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Feedback archive Feedback 2009

When was Cain conceived? And is CMI “male dominated”?

Published: 4 July 2009(GMT+10)

Wikipedia.org

Eve

C. Mac A. of Australia wrote in response to Dr Carl Wieland’s article, “Adam and the Immune System”. She took issue with a few of his statements, and also criticized the CMI scientists for being too ‘male-dominated’ and out of touch with women’s issues. Lita Cosner, author of several articles on women’s issues (as well as exegesis of the Greek New Testament, her speciality), was asked to respond.

In your article “Adam and the Immune System”, in answer to Joshua C, you say:

“The Fall was at most only a few weeks after Creation Week, probably much less time. This is a deduction from the fact Eve was not pregnant until after the Fall. Adam and Eve were two healthy married people, who had been commanded while still in Eden to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:22)….”

You also say:

“In writing about preFall conditions, we have to bear in mind first of all that there will always be an element of ‘maybe’. Biblical information is very compact, and often indirectly deduced. And we can’t make any actual observations….”

I agree with the second statement I have quoted but disagree with some of your “deductions” in the first.

It is not necessarily a fact that Eve was not pregnant until after the fall. Cain is the first child mentioned in Genesis, then Abel, because they were relevant to the history of the children of Israel and our history, but that does not mean that there were no other children born before them.

Eve remarks after Cain’s birth, literally, ‘I have gotten a man: the LORD (???? YHWH) ’ (4:1). This would suggest that she thinks that Cain is the promised seed who will crush the head of the serpent (3:15).

I would say that there may have been children born between Cain and Abel, since Genesis only says that he was born ‘later’ without any reference to how much time passed (Genesis 4:2), but it would be extremely unusual for the firstborn son to be unnamed, because the firstborn son was so important in the ancient world. This would be the only instance in the Old Testament of failing to mention the firstborn son, if Cain were not this firstborn son. Also, Eve remarks after Cain’s birth, literally, “I have gotten a man: the Lord (???? YHWH)” (4:1). This would suggest that she thinks that Cain is the promised seed who will crush the head of the serpent (3:15); her theology is correct, in that the “seed” would be both man and God, but with a wrong application! (See discussion in Christmas and Genesis).

I think it would be more likely for her to make this mistake with her firstborn; she doesn’t make this mistake with Abel or any of her other children that we know of, so I think it’s reasonable to say that Cain was her firstborn. Indeed, the name Abel (Hebrew הֶבֶל Hebel) means “vanity” (from הָבָל habal, to become vain), suggesting that she despaired when she realized that Cain was not the promised “seed”.

Seth also was not conceived until Adam was 130 years old.

There were probably many children between Abel and Seth, including sons and daughters (see detailed discussion in Who was Cain’s wife?). Seth is mentioned both because he was seen as a replacement for Abel, and because he is the ancestor from whom Noah, and therefore all living people today, is descended. This is a big problem with the idea of unfallen children before Cain—why were their descendants not on the Ark?

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Pregnant women

I see no problem with there being children between Cain and Abel, and between Abel and Seth, but there are many good theological and literary reasons to believe that Cain was Adam and Eve’s firstborn. Since Cain so obviously displayed a fallen nature, he must have been conceived after the Fall.

I think it would be a most unjust thing for God to react so strongly after so short a time.

Why? Adam and Eve were people with adult intellects (which probably far surpassed our fallen intellects) who could be expected to understand a command and the consequences of disobedience. There is nothing unjust about God expecting Adam and Eve to obey His command from the first hour they were in the Garden.

I deduce from what I know of Him that He would have given the newly created couple time to get to know each other and themselves and, more importantly, their God through fellowship with Him in the Garden, getting to know Him and learning to appreciate all that He had given them and had done for them.

‘Time to get to know each other’ is a requirement only in modern Western culture, and not found in any biblical text relating to marriage.

From which Scripture did you deduce this principle? Arranged marriages with immediate sexual intercourse were common in ANE culture; see Isaac and Rebekah as a biblical example (Genesis 24). “Time to get to know each other” is a requirement only in modern Western culture, and not found in any biblical text relating to marriage. In fact, arranged marriages are still common in some parts of the non-Western world, with the bride not meeting her husband before their wedding day.

They were not like us in every respect. They had no human parents or extended family. They had no childhood memories of happy times or falling over and running to a loving parent for comfort.

They were not like us in that they had a direct relationship with God unmarred by sin—with the corollary of no pain, disease, misery or mourning. I suggest that these benefits would likely outweigh all these things you think they ‘missed’.

They were in many respects like newborn babes and I think God would have given them time to mature to a point of necessary understanding and responsibility before He would allow them to be exposed to the kind of temptation that was going to have such tragic consequences all down through the ages.

They were not like newborn babies in any respect except in their ages. On the very day Adam was created, he could be expected to have the intellectual capacity to name the animals—before Eve was even created (see why this was no problem for him: How could Adam have named all the animals in a single day?). Then he was able to recognize that his wife was the same sort of creature he was, while none of the animals were, and immediately expressed joy. He was thus created mature, both physically and intellectually, so there was no time needed for them to “mature to a point of necessary understanding and responsibility”; they were already there. Of course it would have been unjust for God to have allowed the temptation had they not already been mature enough to understand the prohibition and its consequences, but we don’t believe that’s what happened.

Also, they would have been more able than us to resist temptation before the Fall, because they had not been tainted by sin. All humans since them (except Jesus, of course) have a ‘bent’ toward sin, so that we are not able to consistently choose to do the right thing; all of us will sin because we are sinners by nature. Adam and Eve were not before the Fall. See this further discussion of the power of contrary choice, lost at the Fall.

I think the Fall would have been some years at least after Creation.

Is it really realistic to think that Adam and Eve would have taken years to get to know each other before they would have commenced obeying God’s command from Day 6 to ‘be fruitful and multiply’?

I believe also that Eve would have had a much longer break between menstrual cycles than women do today. I think it would be most unjust to burden her with this, at best, most uncomfortable and restricting occurrence that women and girls have to put up with today…

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babies

I suggest that it is a mistake to equate post-Fall experience with pre-Fall. Even today, many women experience no pain related to their menstrual cycle; while some do, we can attribute this to the general degeneration of the human body since the Curse. For most women today, any pain associated with the menstrual cycle lasts only a few days, and usually isn’t severe enough to interfere with normal activities. Very severe or long-lasting pain is not part of the natural menstrual cycle and is sometimes linked to health problems which can also be attributed to degeneration since the Curse.

It is improbable that Eve would have had fewer menstrual cycles, given our direct biological descent from her. And there is no evidence that they were ever less frequent for women in ancient history. Rather, as part of the originally good creation, they would have involved no discomfort for her, just as childbirth would not have, had she lived long enough in an unfallen state to bear a child.1

and to burden her further with a pregnancy when she hardly had time to know herself as a woman and a virgin, or to know Adam as a dear brother, friend and soulmate.

Again, the idea of Eve ‘knowing herself’, especially ‘as a woman and a virgin’, is completely a modern Western view imposed on the text. Since all people in the ancient world were ‘group oriented’ they did not think of themselves independently from their family and cultural group (for more information, see Honor and Group Orientation in the New Testament World (off-site)2). An unmarried woman would ‘know herself’ as a part of her father’s household. A married woman would think of herself as part of her husband’s household.

Pain in the menstrual cycle is most definitely an effect of the Curse, but perhaps not directly from that specific curse directed at Eve.

I deduce from the Scriptures that the frequency of the human menstrual cycle was a result of the Fall when God ‘multiplied’ Eve’s conception. Having children more often would keep her busy doing what she does best, being a wife, mother and homemaker.

I don’t know of any Bible scholar who adopts this interpretation, and to be honest, I see no need to. One basic principle in hermeneutics is that the plainest interpretation should be adopted, and Occam’s Razor states similarly that the simplest solution is the best. The simplest interpretation is that the Curse made childbirth painful for Eve, while it would not have been had she remained unfallen. The discomfort experienced by some women in menstrual cycles may be part of this specific curse, but I would be more inclined to see it as part of the general deterioration of the human condition since the Fall, since many women today do not experience this sort of pain as part of their cycles, so it is not universal. In short, pain in the menstrual cycle is most definitely an effect of the Curse, but perhaps not directly from that specific curse directed at Eve.

There are other things I would like to mention on but will begin with the above comment. In conclusion I would like to recommend that from time to time the wives of the CMI scientists be consulted about things pertaining to women. You have a totally male dominated team at CMI.

While the full-time team of writers is all male, female writers are asked to write a lot of the articles pertaining to “womens’ issues”. For instance, I’ve authored several articles on abortion (see, for instance, “Abortion: an indispensible right or violence against women?”; “ Blurring the line between abortion and infanticide?”; and “The gift of death?”), not using female pronouns for God, and the pro-female orientation of the Bible.

Furthermore, the CMI scientists do sometimes consult their wives. For instance, Dr Jonathan Sarfati, in his feedback on pain in childbirth, consulted and quoted his wife, as well as citing sound theological scholars who are also mothers.

Team members sometimes come across as having little or no understanding of a woman’s viewpoint and as having little sensitivity or compassion.

I can assure you that whatever is causing this impression, it is no lack of sensitivity or compassion among the men on the team. I have never found this to be a problem—indeed, this site was, humanly speaking, instrumental in my conversion as a high school girl (see my testimony from not too long after that).

Also, as I pointed out above, a woman’s viewpoint is often sought on issues where it would be most helpful, but there’s not a word in any of my articles that would be less true or relevant if one of the men on the team had written it. Conversely, many of the articles on abortion on this site written by men are just as good as those women have authored. Logical arguments don’t have chromosomes, after all.

But often, the “women’s viewpoints” that are ignored on the site are those that simply aren’t biblical or credible. Both men and women should be glad that these are excluded.

Having said that I wish to thank you for all the good things that you are doing at CMI, after all, we women remember that you are not perfect. We will pray for you until Christ is fully formed in you.

I’m sure you did not mean this comment to be as patronizing as it might come across; after all, we all need Christ to be fully formed in us (cf. Galatians 3:28).

Lita Cosner


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Further Reading

References

  1. There is the possibility that before the Fall, women may have been able to resorb the endometrial lining completely as most non-primate mammals do, which is why overt menstruation is not observed in cats, dogs, sheep, cows etc. Even now, women resorb about two thirds of the lining. But what is certain is that there would have been no discomfort before the Fall, menstrual or otherwise. There is certainly no warrant for calling menstruation “the curse”. Return to text.
  2. There are pluses and minuses of both types of cultures—see the secular article Shame-culture and Guilt-culture. However, the countries most influenced by the Reformation are the most individualist, with all the prosperity that individual and property rights can bring. This is due to the rediscovery of the biblical doctrine of justification by faith, which elevated the independence of the individual. So did Jesus’ condemnation of sins of the heart which no other human could see, such as anger and lust (Matthew 5:22,28). So while biblical culture was collectivist, and must be understood in this context, many of its teachings subtly addressed the downsides of this type of culture and laid the foundation for the positive aspects of an individualist one. See John Robbins, Christ and Civilisation, Trinity Foundation, POB 68, Unicoi, TN 37692, 2003. Return to text.

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