I'm currently doing some research for a Church project and next week we are covering creation. While looking at creation, I came across an interesting tidbit that I've never actually thought about before, and was wondering if someone could answer a question or two.

Here is the link to the particular passage: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%203:22-24&version=NIV

So, with that being read, first I'd like to know: were Adam and Eve mortal by creation? This text seems to say that man would become immortal by eating from the tree of life. Does that mean God created us in such a way that we were, by design, meant to die?

More importantly, how does this work alongside Romans 5:12?

Thanks for all answers :)

  • 2
    We are mortal by design. I think the verses that say "you shall surely die", are referring to the severing of ties with God, a spiritual death, if you will. At least, that, I believe has been the stance of the church leadership for quite some time.
    – user1160
    Jan 20, 2012 at 20:12
  • I'm guessing the project is over, but if you are still curious about different perspectives, you might be interested in asking on Biblical Hermeneutics. We have several Jewish experts over there who understandably don't read this site. Previously there have been question about pain and life in general before the fall. Some of the answers to those questions might be interesting to you. Jan 31, 2012 at 17:13
  • Many thanks for the links :) Project is not yet over, I was sick on the day I has to present, so presenting this Thursday! Jan 31, 2012 at 17:48

4 Answers 4


There's not much consensus on this. As with all answers on this site dealing with the subject of Creationism, there's a wide array of opinion on the subject.

Reading the text, in and of itself, without any external verses, interpretation, or debate over scientific validity of the claim certainly makes it appear as if Adam and Eve weren't created to be immortal, but if they'd eaten of the tree of life, they'd have gained immortality.

The apparent conflict with Romans 5:12 can likewise be taken in different ways. It could be taken as an outright conflict (not my belief), or it could be that the word "death" is used as a metaphor. "Death" is often taken to mean the judgment of God, or Hell in Scripture.

Based on the context of Romans 5, this seems the most likely explanation to me, as Paul is speaking of salvation, which has to do with eternal life, not physical life.

Comparative verse:

Romans 6:23 (KJV) For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

  • Any thoughts on Genesis 2:15-17 "15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 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.”"? I believe, again, he meant spiritual death. However, there is no context to prove that except that it wouldn't make sense otherwise. By the way, I upvoted your answer because I think it addresses the OP's question.
    – user1160
    Jan 20, 2012 at 20:33
  • At least part of the answer seems to be that he sacrificed an animal to make their clothing, delaying their immediate punishment. Jan 23, 2012 at 19:05
  • Was the punishment death then? Because if it was, it is no punishment at all (especially if it was delayed), since they were mortals to begin with.
    – user1160
    Jan 23, 2012 at 21:24

This is my opinion, you can take it as it is. Adam and Eve were created mortal. "You shall surely die" --> You're already going to die, but if you eat of the tree, then you will "surely die" because I am going to kick you out of the garden so you can't eat from the tree of life which will give you life (so you won't die). In regards to Rom 5:12, it's exactly as it says, death came from Adam's sin (his disobedience) which led to him and the rest of his descendants not being able to eat from the tree of life. So the death wasn't a direct effect of eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but an indirect effect of not being able to eat from the tree of life. Hence, v 14: "Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one was to come."


The following represents my personal thoughts and views, and not that of any particular Christian tradition (although it would find a home in several). Indeed Adam and Eve were by nature physically mortal, just as all living things were (and are) mortal. The tree of life, like so many objects in Scripture, is represented as a sign and symbol of the everlasting life which Adam received immediately from God—as will the glorified saints in the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 2:7; 22:14); as observed in Vincent's Word Studies, "To eat of the tree of life expresses participation in the life eternal."

But ever since the fall, Adam and his posterity were cut off from the tree of life and no longer received everlasting life immediately, but rather mediately through Christ (1 John 5:11). Thus Jesus Christ testifies that those who hear his gospel and believe have eternal life and will not be condemned, but have "crossed over from death to life" (John 5:24). Give attention to that phrase, "from death to life." Immortality is something which in Christ we seek; and if we seek it, then we do not now possess it (Rom. 2:7; 1 Cor. 15:53). Likewise Paul speaks about how "sin reigned in death" among mankind (Rom. 5:21), and how could sin reign but among those who are physically alive?

Rather, death is understood covenantally in a spiritual context, which is how sin reigns in death for those who are physically alive but spiritually dead in Adam, whereas grace reigns through righteousness to eternal life for those justified in Christ, such that we spiritually live even though we physically die. (Cf. John 11:25-26, "The one who believes in me will live even if he dies, and the one who lives and believes in me will never die.") As John Calvin noted, "Let us know, therefore, that when we have departed from Christ nothing remains for us but death" (cf. Rev. 20:6, 14).


At least one Rabbinic tradition (and I'm trying to find the source of this) posits that Gods intention was, from the beginning, that Adam and Eve choose from the prohibited tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, in order that they would learn to choose God rather than simply be subject to Him out of blind filial obedience. If this is the case, that God intended for them to sin, then the default question of "Would they have died had they not eaten from the tree" becomes irrelevant (even if it is an interesting case)

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