ADAM & SONS, LTD.

Who was Cain’s wife? Okay, old conundrum for the literalists in the monotheistic clans.

Candidates:

Eve–ruled out by all
sister–must be considered
Lilith (Adam’s first wife?)–must be considered pending one’s treatment of Lilith
pre-adamic beings–why not?

“If we now work totally from Scripture, without any personal prejudices or other extra-biblical ideas, then back at the beginning, when there was only the first generation, brothers would have had to have married sisters or there would be no more generations! We are not told when Cain married or any of the details of other marriages and children, but we can say for certain that some brothers had to marry their sisters at the beginning of human history. ”

A very similar tack is adopted by Bible Answers. Apparently this is justified by the need to populate the Earth – although why god did not work the old hokum on a spare rib and create Cain a wife from scratch is a bit of a puzzle. For a deity it must be a fairly trivial trick. Christian Answers bravely goes on to tackle the risks of inherited problems resulting from breeding with a close relative. This happens now but back then Adam and Eve were created genetically perfect and so errors could not happen. By the time of Moses “degenerative mistakes would have built up in the human race to such an extent that it was necessary for God to forbid brother-sister (and close relative) marriage (Leviticus 18-20).[12] (Also, there were plenty of people on the earth by then, and there was no reason for close relations to marry.) ”

Well, that’s another biblical mystery solved. It is best to leave Christian Answers to sum up – as we stand in stunned admiration of the mental gymnastics that make incest a part of god’s plan.

“Genesis is the record of the God who was there as history happened. It is the word of One who knows everything, and who is a reliable witness from the past. Thus, when we use Genesis as a basis for understanding history, we can make sense of questions that would otherwise be a mystery. ” (via Skeptical Reviews)

The funniest treatment I happened across by anyone who views their authority seriously, was:

January 04, 2006
Adam, Eve, & Inbreeding

(Jimmy Akin)

A reader writes:

My question is this: Every once in awhile the issue of Adam and Eve comes up in my classroom. I inform my students that Adam and Eve were real people who were truly the first parents of the whole human race. At this point they ALWAYS ask (something to the effect of), “If that’s true, then why didn’t their children come out deformed because of the genetics issue [i.e., blood lines intermingled, too close. etc.]?” My response to date has been along the lines of, “If God created the universe, He certainly could have done something to suspend the way that genes normally operate or prevent genetic mutants from resulting.” Do you have anything better?

There are a number of possibilities here.

One, as you mentioned, is that God specially intervened in order to keep harmful recessive traits from becoming dominant in the offspring. God is in control of our genetics, so he can have any particular set of genes inherited by the children if he chooses to intervene supernaturally.

Another possibility is that the harmful recessive traits that are in the population today weren’t in the population back then. One might speculate that original sin didn’t do a tremendous amount of genetic damage (apart from its role in giving people disordered desires) and that the recessive traits that now cause problems with inbreeding weren’t yet in the human genome.

One could also argue that God made a whole bunch of genetic changes in Eve (more than flipping a Y chromosome to X) so that she was sufficiently different than Adam genetically to avoid the recessive defects problem. This, however, only pushes the the problem a generation or two down the line, when it would re-emerge unless God kept miraculously supplementing the genome with each generation.

I am also given to understand that the problem with inbreeding is not nearly as severe in most cases as popular imagination would lead one to suppose. In other words, it isn’t a given that your kids will be deformed if you marry someone whose bloodline is too close to yours. Pop culture–according to this argument–has magnified perception of this threat out of proportion to the magnitude it has in reality. Certainly the inbreeding/birth defect connection has not been nearly as prominent in historical consciousness. If you read the classical accounts of why incest is a sin, for example, you don’t find Thomas Aquinas citing birth defects as a reason. Incest was held to be sinful (after the human race got going) on entirely other grounds.

On the other hand, maybe there were a large number of birth defects among early humans. Maybe Adam and Eve had lots of kids with severe birth defects, most of whom died. Infant mortality was certainly frighteningly high in the ancient world compared to now, and there have been a lot of people with birth defects in history. Perhaps Scripture only mentions the children who survived and whose birth abnormalities were sufficiently mild that they were themselves able to reproduce and contribute to the propagation of the human race.

Always the problem with even beginning the task of promoting malarkey of this sort is that one not only wants it both ways, but one wants to deploy the very terminology and conceptions which exist by virtue of the existence of the facts of the case, as-it-were. “I am also given to understand that the problem with inbreeding is not nearly as severe in most cases as popular imagination would lead one to suppose.” It’s not a problem when you start with a population of three, not because of genetics, (with population geneticists compelled to be silent on protomonogenism because they have no need to travel in reverse ‘begats,’ without taking actual gene lines into account,) but merely because: “whatcha gonna do?” Anyway, Akins made my day with his unintentional charlatanry.

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2 Responses to ADAM & SONS, LTD.

  1. Ryan says:

    I had been reading about Moses on wikipedia. It is vague about whether the various tribes his Hebrews fought in the Middle East after leaving Egypt were also some version of Hebrews.

    And I had been reading about how Native American tribes would try to assimilate white settlers into their tribes to rebuild their own populations wrecked by pestilence and war. Somehow they hadn’t quite built up the concepts of racial identity most whites clung to so proudly.

    It is possible There were plenty of other people around when Adam and Eve got rolling. But they were the people who didn’t matter so much.

  2. hoon says:

    Ryan, thanks for the comment.

    When Adam and Eve got rolling in the technical sense, a matter of paeloanthropology, counts a date to the Middle or Late Pleistocene; say between 250,000 bce to 130,000 bce, in the latter case, given the fossil Homo S.S. skull.

    Since it is likely the mating pair provides the bridging generation to H.S.S. and yet more generative transitional pro-creation is also required, I’d suggest that there were “proto-people” around and no religion or social stricture, around whatsoever to constrain mate choice. That factor might not appear for another 110,000+ years after the latter, later date.

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