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Incestuous Creationists, part 1

Where did Cain get his wife? It's one of those questions that has bedeviled creationists since the dawn of young-earth creationism (early 1960s), questions that would never need an answer except for a modernist approach to biblical hermeneutics that insists all Bible stories must be treated as eyewitness history. Other examples are questions about the value of pi, or whether Adam and Eve had belly buttons, or the age of the earth or of the universe or of fossil snails in Tyler, Texas, or the validity of climate science or of methodological naturalism or of Einstein's isotropic synchrony convention. Unlike some of these, the question of Cain's wife is actually grounded in the Bible text.

According to Genesis 4, Adam and Eve had two sons, whom they named Cain and Abel. Abel became a shepherd, while Cain "tilled the ground". There is a subtext here that would have been understood by ancient pastoral societies. Abel raised livestock, the animals God created, but Cain took matters into his own hands and planted a field. Abel trusted God to provide, but Cain trusted his own labor.

There's a lot else going on too, including the puzzle of why Abel would raise and sacrifice a sheep when Adam and Eve had been instructed that all living things must keep a strict vegetarian diet. A lot of answers have been proposed, but ultimately it seems like one of those questions.

And today's topic is a different one of those questions.

Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch; and he built a city, and named it Enoch after his son Enoch.—Genesis 4:16-17

If we were to grant for the sake of argument that these stories have any relation to ancient history at all, a straightforward reading would suggest there were other people on the earth at the time. They just didn't count for much in the eyes of the author of this passage. A number of scholars who have studied ancient near-eastern writings recognize in Genesis a hallmark of the genre.

Looking at recent work done by sociologists and anthropologists, she notes that when forming a group identity, we tend to define ourselves by how we differ from other groups. In the ancient Near East, sometimes those outside of a particular group or society were considered less “human” by those inside of the group.

This dehumanization of others, sadly, continues to the present day.

Anyway, the existence of other humans outside of Adam and Eve's tribe would explain how Cain was able to not just take a wife, but also build a city.

But creationists don't like that answer. They argue that the only people who could have existed are those mentioned in Genesis, including a vague reference that Adam and Eve had other sons and daughters. The official position of Answers in Genesis is:

There were no other people on earth as some have claimed. God did not create other people groups from which Cain chose a wife, as we are all made of one blood (Acts 17:26). If He had made others, these people would not have been able to be saved from their sins, since only descendants of Adam can be saved—that’s why it was so important for Jesus to be Adam’s descendant.

There are several problems with this reasoning. First, although Cain has gone "away from God's presence", he remains Adam and Eve's child. His children would also be descendents of Adam and Eve, even if their mother isn't.

Second, not long after Cain builds his city, we see the appearance of the Nephilim, the "sons of God" who impregnated the "daughters of humans" and produced "warriors of renown". The phrasing indicates the Nephilim were not descendents of Adam and Eve. So, contrary to creationist claims, the Bible does say there were other people on earth.

Third, it's not long before all of Cain's descendents are wiped out by a global flood. Cain would have no living descendents today even if he were a real person.

Fourth, if the only other people alive were the other children of Cain's parents, then he must have married...

He must have committed...

I'll just let the folks at Answers in Genesis say it in their own words.

In today’s world, this would be incest. But originally there would have been no problem with it. Looking back through history, the closer we get to Adam and Eve, the fewer genetic mistakes people would have, so it would have been safer for close relatives to marry and have children.

Christians who have a problem with this answer need to remember that Noah’s grandchildren must have married brothers, sisters, or first cousins—there were no other people (1 Peter 3:20; Genesis 7:7). Abraham married his half-sister (Genesis 20:2, 12); Isaac married Rebekah, the daughter of his cousin Bethuel (Genesis 24:15, 67); and Jacob married his cousins Leah and Rachel. Clearly, the Bible does not forbid the marriage of close relatives until the time of Moses.

Yes. Creationists believe Cain married his sister, and they have no problem with that. But do they understand the implications?

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