. wrong doctrine. I simply state that the Bible does not teach this and therefore the assumption of the questioner to believe that Adam and Eve could NOT die is Biblically incorrect. Because my answer is from a Biblical point of view, I needed to address what the Bible says on the matter of death. Dec 13, 2013 at 14:38
  • Actually I could see how my answer could be seen as an argument. I have edited it so that it is known that my answer is simply the point of view from a Biblical perspective. Dec 13, 2013 at 14:40

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