The New Inklings may disagree on a lot of things, but ignorance and obnoxiousness, regardless of faith, will not be tolerated. If you’re new, refer ye to the Pub Rules before proceeding.
Ah, the old question of Cain’s wife. Agnostics and atheists have used the question for years to question the validity of Scripture. Unfortunately, my response cannot be a brief as Franny’s question, because the issue is a little complex.
Franny’s question is a legitimate one. Scripture does not expressly say where Cain’s wife came from. Scripture does, however, affirm multiple times that all humanity originated from Adam and Eve. So let’s start there…
The ancient Jewish historian Josephus records that Adam and Eve had a family that made the Duggers (the homeschooling family with twenty kids) look small: thirty-three sons and twenty-three daughters. With the extended life spans of the early humans recorded in Scripture, this isn’t out of the question. Although Scripture only names three of Adam and Eve’s children (Cain, Abel, and Seth), it is perfectly logical to say they had more kids. Therefore, Cain found his wife at the family reunion. Mrs. Cain was either his sister, or possibly his niece.
While this sounds like a perfect story for Springer, we need to (as best as possible) remove ourselves from our 21st century AD culture when looking at this issue. If Adam and Eve are the first people, and they are commanded to be fruitful and multiply (as are their children), and their kids are the first generation, there’s no second generation if brothers and sisters don’t marry and have kids.
The question of genetics comes into play. It is a well-known scientific fact that the children of siblings have a much higher risk for deformalities than the children of non-related parents. Both parents have the same genetic problems, and thus when the genes are scrambled up in the kids, the chances of those problems becoming a reality are high.
But in these first humans, their genetics were perfect as their parents were created directly by God. There was no chance for their offspring to have the same problems that children of siblings have today. But as time progressed, genes started mutating, and the chances increased for deformalities. And thus, by the time God declares incest to be sinful, the chances of genetic problems were much higher.
Franny B rightly points out that God declares incest to be sinful in Leviticus. The problem is that many atheists and agnostics insist on a “flat Bible”. In other words, all the commandments must be obeyed by believers. Thus, if Christians eat bacon, shave their beards, and wear clothing made from multiple fabrics, they’re being inconsistent and thus the Bible is invalid. In regards to Franny’s question, she concludes that since Leviticus 18 declares incest as sin, she assumes that it was sinful for Cain. And thus, God is incoherent and inconsistent.
Such an approach, however, completely ignores the textual context of the Scriptures and the historical setting of Scripture at hand.
God’s revelation is progressive. The only commands of God that Adam and Eve and their children knew were be fruitful and multiply, don’t eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (which Adam and Eve had already disobeyed), and that blood was required for forgiveness (the book of Hebrews reveals this to us). God did not reveal anything about incest until the Israelites were camping out in the desert after being freed from slavery in Egypt. Therefore, Cain knew nothing of incest. And where there is no law, there is no breaking of the law.
The Context of Leviticus 18
Franny is correct in stating that Scripture states that incest is sinful. We must, however, look at the reason that God gave for these laws. Look at Leviticus 18:1-5,
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the LORD your God. You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.
The reason God gave these laws was to keep the Israelites distinct and separate from the cultures surrounding them. For the Israelites to engage in the behaviors of the Egyptians (where they just came from) and the Canaanite peoples (to where they were going) would open them up to the worship of their false gods. In the immediate context, incest and other such behaviors are tied to the worship of the Canaanite god Molech.
The same can be said for the food laws (nothing says your god sucks like someone eating your sacred animals) and some of the other laws we now find weird (no shaving of the unibrow, as the shavings were used in idol worship). These laws were written for a distinct people to keep them distinct.
Cain knew nothing of incest laws, because God had not revealed them yet. The earth was sparsely populated. The command was to be fruitful and multiply. The only way to do so at that time was to marry a close relative, because that’s the only other people there were.
What about now?
Because Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament law, Christians are no longer bound to it. We’re free to eat bacon, wear clothes with more than one fabric, etc. So what about incest (wow, we’re really going there…)?
Christians (and a great majority of other people in our culture) do not practice incest for several reasons. One, it’s against the law. Incest has been illegal in our country for years upon years. Christians are commanded to keep the laws of their land when they don’t conflict with Scripture. Making incest illegal doesn’t violate Scripture, so it is sinful for Christians to do so. Second, the aforementioned genetics issue. The chances of passing on harmful genes to offspring are way too risky. Third, with over 6 billion people now living on planet earth, there are plenty of places to look for a spouse other than the bedroom down the hall. Forth, even though the Old Testament law has been fulfilled in Jesus, incest is still condemned in the New Testament (see 1 Corinthians 5, where a man in the church is sleeping with his step-mom). Fifth, it’s just gross. Thousands of years of laws making incest illegal have conditioned us to look elsewhere for a spouse.
To sum up, the atheist or agnostic cannot use Cain’s wife and the Levitical incest laws to show the Bible to be inconsistent because:
- Scripturally speaking, there were only a few people on earth when Cain sought a wife. He was related to all of them. He didn’t have much of a choice. It was the only way to fulfill God’s command to populate the earth.
- God did not declare incest sinful until after the Israelites departed Egypt, centuries upon centuries after Cain had walked the earth. Where there is no law, there is no breaking of the law.
- To use the Levitical incest law to say that God is inconsistent or incoherent in regards to Cain’s wife ignores the historical context, textual context, and overall progression of God’s revelation in the Bible.
Finally, atheists and agnostics will say that it’s much easier and makes more sense to just attribute this story to myth. Being skeptical by nature, I would tend to agree. You do have to buy into the first five books of Scripture being historical to believe this really happened. Because Jesus saw the first five books of the Old Testament as historical, as did other New Testament authors like Paul, I also see them as historical. To take that any further… would mean a new blog post here at NI. So we’ll call it quits right here.
Come back tomorrow for the discussion.
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