…Perhaps no woman mentioned in Scripture has caused more confusion among Christians. Despite the fact that we have regularly addressed this issue in numerous books, articles, and presentations, the issue of Cain’s wife is still one of the most common questions we receive. Who was she, and why have so many believers struggled to give a biblical answer to this inquiry?
The simple answer is that Cain married his sister or another close relation, like a niece. This answer may sound revolting for those of us who grew up in societies that have attached a stigma to such an idea, but if we start from Scripture, the answer is clear.
1 Corinthians 15 tells us that Adam was the first man. Genesis 3:20 states that Eve was the mother of all the living.(NASB), and Genesis 5:4 reveals that Adam and Eve had sons and daughters (besides Cain, Abel, and Seth).
There were no other people on earth as some have claimed. God did not create other people groups from which Cain chose a wife, as we are all made of one blood (Acts 17:26). If He had made others, these people would not have been able to be saved from their sins, since only descendants of Adam can be saved—that’s why it was so important for Jesus to be Adam’s descendant.
Doesn’t the Bible forbid marriage between close relations? It does, but the laws against marrying family members were initially given as part of the Mosaic covenant, approximately 2,500 years after God created Adam and Eve. Due in part to genetic mistakes [God made a mistake?], these laws were necessary to help protect offspring from mutations shared by both parents.
But that’s incest! In today’s world, this would be incest. But originally there would have been no problem with it. Looking back through history, the closer we get to Adam and Eve, the fewer genetic mistakes people would have, so it would have been safer for close relatives to marry and have children.
Christians who have a problem with this answer need to remember that Noah’s grandchildren must have married brothers, sisters, or first cousins—there were no other people (1 Peter 3:20, Genesis 7:7). Abraham married his half-sister (Genesis 20:2). Isaac married Rebekah, the daughter of his cousin Bethuel (Genesis 24:15), and Jacob married his cousins Leah and Rachel. Clearly, the Bible does not forbid the marriage of close relatives until the time of Moses…
Ham’s argument is necessary if one reads the Bible literally. In Ham’s world, the earth is 6,024 years old, and evolution is Satan’s lie. However, in the aforementioned post, Ham reveals that he is not really as much of a literalist as he claims to be.
Ham says Cain married his sister or niece. Where does the Bible say this? Where does the Bible say Cain married anyone? Perhaps people didn’t get married in Cain’s day. Perhaps Cain actually had sexual relations with his mother. Why doesn’t Ham mention this as a possibility? Ham repeats the same story when trying to explain where the children of Noah’s grandchildren came from.
According to Ham, a law against incest was not necessary until 2,500 years after God created Adam and Eve. The reason? “Genetic mistakes, these laws were necessary to help protect offspring from mutations shared by both parents.” Again, where does the inspired, inerrant, infallible Bible say this? Shouldn’t Ham follow the mantra: where the Bible speaks we speak, and where the Bible is silent we are silent?
How is a particular human behavior not sinful for 2,500 years, and then, all of a sudden, it becomes sinful? How can an immoral act ever be moral? Does this mean God changed his mind? Does this mean God permitted immorality so he could accomplish a greater good? I thought Jesus (God) was the same yesterday, today, and forever? Doesn’t Ham’s explanation lay waste to this “Biblical truth?”
Sooooo many questions . . .
Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.
This is the two hundredth and eleventh installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.
The most-read post on The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser is the post titled, Why I Hate Jesus. Written four years ago, this post is also the most misunderstood post. Many Evangelicals wrongly believe I hate the man, myth, and legend named Jesus Christ. Bound by a literalistic approach to life, they fail to see that the post is really about their religion and not a flesh and blood dead man named Jesus. As I shall make abundantly clear in an upcoming post, there are many, many, many Jesuses; that every generation of Christians shapes and molds Jesus into their own image, according to their peculiar theological, political, and social beliefs. To deny this is to deny reality. To suggest that you worship the first century Jesus and practice Christianity (Judaism) just as the Apostles did in 35 CE is ludicrous and a denial of 2,000 years of Church history. Christianity started evolving the moment Jesus called twelve illiterate men to be his disciples. These men and other followers interpreted and reinterpreted the life and words of Jesus, fashioning their own versions of Christ and what it meant to be a follower of him. This evolutionary process continues even to this very day.
An Evangelical man by the name of Stuart left several comments on the Why I Hate Jesus post. Standard Evangelical stuff. I tried to blow off his first comment with a bit of snark — suggesting I was a porn star — but Stuart was bound and determined to put in a good word for Jesus. In his second comment, Stuart wrote (in response to Zoe, a fellow Evangelical turned atheist):
I no longer believe in the existence of Santa, therefore i wouldn’t go to the trouble of creating a website explaining how i came to no longer believe in Santa, simply because it would attract attention from people who do believe in Santa. And frankly i have no appetite for engaging with such people.
Bruce, by creating this space has invited interest from the vast internet audience on the matters he discusses on this site. It would be naive to think compassionate Christians would not do their duty and offer support in the only way they know how in trying to heal the wounded or help pick up the fallen. Bruce knows that, you likely know that, so really, what else do you expect?
If i didn’t believe in something i wouldn’t waste a single moment on it. Atheists are a different breed though. They are evangelical in their denial and latent hatred of God. Personally i love engaging with intelligent people regardless of their ideology or belief. I have yet to meet ANY atheist with any meaningful grasp on theology.
But I guess when even atheism’s poster boy Dawkins is a theological illiterate there is little hope for anyone following in his footsteps.
There was only ever one Jesus, there is currently only one Jesus and there will always forever be only one Jesus. Anyone who tells you different is like an atheist – they simply fail to understand Scripture
And Bruce’s story isn’t wrong, but it is clear he has been deceived. And knowing that there are many many more like Bruce is honestly heart breaking to me.
I responded thusly:
I grew up in the Evangelical church, attended an Evangelical Bible College, and pastored Evangelical churches for 25 years. Yet, according to you, I have no meaningful grasp of Christian theology. I spent thousands and thousands of hours studying and reading the Bible, yet, according to you, I don’t have a fundamental understanding of Christian belief. Surely, you see how irrational and stupid such a statement sounds.
The real issue here is that you don’t like my interpretations and conclusions. Thus, instead of meaningfully interacting with them, you rage against Bruce, the man.
The purpose of this blog is to help people who have doubts about Christianity or who have left Christianity and are looking for support. You, my friend, are not my target audience. I let people such as yourself comment because you provide reminders to ex-Evangelicals of the arrogant, self-righteous beliefs we left behind.
Please keep preaching your gospel, Stuart. People such as yourself win more people to atheism than I ever could.
Earlier today, Stuart sent me a question: Why were the fig leaves not acceptable? I assume his question is some sort of test to see if I really know anything about Evangelical theology. What follows is my answer.
The Bible says in Genesis 3:1-7:
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
In Genesis 2, the Bible tells us that Adam and Eve were originally created naked, without sin, and unashamed before God. In Genesis 3, a walking, talking snake came to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and questioned the command God had given them to not eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The snake — whom Evangelicals believe was Satan — said, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Eve replied, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” The snake replied, “Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Eve looked at the Tree’s beauty and saw that it was good for food and would make her wise — the Ginkgo Biloba of the Garden. She picked a fruit from the Tree, took a bite, and gave it to Adam to eat too. And just like that, Adam and Eve plunged the entire human race into sin. Since that fateful moment, every human is born a sinner, alienated from God. Humans have no choice in the matter. We are forever doomed by a man and woman we don’t even know taking a bite from a piece of fruit. Or so the story goes anyway.
Immediately afterward, Adam and Eve realized for the first time that God had created them with genitals. Ashamed that they were naked, Adam and Eve gathered some fig leaves, sewed them together, and made themselves aprons to hide their genitals. Later, God came to the Garden of Eden and took a stroll in the cool of the day. Fearing God, Adam and Eve hid among the trees, hoping that God would see not see them. Alas, God, after playing a quick game of Where’s Waldo (Wally), found them. Adam said to God, “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” Wait a minute, I thought Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together for aprons. Why weren’t they wearing them when God made his appearance in the Garden? Maybe the leaves caused chafing, and Adam and Eve decided to return to their natural state. Whatever their reason, God was none too happy. To the first man and woman he said, “Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” A rhetorical question? Or did God not know? Regardless, Adam replied to God, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” Ladies, want to know where Evangelical men blaming you for everything comes from? You need look no further than Genesis 3 and Adam blaming Eve for his errant fruit-eating.
God then turned to Eve and asked, “What is this that thou hast done?” A rhetorical question? Didn’t God know what Eve had done? Regardless, in classic Flip Wilson style, Eve responded, “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” In other words, the DEVIL made me do it! God, pissed off at Adam and Eve’s bad behavior, cursed all humans and cursed the earth. Ever had to pull weeds from a flower bed or garden? God’s doing. Worse, God condemned all humans to death; instead of unending life, we would now have a fixed time to live and die. And then, to put an explanation point on his anger, God killed a bunch of puppies, skinned them, and made fur loincloths for Adam and Eve. The first person to shed blood of earth was God, not man. In fact, it can be argued that God has shed more blood than all of humanity combined. Either by direct action or commanding his followers to do so, God had slaughtered millions and millions of people. Yet, Evangelicals say he is a God of love, peace, and guacamole.
Genesis 3 ends with God throwing Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, leaving them and their progeny to fend for themselves. That is, until God got tired of having no one to play with and decided to make Abraham and some of his descendants his playthings. Or so goes the story anyway.
Stuart wants to know, “Why were the fig leaves not acceptable?” The correct answer from an Evangelical perspective is that Adam and Eve sewing fig leaves together to cover their genitals was a picture of human self-righteousness; an attempt by Adam and Eve to cover up their “sin” on their own terms. The thrice holy God would have none of that. According to a plan cooked up by him from before the foundation of the world, sin had to be atoned for with blood; that Adam and Eve’s sin could only be covered through God killing and skinning some puppies and making fur loincloths to cover their sins. The Bible says in Hebrews 9:22, 27-28:
And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission . . . And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
The Abrahamic religions — Christianity, Islam, and Judaism — are, according to the Bible, blood cults. You can come to no other rational conclusion IF you read the Bible as most Evangelicals do — literally. Now, if you see Genesis 3 as a fictional story meant to impart a greater meaning, well anything is possible. It’s 2019, and thanks to five centuries of literalistic interpretations of a book they believe is an inspired, inerrant, infallible text written by God, Evangelicals are forced to defend all sorts of absurdities. And I get it. People such as Stuart have to preach the party line. Otherwise, they are admitting that Evangelicalism is built on a foundation of lies and misinterpretations. Without a real Adam and Eve created by God in October 4004 BCE, the Evangelical house of cards comes tumbling down. A real New Testament God-man requires a real Adam and Eve. The Last Adam needed a First Adam for the Evangelical gospel to make sense. Without original sin, there was no need for Jesus to take a thirty-three-year vacation on earth. If Adam and Eve were metaphors as liberal and progressive Christians allege, then it can be argued that Jesus was a metaphor too. Upholding what Christians will celebrate come Easter Sunday requires a literal reading of the Bible. Without it, the Christian gospel of atonement for sin and redemption makes no sense — at least to me, anyway.
Now, this hardly means that Evangelicals are off the hook. Literalism can be a real bitch. In fact, I don’t know of one Evangelical who is truly a literalist from Table of Contents to Concordance. All Evangelicals — when it suits them — spiritualize scriptures that don’t “fit” their literal reading and interpretation of the text. Evangelicals have what I call theological schizophrenia. Granted, Evangelicals try to make their peculiar interpretations mesh with one another. Countless Christian books have been written about Bible hermeneutics, systematic theology, and harmonizing the Biblical text. Try as they might, however, Evangelicals fail at this task. The Bible is an incoherent mess of contradictory texts, and if taken and believed literally, they lead to all sorts of nonsensical and harmful beliefs.
Yet, when I challenge Evangelicals to take EVERY word of Genesis 1-3 literally, they either say they do or start making excuses for while they don’t. I have challenged countless Evangelicals to let the words of the unknown author of Genesis stand on their own, and in doing so see that it is impossible to square Trinitarian Christianity with the text. In fact, honesty demands admitting that there were actually at least THREE Gods mentioned in Genesis 1-3, and that Christianity does not, in fact, rest on a monotheist foundation.
I double-dog dare Evangelical readers of this post to read the Bible as it is written, and not let theological presuppositions get in the way of what the text says. Read each book by itself and ask, “what is the author is trying to say?” Dare to ask yourself, as the talking snake asked Eve, “yea hath God said?” Just asking this question is the first step towards intellectual freedom; the first step towards freeing oneself of Evangelical bondage.
If you are an Evangelical who has stumbled upon this post, I am so glad you stopped by. Let me recommend several books you might find helpful as you weigh some of the claims I make in this post. If the Bible is “truth,” surely it will withstand intellectual investigation. Don’t take your preacher’s word for it. To quote the Good Book, seek and ye shall find . . .
Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.
Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.
Sometime around 1800 B.C., an Akkadian stoneworker chiseled into rock a remarkable story.
It seems there were two ranks of gods, important gods who made all the decisions, and lesser gods who did all the work. One day, assigned to dig some canals, the hot and dirty and tired worker-gods decided to go on strike; “You are killing us,” they complained.
The impasse was broken by this proposal: the important gods would create a new creature to do the hard labor, man, but the leader of the strike had to be sacrificed. It was so agreed, and man was created from the dust, the water, and the blood of the sacrificed god.
But, as so often is the case, there was a fly in the ointment — the men were noisy at night, and the gods weren’t getting proper rest. After several warnings, the gods decided to get rid of men and sent a flood to drown them all. Only one man and his family survived, Atrahasis.
It’s easy to see in this tale the roots of two of the Old Testament’s best-known stories, the Creation and Fall, and Noah’s flood.
Now skip forward almost 4000 years to a story that is true, to the copper mines in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. There, the mines employ thousands of laborers imported from all over the world; newspapers are published daily in more than a dozen different languages.
In June of 1913 the miners — who live in company-owned housing on company-owned property, buy their food at company-owned stores, and earn less than $2/day — call a wildcat strike. At Christmas they are still out, and on Christmas Eve they gather on the second floor of Italian Hall for a meager Christmas party for their children.
Soon after things get going, a strikebreaker enters the hall and shouts “Fire!” There is a panic, the door at the bottom of the stairs doesn’t open and there is a crush; seventy-three people, mostly women and children, die. The most widely-read local newspaper is owned by a mining company, and it becomes a tale of unruly foreigners impinging upon the prerogatives of a benevolent company. Nobody is ever prosecuted for the shout of “Fire!”
The story of the Italian Hall disaster shares a lot with the story of Atrahasis and the Fall. Instead of gods, there are mining companies and bosses; the men are imported, not created, to labor; there is disobedience — striving to live and enjoy life; there is even a serpent, the strikebreaker who shouted “Fire!”
And in all three stories there is cruel punishment without appeal.
I estimate the odds of a Bronze Age storyteller making up something that has so much in common with a labor relations disaster four millennia later as … zero. Atrahasis, and the story of the Fall, are undoubtedly allegorical blame-the-victim accounts of prehistoric misfortunes similar to the real-life Italian Hall disaster. They should not be read as literally true, but they are true in the narrow sense that they are accounts of the ancient human conflict between the powerful and the powerless.
Notice this, too: In all three stories, men threaten the power of the gods/bosses. In Genesis, this is made explicit (Gen 3:22-23, KJV): “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.”
“… the man is become as one of us …” He threatens us, challenges us, cannot be trusted to quietly and submissively do as he is told. He must go.
I’m sure it has an odd sound to many, but I read Genesis’ tale of the Fall as an ancient labor relations tale. And with Augustine’s invention of Original Sin, Christianity put itself on the side of the bosses, the Establishment’s demand for unconditional obedience — where it has been ever since.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32
Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise. — Thomas Gray
A little learning is a dangerous thing. — Alexander Pope
Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance. — Confucius
Knowledge is a weapon. I intend to be formidably armed. — Terry Goodkind
No thief, however skillful, can rob one of knowledge, and that is why knowledge is the best and safest treasure to acquire. — L. Frank Baum
Not to know is bad; not to wish to know is worse. — African Proverb
Knowledge is power. — Francis Bacon
In Sunday School, children learn the story of the Creation and the Fall of Mankind. When I was a child, the Sunday School teacher would read the story to us – and if we were lucky, she would populate a felt board as the story unfolded. Typically, after the story, some sort of craft or game would follow, helping to reinforce the lessons contained in the story. Sunday school was fun, but as an adult I can see how much indoctrination occurs in such a setting.
The story of the Creation and the Fall of Mankind is quite brilliant in that it attempts to explain the following to people who lacked explanations to their questions about their origins. The story tackles the following topics:
the origins of humans;
the presence of good and evil in the world;
what happens if people disobey their deity;
why women have been treated as second-class citizens;
why people desire to have sex;
why childbirth is so painful;
why the serpent slithers on the ground and why so many people have an antipathy for it;
why there is death;
why people wear clothes;
why we cannot return to a perfect world on earth;
why we have to work and why it is hard.
I am many years removed from learning these Bible stories and more than a decade removed from church attendance. Looking at some of these stories years later, as an atheist, I see aspects of the story that I had not considered before. It is also interesting to look at these stories in terms of mythology and not as the literal historical fact that Biblical literalists profess.
One thing I find fascinating today is the concept of the Tree of Knowledge. In Sunday School, it was described as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve were instructed that they could eat of any tree in the garden except for this tree, for if they did, they would “surely die.” It is hard to understand how newly-created humans who have no experience, no education, no knowledge, could comprehend concepts such as “good,” “evil,” and “death.” Maybe the deity or deities “created” their brains already programmed with certain concepts, instincts, tools necessary for survival, but the story does not explain any of that. Carl Jung posited the concept of “collective unconscious,” the supposed part of the unconscious mind that is derived from ancestral memory and experience and is common to all humankind, as distinct from the individual’s unconscious. There is no evidence of the existence of “collective unconscious,” though it is an interesting concept to ponder.
But let’s return to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The phrase literally translates as the tree of knowledge of good and evil from the Hebrew language. But the pairing of opposites may be an example of merism, a literary device that depicts meaning by pairing direct opposites – and in this case, it could be a merism that denotes “everything.” Some scholars believe that the merism does not denote a concept of morality but is merely inclusive of “everything.” In any case, many Christian sects teach that Adam and Eve were punished for their disobedience, and that the punishment carried forth through all Adam and Eve’s descendants — including those of us who are alive today. I have not heard preachers expand upon the concept of Adam and Eve being punished for seeking and acquiring knowledge, though some may have. It is true that there are plenty of Bible verses that warn against seeking worldly or carnal knowledge, and knowledge of content outside the spiritual is denigrated. Human knowledge itself is denigrated as being inferior to the knowledge of God. I searched online for a comprehensive list of Bible verses that denigrated knowledge and could not find one such list, but I found many verses in both testaments denigrating knowledge. I also found a variety of verses that state that true knowledge can only be found through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
If one considers the Tree of Knowledge as symbolic of knowing everything, then why was it that god or gods did not want the humans to have knowledge of everything? Was God meaning to protect the humans or was he trying to prevent them from attaining knowledge? And why would God try to prevent humans from acquiring knowledge? There is so much good that has come from humankind’s attainment of knowledge. We have learned more about how the world works, how to prevent diseases, how to harness the earth’s resources for better living conditions, how to increase our crops and how to supply fresh water. However, we have also learned more efficient ways to kill our fellow humans, and we have polluted the earth. We have created borders to exclude our “tribes” from one another. It is said that with much knowledge comes much responsibility. Perhaps the creators of this myth, ancient though they were, understood the great power and great danger of knowledge when conscientious stewardship is not applied.
From my own personal experience, knowledge of the world outside the Evangelical bubble was key to my deconversion process. In fundamentalist religions, people are warned against the outside world, often prohibited from owning certain books or gaining access to the internet and discouraged from attending secular schools. The outside world is labeled as evil, with pastors/rabbis/imams railing against the dangers to be found in the outside world. Some religions scare their members with images of demons and hell lurking around every corner, to be found in each book or library or website. The goal of fundamentalist religions is to retain its membership — to indoctrinate a new generation — and to do that, they must convince their followers that TRUTH can only be found within the safe confines of their fundamentalist religious world. As my friend who was raised in Reform Judaism commented when I told her the story of my upbringing in Evangelical Christianity, it’s a cult designed to keep its members trapped within.
The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil can be, then, symbolic of all the exposure one encounters outside the confines of fundamentalist religion. I have eaten from that tree. I can no more unsee or unread or unlearn the ideas I found outside those confines any more than I could uneat a fruit. I could try to purge it from my mind as one might try to purge a food or poison from one’s body, but the effects of exposure are not easily reversed. At least, for me they could not be. Nor would I desire a different outcome.
What do you think about the myth of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? Do you see this story as a warning about misuse of knowledge, or do you see it in another way? Please let us know in the comments.
Last week, Janice Williams, a writer for Newsweek, churned out a bit of irrational nonsense about Friday the 13th. This nonsense made it into the newsletter sent out weekly by a local school near where I live. In this short post, I plan to dismantle Williams’ notion that the superstition surrounding the day stems from certain Christian beliefs; beliefs that I had never heard of until I read Williams’ article:
However, reasons why and how Friday the 13th got its unlucky association remain a mystery. But some do believe the superstitions and fear surrounding the date stem from religious beliefs and Christianity specifically.
It was the 13th guest at the Last Supper, Judas, who betrayed Jesus Christ, which led to Christ’s crucifixion, held on a Friday. Some biblical scholars also believe it was a Friday when Eve convinced Adam to eat the forbidden fruit, and it was Friday the 13th when Cain committed the first murder, killing his brother Abel.
“Because Friday was the day of the crucifixion, Fridays were always regarded as a day of penance and abstinence,” Steve Roud, author of The Penguin Guide to the Superstitions of Britain and Ireland, told BBC news Friday. “This religious belief spilled over into a general dislike of starting anything or doing anything important on a Friday.”
First, Williams suggests that the one of the reasons Friday the 13th being is an unlucky day is that Judas, the betrayer of Jesus, was the thirteenth guest at the Last Supper. This one is easy to debunk. Judas was numbered among the twelve disciples. Thus, it was Jesus, and not Judas, who was the thirteenth guest. And even if people can’t bear the thought of Jesus being associated with the unlucky number thirteen, why was Judas the thirteenth guest, and not Peter, James, John, or any of the other eight disciples? Second, I wonder if Williams is aware of the fact that some Biblical scholars believe that Jesus was crucified on Thursday, and not Friday? I doubt it. Had she done even the slightest bit of research for this filler article, she would have learned that more than a few scholars dispute the Friday-crucifixion-to-Sunday-resurrection timeline because the Bible says Jesus was in the grave for three days. It’s hard to get three days and nights out of Friday to Sunday, especially when you consider that Jesus, according to the Bible, had already risen from the dead by the time the women arrived to his tomb early Sunday morning.
Third, Williams says that some Biblical scholars believe that “it was a Friday when Eve convinced Adam to eat the forbidden fruit, and it was Friday the 13th when Cain committed the first murder, killing his brother Abel.” Really? I spent fifty years in the Christian church and twenty-five of those years were spent pastoring churches. I spent tens of thousands of hours studying the Bible and reading theological tomes, yet I never read one word about Cain killing Abel on Friday the 13th, nor did I read anything about Adam eating the forbidden fruit on a Friday. I searched the Internet in vain for SOURCE materials — you know ancients texts — that made this claim. All I found were unsupported mentions similar to those “revealed” in Williams’ article.
My first response is this: who makes this shit up? Really? What historical or textual evidence do they have for such claims? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. The answer is little to none. I can’t wait for Bart Ehrman’s newest blockbuster book to come out — Numerology, The Hidden Secrets of the Bible Revealed! This thirteen-chapter, six-hundred-sixty-six-page book of blank pages is sure to blow the minds of superstitious Christians and unbelievers alike. Ehrman reveals that Lucifer had thirteen toes, along with other astounding, almost unbelievable, truths. Order it today from Amazon! Price? $13.00.
My second response is that I was unaware that Adam and Eve, along with every other fictional person in the Old Testament used Rolex watches and the Gregorian — or Julian for that matter — calendar to keep track of time and dates. The Julian calendar took effect on January 1, 45 BCE, and the Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian in the sixteenth century, well after the mythical events records in Genesis. Now before a “smart” Christian suggests that Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel used the Jewish Calendar, I should let readers know that the Hebrew calendar was not widely used until the Christian era. If you want to kill a bunch of brain cells, spend time reading about how religion can screw up something as simple as a calendar.
I have no doubt that there are Christians who believe this nonsense about Friday the 13th. One of the books that collected dust in my study during my preaching days was E.W. Bullinger’s book, Number in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance. I tried numerous times to read this book — a preacher friend recommended I purchase this eye-opening, life-changing book — but alas! I found it to be hundreds of pages of delusional nonsense. For example, Bullinger spends twenty-seven pages detailing the importance of the number thirteen (and its connection to the number eight) in the Bible. Here’s a small faux-gold nugget of what he said:
EIGHT AND THIRTEEN TOGETHER, that we may afterwards compare and contrast the two. For this purpose we must consider the number thirteen here, and out of its otherwise proper order.
As to the significance of thirteen, all are aware that it has come down to us as a number of ill-omen. Many superstitions cluster around it, and various explanations are current concerning them.
Unfortunately, those who go backwards to find a reason seldom go back far enough. The popular explanations do not, so far as we are aware, go further back than the Apostles. But we must go back to the first occurrence of the number thirteen in order to discover the key to its significance. It occurs first in Gen 14:4, where we read “Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and the thirteenth year they REBELLED.”
Hence every occurrence of the number thirteen, and likewise of every multiple of it, stamps that with which it stands in connection with rebellion, apostasy, defection, corruption, disintegration, revolution, or some kindred idea.
The second mention of thirteen is in connection with Ishmael, Gen 17:25. He was thirteen years old when Abraham circumcised him and admitted him into the covenant to which he was a stranger in heart, and which ended in his rebellion and rejection.
We see it stamped upon the very fore-front of Revelation. For while the opening statement of Gen 1:1 is composed of seven words and twenty-eight letters (4×7), the second verse consists of fourteen words, but fifty-two letters; fifty-two being 4×13 tells of some apostasy or rebellion which caused the ruin of which that verse speaks.
The Scriptures concerning Judas Iscariot
Luke 22:3: “Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve” = 8359 (13×643)
Luke 22:47, “And he that was called Judas, one of the twelve” = 3458 (13×266)
John 12:4: “Judas Iscariot, he that should betray Him” = 4511 (13×347)
John 13:26: “Jesus answered, He it is to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when He had dipped the sop, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon” = 19435 (13×1495) The last clause (“when,” etc.) = 7371 (13×567)
Matt 26:48: “Now he that betrayed Him gave them a sign, saying Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He; hold Him fast” = 9867 (13×759) So with Acts 1:16; Mark 14:44,45, and all the corresponding passages.
It is surely impossible to explain all this evidence on the doctrine of chances. There must be design. And design so perfect, so uniform, so significant can only be Divine. And being Divine is an unanswerable argument in favour of the verbal and even literal inspiration of the Scriptures of Truth.
Got all that? Don’t you feel “enlightened” now?
Bullinger was a nineteenth century Anglican clergyman. This numeral-obsessed preacher was also a dispensationalist — people who believe that history is divided into seven periods of time (dispensations), with each period except the last one ending in sin/failure/defeat. In some Evangelical circles, Bullinger is considered an ultra- or hyperdispensationalist due to his belief that the beginning of the Christian church traces back to Paul, and not the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 as “normal” dispensationalists believe.
For you who are not familiar with dispensationalism, here’s a chart detailing Bullinger’s seven dispensations:
Bullinger was a supporter of the theory of the Gospel in the Stars, according to which the constellations are pre-Christian expressions of Christian doctrine. He strongly opposed the theory of evolution  and held that Adam was created in 4004 B.C. He was also a member of the Universal Zetetic Society, a group dedicated to believing and promoting the idea that the earth is flat.
Certainly, nonsensical beliefs about numerals (and the stars) is not the domain of Christian Fundamentalists alone. More than a few non-Christians over the centuries have believed numbers have meaning or significance outside of their use in mathematics. (Please check out the Mystical Numbers website for more information.) Professional sports players are known for believing that certain jersey numbers are lucky, and countless gamblers play their lucky numbers every day in hopes of hitting the jackpot.
We humans, in general, are attracted to patterns, including numerical ones. As someone who is afflicted with Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), I have spent countless hours in waiting rooms counting ceiling and floor tiles as I search for order. While such obsession is often harmless, the numerology nonsense put forth by Bullinger and the school newsletter mentioned above can cause people to behave irrationally. I have no doubt that many Westerners avoided doing certain things or going certain places on the latest Friday the 13th. I sure hope they didn’t see any black cats or walk under any ladders. Doing so would court certain disaster — or so some people believe, anyway.
Did you grow up in a home or attend a church that believed certain numbers had some sort of supernatural significance? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.
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Guest post by Carol. For many years. Carol was a member of The Way. Today’s post is an informational article about The Way for people who may not be familiar with this religious sect. You can read Carol’s blog here.
About The Way International
The Way International is a small, fundamentalist, Bible-based organization headquartered in New Knoxville, Ohio, on property that was once the family farm of the founder, Victor Paul Wierwille. The Way is considered a cult by many former members, by most mainstream churches, and by certain secular groups. It has most always operated as home-based churches.
The Way recognizes 1942 as its commencement date and has (almost) always operated as home-based churches. Wierwille claimed that, in 1942, God audibly spoke to him, telling him that He would teach Wierwille the Word as it had not been known since the first century, if Wierwille would teach it to others.
Like some other new religions, The Way had great growth beginning in the late 1960s, through the 1970s, and into the early 1980s. In the early ’80s, as many as 20,000 people attended the then-yearly Rock of Ages festival held on the Way’s property in New Knoxville. (The Rock of Ages was discontinued in 1995, after 25 years.)
Beginning in the latter 1980s, within a few years of Wierwille’s death, The Way began to unravel due (in part) to power struggles and to the exposure of rampant sexual abuses that had started with Wierwille. The Way has survived but is a skeleton of what it once was.
The Way teaches non-conventional biblical doctrines, and in that aspect, differs from conventional Christian Fundamentalism. It is fundamentalist in that followers of The Way believe that the Bible, as it was “originally” given, is perfect and inerrant and is God’s revealed Word and Will in written form to humanity. Way doctrine teaches that there is only one proper interpretation of the scriptures.
Way followers do not believe that Jesus is God. One of Wierwille’s books is entitled Jesus Christ is Not God. However, neither do followers believe that Jesus was just another man. Rather, he is the only begotten son of God and the redeemer of mankind. Without Jesus Christ shedding his “perfect blood,” mankind would continue in an irredeemable state. The Way teaches a virgin conception but not a virgin birth. God created sperm in Mary’s Fallopian tube which fertilized one of Mary’s eggs, thus producing a human with “perfect blood.” God, who is spirit, is Jesus’s biological father, and Mary, a human, was his biological mother.
The Way teaches that a human baby is not fully human until it takes its first breath and that abortion is not murder. Upon birth, a human is only body and soul (soul being breath life and encompassing genetics). A person does not receive the spirit of God until he or she decides to become born again (also known as being saved, made whole, redeemed, or the new birth). However, children are counted as saved as long as one parent is saved. This continues until the child reaches an age of accountability, when the child is able to independently make a decision to be saved or not.
Way followers believe that a person gets born again by believing Romans 10: 9 and 10. That is, people must confess with their mouths (out loud is not necessary) that Jesus is Lord (not as God, but as Master) and believe in their hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead. To accept Jesus into one’s heart or to believe that Jesus is God does not result in a person being born again; those are counterfeit formulas. Once people are born again, they cannot, for any reason, lose their salvation. The only people who cannot be saved are those born of the seed of the serpent, the devil. The Way does not subscribe to any sort of water baptism; it is not necessary and became obsolete once Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended to the right hand of God, making the new birth available.
Way believers are taught that homosexuality happens because of devil spirit possession. But people who are gay can still be saved, even if they continue being gay, though they wouldn’t be able to attend Way fellowships if they are unwilling to change their behavior.
In the 1990s The Way began teaching that the original sin in Genesis happened when the devil appeared in the form of a beautiful woman and enticed Eve into a homosexual experience. Adam watched, or at least consented, though he didn’t directly partake in the act. By consenting he ate of the figurative fruit from the figurative tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden, and thus all humanity fell from grace and needed a redeemer. Prior to that doctrine, The Way taught that the original sin probably involved masturbation; Adam and Eve met their own sexual needs instead of each other’s. But masturbation is not considered a sin in and of itself.
Followers of The Way believe that when people die, they do not immediately go to an after-life in any form. The only human currently alive after death is Jesus Christ. All other humans remain dead and will be raised in the future either at Christ’s first “return” (which most Christians refer to as the “rapture” — The Way doesn’t use the word “rapture” but rather the phrase “the Hope”) or at the final judgments. Animals are not resurrected.
Way followers do not believe in an eternal hell-fire torment. After the final judgments, all non-believers will die the second death and cease to exist forever. The lake of fire and the devil and death will be obliterated. A new heaven and earth where all sorrow and death has ceased will then last for eternity, bringing into fruition God’s original intent in Genesis before the “fall of mankind.”
Though The Way is not part of the Charismatic movement, everyone in The Way speaks in tongues, but not spontaneously out loud during gatherings. In public Way meetings the believer is called upon by whomever is overseeing and is directed to either “prophesy” or “speak in tongues and interpret.” Speaking in tongues is mainly for the believer’s private prayer life “to build themselves up spiritually” and have a better connection with “God, the Father.” Way doctrine teaches that the nine “gifts of the spirit” referred to in I Corinthians 12 of the Bible are actually “manifestations” and that every equipped believer operates all nine of the manifestations. “All nine all the time” was a common phrase in The Way.
Way believers are not literalists. The Bible abounds with figures of speech and ancient Middle Eastern customs. A person needs some knowledge of these in order to understand the context of the Bible.
The Way is not a King James Bible-only organization. King James is the main version used in The Way because that version is what most biblical lexicons and concordances are keyed to and because the italicized words in the King James indicate that those words were added to the text. The Way references various versions in its study of the scriptures.
Contrary to what many Evangelical apologists think, scientists do not have (or think they have) answers for every possible question about the universe, life, and human existence. While science does answer many questions that humans deem important, there are yet many unanswered questions that scientists diligently seek to answer. Because science does not have ALL the answers, Evangelicals often say that religion is another empirical and equally valid way of determining and understanding truth. Of course, when science conflicts with religious truth what happens? Most Evangelicals reject that scientific truth, and put their faith in what the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God says about the matter. This is why there are millions of American who believe the universe is 6,021 years old, Adam and Eve were real people, and the earth was destroyed by a flood 4,000 or so years ago. This is also why snake oil salesmen like Ken Ham can build million dollar monuments to ignorance such as the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter.
As Physicist Sean Carroll makes clear in the following two-minute video, scientists do not have all the answers, nor have they ever claimed that they do. But, regardless of the lack of answers, science still remains the best way for us to understand our world.