How did Adam and Eve’s kids have kids?

I have written before about Jonathan Morris, a Catholic priest who is a Fox News favorite and a member of the infamous Legion of Christ order. (See here and here for more about that odious group and its disgusting founder.)

In one call-in program titled Father Knows Best, someone asks Morris “How did Adam and Eve’s kids have kids?” Morris actually seems taken aback by this question, as if it had never occurred to him before. He flounders around, going off on tangents about other mysteries to which we have no answers such as whether Adam had a belly button and then riffs for a while on original sin. It is obvious to even his co-hosts that he is not able to answer the question. It is quite the spectacle.

How could this question come as a surprise to any priest? It is something that occurs to almost any Jew or Christian, even young children, and surely must have been discussed as part of his seminary training in the course Introduction to Awkward Questions where students are taught how to respond to the pesky questions posed to them by curious parishioners. Morris did not seem to even know that the Bible says that Adam and Eve had many other children (both sons and daughters) after Cain and Abel (Genesis 5:3,4). How did he pass his exams? Lack of basic curiosity, while a disadvantage in most educational settings, is probably a necessary quality to be able to get through seminary without becoming an atheist. Morris is an example of what one disbelieving priest said, “If you emerge from seminary still believing in God, you haven’t been paying attention.”

There are some common explanations that religious people offer to this question that he could have used. The catch is that they all require incest, which in turn requires a further explanation of why incest may have been acceptable back in Adam and Eve’s time. Either Morris is incurious and ignorant or a coward who could not bring himself to justify Biblical incest on TV and lied about being surprised by this question.

Here is one valiant effort from a religious apologetics site to address the incest issue, quoting a book Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie.

Though by many inerrantists the question of where Cain got his wife would not be considered a problem at all, this question is often used by those who try to demonstrate that the Bible is unreliable in what it claims. How could it claim that Adam and Eve were the first human beings who had two sons, one of whom murdered the other, and yet who produced a large race of people? Clearly, the Bible does teach that Adam and Eve were the first created human beings. The Lord affirmed this in Matthew 19:3-9. The genealogy of Christ is traced back to Adam (Luke 3:38). Jude 14 identifies Enoch as the seventh from Adam. This could hardly mean the seventh from “mankind,” an interpretation that would be necessary if Adam were not an individual as some claim. Clearly, Cain murdered Abel and yet many people were born. Where did Cain get his wife?

We know that Adam and Eve had other sons and daughters in addition to Abel, Cain, and Seth (Gen. 5:4), and if there was only one original family, then the first marriages had to be between brothers and sisters. Such marriages in the beginning were not harmful. Incest is dangerous because inherited mutant genes that produce deformed, sickly, or moronic children are more likely to find expression in children if those genes are carried by both parents. Certainly, Adam and Eve, coming from the creative hand of God, had no such mutant genes. Therefore, marriages between brothers and sisters, or nieces and nephews in the first and second generations following Adam and Eve would not have been dangerous.

Many, many generations later, by the time of Moses, incest was then prohibited in the Mosaic laws undoubtedly for two reasons: first, such mutations that caused deformity had accumulated to the point where such unions were genetically dangerous, and second, it was forbidden because of the licentious practices of the Egyptians and Canaanites and as a general protection against such in society. It should also be noted that in addition to the Bible most other legal codes refuse to sanction marriages of close relatives.

I always find it highly amusing when people use knowledge gained from modern evolutionary theory to justify belief in the literal truth of the Genesis story. Notice also that the writer causally asserts that ‘many, many generations’ from Adam to Moses was enough for mutations to accumulate to make incest undesirable. But according to Bishop Ussher’s chronology that put creation at 4004 BCE, Moses was born around 1600 BCE, about 2400 years from Adam. If we take a generation as 25 years, that only gives us only about 96 generations, hardly enough to accumulate all these degenerative mutations.

But it is even worse than that. According to the Bible, the time taken to go from Adam to Noah’s children (10 generations) was about 1500 years because people supposedly lived for much longer times then and had children when they were well over 100 years of age. This leaves just 900 years to go from Noah to Moses. Assuming that the average generational age suddenly dropped in that period to the present day value of about 25 years, that gives us about 36 more generations, so that the total number of generations from Adam to Moses was about 46, hardly deserving of the description of ‘many, many’ and nowhere near enough for all the genetic deficiencies to accumulate that caused Moses to decree laws against incest.

Biblical literalists will have to do better than this to get around their incest problem.


  1. says

    Hey, I’ll grant them the dubious “mutations” explanation just for the entertainment value of seeing these fine upstanding Christians engage in incest apologetics. “Incest is totally awesome, as long as the offspring are healthy!” Yeeeeaaaahhhh….

  2. Randomfactor says

    Cain got his wife from a nearby village protected by some OTHER god. Which is who he was afraid of, and he received the “mark of Cain” to protect him from them. Probably his siblings did the same thing.

    The Bible clearly says there are lots of other gods out there, just that the descendants of Adam and Eve weren’t supposed to worship them.

    (Sure, it’s a lot of codswallop anyway. But it’s not as complicated as people pretend–unless they want to pretend there’s only one valid deity. The universe, as someone once noted, was designed by committee. One guy took all the credit, but that’s how it USUALLY goes.)

  3. Kilian Hekhuis says

    that only gives us only about 96 generations (…) so that the total number of generations from Adam to Moses was about 46

    Or, you check the reference given by Ryrie, Luke 3:23-38, and you discover without doing any calculus that by the time of Moses, since Adam some 28 generations have passed (given that #30, Nahshon, was Moses’ brother Aaron’s brother-in-law).

  4. Albert Bakker says

    Sometimes I can’t help but wonder how they don’t just get tired about the amount of bullshit they must know that there making up in order to make obvious absurdity seem ever so faintly plausible when looked at with deliberate absentmindedness through tightly squinted eyes.

  5. says

    One explanation I read online was that prior to the Fall, the human genome was perfect, so close relatives could intermarry. However, after Eve ate that troublesome fruit, God’s creation was tainted and corrupt, and the human genome began to degenerate. It’s a pretty offensive explanation for people born with disabilities and other conditions. “You people exist because Satan wanted to ruin God’s perfect creation.” The unfortunate implication is that in Heaven everyone will be “perfect” as God intended. So, no disabled people? And I suppose gays like me will be cured too.

  6. busterggi says

    Technically if Eve was created from Adam’s rib then Eve was really Adam’s clone Steve and gender reassignment surgery was required to change Steve to Eve.

    I’m not sure if having sex with one’s own clone, even a transgendered clone, is incest or masturbation. I’ve never been able to get a believer to answer that for me though I have asked more than once.

  7. MNb0 says

    A Catholic priest is not required to take Genesis literally. So father Morris is quite dumb indeed.
    Btw I already realised at 8 years old that the Adam and Eve story implied lots of incest.

  8. Kate from Iowa says

    *blank look turning slowly to panicked stare* “…shut up, that’s why!”

  9. Mano Singham says

    You are correct but the Fox News audience probably consists of many Biblical literalists so openly disavowing the Genesis story would probably create even more controversy than justifying incest.

  10. stonyground says

    In addition to the story of Lot screwing his own daughters, there is also a story about a guy who raped his sister 2 Samuel Ch. 13 Vs. 11-14. So incest in the Bible is impossible to deny.

    He should have had the balls to take on the fools who take Genesis literally. Talking snakes, people gaining knowledge by eating magic fruit, another magic tree with fruit that can make you immortal, guarded by an angel with a flaming sword. What, did your brain stop developing when you were four years old?

    Cain, for his crime was sentenced by God to become a vagrant and wander the Earth for ever. He then says that this punishment is too much for him to bear, wanders off, marries his non-existant wife, settles down and raises a family. Maybe he should have said ‘This punishment is too much for me to bear so I’ll just ignore it and God will be too stupid to notice’.

  11. dean says

    Technically if Eve was created from Adam’s rib then Eve was really Adam’s clone Steve and gender reassignment surgery was required to change Steve to Eve.

    So (bear with me here), if Eve was Adam’s clone, and she was the one who committed the obscenity of eating the apple, encouraging Adam to do the same, thus causing god to cast the two of them out of eden and fall from grace, is that the first recorded instance of an obscene clone fall?

  12. Chiroptera says

    Good heavens! Of course Adam and Eve’s kids had sex with each other. That was openly acknowledged during the 1970s when I was an evangelical Protestant. The explanation about why it was ok then but not okay later on (this involved mumbling about “genes being purer” or something) was pretty goofy, but, jeez, not as goofy as contemporary Christians having become so juvenile they can’t even talk about these things openly any more.

  13. kagekiri says

    Eh, I think masturbation kinda tends to mean only one person is having sex. Think of identical twins: I mean, they’re very similar in some ways biologically, but they’re still two individuals.

  14. kagekiri says

    Adam and Eve aren’t even the only incestuous couple.

    Noah’s family is another Biblical incest bottleneck. His three sons and their wives are supposed to have repopulated the planet entirely after The Flood.

    Then you have Jacob and his sons, who all apparently intermarried to go from a 75 person group to over 2 million in a few hundred years while remaining separate from the Egyptians. MASSIVE INCEST.

    I really hated that David gets punished for adultery by having his child killed and God directly interfering in his life. This shows God hates murder and adultery: okay.

    But God NEVER steps in to stop incestuous rape. One of David’s sons rapes his half-sister then refuses to marry her, and God doesn’t do shit at ANY point, even with them all killing each other and David having to hunt down his favorite son for taking vengeance for his sister. Lot’s daughters rape him after getting him stupid drunk, and these three are the only ones considered righteous enough to justify saving from Sodom….really?? Incestuous rapists are righteous now?

  15. Mano Singham says

    Interesting! So there were even fewer generations than my estimate, making their theory even less likely.

  16. Karl says

    There’s little point in trying to point out the logical flaws in made-up stories like Adam and Eve to those that don’t realise they’re fiction. If they’ve managed to reach adulthood without making that mental leap for themselves then they’re already inoculated against reason.

  17. Pen says

    I think the explanation that incest is dangerous due to genetic mutations is wrong anyway. Unless you consider that our genome was all built by mutation, which I suppose a creationist wouldn’t. Hasn’t it got more to do with the likelihood of recessive genes coming together?

  18. Mano Singham says

    I think their argument is that Adam and Eve started out with perfect genomes given to them by god so incest would not constitute a risk. To make incest dangerous, you would need to first have mutations create deleterious genes in sufficient numbers to have a reasonable chance of those recessive genes being present in both parents.

  19. says

    It’s not necessarily recessive genes, and there are more types of genes than those that follow the binary dominant/recessive pattern. In general, it’s any accumulation of deleterious genes of any type.

    Most people seem to have a woefully inaccurate view of the likelihood of problems in the children of an incestuous couple. It typically requires several generations of incestuous inbreeding for the serious (and largely unavoidable) traits to come out. Even then, very careful pair selection can usually still overcome it. We’ve seen this pattern in animal domestication, for instance.

    I’ve met people who think marrying a first cousin is going to guarantee substantial deformations and mental handicap in any children. In reality, this is barely any more likely than with any random partner chosen from the population at large. Assuming your family doesn’t have a history of inbreeding, obviously, and this is a fair assumption.

    We don’t (in practice) police sub-populations and do pair selections for human beings based upon the likelihood of “good” or “bad” traits in the children, so I fail to understand why people still regard incest as such a huge moral taboo. All of the real problems that may come up in the incest context are already covered by rape, coercion, domestic violence, and other laws.

  20. Anat says

    Amnon’s rape of Tamar is considered to be part of David’s punishment for his sin of adultery. Bat-Sheba’s baby wasn’t the only son of his to die for that sin. Amnon raping Tamar leads to Absalom killing Amnon. Then Absalom rebels against David and gets killed. Adoniah contests Solomon ascendency to the throne and gets killed. So at least 4 of David’s sons died, and all these deaths (as well as the instability of David’s throne for many years) are considered part of the punishment.

  21. busterggi says

    I’m sure all those sons who were killed learned a valuable lesson – if your dad makes Yahweh mad then he’ll have to make new sons cuz Yahweh kills innocent kids.

  22. Cheryl Wood says

    When God said, “let us make man in our own image” I believe he was talking about the three God heads , the spirit Of God who roamed over the deep of the earth, the word of God, (Jesus) whom he actually used to create all things, and the Father (God himself). They created man and woman in their image with a body, a spirit and a voice. God told them to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and they did. God had a garden which held the Tree of Life, no one is suppose to touch this tree. God realized that he needed a man to till the garden and keep it so he formed this man Adam with his own hands and took a rib from him to make him a wife (this was the chosen lineage). When Cain got evicted from the Garden he met one of the many women that were already created by the word of God. God realized that it was too much of a risk to keep Adam and Eve in the Garden because they might touch or eat from the tree of life so he banished them and set cherubim to guard the entrance so they couldn’t get back in.

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