Did Adam and Eve’s children commit incest?

I read your article on Adam and Eve and my fellow group members and I were
wondering if we are all based on those two having sexual relations with
each other and then their children. Would that be labeled as incest? By my
knowledge incest raises the chances of deformities so I was hoping if you
could help my friends and I on this subject.

It is true that in the Law of Moses, blood siblings were prohibited from
having sexual relations and therefore from being married (Leviticus 18:9).
The question is why God gave this prohibition to Israel , and whether such
a prohibition would naturally have applied to Adam and Eve?s children.

The answer to this question is a little bit complicated. First, one must
ask why God outlawed “incest” for the Hebrews. Was it because it is
inherently an evil thing to do, or was it to protect these people from the
danger of genetic disease and defects? To answer this question would
require some speculation, but it is possible to divide the commandments in
the Mosaic Law into those which were clearly a sin issue and those which
may have been imposed to protect the health of the Israelites. For
example, God outlawed the killing of others, idolatry, stealing, profane
use of God?s name and so forth because he hates these things. They are
inherently sinful. Seemingly different from these examples are the
prohibition against eating certain types of meat. God outlawed the eating
of pork, shellfish, rodents, carnivores and so forth. I believe there is
nothing inherently sinful about eating these types of meat, but it just so
happens that eating these particular types of meat exposes the eater to a
number of very dangerous diseases. With our modern scientific knowledge,
we are aware of the relatively greater danger of eating carnivores,
shellfish, rodents and pork, as we can trace each of these to specific
diseases. Besides, using our knowledge of these diseases, we can cook
these meats in such a way to make them not dangerous any more. Christians
are free to eat these meats. In Exodus 15:26, God tells his people that if
they follow his Law, “I will not bring on you any of the diseases I
brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord who heals you.”

The next question is where does the proscription against sex and marriage
to one?s sibling fit into this picture? Is “incest” inherently sinful, or
is it a matter of God protecting his people from disease? Given our
knowledge of the causes of genetic disease–especially those gene-linked
diseases which are recessive, it is very easy to see how this the
prohibition against incest was one of the ways God protected his people
against “the diseases I brought on the Egyptians.” Bear in mind, that
there is at least an element of speculation here, as I certainly am not a
direct spokesperson for God, but I am assuming that marriage with one?s
sibling was outlawed by God under the Law of Moses, not because God hates
this practice, but in order to protect his people from any of a host of
genetic diseases.

This brings us back to Adam and Eve, and more specifically to their
children. When God created human beings, he saw that it was good (Genesis
1:31 ). I would assume that Adam and Eve were created without genetic
defect. The natural process of DNA replication inevitably leads to
mistakes in copying which produces mutations, the vast majority of which
are definitely not beneficial–many of which cause genetic disease. The
way I understand the question you ask is to assume that Adam and Eve?s
children were allowed by God to marry and to produce children because
there was no possibility of genetic disease. The cause for the law in
Leviticus was God?s attempts to protect his people from harm. This cause
simply did not exist for Adam and Eve?s children. Because there was no
risk to be prevented, God did not see “incest” as “sinful” for the
earliest descendants of Adam and Eve.

This discussion involves two assumptions which you should be aware of:

1. The prohibition in the Law of Moses against incest was enacted by God
to protect his people, not because incest is inherently sinful. This is a
likely conclusion, but it is impossible to prove.

2. Adam and Eve, and therefore their children, did not have defective
genes in their DNA, making the threat of genetic disease be small or
non-existent. This, too, is impossible to prove, although it is a logical
inference.

Because there is an element of speculation in my argument above, I suggest
you consider these thoughts, do a little research of your own, and come to
your own conclusion, but this is how I have viewed the interesting
question you bring up.

John Oakes , PhD

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