A few more problems with the “literal truth” of the Bible

May 12, 2006 | By | 23 Replies More

Further to my previous post about the problem of God’s attractive nuisance in the garden of Eden, here are some more questions from Genesis for readers to ponder.  First, exactly where did Cain’s wife (in Genesis 4:17) come from?  The book of Genesis never says God created her from scratch, as He did Adam and Eve, so we must assume Cain’s wife was a daughter of Adam and Eve; i.e., Cain’s sister.  Apparently, a literal reading of Genesis indicates there was incest in the garden of Eden.  And quite a lot of it, too:  if all humans descended from Adam and Eve, then ALL of their grandchildren would have been the product of brother-sister incest.

Second, what should we make of Lamesh (in Genesis 4:19) who had TWO wives and had children by both of them?  Apparently, God was OK with both incest and polygamy. 

Third, given that God was apparently OK with sexual behaviors that virtually any Christian today would say are sinful (and the above are just two of many examples), then exactly what support is there for Christians who claim that the Bible provides an “absolute” moral code?

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Category: American Culture, Culture, Evolution, Good and Evil, Meaning of Life, Politics, Religion

About the Author ()

Grumpypilgrim is a writer and management consultant living in Madison, WI. He has several scientific degrees, including a recent master’s degree from MIT. He has also held several professional career positions, none of which has been in a field in which he ever took a university course. Grumps is an avid cyclist and, for many years now, has traveled more annual miles by bicycle than by car…and he wishes more people (for the health of both themselves and our planet) would do the same. Grumps is an enthusiastic advocate of life-long learning, healthy living and political awareness. He is single, and provides a loving home for abused and abandoned bicycles. Grumpy’s email: grumpypilgrim(AT)@gmail(DOT).com [Erich’s note: Grumpy asked that his email be encrypted this way to deter spam. If you want to write to him, drop out the parentheticals in the above address].

Comments (23)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    You need to pray more and stop actually READING the Bible!

    Seriously, if you don't quit pointing out all of those contradictions in the Bible, you're gonna get us all smited (or smoten or smitten or whatever the right term is for God throwing lightning bolts at us).

  2. Val says:

    The only unforgivable sin in the bible is to doubt the existance of the holy spirit – a crime committed by critical analysis. Therefore, the greatest crime one can commit is to think. The Bible works if you blindly accept what it says ( called "faith).

  3. patrick ryan says:

    Hey brother,

    god is scarcity

    wanting fruit keeps the motion

    here, knowledge knows scarcity

    in a garden,

    god’s tree is of plenty

    us, living

    under her scarce branches

    and yes,

    eve is a companion

    and my breath

    of soul reflection

    here,

    sitting in the garden

    denied a fruit of finite knowledge

    i eat infinite imagination

    burping holy perversions

    *spring sun fills the portal, my pupil

    it’s good to see you here

    let’s celebrate

    pR

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    I like Val's comment. Talk about "attractive nuisance!" Why would a God give us brain that naturally tends toward skepticism but then, if we use it even once, smack us with a mortal sin that CANNOT (in theory) BE FORGIVEN, EVER! Into the flames my children!

    I hope there is a Universal Family Court where Gods that neglect and abuse their "children" like this are straightened out. Maybe they'll put us into the homes of "Foster Gods."

  5. Ben says:

    Grumpy, indeed we are ALL related to a common ancestor. Science has proved that her name was Lucy, not Eve, and that's just the start!

    Take your pick. Either will do fine… (?):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_and_Eve

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_of_life

     

  6. grumpypilgrim says:

    Further to Ben's comment, I've always wondered how Fundamentalist Christians imagine their god created a fully-formed Adam and Eve. It would have been quite a job to pull together the hundreds of trillions of cells needed to create two human bodies (only 10% of which contain "our" DNA, as Erich mentions here http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=1286) and assemble them into two working prototypes. But here's the problematic part: where did Adam's and Eve's initial *minds* come from — the initial knowledge, thoughts and memories that were in their heads? We must presume that the god-of-the-Bible put them there, right? After all, Adam and Eve needed to function as adults (e.g., tend the Garden of Eden, find food to eat, make babies, etc.), so they could not possibly have had the unformed mind of a human newborn baby — they would have needed the working minds of adults. So, if the god-of-the-Bible filled Adam's and Eve's brains with thoughts, memories, beliefs, etc., then why didn't said god give them a better understanding of what death was, so that they would have known better than to eat from the Tree of Knowledge? Millions of (imperfect) human parents have managed to prevent their children from drinking the toxic chemicals that are stored under the kitchen sink, so why couldn't the ("perfect") god-of-the-Bible prevent his children from eating the toxic fruit from the dreaded Tree? Why didn't the god-of-the-Bible put "Mr. Yuck" stickers on those apples, put a fence around the Tree to keep his children away from it and, most importantly, give Adam and Eve the common sense that all adults need to stay alive? It was not "free will" that caused them to eat that deadly fruit, it was ignorance and stupidity, neither of which they would have had if the god-of-the-Bible had done a competent job of parenting. Thus, we must conclude that the god-of-the-Bible is incompetent; thus imperfect; thus, by definition, nonexistent.

  7. "Further to Ben’s comment, I’ve always wondered how Fundamentalist Christians imagine their god created a fully-formed Adam and Eve. It would have been quite a job to pull together the hundreds of trillions of cells needed to create two human bodies (only 10% of which contain “our” DNA, as Erich mentions here http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=1286) and assemble them into two working prototypes."

    Doesn't making a whole universe seem like a way more difficult thing to do?

    "so that they would have known better than to eat from the Tree of Knowledge?"

    Was it not eating from the Tree of Knowledge that entailed this insight? Or did it only make them aware that they were running around naked?

    "Why didn’t the god-of-the-Bible put “Mr. Yuck” stickers on those apples, put a fence around the Tree to keep his children away from it and, most importantly, give Adam and Eve the common sense that all adults need to stay alive?"

    There are a lot of people without common sense who are alive and kicking, so it doesn't look like a conditio sine qua non to me. 😀

  8. grumpypilgrim says:

    "Doesn’t making a whole universe seem like a way more difficult thing to do?"

    Actually, no, because the human brain is the most complex structure in the known universe.

    "Was it not eating from the Tree of Knowledge that entailed this insight? Or did it only make them aware that they were running around naked?"

    No and no. The answers to these questions can be found by reading the book of Genesis and this post: http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=166/. Genesis says that Adam and Eve were warned to not eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, "for surely they would die," but they could not possibly have understood this warning unless they understood what it meant to "die." However, if they were the first humans, then they would have had no knowledge of death, except what had been put into their heads by the god-of-the-Bible.

    "There are a lot of people without common sense who are alive and kicking, so it doesn’t look like a conditio sine qua non to me."

    Non-sequitur. Clearly, the god-of-the-Bible neglected to give Adam and Eve the common sense they needed to stay alive, so the above example, even if true, is not relevant. Moreover, the example is not true. People without common sense — the common sense they need to stay alive — die.

    • Steve says:

      your argument is plain silly. HOw do you know they didn’t have a conception of death. In fact, you or I haven’t died yet, so how do we know all the nuances of it, but we don’t have to know all the nuances of it to know that it means an ending in this life and to understand that it’s not a desirable thing, they would probably had a similar sentiment. Give them some credit and give God more. Yu think you are wiser than God?, sorry to be mean, but that’s a laugh. Until you can create life and a world I wouldn’t question God’s wisdom. And it didn’t make itself either, which is even sillier, violating all kinds of scientific principles like biogenesis or laws of probability thermodynamics, etc.

    • grumpypilgrim says:

      Steve asked, “HOw do you know they didn’t have a conception of death.” (sic)

      Well, I don’t know what they thought, but the Bible contains no mention of death (or even of someone explaining death) before the god-of-the-Bible threatens them with it, so we do know that they would have had never witnessed it. Without them ever witnessing it, or having anyone explain it to them, it’s reasonable for us to conclude they had little or no comprehension of what it meant.

      Indeed, according to Genesis, their eyes did not open to a knowledge of good and evil until *after* they ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, so how could they have known anything about death — or about making correct decisions between good and evil — before that? In particular, what makes you think you are correct to declare that, “they would probably had (sic) a similar sentiment?” There is no language in Genesis to support your assertion, so what do you base your declaration on?

      BTW, speaking of that death threat, the god-of-the-Bible also failed to warn them that the death penalty would also apply to all of their future generations. In other words, the god-of-the-Bible failed to warn Adam and Eve about the full extent of the danger that they faced. Since Adam and Eve were ignorant of the true scope of the danger, and the god-of-the-Bible had that information yet failed to provide it, responsibility for that failure-to-warn belongs on the god-of-the-Bible, not on Adam and Eve. Accordingly, even if the “fall” of Adam and Eve was their own fault, the fault for the “fall” of all humankind belongs on the god-of-the-Bible. It’s right there, in Genesis.

      Steve also writes, “Until you can create life and a world I wouldn’t question God’s wisdom. And it didn’t make itself either, which is even sillier, violating all kinds of scientific principles like biogenesis or laws of probability thermodynamics, etc.”

      The creation of life is apparently a very rare event. To our knowledge, it has only happened once in the 13+ billion years that our universe has existed, and on only one planet out of the uncountable billions of planets in that universe. When there is only one known data point, there are no “scientific principles” to be applied, or to be violated. Science doesn’t work that way. Only religious fanatics (and other fiction writers) can take a single data point and, from it, fabricate an entire book.

  9. Bill Fuller says:

    If we are to read the first two chapters of Genesis with the assumption that every word is literally true then the serpent tells the truth and God is the liar. God tells Adam and Eve that the day they eat of the tree of knowledge they will die. The serpent tells Eve they will not die and they don't. (I know, I know, a "Fundie" will say that God just meant they would bring death into the world but, guess what? That is interpretation which is perfectly valid but not compatible with every word being literally true.)

  10. FAITH WITHOUT REASON IS SUPERSTITION

    I thought that it was the act of thinking, employing our reason and logic, that led people to believe in one true God in the first place. Rather than believing in seperate gods and godesses or good and evil spirits they realized that one God made more sense. They realized that there was NO SUCH THING AS MAGIC. IF YOU BELIEVE THAT THE BIBLE IS TO BE TAKEN LITERALLY THEN YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC, NOT THE REAL GOD, NOT THE GOD WHO ACTUALLY EXISTS BUT A MYTHICAL, MAGICAL GOD. "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" IS PERFECTLY LOGICAL. NO ONE IS QUESTIONING THE VIRTUE OF THE BIBLE. But you cannot make sense out of nonsense like Adam and Eve or the mindnumbingly irrational Noah's Ark no matter how hard you try. Don't you get it? GOD WANTS US TO THINK. GOD WANTS US TO QUESTION. FAITH IN GOD MUST NOT DENY REALITY. FAITH IN GOD SHOULD EMBRACE REALITY. THAT WAY YOU END UP BELIEVING IN A REAL GOD!

  11. THE COMMON GROUND BETWEEN ATHEISM AND RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM

    Atheists only believe in what they see. Religious Fundamentalists do not believe in what they see at all but only what is in the Bible. Both groups are narrow-minded.

    Creationists do not like the Big Bang Theory for some reason even though it corresponds to Genesis to a degree. Many atheists do not like the Big Bang Theory because it sounds too much like Creationism! Do you know who is called "the Father of the of the Big Bang Theory"? It is Father George Lemaitre, a devout Catholic priest who published the theory in 1931. It did not come to him in a vision. An Angel did not appear to him. He came up with the theory from using his brain. He was a brilliant physics professor and mathematician. Eventually, Albert Einstein and other notable scientists agreed with Father Lemaitre's theory. There has been many discoveries made since then substantiating this theory. Atheists don't like the idea of a Universe with a beginning. They believe in the Steady State Theory which states that the Universe just simply always was. They do not like the idea of an expanding Universe but that it is static. A view they share with Christian Fundamentalists.

  12. Faith and reason are not enemies. They are partners. Faith without reason and logic is incomplete. Without rational and open-minded thought to help faith see, it is indeed blind. This is religious fundamentalism. Reason and logic without faith is incomplete. This is atheism.

  13. Karl says:

    Inductive assertions which are theoretical concepts about the material world that do not logically contradict, by use of deductive logic, any measureable and repeatable observations from the past, present, and future shows how faith and reason can work together in regards to the natural world and scientific matters.

    Inductive assertions which indicate a personal trust in specific values or spewcific individuals that do not logically contradict, by use of deductive logic, ones own hope in specific outcomes either past, present, or future show how faith and reason can work together in regards to the non-material world. These are matters of the spirit.

  14. Erich Vieth says:

    Karl: This is gibberish. You are asking for a blank check for the rest of humanity to consent to anything you care to spout. That is your modus operandi at this site. You are refusing to recognize that some kinds of evidence is much more reliable than other types. Modern observations by skeptical scientists blow away ancient anonymous writings.

  15. grumpypilgrim says:

    Bill wrote, "The serpent tells Eve they will not die and they don’t."

    I pointed out that very same thing to a Believer I know. She replied that Adam and Eve DID die…*eventually*. Convenient, eh?

  16. grumpypilgrim says:

    James wrote, " Do you know who is called “the Father of the of the Big Bang Theory”? It is Father George Lemaitre, a devout Catholic priest who published the theory in 1931."

    Actually, credit for the Big Bang theory is given to Alexandar Friedman, who proposed it in 1922. The theory was corroborated in 1929 by Edwin Hubble, who discovered that the redshift of light from distant galaxies is proportional to their distance — evidence that was consistent with an expanding universe.

  17. Karl says:

    Grumpy,

    Adam and Eve's undefiled faith and trust in God died when they partook of the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They didn't trust their creator to tell them vicariously that it was a bad idea that had grave consequences. Since that time we all struggle with how to regain faith in mattes beyond the natural world, to how to stay connected to the will of God for our lives.

    They did die physically within one thousand human calendar "years," which actually was within God's time frame for a day from his perspective, not ours.

    If they had both died no human would be around to ask if Adam and Eve were flash fried or vaporized?

    Also,

    Edwin Hubble, did not discover that the redshift of light from distant galaxies is proportional to their distance — evidence that was consistent with an expanding universe.

    He assumed the calculations he was extrapolating and cross referencing provided reliable information concerning distances that were consistent with previously calculated (not measured) distances and a theory of an expanding universe.

  18. Karl says:

    Erich,

    If you are referring to my last post which was formatted wacky and thus gibberish I can see the problem. I will reformat that and resent it shortly.

    I have never said that experimental science is not reliable. I have said that inductive application of scientific ideas and concepts does not make them necessarily true just because our rational thoughts wish it so.

    Explain how my statement about science in anyway infringes on its importance to our understanding of the natural order of things?

  19. Karl writes:—"Adam and Eve’s undefiled faith and trust in God died when they partook of the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They didn’t trust their creator to tell them vicariously that it was a bad idea that had grave consequences. Since that time we all struggle with how to regain faith in mattes beyond the natural world, to how to stay connected to the will of God for our lives."

    Augustine called The Fall "O Happy Sin!"

    I think we tend to stick to the traditional interpretations way too much. I've commented here before that I think we have the lesson from Abraham and Isaac all wrong. I think there are other places like this where the lesson was misread. And this is one.

    If you want to read this as in any way literal, the consider that probably what god intended was to create a self-motivating, evolving, intelligent being that could unravel the matrix of reality and get to a point where genuine one-on-one interaction was possible.

    That was never going to happen as long as they stayed blissfully in the Garden.

    I think they were designed to do that (I'm speaking here from the p.o.v. of a literalist now—trust me, I no way buy Adam and Ever as literal manifestations). They were built to one day break the rules. Which would start them learning, changing, evolving, growing. In the Garden they were static, stuck at one level. Being banished was not a punishment. In this reading, god could have been nothing but pleased when they ate that fruit.

    I now return to my normal position of believing all this is so much balderdash.

  20. Karl says:

    Balderdash that keeps the mind keenly aware that the distinction between a welfare state and one of personal responsibiltiy.

    I have no problem applying the context of Genesis to either individuals or the entire human race. What I do not think is wise is to consider anypart of it simply fables with no import for the people of every generation, including our own.

    You see it as a nice story to help man understand his lot in life, I see it the same way, only I see present in the whole affair something that is bigger than just man's struggle to evolve and change.

    I see personal responsibility for moral decisions that do not simply focus upon the physical fact of one's existence but which also directs each person to their need for a proper understanding of what is, and is not, a proper way to place one's trust in either matters pertaining to the physical world versus placing faith in matters of the mind, heart and spirit.

  21. Karl writes:—"Balderdash that keeps the mind keenly aware that the distinction between a welfare state and one of personal responsibiltiy."

    Mark responds: Huh?

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