Friday, 10 November 2017 21:08

Contradictions in the Bible | The problem of incest in the Bible (2)

Written by Gabriel Baicu
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   Didn’t incest enter under God’s universal moral law from the beginning of creation? A relaxed view on incest had the effect of ultimately attracting bad health and immorality. One thing is obvious. The view on morality of Jewish Christian tradition has changed during history, acting as any other human social phenomenon and not as the expression of God’s universal moral law which is supposed to be constant. Besides incest, another example is adultery.

Before Moses, even the patriarchs didn’t have the notion of adultery and it is also an important aspect of God’s moral law, according to the Bible. Is God’s moral law absolute or relative, depending on different periods of time? If God’s moral law is unchanging it is not clear why adultery is seen as a decisive sin in the N.T. but was accepted by God when practiced by the patriarchs. 

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     If adultery wasn’t condemned by a law, hence wasn’t a sin before Moses, other people besides the Jewish people couldn’t have been legitimately punished for their adulterous lives because they didn’t receive laws condemning adultery from God. Some people from the Middle East would have been considered by God to be morally unfit and they would have been destroyed by Him for this reason even if the Bible says that without a law the sins are not reckoned.

“7 What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet’.” (Romans 7; 7 NRSV)

The Bible uses the word “sin” even before Moses’ Law and that is another inconsistency. If sin is reflected in the laws, using the word “sin” before the existence of any law is meaningless. Why were sins turned against many nations from the Middle East by God if they didn’t receive any law to condemn those sins? This is another fundamental contradiction of the Bible.

Incest and adultery were not sins before the Mosaic Law for the Jewish people and were not sins at all for other nations who didn’t receive that Law, but in the eyes of God incest was always considered an abomination.

Was adultery indirectly favoured by the acceptance of incest in the O.T.? In case of Abraham and Sara, incest and adultery were interwoven.

“From there Abraham journeyed towards the region of the Negeb, and settled between Kadesh and Shur. While residing in Gerar as an alien, 2 Abraham said of his wife Sarah, ‘She is my sister.’ And King Abimelech of Gerar sent and took Sarah.” (Genesis 20; 1-2 NRSV)

Abraham had a mistress with the name Hagar beside his wife Sarah. Before Moses, adultery and incest were acceptable in Jewish society but after the Mosaic Law they were prohibited.

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“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children. She had an Egyptian slave-girl whose name was Hagar, 2 and Sarai said to Abram, ‘You see that the LORD has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my slave-girl; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.’ And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.” (Genesis 16; 1-2 NRSV)

God didn’t reprimand Abraham, nor did He consider him a sinner because he was the man of two women. God blessed him and made a covenant with him. This looks like a kind of moral relativism rather than the expression of a universal moral law. I don’t judge God’s manner in working with humankind but I deem the consistency of biblical narratives, according to which God has adapted to human nature, using it for His purposes rather than always weighing humankind after a universal unchanging moral law. Besides the patriarchs, King David’s life is also an example of God accepting the adultery of one of His faithful man.

The explanation that incest hadn’t been too bad for health until Moses doesn’t address the problem of morality and comes with an element of moral relativism which contradicts the universality and absoluteness of God’s moral law. If one reads what Apostle Paul had to say about sexual immorality one will understand the immense moral gap between the acceptance of incest until Moses and the moral standards brought by Jesus, the Son of God. Is it not about the same God? In Moses’ Laws incest is clearly presented as morally bad.

“The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2 Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: I am the LORD your God. 3 You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not follow their statutes. 4 My ordinances you shall observe and my statutes you shall keep, following them: I am the LORD your God. 5 You shall keep my statutes and my ordinances; by doing so one shall live: I am the LORD. 6 None of you shall approach anyone near of kin to uncover nakedness: I am the LORD. 7 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, which is the nakedness of your mother; she is your mother, you shall not uncover her nakedness. 8 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is the nakedness of your father. 9 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether born at home or born abroad.

10 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your son’s daughter or of your daughter’s daughter, for their nakedness is your own nakedness.” (Leviticus 18; 1-10 NRSV)


“You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether born at home or born abroad.” (Leviticus 18; 9)

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We should notice that according to the book of Genesis all humankind has multiplied in defiance of this rule later contained by the Mosaic Law. The distance and opposition between the manner in which Genesis describes how humankind had multiplied and God’s commandment about incest from Mosaic Law shows clearly that the book of Genesis cannot be authored through divine inspiration. What writer, in narrating the story of creation and describing Moses’ Laws at the same time, wouldn’t have noticed the huge discrepancy between them? The problem is that it wasn’t only a writer but many writers who have written the first five books of the Bible. In Moses’ Laws incest is depravity. At the end of Leviticus chapter 18 we have the moral condemnation.

“24 Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, for by all these practices the nations I am casting out before you have defiled themselves. 25 Thus the land became defiled; and I punished it for its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you shall keep my statutes and my ordinances and commit none of these abominations, either the citizen or the alien who resides among you 27 (for the inhabitants of the land, who were before you, committed all of these abominations, and the land became defiled); 28 otherwise the land will vomit you out for defiling it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. 29 For whoever commits any of these abominations shall be cut off from their people. 30 So keep my charge not to commit any of these abominations that were done before you, and not to defile yourselves by them: I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 18; 24-30 NRSV)

By all these practices the nations would have defiled themselves. This is the declaration of the Bible and this assertion raises an important question. What practices? Incest and adultery would have been the most abominable practices. Who prepared the nations for incest if not, the way in which God had created humankind? According to the Bible, God would have accused entire nations for practicing the way of multiplication approved by Him.

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The reason for which the nations have been driven away by God to make place for the Jewish people in the Promised Land was that those nations practiced great abominations such as incest. This is a huge contradiction of the Bible. On one side the human species would have multiplied through incest as the only possible way for their multiplication. On the other side, all nations cast out by God before Jewish people would have been accused of their multiplication which was asked by God from humankind at the beginning of its creation.

Those nations cast out by God would have been assured that incest isn’t a problem as far as all humankind had multiplied in this manner. Consequently, the motivation contained by Leviticus 18; 24-25 for driving out other nations before Jewish people is inconsistent with the book of Genesis. This doesn’t mean that God would have acted in that manner, being unrighteous toward some nations, but this is evidence that those biblical texts weren’t inspired by Him because they contradict His moral nature expressed in the Mosaic laws. If the Mosaic laws don’t express God’s moral nature that means that they also haven’t been inspired by Him.

An abomination is something greatly disliked or abhorred which produces intense aversion or loathing towards a vile action. An abomination can be also a shameful or detestable action, condition, habit, etc. This is the definition of the dictionary.[7] All these strong terms are implicitly contained by God’s characterisation of incest. It is a harsh moral judgement, it is not only a measure taken for the protection of human health as for example a vaccine against a disease. It is more than that; it is a moral condemnation of humankind for practicing incest.

In Deuteronomy chapter 27, the action of incest with a sister is under a curse. All human races are under a curse because humankind multiplied through incest between brothers and sisters, but this curse isn’t due to human fault. God had created human beings and blessed them to multiply and to fill the earth but at the same time He cursed the way in which they multiplied. There are two extreme attitudes towards incest in the Bible, first that it was necessary for multiplication and second, the total intolerance about it through Moses’ laws.

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    Such a contraction is so important that it brings a thick darkness on the entire moral value of the stories of creation from the book of Genesis.

Looking back on human history through the lenses of Mosaic laws, the entirety of humankind looks morally condemned from the beginning of its creation.

“22 ‘Cursed be anyone who lies with his sister, whether the daughter of his father or the daughter of his mother.’ All the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ (Deuteronomy 27; 22 NRSV)

God’s laws are unchanged and universal; it doesn’t matter if the curse was pronounced after a long process of multiplication through brothers and sisters of the human races. The curse was there from the beginning even if it wasn’t manifestly affirmed and very importantly it was there before the alleged human Fall. Wasn’t Abraham under this curse even before Moses’ laws if God’s moral law is timeless, being the foundation of His Kingdom? If Moses’ Moral Law is still valid for humankind, being universal, why wasn’t it valid for the past and also from the beginning of creation at least in its general principles? Apostle Paul makes the difference between faith and law. Before Moses’ laws Abraham was evaluated through his faith and not through the laws which wouldn’t have been known by humankind. Nevertheless, God’s Moral Law is everlasting if He is eternal and this Law cannot change its principles even if it changes its form.

In Leviticus chapter 20, verse 17, incest of brother and sister is viewed by God as a disgrace and susceptible to punishment. That incest has become more dangerous in time is fully understandable. That before Moses’ Moral Law incest was the only way for the multiplication of humankind which was blessed by God and after Moses it became a disgrace, cannot be grasped in a reasonable way.

One would expect that in God’s eyes what was seen as a disgrace in Moses’ times would have been seen also as an abomination immediately after the creation of humankind. Why should one have this expectation? We were led to believe that God doesn’t change His mind as easily as humans do. Apostle James in chapter 1 verse 17 of his epistle says that with God there is no variation or shadow due to change.

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    This assertion has become a very important pillar of the Christian faith but which isn’t confirmed by the stories of creation from the book of Genesis.

“17 If a man takes his sister, a daughter of his father or a daughter of his mother, and sees her nakedness, and she sees his nakedness, it is a disgrace, and they shall be cut off in the sight of their people; he has uncovered his sister’s nakedness, he shall be subject to punishment.” (Leviticus 20; 17 NRSV)

It looks all right if we forget that Cain’s wife was his sister, or Abram and Sara were half brother and sister. Seth also had no marital choice other than one of his close relatives. Beside Cain and Seth all other human beings at the beginning of human history had to marry a sister or a brother, a niece or a nephew.

The most fundamental structure of the creation stories through which the origins of humankind are explained is flawed with very important moral problems which render the entire conception of how humankind was created morally unacceptable and in contradiction with other biblical standards. The story of Adam and Eve is a legend with no connection to reality which doesn’t fit with a rational understanding of the world or with the way in which the N.T. understands God’s moral law.

It is important to see how knowledge about God was lost after Noah in such a manner that He had to reconstruct the relationship with humankind anew with Abraham. Between Noah and Abraham was only about 400 years.[8]

From Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations. In the period of 400 years from Noah to Abraham the knowledge of God was generally lost, according to the Bible. That was until God had spoken to Abraham. It is inexplicable that all families coming from Noah in only 400 years, a short historical period of time, lost the knowledge of God. 

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   The Flood story would have been transmitted generation after generation but not the knowledge of God who generated the Flood and that is strange. Many religions were created in that period of time but the faith in YEHOWAH was lost in spite of the vivid memory of the Flood.

After Adam and until Noah there were still people remembering God – one of them was Noah. After the Flood, no people kept the memory or faith in God and He had to intervene directly with Abraham in order to reconstruct people’s faith. This is strange if we consider that Noah was a very faithful man and for this reason he was chosen to save a part of the creation. Did Noah not convey his faith to his offspring? Why didn’t Noah’s family keep their memory of God? Allegedly Noah would have lived another 350 years after the Flood which would have given him enough time to transmit the faith in God to numerous generations, but it didn’t happen. If it had happened Abraham would have come with the right religion transmitted to him through his ancestors.[9]

Noah’s sons knew about God who saved them from the Flood. Did they transmit this knowledge to their sons and after that to all their offspring? In the Bible, the knowledge of God starts again as if for the first time with Abraham, but this is an inexplicable interruption.

“2 And Joshua said to all the people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors—Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor—lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods.” (Joshua 24; 2 NRSV)

   This interruption of the faith in the real God is another inconsistency of the book of Genesis. God wouldn’t have been in relation with humankind for 400 years after the Flood in spite that He wanted to generate a better world after the Deluge. If not for regeneration of the world what was the purpose of the Flood? It is hard to admit that God would have brought the Flood on humankind motivated only by the desire of destruction.

 

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[7]
www.thefreedictionary.com/Abominations

 

[8] bibleview.org/en/bible/genesis/400years/

 

[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah

 

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