Death: when did it appear?
Elder Paisios once said that carnivorous animals used to eat dead animals only before the Fall. Therefore, this could completely fix the issue concerning animals, but I'm not sure about humans yet.But how did the dead animals die in the first place?
Some people draw the conclusion from the Bible’s account of Adam and Eve that, before the fall of the first man, neither death nor decay existed in nature: life all over Earth flowed smoothly without storms or cataclysms, animals of prey fed on grass, and neither insects, fish, nor animals died, but rather all of them enjoyed immortality together with man. This idealization of the primitive world has no basis.
The very concept of death is full of human tragedy. Do we really have the right to apply the word death in the same sense to the plant or animal world? The departure of animals is not a death similar to the departure from life of Godlike man, who was made to be immortal. The division of a living cell, the loss of bacteria or an insect, or the halting of physiological processes in an ape is not the same thing as the demise of a human. Animals were not promised immortality, and they do not die because they broke the commandment. On the contrary, their death is just as natural a process as their birth. From the appearance of the first living cell in the world up until the creation of Adam, birth and death flowed in an uninterrupted stream. If it had been otherwise, the world would have become overpopulated with animals with nothing to feed upon soon after its creation. Only death and decay could pave the way for the birth of new creatures.
Adam was made to be immortal, not by his nature, but rather, conditionally,
insofar as he was given access to the Tree of Life
as a reward for fulfilling the commandment. In warning Adam about the danger of death, the Maker did not have in mind physical so much as spiritual death — that he would be deprived of the life-giving grace of the Holy Spirit. However, theoretically, Adam could have prolonged his physical life if he had eaten from the fruit of the Tree of Life after the Fall, too. It is specifically because God denied Adam access to the Tree of Life that he was doomed to physical death. Saint Gregory the Theologian explains that God fixed things so that the moral "evil
[which entered Adam] did not become immortal."
The fact that Adam was created outside of Eden already tells us that he must have been acquainted with death in the animal kingdom.
It may be assume that before the Fall of Adam there were no predators within the limits of Eden and only herbivores and harmless animals lived there. But beyond the limits of Eden, life flowed in its primordial rhythm. We know from paleontology that long before the birth of man there were predators even more fierce than today’s. From the very beginning, life and death alternated on all levels of existence — from microorganisms to the very largest animals. Just look at the skeleton of the prehistoric tyrannosaurus, whose teeth, sharp as a knife, reached lengths of 15 centimeters (6 inches). He certainly didn’t feed on grass!
Paleontology has counted about ten cases of relatively short periods from 500 to 65 million years ago during which massive extinctions of an enormous quantity of animal and plant species occurred. Perhaps the most grandiose massive extinction took place about 250 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period, when 50 to 90 percent of the species inhabiting Earth, or about 200 of 400 known families, were wiped off the face of the Earth. Another massive extinction of apocalyptic proportions occurred at the end of the Cretaceous period, 65 million years ago, which led to the death of all dinosaurs and ammonites.
But in that case, how are we to interpret the words of the Apostle Paul: "For the earnest expectation of the creature eagerly awaits for the revealing of the sons of God... For the creature was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;.. because the creature itself also wall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God
(Rom. Chapter 8:19-21)?
Is the Apostle not indicating here that death and decay in the world were the result of the Fall of Adam? It seems to us that here he is talking not about the past, but about the future.
The Apostle’s basic idea is that nature is imperfect and perishable because man, the crown of creation, was expected to perfect himself spiritually. But since man fell morally, nature remained perishable and imperfect without reaching the ideal state it was destined for. When the faithful part of mankind is honored with immortality after the universal resurrection from the dead, then the rest of the physical world will be transformed into new heavens and a new earth (see II Pet. 3:13). On the "day" after the universal resurrection, all of nature will be renewed, and the lowest creature, together with man, will be free from the laws of decay and destruction. What will nature look like then, and will it still have the plants and animals we know? The Apostle does not answer these questions. There are hints in the Bible that there will be something similar in the new world to what we see here (Is. 11:6-9, Is. 65:17-25; Rev. ch. 21-22). However, it is useless to try to imagine now what that spiritual world will look like, because time itself, space, and all the laws of nature will have completely new substance.
We have already cursorily mentioned the misunderstanding concerning Earth’s position in the galaxy. Since Moses describes everything from the point of view of an observer on earth, the impression is created that Earth is the center of the universe. Roman Catholic theologians defended this view with much pathos: "It is not fitting for the Earth, to which the Lord had to descend, to spin around in space like a child’s top." Fortunately, with time good sense triumphed and now no one can seriously repeat the old error about the universe’s rotation around Earth. This case vividly illustrates the problem that a biased understanding of some expressions in the Bible can cause when one is unaware of or ignores basic scientific data.
taken from On the Appearance
by Bishop Alexander (Mileant),