Death Before Adam?

Barry and Helen Setterfield
January, 2020

This article is in response to Jack W. Langford’s “Did Death Exist Before Adam”? as printed in Prophecy Watcher 01.2020.  We were asked by someone who mailed it to us to please read it and comment.  We rarely do this sort of thing, but this one deserves some time.

The article itself is a combination of ignorance, subterfuge in vocabulary, and tilting at the windmill of ICR.  What ICR or anyone else says makes no difference whatsoever.  What matters is the truth.

Langford says there are six reasons we can ‘know’ death existed before Adam.  Let’s look at them one at a time.

Point 1
He states that when God says creation was ‘very good’ at the end of the six days, the implication is that it was not very good before that.  He tries to use some of the words in Genesis 1:1-2 to bolster his point. 

First, however, it needs to be clearly stated that ‘good’ can exist in and of itself.  It does not need ‘not good’ to exist.  ‘Not good’ is simply the absence of ‘good.’  ‘Good is not the absence of ‘not good’ or its correction, as Langford claims.

He tries to use the concept of the Tree of Good and Evil in the Garden in Eden to show that good and evil existed together before Adam was created.  That is a fallacious argument.  In Luke 18:19 Jesus states very clearly that no one is intrinsically good but God.  Adam and Eve knew God.  They walked and talked with Him in the Garden.  They knew good. 

The word ‘evil’ in Hebrew is rah, from a primitive root, ra’a, meaning to break down or tear down.  Evil – this breaking or tearing down – is the result of disobedience to God.  It is not a thing in and of itself, but an action.  When Adam chose to disobey God, he initiated a breaking down of creation -- evil.  Lucifer/Satan may have introduced that evil into the spiritual realm, but Adam introduced it into the physical realm.  It is for this reason Paul writes in Romans 8, “ For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

The fact of the Tree of Good and Evil in no way indicates evil was present here on earth before Adam.  It rather indicates that the option was there.  We agree with Langford that death and evil are connected, but the fact that there was a warning of an option which was presented to Adam does not mean that result was already there. 

Here is an example:  I warned my young son, years ago, when he got his first bicycle without training wheels, not to try it on our hilly street but wait for his sister to wake from her nap and I would take him to the school yard to practice.  I warned him he could get badly hurt.  At the time of the warning, his hurt did not exist – he was not bleeding anywhere.  However he did try his bike on the hill and he did get hurt and there was a reasonable amount of blood.  The warning did not mean the result already existed for him any more than for Adam.

Point 2
Langford talks about a time ‘prior’ to the six days of creation.  There was no time prior to that.  Genesis 1:1 states clearly that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  The first thing to note is that this sentence ties time, space and mass together as created ex nihilo at a beginning point – time started.  Time is measured by the movement of mass through space, whether it be the hands of a clock or the earth around the sun.  Without space and mass, the concept of time has no meaning.  We live in a time/space/mass continuum. 

Either Genesis knows what it is talking about or it does not.  We cannot redefine terms to fit our particular ideas.

Langford then starts to discuss the vocabulary used in those two verses.  This is where he is demonstrating some ignorance.  Let’s look at the words:

Resiyt – beginning.  Used 51 times in the Old Testament.  Other meanings:  “first, firstfruits, beginning, best, early, beginnings, choice, choice parts, early, finest…”  Indication is that what was first was best.

This again ties in with Romans 8:20 – “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in the hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay.”
We were asked a question about the word 'resiyt' as compared to the other word for 'beginning' -- bereshith.
Resiyt is also spelled reshiyth
Bereshith is also spelled bereshiyth
They are the same word, but one has the ‘be’ in front of it.  The ‘be’ is the preposition translated ‘in’ – so bereshiyth (bereshith) is “In the beginning” – the whole phrase.  It is the word reshiyth (resiyt) which is the actual word ‘beginning.’ 

Bereshith, however you want to spell it, is also the word used to define the entire book we call Genesis.

Bara – there are two verbs used in Genesis 1 which refer to making something.  The first is ‘bara.’  This verb is used on only three occasions in Genesis 1.  The other, more commonly used verb, is ‘asah.’  Both can mean to make something out of a pre-existing substance, as when a potter makes a vase out of clay.  ‘Asah’ has that meaning exclusively.  But ‘bara’ has another meaning – its primary meaning:  ‘to make something from nothing.’  When juxtaposed to ‘asah,’ as it is in Genesis 1, its primary meaning is emphasized:  to create, or make something out of nothing. 

Shamayim – translated in English, and most other languages, as “heaven or heavens.”  However, the meaning is actually ‘to be lofty’ or ‘that which is lofty/lifted up.’  It is a plural word from an unused singular root (sort of like the words ‘sheep’ and ‘trout.’) Again, the 'im' ending indicates three or more. The word shamayim is composed of two other words:  sha/sham and mayim.  Mayim is the word for waters.  The prefix sha/sham means ‘in it.’   The heavens had water in it.  This is extraordinarily important scientifically, for this combination of hydrogen and oxygen is the only way to get the other elements to form in a hot plasma.

The ancient people used the term 'heaven' in the same three ways we do: 1) the heaven in which the birds fly and from which the rain comes (the atmosphere); 2) the heaven where there are stars, the sun, and the moon (outer space); and 3) the heaven which is, in the ancient Hebrew culture, referred to as "God's throne." (So when Paul says he was taken to the third heaven, he was referring, as his readers then knew, to the presence of God.)

Eres (or 'eretz') – earth.   This always means a ‘substance,’ or ‘stuff.’  It is from a primary root meaning ‘firm’ or ‘to be firm.’  In other words, not necessarily confined to ‘earth’ as a meaning.  After creation week, however, we see it used almost exclusively as referring to either land masses or a people associated with a particular land mass or area.  It NEVER means ‘people’ in general.   It ALWAYS means, or refers to, some kind of physical stuff.

So let’s look at verse 1 of Genesis 1 in its most literal possible meaning:

Now, the second verse:

Tehom – This word is translated ‘deep.’   However, this translation is much too limited when considering its actual meaning.  The word itself means ‘a surging mass, as of water.’  In other words, it is not necessarily water, but the concept of something like a tsunami is as close as it could come in years past.  It is our guess that because surging ocean waves were as close as they knew to ‘tehom,’ the translation of ‘deep’ meaning, at least, a lot of water, became traditional.

Choshek – darkness --  from ‘chashak’ meaning ‘dark, to hide, to be dim; figuratively meaning misery, destruction, death, ignorance, sorrow, wickedness.’   There is an interesting note to add here.  In every culture, the concept of seeing the light is synonymous with understanding.  “Do you see?”  This question, in any language, means, “Do you understand?”  If we consider that this double meaning has been there since the beginning, it helps us understand the meaning of Christ being the light of the world, and of men loving darkness.

It is important to understand, however, that Genesis 1 is talking about the physical creation, so the light and darkness being referred to are physical things, not spiritual.

Rahap – the traditional interpretations of this word are ‘hovering,’ or ‘brooding.’  This, however, is not the way this word is used in other places in the Bible.   When the Alexandrian Septuagint was translated three hundred years before Christ, the word chosen by the Hebrew scholars in the Greek for this word is the exact same word we find in the Greek in Acts 27:

Verse 17: “When they had taken it on board, they used cables to undergird the ship; and fearing lest they should run aground on Syrtis Sands, they struck sail and so were driven."

Verse 27: “But when the fourteenth night had come, as we were driven up and down in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors sense that they were drawing near some land.”

In other words, the indication is of the Holy Spirit acting as a driving force.

Paneh – surface, face of the waters.  But this may be putting a constriction on the use of the word not originally intended.  It is used 2127 times in the Old Testament and only ten times is translated as ‘surface’.  Some of the other common translations are ‘before’ (542 times when used with another word), ‘face’ (211 times), ‘presence’ (108 times), etc.

Mayim is ‘waters.’  The ‘im’ ending indicates multiple, or a plural of more than two.  The root word is ‘ma’ and we can see this in a variety of places today.  The ‘seas’ on the moon are called ‘mares.’  The “mo” in Moses” is simply a variation of the “ma” root. The name Moses means “out from the water.”  

Here is what the first two verses are saying:

If the firm stuff, the matter, had no form and was void, it was not earth.  Earth has a form.

Every (creation and evolution) model of the first moments of creation agree that the first matter existed as a super-heated plasma.  A plasma is disconnected atoms, if you will – electrons and protons free of each other.  We can produce it electrically, which results in your plasma television sets, or in nature through electrical currents in space or through incredible heat.

There is, in other words, no gap in the Hebrew between verses 1 and 2.  Verse 2 elaborates on the condition of the matter created in verse one and states the Holy Spirit was driving it.  It took the Big Bang folks several thousand years to realize there had been a giant expansion at the beginning, but twelve times in the Bible, even apart from Genesis 1:2, God says HE stretched out the heavens.  That is what we are seeing in verse 2.

So between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, the earth never ‘became’ void.  It wasn’t even put together yet in verse 2!

Continuing on with verse 2 in Genesis 1, Langford says the phrase ‘toho wa-bohu,” which in most Bibles is translated along the lines of ‘without form and void,’ actually means ‘wasted and desolate.’

Toho comes from an unused root which has a variety of meanings, including ‘to waste, desolation, a desert, without form, a thing of naught, nothing, vain, vanity, wilderness.’  And this is where we get the translator’s choice of meanings – and that depends on the translator’s theology.  As a side note, it is interesting that ‘vain’ and ‘vanity’ are synonymous with desolation, waste, and nothing.

wa is ‘and’

bohu means ‘a vacuity, to be empty, to be void.’  These two words used together absolutely negate, in the Hebrew, the concept of a round earth spinning yet.

One of the major difficulties for translators who are going from Hebrew to any of the western languages is that the use of nouns is completely different.  Hebrew nouns describe function – what something does – not form – what something looks like.  Descriptions such as ‘toho wa bohu’ are similar:  they have a variety of possible meanings depending on the context and the circumstances of use. 

So it is very disingenuous when Langford tries to equate this phrase in Genesis with its use later in Jeremiah as describing something that was laid waste before Adam was created, or that there was death before Adam.  The use of this phrase in Jeremiah 4:23-26 (and this is even more pronounced in the more ancient Alexandrian LXX) is highly reminiscent of Peter’s 2 letter (3:10) –  “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.”

Jeremiah also appears to be envisioning an end of things.  If this is true, then God is telling us that just as all was without form and void in the beginning, so it will be at the end.  Scientifically, the second law of thermodynamics also indicates that, albeit on a much longer time scale than God’s.  The use of that phrase in Genesis 1:2, taken in context, does not in the slightest indicate that God destroyed something He had already made and would remake it in six days.  It instead describes the initial state of created matter.  Due to sin, other passages in the Bible indicate that will also be the final state of created matter. 

Point 3
Langford states that Satan is the origin of evil and death and therefore evil and death existed before Adam.  That absolutely runs against God’s declaration that at the six day mark, creation was ‘very good.’  Although Satan rebelled and fell before Adam and Eve disobeyed, he did so after the sixth day of creation.  Ezekiel 28, referred to by Langford, states clearly that Lucifer/Satan was created to be a guardian cherub.  Of what?  If we go to Christ’s second temptation, we get a clue.  Satan tells Jesus that if Jesus bows down and worships him, he – Satan – will give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world.  Jesus never tells him they are not his to give; they are.  Lucifer was to be the guardian cherub either of earth or of men. 

Before we go further, we need a definition of death.  When we think of death, we think of total loss of consciousness, among other things.  But that is not what happens.  If that were so, then the idea of judgment would have no meaning.  Instead, physical death is the separation of the soul and spirit from the body.  Spiritual death is separation from God.  The death that Adam experienced immediately was separation from God; physical death would follow. 

Back to the Garden.  As mentioned before, Hebrew nouns describe function, not form.  Who was it who spoke to Eve, and why did she listen?  Would she have really paid much attention to a talking snake?  The word translated ‘serpent’ or ‘snake’ is ‘nachash’ from a primary root meaning to hiss, to whisper.  That was what the thing did.  Snakes hiss, so the idea of snake became the traditional translation.  But it was not a snake.  It was a Whisperer – and one that Eve knew as the cherub, the guardian cherub.  That was why she listened. 

Here is part of Ezekiel 28 not mentioned by Langford: 

You were the seal of perfection,
full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden,
the garden of God;
every precious stone adorned you:
carnelian, chrysolite and emerald,
topaz, onyx and jasper,
lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl.
Your settings and mountings were made of gold;
on the day you were created they were prepared.

You were anointed as a guardian cherub,
for so I ordained you.
You were on the holy mount of God;
you walked among the fiery stones.
You were blameless in your ways
from the day you were created
till wickedness was found in you.

There are several different possibilities for the translation of what the stones were or the term ‘settings and mountings.’  That is not important here.  What is important is that “on the day you were created they were prepared” and “you were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.”

When was Lucifer created?  Exodus 20:11 states: "For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."

And if we go to Colossians 1:15-16, we read, “The Son is the image of the invisible God,the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created:things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him."

Letting Bible explain Bible it becomes very clear that Lucifer was created along with the rest of creation.  In Isaiah 14, Lucifer is referred to as ‘son of the morning.’  The first morning was 12 hours after the initial creation.  That is when he was created, along with the angelic beings who rejoiced at God’s creation – Job 38:4-7.

So we have a magnificent angelic being who was created with the beginning part of creation.  He was appointed a guardian cherub.  At the six day mark, God pronounces this creation ‘very good.’  It is something He built up that He was pleased with.  Remember, evil tears down.  Nothing had yet been torn down or broken up. 

If Satan had fallen long before, as Langford claims, Eve would not have listened to him, would not have learned to trust him.  So he must have rebelled and fallen not only after Adam and Eve were created, but after they already knew who he was as a guardian cherub.

Was Satan separated from God – dead – at the point of rebellion?  No, he was not.  In Job we see him accusing Job before God.  In Revelation Satan is called the accuser of the brethren.  He still has access to God.  Death on earth came through Adam’s sin, and not before.  Satan was under sentence of death at his rebellion, but is still not yet dead.  Hell was made for him and his followers, and hell will be their final destination (the common caricature of Satan ‘ruling’ in hell is totally erroneous’).

Point 4
Langford states that when God warned Adam about death from disobedience, Adam would have understood because death already existed.  Of course God knew about death, as Langford states.  God knows everything.  The point is, did Adam know what death meant?  And, if he did, was it because there had already been eons of death between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2?

Langford’s argument is that Satan had died already so death was known.  Death was defined earlier here as separation and we know Satan was not yet fully separated from God, but has access to Him as our accuser.  So the argument that death already existed because Satan had rebelled/sinned is not valid.  Being under sentence of death is not yet dead – ask any prisoner on death row.  Thus his argument for death before Adam because of Satan does not work.

Point 5
Langford states that “The very fact that God placed a tree in the midst of the garden, described as ‘the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’…meant that good and evil existed as known entities.”

His major mistake here is in the definition of good and evil.  Jesus said God is intrinsically good.  Good is a quality.  In Hebrew, however, evil is not a quality, but an action – the action of breaking apart or tearing down.  If you want to consider the two words as antonyms, which many do, then good is the building up and evil is the tearing down.  One can build up without any tearing down; but it is impossible to tear down something not yet built up.  Good can exist, and does, without evil.  God warned against disobedience, saying it would tear things down.  Adam could easily understand that without having to debate the meaning of the word. 

Langford then tries to buttress his argument with the phrase “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil.”  Of course.  Satan had clearly already rebelled, producing evil in the spiritual realm.  That has nothing whatever to do with the introduction of that breaking apart, that tearing down, in the physical realm of Adam and Eve.

For these reasons, it is totally wrong for Langford to claim, as he does, that “the existence of the tree “of the knowledge of good and evil in the midst of the garden’ spelled the existence of ‘death,’ both past, present and future.”  Physical death had not yet happened, nor had the spiritual death of any man. 

Point 6
Langford tries to put forth the fossil record as being evidence from before Adam.  First of all, the Bible totally disagrees with that.  In Ezekiel 31, we read that the trees of Eden are deep in the earth below.  If those trees are buried that far, so is the rest of the antediluvian world. 

The majority of the point made by Langford in this section reveals a great deal of geologic ignorance.  The high mountains of today are the result of crustal plate movements – which came after the Flood.  The waters of the Flood did not cover what we call high mountains, but only the highest mountains of that time.  Even if (and wrongly) it is thought that the earth divided at the Atlantic Rift at the time of the Flood, that would still make todays high mountains post Flood. 

He states that the carcasses of those drowned in the Flood simply floated to the bottom of the waters and decayed.  First of all, dead bodies float.  If his idea were true, why do we have layers separated by not only fossil types by rock types as well?  If all the fossils are the result of destruction before Adam, why are there no mammals in the lower layers?

Instead, what both evolutionists and many creationists seem to fail to recognize is that, just below the Cambrian layer, there exist 2 miles of finely layered shales and slates, black with carbon and high in kerogen.  Kerogen is the result of the breakdown of flesh and muscle tissue.  Two miles of thickness is not a minor catastrophe, but massive death and crushing.  Below those two miles there are about a thousand feet of cobbles and boulders cemented in a type of limestone that can only be formed in warm to hot water.  If you read Genesis 7:11, you will find the flood was initiated by a bursting forth of subterranean waters.  These waters were already coming up to the surface early day three when the land appeared (Genesis 2:5-6) and, a few days later, were gushing forth as the headwaters of four major river systems in Eden.  Water goes up because of pressure.  Pressure means heat.  The core and mantle of the earth were rapidly heating due to the radioactive decay in the core of the earth, driving the waters out of the early mantle rocks, changing them from serpentine to olivine. 

These were the waters that finally burst forth, initiating the Flood.  They carried up with them millions of tons of pulverized debris and rocks, all of which came raining down as the scalding rain remembered in various legends around the world.  This was not a gentle rain that lasted for forty days, but a massively destructive deluge of hot water, rocks, and mud which covered everything.  Nothing was fossilized; it was smashed, burned, chemically disintegrated.  When God said He was going to totally destroy the world of that time, He meant it.

The fossils are the result of earth movements after the Flood at various times.  That is for another article, but if you think about it, it will make sense.  The first, lowest, fossils we find are the Cambrian.  They were buried by the landslides from continent edges into the continental shelves.  Next highest up, but not in the same places, are those organisms which lived in the warm swampy areas left by the Flood in the lowlands:  mosses, ferns, algae, insects.  The other disasters, and their aftermaths, listed in the Bible as Babel and Peleg resulted in the following layers of fossils.  None of them was before Noah, let alone before Adam.  To claim anything like that is to be totally ignorant of the fossil record itself and what lies below it.

Langford closes by saying that “Many Young Earth Creationists do not realize what they are doing.  They are attacking both Biblical and scientific reality.”  It is our claim that he is doing exactly that himself, trying to force meanings into words in the Bible which they don’t have, taking parts of quotes to try to bolster his argument, and showing extreme ignorance of geology and the fossil record.  He is also blatantly contradicting God Himself in Exodus 20:11.