Did Eve Have Children Before the Fall?

I recently posted a comment in response to Brant Pitre’s post “Did the Virgin Mary Experience the Pains of Childbirth?”  I said:

“pain in childbirth is clearly taught in Scripture as one of the results of the Fall (Gen 3:16).”

There is another way of reading Genesis 3:16, namely that Eve had already experienced pain in childbirth and that God simply multiplied it after the fall. So even if we accept the Immaculate Conception I see no reason that Mary would be excepted from pain in childbirth.

Danny Garland, Jr. said in response:

Nick,
Your alternate reading of Genesis 3:16 presupposes that Eve had children before the Fall. Yet Scripture suggests otherwise. Eve did not have children until after they left the garden.

Also notice the line in verse 3:16:
“in pain you shall bring forth children”
The phrase “you shall” points to a future realization. Thus, even if Eve had previously bore children it was not in pain. God tells her that after the Fall, she “shall” (future tense) bring forth children in pain.

And Brad also said:

There is no implication that pain in childbirth was pre-Fall; nor does the text of Genesis in any way suggest that Eve had children before the Fall. Indeed, when the literary unity of Genesis is taken into account, Gen 4:1 (“And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain..”) implies the opposite, with Cain as the first of a series of problematic first-born sons (Ishmael, Esau, Reuben, etc.)

Rather than go off topic over there I’ll explain why I believe that Eve had children before the fall and how scripture suggests this contrary to Danny’s and Brad’s protestation.  And for my point pain in childbirth is irrelevant so I’ll refrain from addressing his ‘future realization’ argument.  I also must mention that for the sake of this argument I am treating Adam and Eve as the first two humans to ever exist, and as historical persons (although I think there may be better explanations of the Genesis narrative I’ll use this for this argument).

There is a phrase that appears 6 times (7 in the LXX) in the opening chapter of Genesis that lays the foundation for my belief in Eve having children prior to the fall.  In Genesis 1:7, 9, 11, 15, (20, LXX), 24, 30 we read וַיְהִי-כֵן (vayehi-chen)/καὶ ἐγένετο οὕτως (LXX) which is typically translated as “and it was so.”  So throughout the course of the narrative we see that:

  1. God separated the water from above and beneath the expanse (vs. 7)
  2. God gathered the water so that dry land would appear (vs. 9)
  3. God commanded plants to produce after their kind and they did (vs. 11)
  4. God created lights to separate night from day (vs. 15)
  5. God created living creatures from the land (v. 24)

In all of these cases what God intended to happen, happened.  Now I’m not arguing for a strictly literal reading of Genesis 1 and I’m certainly not arguing for a 6 day creation.  I believe that the Day/Age theory makes very good sense of all of this (yes, better sense then even my beloved Gap theory ().  But my point is that God got the results he was looking for. 

Now onto vs. 30.  In vs. 28 God commands (or blesses) his human creation to reproduce.  In vs. 29-30 he gives humans and animals plants for food, and it all ends with וַיְהִי-כֵן/καὶ ἐγένετο οὕτως.  I take this to mean that not only ‘was it so’ that humans and animals ate plants, but also that the humans began to immediately fulfill the command/blessing to be fruitful and multiply.

The Bablyonian Talmud takes an interesting position on the day in which Adam was created (one I think jives quite nicely with the Day/Age theory ().  It says:

R. Johanan3  b. Hanina said: The day consisted of twelve hours. In the first hour, his [Adam’s] dust was gathered; in the second, it was kneaded into a shapeless mass. In the third, his limbs were shaped;4  in the fourth, a soul was infused into him; in the fifth, he arose and stood on his feet; in the sixth, he gave [the animals] their names; in the seventh, Eve became his mate; in the eighth, they ascended to bed as two and descended as four;5  in the ninth, he was commanded not to eat of the tree, in the tenth, he sinned; in the eleventh, he was tried, and in the twelfth he was expelled [from Eden] and departed, for it is written, Man abideth6  not in honour.7 (b. Sanhedrin 38b, Italics mine)

5 I.e., Cain and his twin sister were born. V. Yeb. 62a. Abel and his other twin sister were born after they sinned. V. Tosaf. a.l.

Next there is always that question that newbies in Christ ask after they’ve read Genesis 4.  They ask, “if Adam and Eve only had Cain and Abel, then where did Cain find his wife?”  Well, an easy answer is that they didn’t only have Cain and Abel, in fact they had other children, and they likely had them before the fall.  But let’s assume for the sake of argument that Cain and Abel were Adam and Eve’s first children.  Rashi says:

Now the man knew [This took place], prior to the above episode, before he sinned and was banished from the Garden of Eden. Also the conception and the birth [took place before], for if it were written: וַיֵדַע אָדָם it would mean that after he had been banished, he had sons. — [from Sanh. 38b] (Online here)

In agreement with Rashi the note in the Stone Edition Chumash says:

“The translation in the past-perfect follows Rashi, that the conception and birth of Cain had occurred before the sin and expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden.”  (The Chumash Travel-Size Edition – With Complete Sabbath Prayers, Nosson Scherman, ed. (New York: Mesorah, 2001), 19, n. 4.1.) 

So I think there is a pretty solid line of evidence that Adam and Eve did have children before the fall, even if Cain and Abel (or Cain and a twin sister) were the only ones.  This also has implications for the doctrine of original sin but I’ll save that for another post. 

B”H

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23 thoughts on “Did Eve Have Children Before the Fall?

  1. Interesting line of speculation, but I don’t see how it adds much to our understanding of the Creation narrative. Certainly, Eve could have had children prior to the fall. They might have also invented ice cream, but that doesn’t really help us gain a better grasp of God or God’s relationship with us. Does it?

  2. Interesting idea. However, this leads to a theological speculation. Were the children condemned alongside Adam and Eve for their sin? Deuteronomy 2 records God did not punish the children for the faithlessness of the Israelites adults.

    But as for Genesis 4:1 and Rashi’s interpretation, I think it lacks the textual evidence to be plausible. The conjunction at the beginning of verse 1 (the waw) is generally used to join two things that are related (whether objects or ideas), to indicate a sequence of events (especially when paired with a verb) or to move onto another story (see the beginning of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers for instance). Does the waw conjunction serve to connect the ideas of 3:24 with 4:1? Doubtful because those two verses do not seem to have much relation to each other. So a sequential or another scene is to be preferred from the conjunction. A sequential understand would of course lead it to after the expulsion. The introduction of another scene would lead to the implication of a post-fall world because A) it follows the story of the fall and B) the story as a whole seems to be placed in a post-fall world (in other words, that this occurred after the expulsion is assumed by the way the story is presented).

    Taking that into consideration, it is hard to take 4:1 in a past-perfect sense. What in the context gives any further indication that the author is referring to an action before the the expulsion? If our sole evidence is a perfect verb that could be taken as a past-perfect, the author has chosen to convey a past event in a rather ambiguous way in Hebrew that would be easily subject misinterpretation. This goes against the nature of language that seeks to be communicate in a way that is easily and commonly understood. We shouldn’t try to insert a meaning of tense into the Hebrew verb without the contextual support. That in addition to the nature of the usage of the conjunction make it very tenuous to try to see 4:1 as preceding the fall.

    If Adam and Eve had children before the fall, Genesis is silent on the matter just as it is silent as to whether they had more children that Abel, Cain, and Seth.

  3. Pete,

    If that was my point then you’d have a point, but I’m not arguing that it adds anything to what we know of God. Consequently, if Adam and Eve did in fact have children prior to the fall it would force us to take a harder look at the doctrine of original sin. I think that’s at least worth asking the question.

    Owen,

    I would say that they were not condemned alongside Adam and Eve. The narrative concerning Cain leads me to believe this, but I’ll post on that another time.

    I can appreciate your interpretation of the narrative and I’ll concede that yours is probably the majority view, but I don’t think it’s quite as certain as some may think. In the end, I think it question begging to simply assert silence concerning children before the fall. If the text were truly silent on the issue I don’t believe that would ever give rise to the speculation I’ve proposed above. Is the text ambiguous? Sure, but that at least shows that it isn’t silent — there is an alternative explanation that commentators and exegetes have held for centuries. Is it necessarily the correct interpretation? No, but I find it convincing.

  4. Hey Nick,

    The speculation as given could have be caused by factors outside the narrative. Such as difficulties (whether theological, philsophical, etc.) if a passage is interpreted a certain way. That is the cause of a great majority of speculation in todays age in regards to interpretation of certain passages. Also important to consider is that this is a matter of time, but Hebrew is not primarily a language that uses tenses. So it is easier for an interpretation to come into play that changes the time setting, because the verbs strictly speaking do not convey tense. All this combines for the possibility of and potential cause of speculation on a text that is otherwise silent.

    Furthermore, the argument is an appeal to how COULD the text be taken. The question of “how could the text be taken?” would allow us to see the perfect verb in 4:1 as a past-perfect. However, “how SHOULD the text be taken?” asks for evidence for the interpretation. It looks at evidence that essentially denies other interpretations and/or strengthens a particular interpretation.

    Now you presented a theological argument, that what God wanted for creation happened, and that it happened immediately. Assuming that is applicable to the call for production for the sake of argument, there are a few questions that need to be asked. First, what is the time frame for “immediately?” Granted, this is influenced by our interpretation of the days. Second is how long was the time period between the creation of Adam and the fall? Both are questions that are not immediately presupposed by the text.

    Finally, why should one ignore how order naturally conveys chronological order (granted there are many exceptions in certain instances), especially when there is no explicit indicator?

    BTW my intent is not to criticize. It is to rather to get through to a deeper thinking on the passage, a more exegetical-type look.

  5. Owen,

    I definitely agree that factors outside the narrative play a role in this. In fact a lot of my argument relies on it! Your knowledge of Hebrew obviously dwarfs mine so I couldn’t begin to argue the grammatical features of the passages in question with any level of confidence. But then again, this argument isn’t original to me so I can have some confidence that there is grammatical reason to interpret it in the way that I have.

    I’m willing to concede that my interpretation is not the most likely one and just because it could be taken the way I have taken it doesn’t mean that it should be taken the way I have taken it, but again, I find this particular interpretation the most convincing. I believe it makes the best sense of my underlying questions (e.g., why would they wait until after disobeying God in eating the forbidden fruit to be obedient and procreate?)

    Concerning chronological order in Genesis, that’s a squirrely issue. There’s all kinds of chronological inconsistencies so I don’t see one more as being that big of a deal (and I’m not even a JEDP guy!).

    And don’t worry, even if your intent was to criticize, I have a pretty thick skin and wouldn’t take offense to it ;) But I do appreciate your engaging the issue and making me think deeper about it. Who knows, you might even persuade me to your view (I doubt it, but it could happen :-P ).

    BTW, I just checked out your blog and I really like it.

  6. Well I guess the gloves and come off then….. J/K And don’t let me fool you. My knowledge of Hebrew is hardly that great. I have only gotten through the first semester of Hebrew.

    As for your underlying question, we must make the careful distinction first off between history and narrative. An author (or authors) presents a narrative to present a story (whether historical or not) as he sees it. But when we ask questions of logic of the text and read it under certain logical assumptions, we are no longer allowing the narrator to speak. We are constructing a history at certain points that we think read back into the narrator. We become the story teller and the narrator has lost his ability to tell the tale.

    The reason we don’t make certain logical assumptions and questions in reading the text is that either our assumption and questions may be based off a mistaken premise or that there is an answer that is not readily apparent. The end result is we have biased a reading of the text when we read back our historical analysis back into the narrative.

    Why did they wait until after disobeying before procreating? There could be a myriad of reasons. However, how long was it between creation and disobedience? 10 years? 5 years? 1 year? 6 months? 1 month? 1 week? We don’t know. Genesis gives us nothing regarding the time that passed. Because of that, we shouldn’t assume that there is a logical difficulty between procreation after the expulsion and that everything God wanted happened immediately. We don’t have enough information. Maybe there is a scenario where the question doesn’t have any validity, but the author for whatever reason has not given us the scenario (finds it irrelevant, ignorance, etc.).

  7. Why, Nick, this post sounds like your bona fides as a raving inerrantist of the fundamentalist variety! ;-) To my mind, this is an exercise in harmonizing overinterpretation which, in the end, creates problems equally as great as those it solves–but I’ll wait till you next post to see where you end up with this!

  8. Ahh… But I’m not really trying to solve any problems, in fact I’m quite happy to create them :-P When it’s all said and done this is probably one of the most unimportant things in all of scripture — but I do so enjoy speculating about the inane.

    I think my next post is going to be about how I believe that Adam and Eve were dying physically from the moment they were created… but maybe not. Who knows…

  9. For decades, I have believed, on my own, that when the ages of Adam and his children were added in Gen. 5, year zero was taken to be when Adam began a new life after the expulsion from Eden, not when he was created. Hence, prior to the fall, time could have been ticking for tens of thousands of years.
    I believe I am taking a literal interpretation of the bible in concluding this, since it is not specifically stated in the bible that “all the days of Adam” recorded in Gen. 5:5 were counted from the time he first breathed the breath of life. The Fall, with the change from immortality to mortality, the removal from Eden and all that entailed was by no means a minor event. It was a milestone. Therefore, it is easy to assume that Adam’s conception of Seth at age 130 was 130 years after the fall, not to mean that other children were not born to Adam during that 130 years.
    I recently noticed that Cain and Abel are not included in Genesis, chapter 5, in the genealogies of Adam.
    I further noticed in Gen. 3:16 that it would be easily concluded that Eve was already having children when she was cursed, since if God was multiplying zero conceptions, the earth would remain at zero population after this curse. This concept of previously existing conceptions prior to the fall is not out of line with the context of this chapter where Adam was already tilling the ground in Eden when God cursed that previously existing work with a curse of the ground. So, it would seem, Cain and Able, along with other children, were born pre-fall.
    Seth was born in a vastly different era, to parents who had drastically changed – they were now mortals.
    Could this be why Cain and Abel are excluded from the time line begun in Gen. 5?
    Granted, this doesn’t add anything to my knowledge of God, however, the bible says I have the Spirit of Truth indwelling me, and if I have some incorrect interpretations of scripture, what will that Spirit of Truth be doing about it? Nothing? More likely, that Spirit of Truth would be stirring me up with questions that demand a deeper and revelatory understanding of scripture to replace errors in understanding that were probably out there when I was being taught in my younger days by well-meaning but not necessarily saavy-with-the-Truth bible teachers.

  10. Just left a long response with my thoughts and opinions. I don’t see it posted. When will you post with your comments on my questions re; Adam and Eve?

  11. oK, Question: Do you think that Adam and Eve had children in their glorified state of grace? I personally think so, otherwise how would you account for the land of Nod? After the fall, the scripture says that Cain went out to the land of Nod and found his wife. Also, I personally believe that there was a much longer period of time, perhaps thousands of years or more, between the creation of Adam and Eve and their fall. I cannot believe that a good God of mercy and grace would leave mankind for a longer period of time in a state of sin and fallenness than He would in a state of glory and perfection. Also, it would not speak much of Adam’s relationship with God which I believe was intimate and deep and could not be toppled that easy, but the fall of man may have finally occurred over a very longer period of time than most comentators would project. Also, i cannot conceive that Adam could have given names to every living thing on the earth and seas and above the earth in a short period of time. It must have taken a very long time for Adam to have named every living thing! This could be the answer to the question of data regarding the age of the earth and the age of man from anthropology composites of what early man may have looked like and the age of early man as well. Like I say, this is simply opinion and conjecture. Do you think that scripture leaves room for this opinion even though it is not mentioned specifically? I’ll wait for your response. Thanks and God Bless.

  12. Gloria: Yes, the comment posted. I’m not always in front of the computer so you’ll have to be patient with my responding. No need to leave extra comments asking if I’ve received your original comments, I assure you, I’ll get to them. :)

    Regarding your questions:

    (1) I’m not convinced that Adam and Eve were historical people, but for the sake of the narrative in Genesis let’s assume that they were.

    (2) I don’t know that Adam and Eve were in a “glorified state of grace” before the fall. But I do believe that they had children before the fall.

    (3) I can’t agree that thousands of years passed between Adam & Eve’s creation and the fall since Adam died at 930 years old.

    (4) If the goal that everything is working toward is the recreation and renewal of all things, and this will last for all eternity once it commences, then can’t we say that God won’t leave things in a state of sin for longer than he would in a state of grace? In other words, there’s no need to assume that Adam & Eve (or mankind in general) were in this “state of glory and perfection” for longer than mankind has been in a “state of sin and fallenness.”

    (5) I have no idea how long it would take Adam to name every living thing. He may have only named everything that was around him or everything that he saw. Who knows?

    (6) I don’t think that Scripture really supports any of this. I honestly don’t think that Scripture supports a “literal” reading of the early chapters of Genesis at all, but it’s interesting to see what folks come up with.

  13. Thanks for your thoughts! by the way, I do believe that Adam and Eve were literal people. Otherwise, how did the rest of us get here? The whole point of creating Adam and Eve. was to show the “beginnings” of the creation of man, with Adam as the head of the human race. Otherwise, why would the Apostle Paul have referred to Adam in saying that, “in Adam all die and through Adam sin passed upon the entire human race. As in Adam all die, so in the “second Adam, Christ, shall all who believe in Christ have life. In Adam all die, in Christ, who took back from satan the legal right to the souls of men because of sin, all live. Adam is the figure head of the human race, but he is also a literal human being created in the image of God through which the seed of mankind has been propogated throughout the earth for the last nearly 6,000 years since the fall. In otherwords, I believe that scriptures support the fact that Adam and Eve were both literal and historical. Otherwise, you would never be able to follow the lineage between Joseph back to a literal historical Adam 2,400 years.

  14. I forgot to add that the 930 years that Adam lived, did not start until his new life started with his wife after the fall of man. From that point, I believe he started to age in terms of years. In the state there were in before the fall, they were clothed with God’s Glory and would never experence a timeline in terms of years, nor would they experience death until “death passed upon them because of their disobedience and sin. Whatever that state was, it must have truly been something glorious beyond human description! I believe that the fall of mankind was no little thing that happened. It was a tragedy of all tragedies! However, God had already made provision for man’s sin before the foundations of the earth! Redemption had already been executed in heaven, before Adam and Eve ever sinned! How good and how glorious is our God!

  15. Gloria: God could have created mankind without having created the specific man and woman from the early chapters of Genesis. And I don’t think Paul’s point is affected either way. Whether one believes that Adam was a historical person or not, he still represents humanity in the narrative.

    And I’m going to have to disagree about Adam’s aging. I believe that Adam (if we’re going to take the narrative as actual history) was dying from the moment he was created. Restricting him access to the tree of life just solidified the inevitable, i.e., that he would die.

  16. Hi Guys, yes adam and Eve did have children before the fall otherwise there 1st sin would have been to disobey Gods command to be fruitful and replenish the earth. Romans 5;14 tells us that these children, although they did not sin like Adam still came under the curse of death. This is a very important truth because now you know that the sons of God in Gen 6;2 were not angels that suddenly grew human sex organs and got the hots for human woman and gave birth to giants, but were actually true believers in God that because of Adams fall fell themselves into sin. Also Gen 4;26 says that men began to call upon the name of the Lord, these would also become sons of God. All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. To which angel has God ever said ‘ you are my son’

  17. Gloria, the bible does not say he ‘found’ his wife in the land of Nod, but he ‘knew’ his wife at Nod and conceived. There at Nod Cain and his wife conceived their first recorded child named Enoch.

    Likely, Cain’s wife aka his sister were married prior him slaying Abel. When Cain was sent out wandering his wife followed him.

    Note it was the land of Nod not a city called Nod. States he built a city there.

    Genesis 4:16-17
    “16And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.
    17And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.”

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