Comments on First "Textual" Humans

Comments on the First “Textual” Humans thread.

Thanks to Michael Callen, I’m able to join the First “Textual” Humans discussion here under this new “Comments on” discussion. (For some reason no Reply buttons were showing on the original discussion – for me, anyway.)

I have some questions for Joshua about Genealogical Adam. They do not concern any abstract definition of humanity, or any reference to the evolution of man as anthropologists discuss the question, but are purely about the Genesis text, as Joshua reads it.

1- Joshua, are you assuming that Cain and his descendants did interbreed with the human beings referred to as created in Genesis 1? That is, do you think such interbreeding is implied by Genesis 4? (Where did Cain’s wife come from, who are the other human beings he fears, etc.)

2- Do you think Genesis implies, or at least allows for, any intermixture between the Cain and the Seth lines before the Flood?

These questions are important, as on the “Textual Humans” thread, you speak of “monogenesis” from Adam and Eve. But if prior to the birth of Noah there was any intermixing between the Cain line and the Seth line, and if the Cain line prior to that intermixing already included offspring from the union of Cain’s line and the people created in Genesis 1, then Noah and his children would not be entirely from Adam and Eve, but would owe their existence partly to some human beings created in Genesis 1.

On the other hand, if there was never even the slightest intermingling between the Cain and Seth lines, then there would have been no “point of entry” in the Seth line for any element coming (through the Cain line) from the human beings created in Genesis 1. So Noah and all his family – the only people who survived the Flood – would have been 100% from Adam and Eve, and thus all people since then would also be 100% from Adam and Eve.

I’m not making a point about genetics here, but merely trying to understand how you read the Genesis 1-11 text, regarding the intermingling of lines. That is, I want to know what you think Genesis presents regarding intermingling of lines, independent of the question whether such intermingling would be scientifically detectable in modern genomes.



I don’t want to answer out of place… but my impression (and what I think we will read from @swamidass) is that it is not important that Noah and his children be “entirely from Adam and Eve”…

The key is to get everyone UNDER Adam and Eve in terms of whatever unique aspect Adam and Eve have earned (from their experience with God in Eden)… and that the Federal Headship of Adam and Eve trumps all the other ancestral pairs that may also exist in a given genealogy.

@Eddie, there will be several scenarios… and no single scenario can be expected to address all possible contingent objections or preferences.

Yes. It is very difficult to make sense of the genealogies and the chronology of Genesis 4 and 5 unless Cain and Enoch are first born sons, and Seth is third born son.

  1. why else follow Enoch’s lineage?
  2. why else follow Cain’s lineage?
  3. Why else follow Seth’s lineage?
  4. How did Seth replace Abel?
  5. Why are Adam and Eve’s other children only mentioned in Genesis 5?

[edit: Cain -> Abel in #4]

All these questions are immediately answered if Adam and Eve’s lineage are interbreeding with others. They are just about impossible to resolve without people outside the garden, unless you want to go mythical.



Thanks, Joshua. Some follow-up questions, if I may.

1- I’m not sure what you mean by Seth replacing Cain. Seth would appear to be a replacement for Abel.

2- Regarding my second question, your “Yes” answer covers either or both of my two options. So let me ask directly about just the first option, to remove all doubt about your view:

Does Genesis imply intermixture between the Cain and Seth lines?

(Note that “imply” is a stronger claim than “allows for”, which is why I want clarification on your reading of the text.)

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Doing it from memory, quickly, while doing something else. You are right. Just replace Seth with Abel in the questions.

It depends how you read Genesis 6. In some readings it could imply for it.

The text certainly allows for it, by focusing on male lineages, without much concern for who they are marrying, or accounting for all their children.

From a social/scientific point of view, it is very difficult to imagine how Cain and Seth’s lineages might be maintained without any interbreeding for hundreds of years. It just is not plausible to think they were not interbreeding.

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With each other and with all the other people in the area. Eddie also seems to be under the impression that all current humans must be descended from Noah, and thus a flood that killed every person not on the ark. I don’t think you would agree with that notion, since you’re a fan of the local flood.


Yes, I agree. Genesis 6 is not clear in meaning. I have seen the suggestion that it refers to the mixing of Cain and Seth lines.

But if we leave out Genesis 6 for the moment, and if we concentrate purely on the Biblical text of Genesis 4 and 5, it’s possible (from a purely literary point of view, however implausible it might seem from a scientific point of view) that we are meant to see the Cain and Seth lines as maintaining their distinctness. And if they do, then post-Flood humans would be all pure Sethites. And since Seth is the child of Adam and Eve only, then all human beings after the Flood would be offspring of Adam and Eve only as well. That would satisfy the requirement of “monogenism” held by many Christians.

Well I agree with this. It would not, however, be genealogical distinctness. Perhaps it was more about cultural differences or inheritance of God’s promise. It was not two genealogically isolated lines though.

I’m not stating that as a matter of historical fact, but merely as an interpretation of the Noah story – the interpretation, I believe, held by most Christian and Jewish interpreters until modern times.

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But for that interpretation would be a sound interpretation, one would have to completely dismiss the relevance of the references to Cain and his descendants. Many of us here on these boards have already pointed out that by spending any time at all on the Cain-ite lineages, it sends a message to the readers: “something is afoot… it’s not all about Seth!”.

And since many of the most ancient languages don’t even have names for “maternal brothers” or “maternal sisters” or any need for a term like “Son-in-Law” (because a daughters joined the families of their husbands and not the other way around)… it makes it quite hard to expect an interpretation that there was zero biological lineage of Cain in the descendants of Noah.

You’re bringing in all kinds of considerations such as a modern anthropologist would bring in, but the original writers and readers of Genesis weren’t anthropologists (or scientists or historians etc.), and wouldn’t be writing or reading the text with such modern considerations in mind. I’m looking at the text as a piece of religious literature. If we read it from a literary point of view, what do we find? That’s why I asked Joshua to tell me how he was reading the text as it stands, rather than to try to relate it to extra-textual considerations. And he has answered my questions clearly enough.

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@eddie I think this is the key point. It doesn’t take scientific knowledge to see the difficulty of totally isolated linages. If the original authors were trying to teach this, they would have done more accounting of the full progeny of both groups, telling us they never mixed.

My guess is that any visible persistence of Seth and Cain lineages would have been more about perceived kinship and culture, not Genealogical isolation (which wouldn’t even be visible!). Cain’s line is associated with cities, war and technology. It seems to be tracing this to his linage.

I’d observe also that the OT understands ancestry different than the NT. There isn’t any claim of universal ancestry from Adam in Genesis, even though there are genealogies. In contrast several OT passages (and traditions) seem to teach universal ancestry to the ends of the Earth.

It might not seem plausible to us, based on our modern understanding of populations etc. I’m thinking here merely of the literary presentation. We have, for example, the information that Cain goes off wandering, quite likely to lands far from home, and there is a sense of separation from his past with Adam and Eve. Presumably Seth stuck closer to the Adamic home base. At any rate, nothing is said of any of his line moving anywhere. If Cain’s line ended up, say, a couple of hundred miles to the east of where Adam, Eve, and Seth lived, then one would expect that the lines would remain separate, just as one would expect that a line of Germans who moved a couple of hundred miles east into Slavic lands, and settled there, would not likely be interacting much with the line of Germans who stayed in the original family area. In the ancient world, without planes, cars, buses, trains, etc., most people (unless they worked in merchant caravans or the like) lived most of their lives within a few miles of where they were born. Large geographical separations would tend to keep lines separate. So the mental picture conjured up by the literary presentation in Genesis 4/5, with Cain wandering indefinitely far from home, is one of distinct lines. This is reinforced by the relating of some character traits of the Cain line (propensity to paranoia and violence) versus the one noted character trait of the Seth line (Noah was righteous and whole). It’s as if the story is segregating the lines by both geography and character.

Again, I’m speaking from the literary point of view, what comes across to the reader of the story if the reader is not trying to account for the story in terms of what we know from modern science, archaeology, etc. So I’m not claiming that the lines didn’t or couldn’t possibly have mingled; I’m suggesting that the impression conveyed by the way the story is told is that the Cain and Seth lines didn’t mingle (at least, up to the time of the events narrated in Genesis 6, which are ambiguous).

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If Cain’s lineage is that far away, from a literary point of view, it isn’t clear it is affected by the flood.

I think it makes more sense as the lineages are alongside each other and living in different ways. There is a patriarchal lineage that is traced, but those outside that lineage are more or less moving back and forth between each lineages “kingdom.” Both kingdoms are fallen, but Cain’s is more corrupted.

That depends on how one interprets the flood. I differ from some here on the question of global vs. local. Speaking from a purely literary point of view (and saying nothing one way or the other about what actually happened, historically or geologically), I’m inclined to the global interpretation. (Though obviously I don’t mean that the writers conceived of the earth as a globe.) I think the story (regardless of what might have been the case concerning events lying behind it, e.g., a large Mesopotamian flood) conjures up the image of a global inundation. I am aware of the arguments against this, including all the arguments about the meaning of the term “earth”/“land” – the Hebrew text of Genesis was my academic specialty for a number of years. I don’t claim dogmatically that only a global interpretation is possible. But I do think it is the most natural reading of the text. The “local” interpretation is for the most part a very recent one. Again, I am speaking from a literary point of view, and not saying anything about what actually happened in the past. (If I were a concordist, I would have to say something about that, but as I’m not a concordist, I feel no obligation to do so.)

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That’s a possible reading. I don’t outright reject it. I’m merely presenting another reading.

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Agreed. I just wanted to point out that you and @swamidass appeared to be talking past each other on that point.

I think it is fairly obvious they did not think that the flood covered the Himalayas. Nor could they have taught this. They didn’t know the Himalayas existed. Same to be said of Tasmania, the Americas, etc etc etc.

Of course. But it’s also obvious that they thought the flood covered the whole world, so if anyone had told them about the Himalayas and asked whether they had been covered, they would have said yes. The flood wiped out all human and animal life not on the ark, and there were humans and animals all over the world.

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