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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

01 August 2005

The Wives of Adam’s Sons

Q: I’m interested in different religions, and trying to find out more about Christian beliefs. My question: If Adam and Eve were the first people and had only two sons, how is it that people believe we come from them? This really doesn’t make sense. It would have been incest, which is wrong! If you take the Bible literally, what is your explanation for that?

A: I do accept the Bible as historically and theologically correct. Thus, we must deal with questions such as you ask. A short answer is that only a few (three, actually) of Adam and Eve’s children are named in the Bible. These were Cain (Genesis 4:1), Abel (Genesis 4:2), and Seth (after Abel’s murder, Genesis 4:25). We do not know how many other boys and girls may have been born to our first parents. The genealogies are not complete and thus we cannot know the total number of children born to these first generations.

It seems that not until well after the great Flood that incest was treated as sinful. We know that Lot’s daughters seduced him and bore him sons; however the tone of that passage indicates straightforward reporting, not a divine seal of approval.

Scriptural prohibitions are finally given during Israel’s time in the Wilderness, most completely detailed in Leviticus. Thus, the children of Adam and Eve — brothers and sisters — married, then cousins married. Finally, we can say that all marriages are now “cousin marriages” because of our common ancestry in Adam and Eve and because it was through Noah and his wife and his three sons and their wives that we all descend.

ADDENDUM: For information on claims that Adam had more than one wife, please see my column on Lilith.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.


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