Cain’s wife explanation ‘gross and disgusting’?
Published: 8 April 2002; reposted 18 July 2009; last update 5 April 2022
CMI’s booklet Who was Cain’s wife?, as well as CMI articles on the same topic, have proved very useful for many Christians in their discussions with Skeptics. Conversely, the inability or failure to answer such questions, including by the illustrious William Jennings Bryan at the Scopes Trial, has given the world the impression that the Bible has no connection to the real world. Similarly, the atheist Carl Sagan (well, he’s not an atheist any more because he’s dead and knows the truth …) had the heroine of his book (and later movie) Contact stump her church leaders with that question (see ‘Contact’ing Cain’s wife!)—and this is sadly realistic. So this question is almost a ‘test case’ of whether a Christian is able to follow the command of the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 3:15 to be able to give a reason for his or her faith.
The Cain’s Wife answer also exemplifies another skill Christians should have: to think logically about their faith (see also Loving God With All Your Mind—Logic and Creation). We must not just know what Scripture explicitly teaches, but what it teaches implicitly by logical deduction. Many of the questions that CMI speakers ask in creation talks are designed to teach people how to think logically about what must necessarily follow from the teachings of Genesis—see, for example, Can you marry your relation?
Cain’s wife also touches on morality, and this week’s feedback comes from a snail mail letter by MJ from New Zealand. But it enables a response by Dr Jonathan Sarfati, immediately following MJ’s letter, to illustrate the difference between how to argue about moral issues—and how not to argue! It also shows how important it is to let the Word of God instruct us and to follow where it logically leads, and not be misled by emotions (any more than we should be misled by allegedly scientific proof of billions of years—see Q&A pages on Genesis, Radiometric Dating and Young Earth Evidence).
Dear Sir/MadamI have just read [your booklet about Cain’s wife]. I find his explanation totally unacceptable and ‘bizarre’ and I am sure it will give the wrong impression to non-Christians. The intimate coupling of brothers and sisters is incest, an abomination! And infusion, a grievous sin. Something that has always been wrong and always will be. Whether the ones involved are ‘married’ to each other or not! Surely he can come up with a better explanation than that. It’s gross and disgusting. I’m sure the answer lies elsewhere. It does nothing for the Creation versus Evolution cause. Back to the drawing board and come up with better stuff than that!Yours sincerely in Christ
The basis for moralityYou disagree with the explanation of Cain’s wife in the booklet. But I must ask, did you read his explanation carefully? From what I can gather in the letter, when you found that the solution was brother-sister intermarriage, you thought ‘incest’, and wrote off the standard creationist explanation immediately.
However, ‘incest’ is a modern term connoting things like father-daughter abuse, etc. Also, the emotive language diverts attention from the key issues about morality. The main point is: morality is defined by the law of our Creator, who owns us, and who makes the rules, for our good. For example:
- Why is murder wrong? Because God has commanded ‘do not murder’ (Ex. 20:13, Romans 13:9), and this goes back to the creation, where man is made in God’s image, and murder destroys this.
- Why is homosexual activity wrong? Because God has declared it to be an abomination (Lev. 18:22, Rom. 1:26–27), and this goes back to the creation of the institution of marriage in Gen. 1:27 and 2:24 (both cited by Christ in Mt. 19:3–6). This first marriage, according to Christ, set the pattern of one man and one woman for life, not two men or two women.
- Why is adultery wrong? Because God has declared it to be so (Exodus 20:14, Romans 13:9), since it breaks the marriage covenant of the two becoming one flesh.
These are examples of things that have always been wrong, as taught throughout Scripture, because they violate God’s created order. For more information on why non-Christian belief systems provide no objective basis for morality, see:
- The creation basis for morality
- Bomb-building vs. the biblical foundation (the Moral Argument for God explained properly vs. misconceptions)
- What is ‘good’? (Answering the Euthyphro Dilemma)
But there are clearly other things which God declared to be wrong in a particular stage of His Messianic program, and again they were wrong because God said so. The obvious example is food:
- Adam and Eve were allowed only vegetables (Gen. 1:29).
- Noah was allowed to eat any animal he liked as long as it didn’t have the blood in it (Gen. 9:3–4).
- To keep the Messianic Line spiritually pure, God commanded the Jews/Israelites to be separate from the nations, to avoid being corrupted by them. Part of this was His command through Moses to abstain from certain foods such as pork and shellfish.
- Since the coming of Christ, the barrier between Jew and Gentile has been broken down (Ephesians 2:14), so both Jews and Gentiles can now become one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28, Col. 3:11). Therefore Christians today are as free as Noah (Mark 7:19, Acts 15:20, Col. 2:16).
For more information on the difference between the permanent and temporary laws, see:
- CMI answers philosophy/religion professor on biblical exegesis and the problem of evil
- A brief history of the Jews
- Are we allowed to eat all animals today?
- Is eating shellfish still an abomination?
When and why did God forbid brother-sister intermarriage?
As CMI points out, which you apparently overlooked because of the emotional barriers you erected, the issue of brother-sister marriage is on the same level as the food laws. Although you claim it is ‘something that has always been wrong!’ you provide no evidence that God has always declared it so, or that it violates the created order. Even Abraham testified that he married his half-sister (Genesis 20:12), and this was a marriage blessed by God, and led to the Messiah. It wasn’t till the time of Moses that God forbade the Israelites from brother-sister marriage (Lev. 18–20).
CMI also provides a logical explanation for why God waited till Moses to outlaw this practice, when he didn’t with Abraham. Originally, there would have been no risk of this causing harmful deformities in the offspring. There is a problem today, because all of us have inherited copying mistakes in our genes, called mutations, which are usually harmful. Mutations are one effect of God’s curse on the entire creation because of Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:19, Romans 8:20–22).
Fortunately, we carry two copies of each gene, one inherited from each parent (called alleles). Usually we inherit mutations in different places, so usually the mutated gene’s effect is fully or partly masked by the ‘good’ gene. But if close relatives marry, then there is a one-in-four chance of a child inheriting mutant alleles in the same place (locus) from both parents. This one-in-four chance applies to each mutation, of which there are thousands, so the chance of some deformity is great. This is called inbreeding depression—see further explanation and diagram in The dangers of inbreeding.
But Adam and Eve were created ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31) — the Hebrew tov meod, in the context of a finished creation which God had already called ‘good’ after most creation days, indicates physical perfection without any blemishes. So they would not have had copying mistakes, so brother-sister intermarriage would not have had the problem it has today. Harmful mutations would take many generations to accumulate to levels where close intermarriage would be dangerous for the offspring. As mentioned, even Abraham, living long after the creation of mankind, married his half-sister Sarah, and they were the ancestors of the very vibrant Jewish people group.
But as many centuries passed, many harmful, degenerative mutations accumulated in the human gene pool. So, as CMI points out, this is probably a major reason for God giving laws to the Israelites through Moses against intermarriage between close relatives (Leviticus 18–20). Today there would be even more chance of deformity/disease in the offspring of such a union than in Moses’ time—consequently, even first cousin marriages are outlawed in many countries.
Is any other solution logically possible?
Now, you say ‘I’m sure the answer lies elsewhere!’ but this misses a key point. CMI is not merely proposing a solution, but pointing out the only solution that fits the biblical text. The Bible is very clear that all other people are descended from Adam (Acts 17:26), and Adam is called ‘the first man’ in 1 Cor. 15:45. Eve was so named because she was ‘the mother of all living’ (Gen. 3:20). Therefore there couldn’t possibly have been any other solution consistent with Scripture.
Application to society
Finally, it’s very important for Christians to argue for morality on the basis of God’s laws, not subjective feelings. I remember when Fran Wilde [Labour Member of Parliament for Wellington Central, in New Zealand] was promoting the homosexual law reform bill in the mid 1980s. Far too many people used emotive language against homosexual acts, and of course I’m repulsed by homosexual acts, but what I or anyone else feels or even thinks is irrelevant. The emotive language backfired, because many active homosexuals do not appear ‘gross’ etc. (I knew quite a few in my university days, and was even reasonably friendly with some of them as people), so people could gain the impression that the objectors are irrational ‘homophobes’, gay-haters, etc. The only real issue is that God has forbidden such things, because they violate the created order of marriage, as well as the created biological design of men and women. Also, even secular governments are God’s agents for punishing wrongdoers (Rom. 13:4).
Unfortunately, much of the church rejects the creation foundation in Genesis, so is incapable of engaging the secular culture on an intellectually coherent level.
Yours in ‘our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ’ (Titus 2:13)
(Dr) Jonathan Sarfati