Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part One

One of the blogs I have begun following, entitled “hessianwithteeth” (HWT), has posted a series of articles entitled “Why I Can’t Agree with the Bible“. These articles basically list questions that the author has as she reads through the Bible, starting with Genesis. I will now attempt to answer some of the questions she has from the book of Genesis, using the criteria set forth in my introductory article.

genesis-bible-book-of-moses

Questions are only natural.

And if Adam and Eve [A&E] were the first people, and Cain, Abel, and Seth were their only children and all sons, where did their wives come from? Did God create other people but they weren’t allowed inside Eden? Did God create them for Cain and Seth?

It’s funny, but I can remember asking these same questions the first time I read Genesis as well. In fact, it would seem that these questions would naturally pop into anyone’s mind as they read the text, considering the information given. In addition to the criteria I detailed in my introductory post, I would like to take a moment to talk about the methods I try to use in my hermaneutics. First, I try to be parsimonious when trying to answer questions like these, meaning that I try to come up with the simplest answer I can come up with. (This could also be known as employing Occam’s Razor.) This doesn’t always yield the right answer, or one that meets my self-imposed criteria, but it is usually a good start. And now- to the answers!

First, remember that by the time A&E had children they had already fallen (sinned), and they had been kicked out of Eden. My position is that God most likely did not specially create wives for A&E’s sons, although certainly He was able to if He so willed. My reasoning behind this is two-fold: first, it is not in the text. Second, if it were so, it would create a dilemma. When Adam sinned against God, he separated the entire human race (his descendants) from relationship with God. This is the doctrine of original sin, or the fall. (Go here for a fuller explanation.) If God specially created mates for A&E’s sons, they would be un-fallen (sinless) and hence immortal (because death is caused by sin). There are texts throughout the Bible that specifically address the fallen nature of all mankind without exception, and these hypothetical wives would be an exception. Because we don’t have any reason to posit this hypothesis of special creation, and because of the additional problems it would cause to the coherence of the narrative that were never addressed, and finally because this is not the most parsimonious (or simplest) possibility, my considered opinion is that God did not specially create wives for A&E’s sons.

There are other possibilities that I have seen posited in different places, but for the sake of brevity I will simply share my position: Cain married his sister (or possibly a niece). The narrative mentions that A&E first had Cain, and then Abel. Genesis 4:3 begins with “in the process of time”… meaning that after an indeterminate amount of time had passed. It is plausible that during the passage of this indeterminate amount of time that A&E had a daughter, or more than one. Cain took one of his sisters to wife, seeing as how at the time there were no other options. (Or, Abel did, and produced a daughter which Cain then married. This seems less likely, however.)

This position is actually fairly non-controversial among mainstream theologians. I’m not afraid to “go against the grain” when I feel I have good reason to, but I am content to stick with the consensus on this subject. HWT, I invite you to respond to this post in the manner you feel best, whether in the comment box here, or a separate article on your blog. I look forward to reading your thoughts about my answers to your questions. Thank you for your willingness to engage in conversation on these matters.

 

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9 Comments

  1. My biggest issue with this explanation is genetics. If Eve came from Adam, then her DNA would match his. If they then had children, they’d all have the same DNA too. So where did genetic diversity come from? Did God create different DNA? Why? We know that having similar DNA (ie. too much history of siblings having children together) can cause birth defects, so is that why? If so, couldn’t God have just made it so that birth defects don’t occur?

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    • Thank you for your response, HWT. This is a reasonable concern. I will freely admit that I have some ideas but no hard answers for these questions. However, having read some on the subject, and making sure that my ideas are consistent with the narrative and parsimonious, I am satisfied with my general hypothesis without having every niggling detail worked out. Here’s how I cash it all out, generally.

      “If Eve came from Adam, then her DNA would match his. If they then had children, they’d all have the same DNA too. So where did genetic diversity come from? Did God create different DNA? Why?”

      As you know, the text says that God made Eve from Adam’s rib. He then told them both “be fruitful, and multiply…” So, God clearly intended them to have children, and for the human race to descend from them. It is my considered opinion that even though God formed Eve from Adam’s rib, he gave Eve her own unique genetic code different from but complimentary to Adam’s DNA. Between them, their DNA contained all of the information needed for humanity to cover the face of the earth (or, “replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.) This accounts for the diversity we see today in the human race.

      We know that having similar DNA (ie. too much history of siblings having children together) can cause birth defects, so is that why?

      That is true today, and it had become a problem by the time God gave Israel their covenental law, thus the prohibition against incest. However, remember, Adam and Eve’s DNA were made perfect, and they were fit for practical immortality, had sin not entered the picture. After the fall, their DNA and that of their offspring was much closer to the original than what we have now, however it was compromised in the sense that now errors were able to enter into the transcription process and be passed along. However the original code was so robust that it took quite a while before those errors accumulated to the point that the degradation we see today was evident. This is why the original patriarchs between Adam and Noah lived so long.

      If so, couldn’t God have just made it so that birth defects don’t occur?

      God did make it so that birth defects would not occur. Adam’s sin tainted the original process and made birth defects possible along with disease and other evils which plague us today.

      I realize you can just dismiss these answers as speculation on my part, and heck that’s what it is, however, I do believe it meets the criteria I set forth to try to fulfill. As an answer it may not be compelling to you, however it is plausible, in my mind.

      I’m always willing to listen to others’ opinions on these matters, if anyone else has an alternative explanation on offer!

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  2. I’m pretty excited about this series. As far as genetics go, I think the fossil record provides the answer. We see deformed-ish cavemen often. Perhaps because of inbreeding. Eventually the DNA would diversify due to quantity alone with the birth defects accelerating this process. Adam lived to be well over 900 years old. That’s plenty of time to make lots and lots of babies. Each baby would then have a slightly different set of genes and therefore the diversity would continue to grow as the population did. Does that sound satisfactory?

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    • Andrew, I think you and I are thinking along the same lines. My answer was similar to yours, just with more detail. Let me know what you think!

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    • Withteeth here,

      So I’m a biologist and I’ll be replying to both John’s comment and Andrew.

      First of all two humans could not create the level of genetic diversity that is present the human species, and while humans do that dramatically less diversity than our ape relatives this doesn’t help support your point because humans and apes where made about the same time by god if your taking a literal perspective. You would expect similar level of diversity in similar sorts of animals (and there is not denying our similarities with other apes from a morphological perspective(we are build basically the same, we just have shrunken hips, reduce jaw muscles, a larger skull, lower muscle density in general, and we are mostly bald, none of these are major morphological changes in an evolutionary sense, our basic skeleton is highly conserved as it our cell structures and DNA (98% similarities with chimpanzees)).

      But there is no way for a sheer number of major mutations to evolve in a mere 6000-10000 years, that is unless you want to explain that away by saying God changed things so it could happen. we need millions not thousand of years for these type of mutations to become wide spread and for ethnic group to form. As well there is no scientific support to suggest the earth is younger than several billions of year old, so either some god or gods is tricking us at every turn or something more interesting is going on, like what is describe by the sciences of Astrophysics, chemistry geology, palaeontology, and the many fields of biology, particularly, evolutionary biology , taxonomy, and many other fields which make heavy use of genetics.

      It need to be mentioned that mutation is simple a fact of our biology God made Adam and Eve and we are derived from them then unless he radically change everything about them both Adam and Eve where getting cell mutations in the garden of Eden along with everything else. Sin doesn’t explain anything, sin is an abstract concept pertaining to the list of things God doesn’t approve of, many of which have nothing to do with factors which would affect mutation rates.

      All sign point to an old earth and an older universe, beside the whole Idea of a 6000 or 10000 year old earth are base purely off the (conflicting) biblical genealogies and nothing said directly in the bible.

      If even a fraction of what we know is true then Adam and Eve can be nothing but an allegory for creation. Plus there are two creation stories in the bible why do you place eve being create from Adam’s rib over Even being created from dirt. Also there’s the whole Lilith thing that’s no longer part of popular Christianity, who’s to say that isn’t actually part of the real story?

      Why would a deity go to all the trouble of making every thing look like it was slowly formed over billions of year when said deity made it all over 7 days?

      As well the bible says that the earth is held up by pillars and the sun move over the stationary earth. If you don’t believe these parts of the bible then why? And why would you think the the Adam and Eve story and impossible as it is would be true.

      Really I find evolution a much more elegant explanation since it also do as good of a job of explaining all the wonderful things in nature as well as the awful ones.

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      • Hello Withteeth and welcome to the discussion. Thank you for your insight as a scientist and biologist. I will attempt to respond to some of what you have said, but not all and here’s why: it’s impractical to run down all the differing lines of evidence for the veracity of the Biblical account in a comment box. So, I will not try to address side issues such as the age of the earth right now, except to say that there are “Old Earth Creationists” who accept the ages given by the various forms of testing (C14, radiometric, etc) and secular scientists’ consensus age of the earth and universe.

        As I stated in my introductory article my goal in answering these questions is to present answers that are internally coherent with the narrative presented in the Bible. I believe I have done so. In this light I will attempt to address some of your concerns dealing directly with this matter.

        First of all two humans could not create the level of genetic diversity that is present the human species,

        I’d like to say a few things about this-
        1. The same God that created the universe could have “front-loaded” the level of genetic diversity that is present in the human species into the initial pair, Adam and Eve.
        2. It’s my understanding that we only know what a fraction of the human genome actually DOES, mainly that small percentage of DNA that actually codes for protein. If we don’t know what the vast majority of the genome actually does, then how can we make an assertion such as the one you have made?
        3. Even secular science speaks of a “mitochondrial Eve” and a “chromosomal Adam” through which we have descended patrilineally and matrilineally, respectively. Ironically (to some) the latest research even shows they were contemporaneous. So it seems that at one time the genetic diversity must have been there to create the diversity we see today in the human race.

        It need to be mentioned that mutation is simple a fact of our biology God made Adam and Eve and we are derived from them then unless he radically change everything about them both Adam and Eve where getting cell mutations in the garden of Eden along with everything else. Sin doesn’t explain anything, sin is an abstract concept pertaining to the list of things God doesn’t approve of, many of which have nothing to do with factors which would affect mutation rates.

        Please try to keep in mind the criteria. Sin does not actually explain the cause of the deleterious mutations in A&E’s genomes (as well as ours), only the reasons we suffer from them. Before the fall, there simply were no deleterious mutations. After the fall, there were. Whether this means God introduced them, or simply removed some of His providence in maintaining order (this is my position) the result was a consequence of Adam’s sin. Also, your general definition of sin is somewhat faulty- broadly put, the root of sin is rebellion against God.

        …there are two creation stories in the bible why do you place eve being create from Adam’s rib over Even being created from dirt.

        There are two accounts of the same creation story, not two separate stories. The second chapter of Genesis merely “zooms in” on day six of the creation as told in the first chapter and gives more detail of the events that took place on that day. So, Eve was created from Adam’s rib, which was in turn created from dust.

        I have attempted to respond to concerns you have addressed that relate directly to the questions at hand. There are answers to the other things you have brought up, but for the sake of brevity I will not attempt to address them at this time. Some of them I am already planning to write articles about (the age of the earth for instance) and at that time we could have more detailed discussions about them if you like. Also, there are actually scientists who study genetics and biology, and who have written about some of the issues you raised with genetic diversity, and etc. I would be happy to provide you some links to look at if you are interested.

        Again, thank you for your willingness to discuss and I look forward to continuing our discussion.

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  3. I think Mr. Spenn is doing a great and thoughtful job here, and I don’t want to take away from the conversation you guys are already having, but at risk of complicating things, I would like to point out that the majority of the church does not read the Bible literally in this way.

    “Literally” is a loaded word, maybe, or everyone has different assumptions about what that would mean. I mean that while we (Christians) take it that Jesus was a real man (as well as God) who literally lived and died and was resurrected—and that human history revolves around those central facts—we do not read the more poetic older parts of the Bible all in the same way, certainly Genesis 1 and 2. The Bible is great for our spiritual edification (which is very important), but that doesn’t mean it’s great for all purposes; God never intended it to be. It’s not a textbook on how to sculpt and fire a clay pot, or how to hang siding; it’s also not a science textbook. (Again, that’s no disparagement of the Bible, any more than it diminishes my high-school physics textbook if I say that it offered me no spiritual direction or fulfillment.)

    I’m saying this because, to the extent that I’ve followed the conversation between you, it seems that a significant part of Hessians’ objection to Christianity has to do with the science. (I think your objection about Lilith is a different kind of objection, which I’d be happy to discuss separately if you would like.)

    Wikipedia notes that the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Church—the three biggest denominations by population, together accounting for 65% of Christians worldwide (source: here and here)—all hold that the Bible is not inconsistent with evolution.

    I’m sure Mr. Spenn and I fully agree that God is omnipotent and could have made the world in seven days or 7,000 years if He had wanted, but I’m also agreeing with you that the evidence indicates that He instead chose to create over several billion years. I think that glorifies Him and shows His infinite intelligence and artistry more, rather than less, but I suppose that’s aesthetic and subjective. What I do want to impress upon you is that most of the church takes the Bible very seriously and does not take it literally in the way you seem to be objecting to, and that there is no inconsistency between those two things.

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    • Hello Chillingworth and thank you for taking time to read and comment on my article.

      A quick note about my screen name: My actual name is John Pennell. My screen name is sort of a play on that, and the fact that I am writing or ‘blogging”, as it were, and is meant to read “John’s pen” aka johnspenn. Hopefully that makes sense.

      At any rate, just call me John =)

      I appreciate your commentary and do not fundamentally disagree with most of it, except your view of earth’s history. I do understand that many Christians hold a view of “deep time” also referred to as “Old Earth Creationists” (OEC). I myself am a “Young Earth Creationist” (YEC). However I am not dogmatic as some are, but am trying to reconcile in my own mind the seemingly conflicting data that I am aware of on each side of the coin. I hope to write an article sometime soon more fully explaining my position, and would be glad to discuss it further at that time if you wish.

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