Monday, May 20, 2019

Anonymous Asks (40)

“In Genesis, Adam and Eve leave the garden and cities are already there and other people. Please explain.”

This is definitely something you have been told, not something you have observed for yourself. I can say that with confidence because it’s quite wrong, and even a quick and dirty scan-read of the first chapters of Genesis should not leave a reader with that impression.

If you turn to Genesis, you will find that Adam and Eve are cast out of the Garden of Eden at the end of chapter 3. We don’t know how long they were in the Garden before that happened. The first mention of other people is Genesis 4:1-2, where Cain and Abel are born, and subsequently grow to manhood.

Other Sons and Daughters

In addition to Cain and Abel, Adam and Eve also had other sons and daughters, though Seth is the one with whom we are most familiar. With only Seth excepted, we do not know when any of these other children were born. We also do not know how many there were or in what order they were born, but there were surely many, many more than the three sons mentioned in scripture, and they probably started being born fairly early on in the history of mankind, and continued throughout Eve’s fertility window, however long that may have been.

These other children’s names are absent from our Bible genealogies. That is a perfectly common feature of ancient record-keeping, for reasons that should be instantly obvious. If Eve had as many children as she was capable of having, and if every child, grandchild and great-grandchild, etc., were named, the book of Genesis alone would run hundreds or maybe thousands of pages. It doesn’t. In fact, genealogies in scripture and elsewhere almost never mention women and omit multitudes of historically irrelevant men. Seth’s birth is spiritually important, as are both Cain’s and Abel’s, and therefore these three men are mentioned in Genesis. They may be the only ones in their generation mentioned by name, but they were far from the only ones born.

Eve’s Reproductive Window

Consider how many people there may have been on earth in the first few hundred years of human civilization. The absolute maximum reproductive window for a woman today is about 38 years, and the average is probably more like 25. During that period, an ordinary, healthy man and wife involved in a regular sexual relationship without some form of birth control have been observed to consistently produce between twelve and fifteen children. The Guinness World Record is 69, held by the first wife of Feodor Vassilyev, a peasant from Shuya, Russia.

But Eve’s reproductive window was considerably longer than a mere 25 years. She was probably fertile when given to Adam (let’s call that Year 0), and continued giving birth until at least age 130 and possibly quite a bit longer, meaning that she likely produced at least five times more children than the most enthusiastic mother today. Even if the second human generation topped out at only forty, within a couple of decades the eldest of these would have been intermarrying and adding their own progeny to the population. These, their children and probably their children’s children would have been of marriageable age long before the final number of their great-aunts or great-great-uncles could be tallied. Given the great ages to which the earliest men and women are said to have lived, people from a dozen generations or more may have coexisted simultaneously.

Populating the Known Earth

As to the speed at which even a small group of forty-something children could potentially grow, we don’t even need to speculate. The Hutterite community of North America at the turn of the 20th century achieved the highest levels of population growth ever recorded, doubling every 17 years. If you started with only two and continued at the rate of the Hutterites, you’d have over 250 people on earth by the early second century of humanity’s existence, and 7 billion people in slightly under 600 years. There’s no reason to assume the numbers on earth between Eden and the Flood were quite that high, but the genetic potential for such population growth certainly exists.

So how many adult women were on the earth by the time Cain decided to take a wife? It’s anybody’s guess, but he only needed one. If he didn’t marry particularly early on, he may have had half a dozen sisters and maybe a few nieces (or even grand-nieces) to choose from. We do not know what year Cain was born or what year he killed Abel. We definitely don’t know when he married. We cannot even say for sure that he married before his brother Seth was born, though it is probable.

No Explanation Required

Thus, when we read later in chapter 4 that “Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch,” and that “when he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch,” it should be obvious these events did not occur within the same decade or even the same century. They definitely did not occur immediately after Adam and Eve left the garden. In fact, since Cain was fugitive and a wanderer, it is likely he built the city after his own offspring had several generations to proliferate, so as to make greater social organization advantageous for his people. This is the very first mention of a city in the entire Bible. There is no reason to believe it was built until hundreds of years had passed.

So when Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden, there were no cities, and there were no other people. No explanation is really required. Just read what’s written.


  1. "In order for the ages of Y-Adam and mtEve to be as young as 6000 years, the generation time would have to be less than one year – which we know is impossible. (This would mean parents have a child, which then gives birth to its own child within one year, and so on).
    So the only possible way that they could have lived 6000 years ago is if the mutation rate was wildly off. And we have direct evidence that if the rate is off, it is not off by nearly enough to make Adam and Eve 6000 years young!"


  2. Here's an article four years more recent than the above link, written by a Catholic, that cites studies giving age ranges for Y-Adam and mtEve which are all over the map:

    Let's just say for now that the science is not settled on this issue ...