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Hugh Ross and others of the old-Earth creationist organization Reasons to Believe, who claim to have a literal interpretation of Genesis, believe that Adam and Eve were vegetarian before the Fall (Genesis 1:29), but that carnivorous animals of today were carnivorous then as well. They say that Genesis 1:30:

And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

is stating that all of Earth's major ecosystems are based on green plant life, and is not saying that all animals were herbivores.

Is there any historical or linguistic precedent for this interpretation? In other words, did any Jewish or early Christian scholars interpret Genesis 1:30 as anything like this? If so, what linguistic subtleties do they point to that results in a carnivorous interpretation of 1:30, but a non-carnivorous interpretation of the preceding verse?

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If you don't mind me referencing Rashi, a French Medieval rabbi, his understanding of Genesis 1:30 makes note that both humans and animals were on the same footing with regard to food.

Nothing is explicitly stated about how both humans and animals before the fall would otherwise acquire their nutrients, i.e., if humans were omnivores and if carnivores were carnivorous. After the flood, God permits humans to eat all living things, which includes meats. (Gen. 9:3)

It's worth noting in Genesis 4 that animal offerings were a thing and after the fall, Adam and Eve were given clothing from animals. In any case, whether or not carnivores were carnivorous is speculative as the text isn't explicit.

  • To add - John Chrysostom, Ephraim the Syrian, Basil the Great, and Ambrose of Milan were the most authoritative early Christian writers on Genesis and none of them take the position that the animals that were carnivores after the fall were also carnivores before. It wasn't just man that was the victim of his own fall - all creation fell with him (in the Orthodox Christian understanding, at least; cf. Romans 8:19,22). – guest37 May 5 '17 at 22:04
  • Thank you for the response, but could you clarify your use of the word "otherwise" in the second paragraph? – Matthew Milone May 7 '17 at 16:24

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