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Bible family tree, that’s the tree for me

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 01, 2002

Family tree of the Bible. Now, how exactly did Cain beget Enoch and Seth beget Enos?

I found that image via a Google image search for “family tree”, which yielded a lot of great images, including this map tracing a large group of Icelandic** asthma patients back to one person.

**Icelanders are particularly valuable as genetic research subjects these days because of their homogeneous population and meticulous genealogical records.

Reader comments

anilApr 02, 2002 at 2:06AM

Google is failing me, but I remember a similar homogeneity and value to genetic research being ascribed to the Basque people. Ring a bell with anybody?

Personally, I think the Basque are so distinct genetically and linguistically because they are the descendants of the neanderthals that co-existed with modern homo sapiens.

I have no scientific basis whatsoever to support that claim, but then again, I’m no anthropologist.

tamimApr 02, 2002 at 2:45AM

Well, Adam and Eve did have other “sons and daughters” [Genesis 5:5]. I think the The Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia tried to spare us the uncomfortable imagery children of Cain and Seth mating with their uncles and aunts, the children of Adam and Eve, with this hokey explanation that the children of Seth (“sons of God”) mated with the Children of Cain (“daughters of men”) [Genesis 6:2].

Father Peter Daly of the Catholic Digest answered this same question from the parent of a five year old: “[T]ell your 5-year-old the truth: The Bible does not really answer the question. It is not fair to expect that it should. That itself will be a useful lesson for her. We cannot ask the Bible to be something it is not. It is not a science textbook and Genesis is not literal history.

Then there is the possibility that Cain and Seth mated with their “step sisters,” the daughters of Adam’s “first wife” Lilith. She bore a host of daughters and only one son for Adam. These women were “experts at lovemaking,” and may have been the wives of Cain and Seth, and mothers of many.

tamimApr 02, 2002 at 3:06AM

And I almost forgot, Ezekiel Springer, born in 1754. He traced his ancestry back to Adam (via Seth). He never mentions his Great^137th grandma.

This is what I could find on the Basque people: “Basque people (or Euskadi) it boils down to their belief that they are a descended from the first Cro-Magnon humans (generally referred to as ‘the first modern humans’) to enter Europe about 40,000 years ago and have preserved their identity ever since.”

AmyApr 02, 2002 at 6:51AM

The Amish are also good as far as a pure genetic pool goes. I remember reading that there’s an unusually high number of people with polydactylism among the Amish — something like one in six people — whereas in the rest of the population it’s like one in every four hundred thousand. (Yes, fascinating.)

Roger L WaggenerApr 02, 2002 at 10:30AM

” Now, how exactly did Cain beget Enoch and Seth beget Enos?”

I never understood why this confuses so many people.

The book of Genesis says Adam was created first and Eve from his rib.

Nowhere does it say that no other “first generation” people were directly created.

Kevin FoxApr 02, 2002 at 12:41PM

Did the others stay in the Garden of Eden? Were they kicked out for walking on the Grass of Power, or peeing in the Lake of Gentility? Are all the men missing ribs? And why are Adam and Eve the only ones written about?

More to the point, if there was a larger geneological pool to draw from, why does the Bible turn a blind eye to those not ‘of the blood’?

jessamynApr 02, 2002 at 1:30PM

They did some genetic testing to find out that nearly everyone named Cohen is related to a single ancestor

“…It was discovered that a particular array of six chromosomal markers were in 92 percent Cohens tested. This collection of markers came to be known as the Cohen Modal Haplotype (CMH) and is the standard genetic signature of the Jewish priestly family…”

Steven GarrityApr 02, 2002 at 2:24PM

Salon has a good article on Bryan Sykes’ book The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry. I wonder when we’ll reach a limit in our ability to reconstruct the past from the present. Is there a Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of History?

Jesse anthronerdApr 02, 2002 at 3:09PM

yep yep, interesting stuff, glad someone caught the Cohen marker thing, they used that to prove that this small tribe of African Jews did in fact come into contact with Jews from up north (I guess the fact that they told them this was true and practiced all the Jewish practices was not enough evidence, hmm),

polydactylism is common in amish populations because they are largely inbred, same with cats. :)..

and the icelandic folks are fun to study, especially the old stuff because it was one of the last times a group of humans actually went somewhere and didn’t encounter another group of humans, their culture and language changes little from the old Viking days until quite recently, due to not much contact with the Continent, but you knew that already!

jkottkeApr 02, 2002 at 3:58PM

Nowhere does it say that no other “first generation” people were directly created.

That’s one possible explanation…not A doesn’t necessarily make B true. Another is that Eve had sex with her children. Another explanation is that Adam and Eve had daughters who then had sex with their brothers. Another is that the whole Adam and Eve thing is just a myth. And so on…

anilApr 02, 2002 at 4:10PM

I just always figured Cain and Seth were lovers.

jessamynApr 02, 2002 at 4:35PM

and while we’re discussing the inbred and their infirmities, two of my favorite stories are the old congenitally deaf community that used to exist and thrive on Martha’s Vineyard [marvellously described in Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language] and the pedigree of the Blue People of Kentucky [another great graphic there].

Jerry KindallApr 02, 2002 at 6:04PM

The “early humans had sex with their relatives” explanation is in fact what the church I grew up in held to be the case. You’ll note that incest is not expressly prohibited until quite a bit later in the Old Testament.

Of course that doesn’t explain how they avoided the deformities typical of heavily-inbred populations. That is, according to one minister I heard lecture on the topic, the real miracle.

Mark McDonaldApr 02, 2002 at 6:36PM

As I understand my (very limited) Grade 11 biology, inbreeding allows genetic defects to accumulate in individuals. For example, the royal families of Europe’s genetic problems got worse over successive generations. If Adam and Eve were created by God it is reasonable to assume that they had no genetic defects (which arise from copying errors, UV rays, etc) and therefore inbreeding would not cause dramatic problems, that is until enough defects had accumulated in the collective human genome.

vacapintaApr 02, 2002 at 7:05PM


What about Lillith??

philApr 02, 2002 at 7:34PM

i was told once in church that the inbreeding, etc…was the reason why humans didn’t live hundreds of years as they did in the good ole O.T..

exciting mythology.

jasonApr 04, 2002 at 3:52PM

hey, anyone notice something there. The Bible says that Jesus will be a decendant of David, and while Joseph was indeed a decendant, doesn’t the virgin birth negate Jesus’s relation to King David and therefore not fulfil the prophecy?

Just wondering.

J~

brianApr 05, 2002 at 12:38PM

jason (not kottke): I believe Mary’s lineage was traced back to David as well, avoiding that problem. Sorry I don’t have a link to back it up.

aramApr 06, 2002 at 12:37AM

If you just want a really good geneological site, go to . It’s run by the Mormon church, and believe it or not, I don’t know how it got there, but I’ve found my families geneology on there going back seven generations.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.

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