Is There an Error in Genesis 2:17?

Question

Is there an error in Genesis 2:17 because Adam and Eve did not physically die?

Answer

"But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:17).

Atheists claim this is an error in the Bible because Adam and Eve didn't physically die when they ate the forbidden fruit. However, because we know that there are no errors in God's Word, there must be an explanation.

Some will claim that God only meant they would die spiritually, and it's true Adam and Eve did die spiritually when their sin separated them from God. But that is not a correct interpretation, because the Hebrew word for "die" indicates a physical death. Strong's Dictionary defines "die" in the Hebrew as:

muwth, mooth; a prim. root; to die (lit. or fig.); causat. to kill:– at all, crying, (be) dead (body, man, one), (put to, worthy of) death, destroy (-er), (cause to, be like to, must) die, kill, necro [-mancer], must needs, slay, surely, very suddenly, in [no] wise.

The Hebrew word "muwth" is used 790 times in the Bible and is translated in the following ways:

Die, died, diest, dieth, dead, death, put to death—551 Slay, slew, slain—104; Kill, killeth, killed—33 Destroy, detroyers—2 Crying—1 Necromancer—1

It's clear from the definition of the word, and the use of the word muwth, that Genesis 2:17 means total death. That includes both a spiritual and physical death. We certainly understand that Adam and Eve died a spiritual death when they sinned, but we also know that they did not die physically at that time. In fact, Seth was born when Adam was 130 years old and Adam lived a total of 930 years (Genesis 5:3-5).

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