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Exegesis, Eisegesis, and the Father of Cain
By Gary F. Zeolla
Exegesis. The obtaining of the meaning of a passage by drawing the meaning out from rather than reading it into the text.
Eisegesis.The practice of reading meaning into a biblical text, as opposed to the practice of drawing out the meaning that is already there (exegesis). (Erickson, pp. 53, 48).
The difference between exegesis and eisegesis is monumental. The former leads people to understanding the intended meaning of a passage; the latter enables people to make the Scriptures teach anything they want them to teach.
A good example of this difference can be seen in the claim by some that Satan, not Adam, was the father of Cain. I address this issue in brief in an E-mail Exchange posted on the site (Satan the Father of Cain?). I have received a few emails about this exchange from others who believe this idea. So now would be a good time to address this claim in more detail. This doctrine itself is not that important as there are not that many who believe it. But addressing it will be a good demonstration of the difference between exegesis and eisegesis. And this difference is vitally important to understand.
Note: By "some" in this article is meant those who believe that Satan was the father of Cain. When I use "it is said" I am referring to what these "some" claim. These claims come from various emails to this writer.
Genesis 2:16,16; 3:1-7
15Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17"but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die….
1Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" 2And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3"but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' " 4Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. 5"For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
Taking this story literally and reading it in a straightforward manner, one gets the impression it is about a garden, fruit trees, and the eating of the fruit of those trees. That is the basic exegesis of the passage. And in fact, I cite Genesis 2:15-17 in my book God-given Foods Eating Plan as evidence that fruit is a "God-given food"—meaning God intended for us to eat fruit. But I also say that Eve subsequently ate of the one tree that God said not to.
Eve then gave some of this "forbidden fruit" to Adam to eat. As a result, both were judged by God and cast out of the Garden (Gen 3:16-24). It should also be noted that it is generally agreed that the serpent here is Satan (see Revelation 12:9; 20:2).
But according to some, the text really is not talking about trees and fruit. What really happened is that Satan deceived Eve into having sex with him. She then in turn seduced Adam. So the sin of Adam and Eve was not simply the eating of some forbidden fruit, it was sex.
But where does this idea come from? First it is said that the word "tree" really is referring to a human body. This comes from the claim that the word means "body" and that a tree looks like a body.
In response, if the word means "human body" what are we to make of the fact that there were many "trees" in the garden? Does this mean that Adam and Eve were not in fact the only humans at this time but just two of many people? You cannot have it mean "body" in Genesis 3 and something else in Genesis 2:17.
Moreover, the Hebrew word translated "tree" means "tree, trees, wood" according to Brown, Driver and Briggs' lexicon (BDB). The Theological Workbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) gives the meanings of "tree, wood, timber, stock, plank, stalk, stick, gallows." In other words, anything made of wood. There is no indication whatsoever in either of these resources that the word has anything to do with the body of a human.
Second, it is said that when Eve told Satan, "nor shall you touch it" she was referring to having sex. This is because the word for "touch" can mean "sex."
In response, in BDB the word means "touch, reach, strike." The TWOT also has "touch, reach, strike" (see Gen 28:12; Joshua 8:15; 1Sam 6:9; 2Sam 5:8; 2Kings 15:5; Ps 73:5,14; Amos 9:5, etc.).
Now the word can have the connotation of "touching" in the sense of touching someone sexually (Gen 20:6; Prov 6:29; Ruth 2:9). But the most basic and common meanings are simply "to touch, reach, or strike."
But more importantly is that Adam and Eve were previously told by God to "Be fruitful and multiply" (Gen 2:18). Human beings do this by having sex. Moreover, it is not a sin for a man to have sex with his wife (Gen 2:24), yet Eve was Adam's wife (Gen 2:25).
So in no sense can it be said that it was a sin for Adam to have sex with Eve. Yet Adam was condemned as much as Eve and the serpent were by the LORD (Genesis 3:17-19), and we are told elsewhere specifically that Adam sinned (Romans 5:14). So Adam's sin had to be something other than having sex with Eve.
Moreover, in the text, the "forbidden tree" and the serpent are two different things. And we are not told that Eve "touched" the serpent, just the tree. So even if by some stretch of the imagination, "tree" means "body" and "touch" means "having sex," it still would not follow that Eve had sex with the serpent.
But "stretch of the imagination" is what this whole interpretation of Eve having sex with the serpent entails. Or to put it another way, it is a perfect example of eisegesis.
Genesis 3:7, 14-19
7Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings….
14So the LORD God said to the serpent: "Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. 15And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel." 16To the woman He said: "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you." 17Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it': "Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. 18Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. 19In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return."
After the sin of Adam and Eve, they realize they are naked and cover themselves. This is because they have partaken of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (verse 17). The LORD then judges all three, the serpent, the woman, and the man, by pronouncing judgments appropriate to each.
The serpent is cursed to be unlike the cattle which walk on all fours, but it now must crawl. So apparently, previously the serpent had four legs. But the important point is that the serpent was to eat dust. Later Biblical writers refer to this aspect of the curse (Isaiah 65:25; Micah 7:17).
The woman, being the child-bearer, is cursed in her child-bearing. So she will now experience much pain in the fulfilling of the commandment to be fruitful and multiply (1:28).
The man, being previously told to cultivate and keep the garden (2:15), will now experience much toil in that work. This is the simple and obvious exegesis of the punishments.
But some say that the punishments all had to do with sex, since that was their sin. The man and woman cover their private parts since that is what they sinned with. The serpent will no longer be able to walk upright. This will keep it from having sex again with a human, and the woman is cursed in child-bearing since bearing child is the result of sex.
As for the first point, the text tells us Adam and Eve covered themselves because "the eyes of both of them were opened." That was from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There is no mention of them doing so because these were the body parts they sinned with.
Second, the serpent's prior form is compared to cattle not humans. So it is unlikely it walked upright but rather on all fours. Moreover, the main punishment was that it would eat dust, not that it couldn't have sex with humans again. So this sounds more like the sin had to do with food, not sex. And again, later Biblical writers refer to the serpent eating dust, not to it not being able to have sex with humans.
The woman's punishment is somewhat related to sex. But the reason her punishment had to do with child-bearing is because this was her unique role in fulfilling the command to be fruitful.
Meanwhile, the interpretation of some always ignores Adam's punishment as his punishment has nothing even remotely to do with sex. It has to do with gardening and thus food. So two of the three punishments are food related. But most of all, Adam is condemned to eventually die and decay into dust. So death is the ultimate punishment for their sin (Rom 5:14; 1Cor 15:22).
But probably the most important verse here is verse 15, "And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel."
Christians have historically taken "seed' here to refer to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. This is why it is capitalized in the NKJV and some other modern versions. This thus makes this verse the first promise of a coming Redeemer. Satan, through those who follow in his ways (his "seed") will "bruise the heel" of the Messiah at the cross, but by His death and resurrection, the Messiah will bruise Satan's head. A bruised heel is not fatal while a bruised head is. So this verse is teaching the Messiah will ultimately win over Satan and his followers.
But it is said by some that "your seed" refers to Satan's child now being carried by the woman (Cain), and "her seed" refers to the second child now being carried by her (Abel). Moreover, it is said that by Eve bearing Satan's child, Satan was able to inject his DNA into the human race.
The idea of Cain and Abel being twins will be addressed in the next section. But here, it will be said that it makes no sense for only Abel to be called "her seed" when both Cain and Abel were Eve's sons. It also makes no sense to say Abel bruised the head of Cain since it was Cain that killed Abel. So this interpretation does not fit the terminology used. As for Satan's DNA now being in the human race, that will be addressed at the close of this article.
1Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, "I have acquired a man from the LORD." 2Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
Adam has sex with Eve, she conceives, and then she gives birth. This is a very logical sequence that has occurred billions of times since then. Sex – conception – birth. She then gets pregnant a second time and gives birth to a second child. That is the most obvious exegesis.
But according to some, this is not what really happened here. Eve had already lost her virginity to the serpent in the garden. And it was by the serpent that she conceived Cain. But shortly thereafter, she had sex with Adam. So she was carrying two children by two different fathers. In other words, Cain and Abel, it is said, were twins.
The proof for the first point is that Eve says about Cain "I have acquired a man from the LORD." She does not say "I have acquired a man from my husband." So Eve thought she was having sex with God in the garden and that is how she got pregnant with Cain. But she was deceived in this regard and really had sex with Satan.
In response, first, this interpretation assumes that Eve and the serpent had sex. But the preceding section showed this was pure imagination.
Second, nowhere in Genesis 3 does it even hint at the idea that Eve thought that the serpent was the LORD. In fact, the serpent himself refers to God as someone other than himself (verses 1,5). And there is no mention in the text of the serpent "disguising" himself as anything other than a serpent. So even if Eve had sex with the serpent, there is no reason she would have thought she was having sex with the LORD. Instead, when she says "I have acquired a man from the LORD" she is simply recognizing that the LORD is the source of all life.
Third, the text presents the very logical sequence of a woman having sex with her husband, getting pregnant, and giving birth. There is no hint that the resulting child was not the son of the person the text just said the woman had sex with. As such, anyone reading this passage without any preconceived notions would take it as teaching that Adam was the father of Cain.
Fourth, there is no mention in this passage of Satan being Cain's father, no mention of Eve being deceived about who the father of her child was, and again, no hint that the father was not the man just mentioned. These ideas are again a perfect example of eisegesis.
As for the second point, it is said that Cain and Abel were twins since "she bore again" follows with no mention of time passage or of Eve having sex again.
In response, first, I did a little research, and somewhat to my surprise, it is possible for twins to have two different fathers.
Twins with Different Fathers by Mark Perloe, MD
Q. Can a woman become pregnant by two different men at the same time? That is, can she carry two babies, each from a different man, at the same time?
Yes. If she ovulates and releases two eggs in the same month and also is exposed to sperm from two men, she can get pregnant with twins, one fathered by each man. There is no physical problem related to carrying pregnancies fathered by different men. - http://health.ivillage.com/gyno/gynoreprohealth/0,,4nmw,00.html
And consider the following story,
A Croatian woman who slept with two men at the same time has given birth to twins with two different fathers. The 23-year-old student, who has been named only as M B, gave birth to non-identical twins in Zagreb seven months ago. However, she has revealed that DNA testing has shown the children have different fathers.
She told daily Jutarnji List, "I was shocked at getting pregnant and even more surprised when doctors told me that my two sons had different fathers." Doctors have said twins being born to different fathers is extremely rare - http://www.flatrock.org.nz/topics/odds_and_oddities/twins_in_black_and_white.htm
In this case, it would have been obvious even without DNA testing that the twins had different fathers since one was black and the other white. But as for Cain and Abel, nothing is so obvious.
The text says they were brothers. That much is certain. But there is a separate Hebrew word for twins that would have been used if they were twins (Genesis 25:24; 38:27). Moreover, in Genesis 25:19-26 a rather big deal is made out of Esau and Jacob being twins. The same goes for Perez and Zerah in Genesis 38:27-30. So it would seem that Scripture recognizes that the birth of twins is rather unique and worth detailing. But in the case of Cain and Abel, at best there is the "omission" of mention of Eve having sex again. But that's it.
On the other hand, there nothing in the text precluding Cain and Abel from being twins. So I would not say this is a true case of eisegesis, but to make a big deal out of the idea that Cain and Abel were twins rather than just brothers is going beyond what is written (1Cor 4:6).
However, some need for Cain and Abel to be twins for their whole theory and their interpretation of Genesis 3:15 to work. Eve had to have sex with both Satan and Adam and to have conceived Cain and Abel before they were kicked out of the garden. But if Cain and Abel are just brothers, then Abel's conception would not have occurred until later and their theory and interpretation falls apart.
And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, "For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed."
Here, it is said, Abel is called Adam's seed, but nowhere is Cain so designated. In response, first, it should be noted that Cain was still alive, so the focus here is on "replacing" Abel, whom was now dead. Second, the text in the first verse of this chapter already indicated Cain was Adams' son, so it did not need to be repeated.
Moreover, it should be noted that the language here about Seth's birth is very similar to what is said about Cain's birth in verse one of this chapter. Adam "knows" Eve, and Eve bears a son. It's the same sequence. But here, no one doubts that Seth was the son of Adam, and there is no linguistic basis for interpreting the passage about Cain any differently.
In Genesis 4:16-24, the genealogy of Cain is presented. Then in Genesis 5:1-32, the genealogy of Seth is presented. But a much bigger deal is made of Seth's genealogy than Cain's. In fact, the genealogy of Cain does not mention Adam, while the genealogy of Seth specifics again that Seth was Adam's son. This difference it is said shows that Cain was not really Adam's son.
In response, throughout Scripture, the focus is always on the genealogical line leading to the Messiah. Other genealogies are covered, but in shorter fashion. See for instance Genesis 10 where the genealogies of the three sons of Noah are presented. But then in 11:10-32, much greater detail is given to the descendents of Shem.
As for Cain's genealogy not mentioning Adam, Adam was specified as his father just a few verses earlier, so there was no reason to repeat it.
7Little children [or, [My] dear children], let no one be leading you* astray [fig., be deceiving you*]. The one practicing righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8The one practicing sin is from the Devil, because the Devil [has been] sinning from [the] beginning. For this [reason] the Son of God was revealed, so that He should destroy the works of the Devil. 9Everyone having been begotten from God is not practicing sin, because His seed abides in him, and he is not able to be sinning, because he has been begotten from God. 10By this are revealed [who are] the children of God and the children of the Devil. Every one not practicing righteousness is not from God, and the one not loving his brother.
11Because this is the message which you* heard from [the] beginning, that we should be loving one another: 12not as Cain—he was from the evil [one] and slew his brother. [see Gen 4:8] And for what reason did he slay him? Because his works were evil, but those of his brother [were] righteous. [see Gen 4:1-8]
This is the most important passage for those who believe that Satan was the father of Cain. It is said by them that by saying Cain "was from the evil [one]" this proves that Satan was literally the father of Cain. They then read this interpretation of this passage back into the passage from Genesis quoted previously.
In response, several points need to be noted. First, the text does not specifically say that Satan was Cain's father, that Cain was begotten by Satan, or that Cain was Satan's son. These ideas are just being read into the text.
Second, what is said is that Cain was "from" the evil one. The Greek word "from" is ek, which can mean: from, of, or out of. So it is said this shows Cain came out of Satan. But it should be noted that the exact same language is used of "the one practicing sin." So if being "from" the Devil means Cain was literally and physically the child of Satan, then the same would be said of everyone who is living in sin. So it would mean that is not just Cain but millions, no billions of people throughout history have been sired by the Devil.
Remember, the Bible teaches that all people are sinners. It is only through regeneration by Holy Spirit and faith in Christ that we can be delivered from the clutches of sin. That is the point of this passage. It is contrasting those who have been regenerated and thus are now "children of God" with those who have not been and thus are still held in the clutches of sin and of the Devil. As such, they are "the children of the Devil" since they are acting like their "father."
It is interesting that those "not practicing righteousness" are specifically called the children of the Devil while Cain is not so specified. So there is actually more evidence that all nonbelievers are literally the children of Satan than that Cain was.
Moreover, it should be noted that if by "children of the Devil" the text means that Satan had sex with their mothers, then saying that believers are "the children of God" and "begotten from God" would mean that God had sex with all of our mothers.
In other words, if the interpretation of some is correct, then this passage is proving too much. It would mean that Satan and God have been having sex with women throughout human history and with basically every woman who ever had a child. This is all simply nonsense and the worse example of eisegesis imaginable.
In trying to use this passage to support their views, those who believe Satan is literally the father of Cain are missing the whole point of this passage. The appropriate exegesis of this passage is that it is a glorious declaration of the power of regeneration to deliver a person from the power of Satan to God. This idea is seen throughout Scripture. It is in fact, the whole point of the Gospel. Consider, for instance, the verse that this ministry gets its name from:
15"So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?' And He said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16But get up and stand on your feet; because for this [reason] I appeared to you, to handpick you [as] a servant and a witness both of what you saw and of what I will appear [fig., will reveal] to you, 17delivering you from the [Jewish] people and [from] the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, 18to open their eyes [in order] to turn [them] back from darkness [i.e., falsehood and unrighteousness] to light [i.e., truth and righteousness] and [from] the authority of Satan to God, [in order for] them to receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among the ones having been sanctified by faith in Me.' (Acts 26:15-18).
Reasons and Implications
Those who believe that Satan is the father of Cain do so passionately. It seems that this is the most important point of Scripture, and if you disagree with them on this point you are a heretic and do not truly understands the Scriptures. But why is this point so important to some and what are its implications?
As for the first question, I am not really sure. I think it might have to do with the general desire to be one of the few who are able to see the "hidden meaning" in Scripture. By doing so, it makes the person feel superior to those who are not so "enlightened."
But most likely it is because of the inability of some to accept that the original sin could have been "merely" the eating a piece of fruit. There is nothing wrong with eating fruit, it is said.
This is true in general terms. But the LORD had specifically told Adam and Eve not to eat of that one tree. And THE reason that something is sinful is because God says so. But it is this very point that some cannot grasp.
In other words, some simply cannot accept that it is what God says that makes something sinful or not. They need for there to be some "practical" reason for it. But what God says goes. And when He said it was wrong to eat of a particular tree then it was wrong for that very reason. No other reason needs to be given. But it was Adam and Eve's inability to accept this fact that led to them questioning His word. And that was the point of their sin, the refusal to believe God's word simply because God spoke it.
This is not to say God' laws are arbitrary. The LORD never commands anything that would be to our detriment, and His laws are always ultimately for our good (Jeremiah 29:11). But the primary reason something is right or wrong is because God says so. And we are to obey whatever He commands, whether or not we can figure out why He has commanded something.
It's also possible that this doctrine gives some an "explanation" for the very depraved nature of some people. If Satan was able to inject this DNA into humans, then this could explain why some are so depraved and commit horrendous acts. But this point really makes no sense. Even if Cain were half-Devil and his descendent thus partly satanic, they all would have died out in Noah's flood. It was only the line of Seth that survived.
But the scary part is that if they come up with a way that Satan's seed could have survived in some people, then that would mean that some people alive today are partly satanic. And if a group of people could be labeled as being partly satanic, that would open the door to some very horrible bigotry. And that is the most disturbing aspect of this doctrine.
Another disturbing aspect would be that that if Adam's and Eve's sin was sex, then this doctrine could lead to a degraded viewpoint of martial sex.
Adam and Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden was to eat of the one tree that God said not to. Adam was the father of Cain. To be a "child of Satan" or "from the evil one" is to be unregenerate. To be a child of God is to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit. These are the simple exegeses of the relevant passages.
To turn Adam and Eve's sin into sex, Satan into the father of Cain, and "children of the evil one" into literal children of Satan is eisegesis. It is reading something into the text that simply is not there.
The main point of this article is that appropriate interpretation of Scripture entails letting the Scriptures speak for themselves, teaching what they actually say. It is inappropriate to try to find "hidden meanings" by reading concepts into the Scriptures that simply are not there.
Brown, Driver and Briggs' lexicon and The Theological Workbook of the Old Testament, as found on BibleWorks™ for Windows™. Copyright © 1992-2003 BibleWorks, L.C.C. Big Fork, MT: Hermeneutika. Programmed by Michael S. Bushell and Michael D. Tan.
Erickson, Millard J. Concise Dictionary of Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book NHouse, 1986.
Scripture verses taken from:
Old Testament: New King James Version (NKJV). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publisher, 1982. As found on BibleWorks™ for Windows™.
New Testament: Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament of the Holy Bible: Second Edition (ALT), with changes made in preparation for the third Edition. Copyright © 2005, 2007 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.dtl.org). Previously copyrighted © 1999, 2001 by Gary F. Zeolla.
The above article first appeared in the
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It was posted on this Web site May 22, 2007.
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