a family sitting together, framed only on their legs

Adam and Eve Had Only Three Sons!

Six to ten-thou­sand years ago, some Chris­t­ian apol­o­gists assert, the human species began with a sin­gle man and woman pair: Adam and Eve. And we are told that they had sev­er­al children:

Cain… Abel… Seth…

Wait, that’s only three chil­dren and… they’re… all… boys.

“The human race is the prod­uct of Eve hav­ing sex with her sons!” “Adam and Eve only had three male chil­dren; think about that carefully!”

The fam­i­ly of Adam and Eve is often held up as a “gotcha” by unbe­liev­ers: an obvi­ous flaw in the sto­ry which calls into ques­tion every­thing else about it. It is implied that not only was the human race ini­tial­ly increased by way of incest but that it was (at least ini­tial­ly) incest between moth­er and sons.

A Family That Just Won’t Quit

While it is true that Adam and Eve only had three named chil­dren, the “Adam, Eve, and their three kids alone” athe­ist argu­ment falls apart just a few chap­ters into the Bible, chap­ter five specifically.

Chap­ter five pulls back a lit­tle bit to give a broad­er view of Adam’s lengthy life and prog­e­ny. Abel had been killed, and for all intents, Cain was liv­ing in exile, no longer a part of Adam’s “gen­er­a­tions” or fam­i­ly so far as the author of Gen­e­sis is con­cerned. So with that in mind, chap­ter five tells us of the birth of Adam’s third named son: Seth.

The chap­ter quick­ly moves for­ward with Seth’s fam­i­ly, their chil­dren, and so on until the nar­ra­tive gets to the next big event, the Del­uge, or great flood. How­ev­er, before it does so, it caps off Adam’s life thus:

The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had oth­er sons and daugh­ters. Gen­e­sis 5:4

In case you missed it, here is the crit­i­cal bit: and he had oth­er sons and daughters.

Every sin­gle meme or objec­tion you’ve ever seen which men­tions that Adam and Eve had only three sons is false. “Fake news!” as they say.

Athe­ists often make the claim that they are athe­ists because they have “read the Bible.” Fair enough; read­ing the Bible is what killed my faith in its god and sav­ior as well. How­ev­er, if we’re going to pro­claim some sort of enlight­ened state brought about by read­ing a book, we do our­selves a dis­ser­vice and call into ques­tion the intel­lec­tu­al rig­or of our move­ment if we’re miss­ing a sim­ple detail from ear­ly in the book for the sake of a “gotcha” argu­ment or meme.

Because Adam and Eve had “sons and daugh­ters” over the course of sev­er­al cen­turies, there were plen­ty of pair­ings pos­si­ble to get the human race off to a good start.

In Response to a Comment I Couldn’t Publish

An anony­mous com­menter on this post accused me of play­ing “gotcha” games because while I’m point­ing out that Eve would­n’t have had to pro­cre­ate with her sons, her sons and daugh­ters would have had to pro­cre­ate with each oth­er. I point­ed that out in the pre­vi­ous para­graph, so let’s address it more explic­it­ly. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I could­n’t pub­lish their com­ment due to its vio­lat­ing the com­ment pol­i­cy, so I’m address­ing the point of it here.

Yes, there would have been incest in the ear­ly days of human­i­ty, accord­ing to the Bible. Actu­al­ly, it’s been prac­ticed in a vari­ety of cul­tures across all of human his­to­ry. Our soci­ety has come to deem the prac­tice as taboo at best and moral­ly repug­nant and ille­gal at worst, and for good reasons.

How­ev­er, we can­not expect the ear­li­est humans — whether evo­lu­tion­ary or bib­li­cal — to pro­cre­ate accord­ing to our sex­u­al mores.

If the bib­li­cal account is true, then the ear­li­est humans would have been far more genet­i­cal­ly pure than we are today, with no time for genet­ic defects to build up over time, the kind of genet­ic defects which today cause things like con­gen­i­tal dis­eases or defor­mi­ties. Today, inbreed­ing allows defects to com­pound over time among small pop­u­la­tions, caus­ing an increase in con­gen­i­tal con­di­tions. Back then, though? There would be no, or sub­stan­tial­ly reduced, risk of any such conditions.

Oh, and whether you like it or not, you can’t escape inbreed­ing: either it occurred among the chil­dren of Adam and Eve in the bib­li­cal account or it occurred in ways which shaped the course of human evo­lu­tion.

Examples from the Wild


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Rick Beckman