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Hagia Sophia

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On the Origin of Cain’s Wife

On the Origin of Cain’s Wife
By: Fr. Deogracias Aurelio V. Camon, Ph.D.

On the Question:

If Adam and Eve were the first man and woman on earth who gave birth to Abel and Cain, where did Cain’s wife came from?

 

Observations:

Note: This essay will discuss the philosophical/logical assumptions of the question and how it held into account the Bible to provide answer for such a question. Discussion on the narrative analysis of the text is not included here since before engaging the text, it is imperative that we are aware of the philosophical assumptions that we might be unconsciously imposing on the text.

1. This question is complex and complicated because it is a question that contains modern scientific assumptions. At best, this question is trying to understand a document which is more than 3,000 years old using the axioms of modern empirical science and that of logical positivism.

2. The stories in the Book of Genesis were written without a conscious need to explain everything that the author took for granted as something that his readers will already understand due to the nature of the stories.
For example, when we read the newspaper, we already know that the data we received is different from reading a novel. It is taken for granted that there are things that are within the scope or outside the scope of a certain piece of literature without the need for the author to remind his readers that it is so.

3. While it is not possible to completely understand or discover the intentions of the author when he wrote the stories in Genesis, however, using archaeological discoveries, comparative analysis, and historical findings, we can achieve a scholarly consensus on the possible perspectives of the author.

4. The stories in Genesis were not written as a scientific treatise or as a theory of evolutionary development.
It does not provide a scientific explanation of how people came to populate the world. If we insist that the Bible should be able to explain the world in a scientific manner or to hold the Bible accountable to such demand would make us fall into the same mistake made by the churchmen during the time of Galileo.

5. Richard J. Clifford in his article entitled “Did it happen? Is it true?” published in America Magazine (January 2 – 9, 2006) succinctly described the current scholarly perspective on the interpretation of the Scriptures, particularly some themes in the Pentateuch, when he wrote “there is no single principle of interpretation that covers all cases of disputed historicity. What one says about Adam and Eve or the flood does not necessarily apply to Abraham stories, the Exodus plagues, the miracles of Jesus or the resurrection (p.17-18).”

Understanding how the historical, cultural, sociological and geographical backgrounds influenced the writing of the particular text is important. Clifford (2006, p. 19) claimed that in Genesis 2 – 11 the Biblical authors used as “narrative template [the stories told in the aforementioned chapters] for expressing their distinctive vision of God and the world” which reflects the need to understand the context of the text, its content and how the people at that time in history expressed their philosophy and theology.

Clifford (2006, p.19) concluded, “Chapters (Genesis 2 -11) are not historical in the sense that the events recounted therein actually occurred but are inspired story of origins that explores human realities and institutions. These chapters offered a narrative exploration of the “profound questions undertaken by speaking of the first appearance of human realities and institutions.”

6. At a tangent to this is a point in an article entitled “When was Genesis Written and Why Does it Matter?” by Peter Eric Enns (n.d.) published by the BioLogos Foundation which stated clearly that the creation story was not written to give scientific information.

Creation stories were not written to give us information that can be mined for scientific purposes, nor can they be expected to address modern scientific concerns. Genesis and the creation stories are part of a larger theologically-driven collection of writings that answers ancient questions of self-definition, not contemporary ones of scientific interest. Therefore, Christian readers, today should not engage Genesis in the scientific arena. Rather, they are more faithful to the Bible when they follow the trajectory of the postexilic Israelites and ask their own questions of self-definition as the people of God: in view of who and where we are, what do these ancient texts say to us about being the people of God today?

 

Response:

Given the observations stated we could say that:

1. The question as to where the wife of Cain came from is not within the scope of what the Bible can answer because the question expects a scientific answer from a non-scientific document. The Bible as literature, divinely inspired as it is, does not intend to answer such question which is actually in the realm of science.

If we insist on the question, then we will be opening a dam of questions that will eventually reduce us to unbelief because we will expect to have a scientific or logical answer on how is it possible that the snake can speak. Or how is it possible that God created the light and darkness on the first day while the sun, moon, and stars were created on the fourth day among myriads of such possible questions.

2. It would suffice, therefore, to say that there are stories in the Bible that were told as such with the purpose of teaching a religious reality, not for the purpose of a scientific theory or even logical propositions as we know it today.

3. So where Cain did got his wife?

Every document is written with a purpose in mind. The Bible cannot answer the question posed because it is not the purpose for which it was written in the same way that I cannot ask the Constitution of the Philippines to explain questions about evolution.

 

Addendum:

There are also other traditional explanations that tried to provide the possibilities of the origin of the wife of Cain. But, the answers proposed operates in the mindset that shares the worldview of the Bible. It will be considered “fantastic” or “fairytale” if we read it from a modern worldview.

Refer to the following for some in-depth explanation:

Etiological Perspective:
Rabbi Umberto Cassuto, “A Commentary on the Book of Genesis: Part 1” Hebrew University, 1989

Rabbinic Sources:
James Kugel, “The Bible as it was” Harvard University Press, 1997

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Bible Study 5 – “Your God is not my God” Thinking and its Falsehood Part 1

Explore the philosophies behind the “Your God is not my God” thinking. (Sorry for the background noise).