I have frequently heard the argument that various human frailties, such as dying of old age, are the result of corruption after the original sin; less frequently, but often enough to get my attention, I hear the extended lifespans in Genesis were a result of reduced corruption.

If I take this literally, though, I end up puzzled by what this perfection could have looked like.

For example, if there were no diseases or parasites before sin, then we wouldn't really have needed immune systems. However, our immune system is impressively complex, including specialized organs that randomly shuffle the genes in immune cells until they make antibodies that accurately recognize invaders (so they can be destroyed). However, if there were diseases and parasites but we were supposed to be perfectly immune, our immune system's design cannot do the job: all the machinery devoted to random shuffling necessarily requires time, during which we are sick.

As another example, cancer always eventually kills everyone if they escape every other malady. There is no way to escape this fate because potassium, which is an essential element, is also occasionally radioactive; this radioactivity damages our DNA, which eventually will cause enough mutations to make cells misbehave and become cancerous.

How should we think about the initial state of perfection, given the physical barriers to it, and the sophistication of our bodies in dealing with imperfection?

4 Answers 4


Genesis 1 never calls humans or human bodies "perfect", it does near the end of the chapter call all of creation "very good." We also have no indication from scripture about increasing amounts of genetic imperfections as humanity survived though the ages, so that might infer that we are trying to read into the scripture something it never set out for or was intended to answer, namely what human perfection was like (because it never existed in anyone except Jesus, who also died) and genetics (the bible was written in times when people had no concept for it).


This understanding, I believe, grows out of an overly literal reading of the word "die" in Genesis 2 (see related question here: What is the specific meaning of "die" in Genesis 2?). Couple this with an overly-literal reading of Romans 5:12, which says that death entered the world (not just humanity) at the same time, we come to the belief that nothing died prior to the fall of man.

As the accepted answer to the question I referenced above points out, a better reading of these verses is that "die" means a spiritual death. At the fall of man, spiritual death entered the world.

Reading this "die" to mean physical death is simply nonsensical, even if the earth was only 6 literal days old, as many life forms have lifespans shorter than one day. Furthermore, if nothing died prior to the fall of man, the how were Adam and Eve able to live prior to the fall? Life requires death. When we eat, things die--including the eating of the fruit itself (although maybe one would argue that the sin occurred when they chose to eat the fruit, immediately before picking it and taking a bite--two actions which would cause death of cells, at least.)

  • Good points; quite informative!
    – Rex Kerr
    Oct 10, 2011 at 9:13

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul distinguishes between heavenly bodies and earthly bodies. He says that the first Adam "was of the dust of the earth", so he and we have ordinary bodies; whereas the body of our resurrection, brought about by Christ as the new Adam, will be immortal and incorruptible. This suggests that even before Adam's sin, he was mortal and his body was corruptible.

Verses 40-53 in the NIV:

40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. 42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed: 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

  • I don't think this question addresses the genetics side of the question, but perhaps that is just my reading of it.
    – jchaffee
    Oct 12, 2011 at 2:49

What was perfection like?

Perfection was being able to walk with God in Eden. Following the fall; Genesis 3:8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Perfection was childbirth without pain. Following the fall; Genesis 4:16 “In pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

Perfection was provision without sweat and toil. Following the fall; Genesis 4:17 “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. 18) Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, …19) In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread…”

Following the fall, God made specific alterations to the world He had created. He caused the serpent to have to crawl on its belly. He added thorns and thistles to the landscape. He caused the fields to not yield to Adam without sweat and toil. He caused both physical and psychological changes in Eve. Altering her physical make-up to include pain in childbirth and her psychological make-up, changing her desires.

Yes, God created us and said it was good – but subsequently He made some changes. With these changes, and out of love for us, perhaps it was then that He found the need to alter our immune systems, etc. since we were no longer welcome in Eden.

  • This is the only answer that accepted the premise, so I'm tempted to accept it as the correct one...but I think James and Flimzy have made too good of a case that it was the premise that was taken overly far. Still, +1
    – Rex Kerr
    Oct 10, 2011 at 9:14
  • It was an interesting question and more than a little moving to think about what it must have been like. Thank you.
    – new wings
    Oct 10, 2011 at 14:45

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