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.
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.