Did the children of Adam and Eve commit incest?

Cain's wife 2

Q. Did the children of Adam and Eve commit incest?

A. Sometimes I get the question “Who was Cain’s wife?” or “Where did Cain get his wife?” The answer is the same: Cain married either one of his sisters or nieces. So in today’s terms the children of Adam and Eve committed incest, but that was not considered a sin until the Law of Moses came some 2,500 years later. Let me elaborate:

All mankind descended from Adam and Eve. God did not make other men and women beside them:
Gen 3:20 Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.

Adam and Eve had other children besides Cain, Abel and Seth:
Gen 5:4 Then the days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years, and he had other sons and daughters.

God commanded Adam and Eve to fill the earth. By extension this applied to their children too, since they could not do this by themselves.
Gen 1:28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, …

Now who were there to be husband and wife to each other? Only brothers and sisters initially, and for the next generation, cousins.
Gen 4:17 Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, …

Wasn’t that forbidden? Not in the beginning, because at that time there were no one else around! The prohibition came later to protect the human race. Adam and Eve were created perfect, but with the Fall and the curse, the whole creation was subjected to futility and corruption (Rom 8:20-21). Bad mutations developed and the gene pool deteriorated. A child gets his/her genes from both parents. When both parents are blood relatives, defects are amplified, resulting in deformities. That’s why God forbade sexual relations among blood relatives:
Lev 18:6 ‘None of you shall approach any blood relative of his to uncover nakedness; I am the LORD.

Cain's wife 1

However, that came 2,500 years after Adam and Eve. In the early days, there were little bad mutations and deterioration, demonstrated by the longevity of our first ancestors (Gen 5). With the passage of time, genetic defects accumulated, population increased, and God gave the law to prohibit the practice. So technically the children of Adam and Eve committed incest, but that was permitted in early human history.

Pastoral Succession

baton 3

This morning the board of the church we call our second home announced that they have found the man to become our lead pastor. Over a year ago the current senior pastor notified the church he will be retiring for health reasons. The succession committee searched extensively for the right person, and unanimously settled on an internal candidate who, based on the applause upon hearing the announcement, everyone was pleased with.

Four criteria were used in the selection process. First, he must be an excellent Bible teacher:

1 Tim 3:2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
• 2 Tim 2:2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
• 2 Tim 2:24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,

The board recognized that the key to helping people obey God and growing His church is to expound the Word, and made this the first criterion.

Secondly, he must be a man of integrity:

1 Tim 3:2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach,
• 1 Tim 3:7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
• Titus 1:6-7 namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain,

Unlike the world which looks at externals of how impressive an individual is, the board looked at internal qualities – being “above reproach” in his conduct.

Third, he must have a passion for world missions, which is the church’s DNA. The church was founded 87 years ago, and always had a zeal for missions, the heart beat of God. She currently supports over 200 missionaries world-wide, many of whom are members sent out by the church. It saddens me how some churches give lip service to missions, but are so internally focused that they have essentially set aside the Great Commission. I’m glad that the pastor-elect has served in urban ministry for the past 17 years, and will continue the church’s fine tradition.

Lastly, he must be a good leader:

John 10:2-4 But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.

A pastor is many things to the congregation. For a small church he is the preacher, care-giver, counselor, administrator, wearing many hats at the same time. For a large church some of these responsibilities can be delegated to associates looking after functions such as worship, outreach, visitation, family ministry, youth, children, or an executive pastor looking after the staff, but the lead pastor must lead. He needs to cast the vision so that the people can follow. But they will follow only if they know his voice and trust him, which brings us back to the requirement to “preach the Word”.

Interestingly, there was no mention of number of years of pastoral experience, or academic credentials about having a doctorate from a well-known seminary, something very common in pastoral search advertisements. Perhaps because these were never biblical requirements in the first place. Or perhaps because that’s what make this church a great one instead of just a good one. I pray that we can support the new pastor as he follows Christ. That would make the Lord happy!

C.A.R.E.

We attended the 25th anniversary of a ministry of which I was a part of over 20 years ago – Christian Aid and Relational Evangelism Inc. (CARE), a non-profit, charitable organization formed in 1990 to evangelize and serve those marginalized in society. The Lord commissioned His Church to make disciples of all nations. Many are faithful in fulfilling the Great Commission, but unfortunately some segments of society have been overlooked or ignored, so God raised up para-church organizations to meet the needs of these minority and under-privileged groups.

prison ministry 7

One of CARE’s earliest ministries is to those in prison:
* Mt 25:36 I was in prison, and you came to me.
* Heb 13:3 Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them.

The work involves visiting inmates in Federal and Ontario detention centers and prisons around Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and holding worship services for them whenever permitted.

joy beyond vision 2

cultural cafe 1

A large part of the Lord’s ministry is to the blind (Mt 15:30-31), so a second service, now spun off as an independent ministry, is to visually impaired people (VIP). The goal of Joy Beyond Vision Community (https://www.facebook.com/jbvcpublic), is to empower VIPs by training them in skills to make a living e.g. running a small business.
A notable successful project is the Cultural Cafe (https://www.facebook.com/jbvcculturalcafe), run as a commercial enterprise by VIPs.

gambling addiction 1

Although the Bible does not mention gambling specifically, it warns against love of money as a root of all sorts of evil (1 Tim 6:10) and greed as idolatry (Col 3:5). Gambling has ruined many Chinese families, so a third ministry is to pathological gamblers, reaching out to those under bondage and family members hurt by the addiction. The weekly fellowship has helped many to recover through the gospel.

rahab ministry 1

The tax-collectors and prostitutes were looked down upon as outcasts, but they believed John the Baptist and will get into the kingdom of God before the chief priests and elders (Mt 21:31-32). So a fourth service, Rahab Ministry, is to reach out to sex-trade workers who work as escorts, call girls or masseuse.

Over the years there had been other initiatives such as ministry to those physically challenged, or to international students to help them adapt to the new environment (Soar on Wings Ministry – SOW). The work is often difficult as they are battling not only the frailty of men, the world forces of this darkness and spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places (Eph 6:12), but also the prejudice of churches. The driving force, however, remains focused on what the Lord said in Mt 25:40, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” I hope churches will get over their preoccupation with fun and food and get down to the King’s business.

Weird Logic?

head covering 1

Q. Isn’t Paul illogical when he argued that women should have their head covered while men shouldn’t? As Christ is the head of everyman, and the man is the head of a woman (v 3), why is it that every man who has his head covered while praying or prophesying disgraces his head (v 4), but every woman who has her head uncovered while doing the same thing disgraces her head (v 5)? This is especially so since man is the glory of God, and woman is the glory of man (v 7). It doesn’t make sense!

A. I have touched on the subject before in https://raykliu.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/head-coverings/
On the surface it does look strange, as:

1 Co 11:3
Christ is the head of man
Man is the head of woman

1 Co 11:7
Man is the glory of God
Woman is the glory of man

There is symmetrical parallel. So why should there be a discontinuity requiring a woman to cover her head while praying or prophesying but not for a man?

There is a discontinuity for two reasons. The first is that Paul was contrasting man and woman, rather than comparing their similarities:
• Origin: man does not originate from woman, but woman from man (v 8);
• Purpose: man was not created for woman’s sake, but woman for man’s sake (v 9). So there is no need to assume everything to be similar.

The second is the meaning of the covering, as a symbol of authority on the head (v 10). God made man first, then woman as his helper suitable for him (Gen 2:18). Though both are equal before God in terms of their essence, man was given the role of “head” and woman wear long hair/covering as a symbol of authority over her.

Then why doesn’t man wear long hair or covering, as Christ is his head? For two reasons:
• Man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God (v 7), and God is invisible (Col 1:15). A visual symbol is not necessary.
• Nature itself teach that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him (v 14).

While the logic may appear baffling to contemporary thinking, it is consistent with the rabbinic style of argument.

Is God Barbaric?

Deut 3 6 a

Q. Why did God command Joshua to exterminate the Canaanite children? I understand the adults were depraved idolaters, but infants? What have they done? Isn’t that cruel? Even barbaric?

A. This is difficult to understand as some felt God was a moral monster who ordered the genocide. He commanded the Israelites to utterly destroy the Canaanites and Amalekites, including infants:

Deut 2:34 So we captured all his cities at that time and utterly destroyed the men, women and children of every city. We left no survivor.
• Deut 3:6 We utterly destroyed them, as we did to Sihon king of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women and children of every city.
• Josh 6:21 They utterly destroyed everything in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword.
• 1 Sam 15:3 Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

I believe God gave this command to spare the children from something worse – being raised to become adults just as evil as their parents and deserving hell. Although babies are born sinners, God in His mercy gives grace to those who die in infancy, when they are too young to know right from wrong and exercise free will to trust God. He imputes Christ’s righteousness to those who do not have the capacity to repent and believe the gospel, and they are accepted into heaven.

When God punished David for his adultery with Bathsheba by taking away their son, David said,
2 Sam 12:22-23 “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
God was not punishing the baby as he was innocent of David’s sin. He had already taken away David’s sin (v 13), so David was not going to hell. The child will not return to David i.e. be raised to life again. But David will go to him i.e. to heaven. The last step is implied based on NT revelation.

According to Jesus, the kingdom of heaven belongs to children and people like them. It would not make sense if those who become like children can enter, while children themselves cannot enter the kingdom of God:
Mt 18:2-4 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
• Mk 10:14-15 But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”

So despite the apparent cruelty, God was in fact compassionate towards the Canaanite children by preventing them from a worse fate in hell.

War on the Bible

bible under attack 1

Recently I received a WhatsApp message from which I quote the following:
“Covert war on changing the Bible now becomes overt. The NIV was published by Zondervan but is now owned by Harper Collins, who also publishes the Satanic Bible and The Joy of Gay Sex. The NIV and ESV has now removed 64,575 words from the Bible including Jehovah, Calvary, Holy Ghost and omnipotent, to name but a few … The NIV and ESV has also now removed 45 complete verses. … Try and find these scriptures in NIV and ESV on your computer, phone or device right now if you are in doubt: Mt 17:21, 18:11, 23:14; Mk 7:16, 9:44, 9:46; Lk 17:36, 23:17; Jn 5:4; Acts 8:37 … you will not believe your eyes. …”
The message then went on other subjects such as the rapture, the mark of the beast etc., warning Christians to be vigilant.

I myself use the NASB most of the time, but supplements it with the NIV, ESV, and NKJV as the need arises. I do not like any publisher distributing books that corrupt society, but I also believe the message’s author, in criticizing the NIV and the ESV above, is over-reacting in his/her assertions.

I know the progressive attempts in revising Bible versions to make it more politically correct, such as the use of gender-inclusive language, and the downplaying of certain doctrines to make it more palatable to those who find the truth “offensive” e.g. hell, prohibition on homosexuality. When translators select language according to their own theological biases, they are no longer translating but interpreting. That is not being true to Scripture, and not acceptable.

However, language does evolve with usage and changes over time. The KJV, for example, was very modern 500 years ago, but with the passage of time became archaic and hard to understand. This necessitates fresh translations into the language of the common people, so that the reader can understand God’s word in his native tongue and cultural setting. This is not only acceptable but in fact needed if we want people to follow what the Bible teaches.

The NIV and ESV have their flaws, but not in the manner described. When the message said “64,575 words have been removed from the Bible”, I assume it was comparing both versions the KJV, which “KJV only” supporters hold to be the only reliable translation. But the examples cited are really using different words to translate the Hebrew or Greek words into English:
• Jehovah = LORD
• Calvary = The Skull
• Holy Ghost = Holy Spirit
• Omnipotent = Almighty
These are not really removal as such, but substitution. 64,575 words is a lot, representing 8.2% of the 788,258 words in the KJV. Could it be using fewer words to translate more concisely, and dropping old words no longer used in current English? Without a complete list we cannot tell, so a sweeping statement like this leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

“The NIV and ESV has removed 45 complete verses.” I tried looking them up on my online Bible as suggested. Indeed they are not there, but each has a footnote explaining why. For example, Mt 17:21’s note says “Some manuscripts include here words similar to Mk 9:29.” In other words, these words are dropped because they are in some manuscripts but not in the one on which the translation is based. This is not censorship, but consistency to the manuscript.

For that matter, the sample verses removed from but footnoted in the NIV and ESV, are quoted below from the NASB:

Mt 17:21 But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.
• Mt 18:11 For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.
• Mt 23:14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
• Mk 7:16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.
• Mk 9:44 where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.
• Mk 9:46 where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.
• Lk 17:36 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.
• Lk 23:17 Now he was obliged to release to them at the feast one prisoner.
• Jn 5:4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.
• Acts 8:37 And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

Am I concerned about left-wing liberal translations watering down the Bible? Most definitely yes. But I am just as concerned about ultra-right-wing proponents finding offence when they are not called for. Hope we can discern and know the difference.

The Shemitah

Shemitah 7

Q. There are lots of doomsayers about Sept. 2015 because it is a new sabbatical year. Many important events have happened during these sabbatical years. I wonder if there is any credence to it. There are people who claim that they have visions shown by God for the things that will happen in the future in the U.S. when the son of perdition takes power. I know this is close to the end time. Am I right to disregard them because of:
• Mt 24:24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.
• Rev 22:18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book.

A. You are referring to the Sabbath year in Leviticus 25. I think the current buzz of doom sayings was popularized by Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, who wrote the New York Times bestseller “The Harbinger” and followed it up with “The Mystery of the Shemitah“. Others fuel the speculation by pointing to the blood moon tetrad prophecy, a series of four consecutive lunar eclipses in 2014-15 falling on Jewish holidays, as a sign to the beginning of the end times.

Shemitah 5

On the surface the evidence seems convincing, with the last two Sabbath years (2001 and 2008) coinciding with 9/11 and the deepest stock market crashes in recent history. Alarms were sounded that unless America repents, disaster could strike with dire consequences. Such warnings are well-intentioned as the US does need to repent and Christians should always be prepared for emergencies, but is the theory true? I do not have the gift of prophecy, so won’t be offering any insights beyond the following comments on the fundamentals:

1. The Sabbath year was meant for good, not evil.

Lev 25:3-5 Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, but during the seventh year the land shall have a Sabbath rest, a Sabbath to the LORD; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard. Your harvest’s aftergrowth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a sabbatical year.
• Ex 24:10-11 “You shall sow your land for six years and gather in its yield, but on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat; and whatever they leave the beast of the field may eat. You are to do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.
• Deut 15:1-2 At the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts. This is the manner of remission: every creditor shall release what he has loaned to his neighbor; he shall not exact it of his neighbor and his brother, because the LORD’S remission has been proclaimed.

God designed the Sabbath year to give the land rest, so that the poor may eat. It was also a year for the remission of debts, literally a release. It was not intended to be a year for the punishment of sins, despite present writers making it out to be a year of reckoning.

2. The Sabbath year was for Israel, not Gentile nations.

Deut 5:15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
• Ps 147:19-20 He declares His words to Jacob, His statutes and His ordinances to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any nation; And as for His ordinances, they have not known them. Praise the LORD!

Deut 5:15 refers to the Sabbath day, but the principle is that God wanted Israel to remember He delivered them. His laws were for Israel, not other nations. Current authors applying the Sabbath year to other nations is not warranted.

I am not saying that there is no merit in what the financial pundits are saying about the pending collapse of the US$ and the stock market. Anyone analyzing the data realistically would realize that the Federal Reserve is like a house of cards ready to collapse and we are living in perilous times. However, you could draw that conclusion by examining economic data alone, without bringing the Sabbath year in as the cause. By doing so one is essentially saying that God works in 7-year cycles, so He will act in Sep. 2015 as prophesied by the proponents. But God is God and not bound to a timetable as predicted by our theorists.

In fact, a lecturer in empirical research methods at the European School of Culture and Theology, Germany, after reading “The Mystery of the Shemitah” did a statistical analysis to determine whether Cahn’s theory is correct. He ran tests of US GDP and stock market data versus Shemitah years and quarters, but found that there is no significant correlation between the Shemitah periods and GDP. As to stock market movements, the Shemitah periods explained only 1% of the stock market variations, meaning you have to look to other factors to explain 99% of the ups and down! His paper is attached in case you are interested.

Cahn shemitah research report

So how should we respond? The end will not come until the gospel of the kingdom has been preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations (Mt 24:14). Let me quote from the Lord Himself in Mt 24:

Mt 24:4-6 See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.
• Mt 24:13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
• Mt 24:23-24 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.
• Mt 24:42, 44 “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. … For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.

Notice the repetition of “mislead”. Deception will be the order of the day. Do not be frightened, be on the alert, be ready. Have emergency supplies of food, water and survival necessities on hand. Have cash ready when credit fails. Don’t panic. Spread the gospel. Work the works of Him who sent us while it is day; night is coming when no one can work (Jn 9:4). Do not fear; endure to the end. We are in the Lord’s hands. He will guide and protect His children.