All human beings are the product of incestuous relations, according to the Bible. This is wrong from medical and from moral perspectives. In the book of Genesis, all humankind is based on interrelations between Adam and Eve’s children. The Bible which is considered by some a moral guide gives mixed indications about the morality of incestuous acts. All Adam and Eve’s children were brothers and sisters and their offspring further down the lines were cousins and this aspect wasn’t seen as having moral consequences for the writers of the book of Genesis.
“4 Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have produced* a man with the help of the LORD.’ 2 Next she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground.” (Genesis; 4; 1-2 NRSV)
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Many read those verses considering that they are the most normal thing on the earth, but this isn’t the case. If Adam and Eve were the only human beings at the time they had to give birth to male and female children and their children formed couples and produced other children and so on. Why is the incest wrong? I had taken advice from a large amount of documentation and I have chosen a few quotations which express a strong view about incest:
“Incest is something we, as a society, should discourage. Not because of any genetic reason and not because of any religious reason, but because incest is harmful to the family unit. The family is where children learn to love and trust. Injecting this atmosphere with sex and sexuality is harmful. Even if we limit our example to consenting adults, allowing it at all may still let sexuality flow into the family unit. We don’t want fathers “waiting” for their children to grow up or sisters waiting around to seduce their brothers once they come of age. It’s just harmful all around.”
Another opinion shows us why some people rightfully consider that incest is something wrong, having many negative implications:
“Yes, consensual incest is wrong. To take it one step further, all incest is wrong. Nobody should be having sex or doing any type of sexual activities with family members. It is very wrong and in my opinion, it is absolutely disgusting. They really need to make this stuff illegal.”
Even animals avoid inbreeding and a group of animals will take measures to ensure incest can’t happen in their families. If there is a natural protection against this phenomenon why would God have conceived the human species in such a way that the only manner of their multiplication would have been inbreeding?
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The answer is that it wasn’t God who built the human species through inbreeding, but the naivety of the authors of the book of Genesis didn’t take into consideration this aspect, neither from a moral point of view nor a medical one.
The medical point of view is very convincing and the following quotation summarises well the arguments against inbreeding:
“Since lots of people today ignore morals, let’s look at biology. Inbreeding produces problems genetically that can ruin gene pools and produce the increased likelihood of genetic diseases within a line. This would mean that if a family has a history of diabetic or heart problems, inbreeding in that line will promote a greater likelihood of those problems appearing in the future. Animals, specifically mammals (which we are), go to great lengths to avoid inbreeding. Primates exile females to other family groups so that the fathers don’t start going at it with them. Lions drive away males after they get older to ensure there isn’t a fight for dominance between them and their father. In the cycle of life dead ends occur regularly, and the quickest way to do that is make the gene pool much smaller.”
I have chosen mostly the opinions which also reflect my views about incest and I didn’t transform this study into a debate about the moral aspect of incest, because this material is not a part of a controversy pro and contra incest but is about the moral value and the logical consequences of the biblical texts. Whoever wants to see all opinions can visit the site indicated in the references or other sites or materials. There are also views that consider consensual incest between mature people acceptable but even they don’t dispute the medically harmful consequences which prohibit it, only the moral reasons. Nevertheless, according to the Mosaic Law, incest between brothers and sisters wasn’t admissible. Despite that, in the biblical narratives children were produced through incest and this is a huge medical and moral problem, and the morality promoted by the Bible is supposed to be at the highest level.
Almost everyone agrees that having babies in an incestuous relationship, in other words inbreeding, is medically wrong and as far as the babies will suffer medical consequences is also morally unsound.
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In the book of Genesis both aspects, the moral and the medical, aren’t taken into consideration. It is worth hearing the voice of specialists about the medical problems generated by inbreeding. The following quotation explains the medical consequences of inbreeding:
“Every person has 46 chromosomes and each chromosome holds a bunch of genes. Each gene has the directions for one small part of you. So there is a gene that determines if you’ll have red hair, one that gives color to your skin by making melanin, another one that helps blood to carry oxygen, and so on. You actually have two sets of 23 chromosomes. One set of 23 comes from mom and the other 23 comes from dad. Since each set of chromosomes has the same set of genes*, this means that you have two copies of most every gene. What is important for making us each unique is that the copy you get from your mom can be very different than the copy you get from your dad. So for example, the gene that causes red hair comes in a red version, and a not-red version (these different versions are called ‘alleles’). And the gene that makes a pigment called melanin comes in a normal version that makes melanin and a broken one that doesn’t. If you only have the broken one, you will end up with albinism. Having two copies of everything is actually a really great system. This is because if one copy is broken, you still have a second copy to use as back up. This is the case for the gene that makes melanin. People with just one broken copy don’t have albinism, because their good copy makes enough to keep albinism away.”
The second reason which pleads against interbreeding is that people need a lot of variety from each parent to be able to fight off as many diseases as possible.
“Having diverse DNA is important for having a strong immune system. This is why inbreeding can make for some sickly children. And it is why laboratory mice and some farm animals get sick so easily. The immune system depends on a very important part of DNA called the MHC or Major Histocompatability Complex region. This is a lot of big words, but basically the MHC region is made up of a bunch of genes that help you fight off disease. The MHC region’s secret to fighting off disease is to have as many different types of alleles (or versions of genes) as possible. The more variety you have, the better you are at fighting disease. Diversity is important because each MHC gene is good at fighting a different set of diseases. You can think of it like a lock-and-key system. Each disease is a different shaped lock, and each MHC gene is a key. The more keys you have, the more diseases you can unlock and destroy.”
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According to the Bible all human species and all animals would have developed through inbreeding. All human beings would have had initially only one set of DNA transmitted generation after generation to all human offspring. Adam and Eve would have had the same set of DNA because Eve practically was taken from Adam. A part of Adam’s body carrying Adam’s DNA would have been the basis for the creation of Eve. The texts of the Bible imply the idea that humankind was from the beginning condemned to become very sick. As a matter of fact, humankind is not as sick as it should be if it had been created as the book of Genesis says.
What genetics says about the possibility of humankind coming from one single pair, Adam and Eve, is very complex but also is clear in asserting that mankind does not ensue from only one pair of human beings. One article from Economist is worth quoting:
“A trickier controversy has been triggered by findings from the genome that modern humans, in their genetic diversity, cannot be descended from a single pair of individuals. Rather, there were at least several thousand “first humans”. That challenges the historical existence of Adam and Eve, and has sparked a crisis of conscience among evangelical Christians persuaded by genetic science. This is not an esoteric point, says Michael Cromartie, an evangelical expert at the Ethics and Public Policy Centre, a Washington think-tank: many conservative theologians hold that without a historical Adam, whose sin descended directly to all humanity, there would be no reason for Jesus to come to Earth to redeem man’s Fall.”
There are many arguments advanced by creationists through which they try to contra-balance the logical consequences of the scientific findings.
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In some of them the differentiations in the human DNA are seen as rather small. Science also considers that it was a small number of human beings from whom all humankind developed but much more than one pair. They were probably several thousand “first humans” and that explains the small differentiations in human DNA. I found many of the arguments advanced by creationists unconvincing and artificial.
What would really have happened if for six thousand years people continued to multiply from the same set of DNA? The lack of diversity would have been disastrous for human development. In such a case a permanent decline in the value of the initial genetic material would have happened and that would have been combined with an extremely low resistance to diseases. In this situation, the way in which the creation of man and woman was done by God, not the human sin, would have been responsible for the genetic and even moral degradation of humankind. Weak humankind from a genetic point of view would have generated less than strong human beings from a moral point of view. All human adaptations and mutations during the time must be seen as anomalies generated by the unhealthy inbreeding if we accept the biblical principle of creation of humankind through an initial pair.
There also are other explanations given by creationists in respect to the acceptability of inbreeding for the development of humankind. Adam and Eve were seen as very healthy genetically, and for this reason inbreeding could not have been a problem for them. This cannot be an acceptable explanation. Starting with a healthy set of DNA, in time through inbreeding this would have become less and less healthy and God would have known that.
God would have created human beings with a project for their evolution in time; He didn’t realise static entities with a totally unchangeable biology. At the same time, the book of Genesis maintains that God would have created humankind with the potential for genetic decay. The proposition that human beings would have lived for hundreds of years before the Flood is doubtful if we take into consideration the way in which the human species would have multiplied. The multiplication through incest would have shortened human life; it wouldn’t have been the basis for long lives.
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The Bible says that after Adam and Eve’s Fall humankind lost all its privileges and the process of birth became painful, hence the so-called genetic health of the first human beings is a pure invention.
As a matter of fact, the Bible says clearly that humankind could have become ill even in the paradise. We can suppose that from the presence of the tree of life in paradise. The leaves of the tree of life would have been medicines for human illnesses. The same tree of life which would have been present in the Garden of Eden will be present on the new earth also. Adam and Eve wouldn’t have been that healthy because having perfect health based on an exceptional set of DNA would have made the presence of a cure for diseases given by the tree of life useless.
“Then the angel* showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life* with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22; 1-2 NRSV)
One can prove me wrong if one can demonstrate that the trees of life from Genesis and from Revelation are two different trees with two different qualities, but I trust that this is an impossible demonstration. In order to give sense to the story, no matter how loose, there has to be one tree of life prohibited in the beginning and made available at the end of days. Notwithstanding, this is the sense of a myth, not a real chain of events.
It is important to remember that not only the human beings would have multiplied through inbreeding, according to the book of Genesis, but also the animals. The idea with very healthy genes at the beginning of their creation and a diminishing of genetic quality over time which attracted the prohibition through law of inbreeding for animals, doesn’t make sense because animal behaviour cannot be influenced through laws. The Mosaic Law which interdicted inbreeding makes sense for human beings but couldn’t have had any effect on animals hence the continuation of inbreeding as a way of multiplication would have completely destroyed the animals on Earth. In reality, contrary to what the book of Genesis maintains, animals always take care to avoid inbreeding.
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The most inexplicable discrepancy in the biblical texts is the way in which the Bible says that God has treated the problem of incest in human history. On the one side, we are told that the entirety of humankind came through incest from one human pair, but on the other side the Bible condemns very harshly the incest in other texts. If incest was a horrific thing in Moses’ time why would it have been acceptable for the multiplication of humankind? God’s view on incest would have changed radically from acceptance to harsh condemnation. Why would inbreeding have been the only possibility found by God for human multiplication? The explanation can be found in theological reasons, not in scientific ones.
From Noah to Moses only approximately 1,500 years would have passed. During this 1,500 years, incest was still all right, being the manner in which humankind would have multiplied and after that it became an abomination condemned by the Mosaic Law. Without knowing that it was abomination, humankind would have been in the wrong for a very long period of time and this situation was caused by the way in which God would have created human beings. Moreover, other nations than the Jewish would have continued to live in a moral abomination even after the apparition of the Mosaic Law. In other words, God would have determined people to live in an immoral way for a long period of time.
If the multiplication of human species is based on incest, according to the Bible, why was incest condemned so drastically after a while by God? The only explanation given by biblical apologists that I found following research was that at the beginning incest was acceptable because the first human beings were healthy but after a while, in Moses’ times, humankind became more afflicted with ill health and a change in the pattern became necessary. Not too many explanations which would include the moral aspect can be found. Why did human races multiply in a way considered an abomination by God? There isn’t any reasonable answer for that question with a connection to reality if one considers that God has unchanging moral opinions.
Did not humankind become sicker as a consequence of the way in which it was created? If more than one man and one woman were created at the beginning, the spreading of human beings on Earth through inbreeding would have been avoided and humankind wouldn’t have been pushed to commit the abomination of incest.
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Any explanation for a possible acceptability of incest as a mean for the multiplication of humankind is absurd. The effects of the genetic disaster were not removed by Moses’ laws because their application was restricted only to the Jewish people. It was too little too late. The overwhelming majority of nations didn’t receive the Mosaic Law so looking to the wide picture the incest would have continued to be damaging for the majority of humankind despite its incrimination through Moses’ laws.
In other words, if God had created human beings in such a way that multiplication would have been done through incest the condemnation of inbreeding by the Mosaic Law wouldn’t have had a real effect on humankind’s health. Even if the damages caused by incest would have been identified in Moses’ times the cure on the global level was inefficient. For this reason the Mosaic Law condemning the incest couldn’t have been a helpful way of improving all humankind’s health therefore it would have been mainly a moral condemnation.
According to Genesis chapter 1, God had planned from the beginning for humankind to multiply from one pair. The problem is that the multiplication from only one pair is more a curse than a blessing and that for medical reasons but that kind of multiplication was seen initially by God as a blessing.
“27 So God created humankind* in his image, in the image of God he created them;* male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth’.” (Genesis 1; 27-28 NRSV)
Blessing humankind to multiply through an abomination is an insurmountable contradiction of the Bible which completely disqualifies the value of the narratives of creation from the book of Genesis. Humankind were “blessed” to multiply from one pair and fill the earth and this commandment will have created huge genetic problems both in case of obedience to God and in the case of the Fall.
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Probably, some creationists would reply that if Adam and Eve were not in disgrace they and their offspring could have eaten from a tree in the Garden of Eden and could have become healthy at any time they wanted, but I would reject such an idea because I do not see any reason to create something deficient only to repair it all the time. Such a creation could not be said to be good as Genesis chapter 1 professes that it was.
Does God’s moral law change? Is God’s moral law a collection of universal principles or only an adaptive and flexible set of practical measures? Why is incest wrong? Is the critic of lust one of the pillars of God’s moral law or not? Jesus let us know that even looking lasciviously at a woman is sin. This is a problem because regarding incest, we cannot find in the Bible an unchanging principle of God but the evolution of the moral law. From necessary incest, the moral law developed through permitting polygamy and after that evolved by harshly condemning incest through Moses’ laws, and ended in prohibiting the guilty look. Incest and polygamy would have been approved by God in a certain period of time but in the end reprimanding them became one of the most important elements of God’s moral law according to Christian teachings. There aren’t any arguments which can justify from a moral point of view the multiplication of humankind through incest as far as marriages between brothers and sisters were considered an abomination in the Mosaic Law..
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