Monday, December 6, 2010

Did The Children of Adam and Eve Commit Incest?

Q - I was challenged with the question on “where did we come from” and based on Adam and Eve being the first people, the question arose (concerning their children's and grandchildren's origin) - are we all children of incest?

A -
Thanks for the question. There are several possible answers, but the best one is the most obvious.

The best possibility - The stories of Genesis, and the rest of the Bible for that matter, must be read with the culture of the time kept in mind. When Adam and Eve were created we can posit that they had perfect genetics. So, if their children married, they would not have caused had genetic problems for many years. It is only after the gene pool continues to damage itself through the years that it would cause problems in later generations. Thus, the law of Moses says you cannot commit incest (Leviticus 18 and 20), because by this time it would be genetically unhealthy to do so. Thus, by modern moral standards, they must have committed incest. But, because it was the only way to propagate the race, they children of Adam and Eve must have married one another.

Other possibilities have been given, but I believe they are not very good ones. You can read one here.

Pope Pius XII wrote:
When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.
I hope this helps.


Kevin said...

So, is it incompatible with Catholic teaching to interpret Genesis and the rest of the Pentateuch not literally and not as historical fact? I would tend to believe that, yes, Adam and Eve were real people that sinned, breaking their relationship with God. This resulted in the presence of original sin in all of humanity. I feel it is kind of irrelevant to our theology to make a declaration about the entire human race coming from them, especially with what we know about evolution. Basically, does it really matter all that much? I feel like the teaching on original sin and concupiscence is what is important, not on how the rest of the human race was generated.

Julie said...

Yes, it does matter that Genesis and the Pentateuch is literal and historic fact because it gives credence and a foundation upon which the New Testament derives fulfillment. The Pentateuch is also considered literal and historical fact by the Jews, since that is, in fact, their history.

History means it happens, that it is not myth or just another story. It gives the foundation for our faith to rest on, even if other parts of our faith are a mystery. Evolution is not incompatible with Christianity and Pope John Paul II wrote a decent amount on it, but I am not sure what you mean by "especially with what we know about evolution." Yes, evolution happens-- but at a micro level, i.e. changes and adaptations. The Catholic Church does not teach that man evolved at the macro level, because that would take away the whole point of "man and woman being created in the image of God" if "man and woman was created first as an ameoba, then a money, then came around to be human, which I guess is what God looks like too."

So yes, the Bible as historic fact matters and yes it is incompatible with Church teaching.