The Serpent Seed Doctrine Examinedby
The following is a response to the “serpent seed” doctrine, which claims Cain was the offspring of Eve and the serpent, who in turn produced a lineage of ungodly “serpentine” people that survived the Noahic flood, and even remain with us to the present day. An examination of Scripture makes it clear that this is not a Biblical teaching. I do not wish to ridicule or condemn any advocate of this view, but merely to expose its error.
1 John 3:8-12
He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. 11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous. (KJV)
This passage is appealed to in support of the idea that Cain is the physical offspring of the Devil. If John is affirming that the Devil fathered Cain, then all who practice/commit sin must also be children of the Devil given the fact that John says the one who “committeth sin is of the devil.”1 That would include Adam since he sinned in the in the Garden of Eden (Hosea 6:7; Romans 5:14), and every other human being since “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Consider this short list of those who have practiced sin:
The nation of Israel (Exodus 32:1-8; Judges 2; etc.)
Saul (1 Samuel 14-24)
Solomon (1 Kings 11)
Solomon’s descendents2 (1 Kings; 2 Kings; 1 Chronicles; 2 Chronicles)
Mary of Bethany (Luke 7:37-39; John 11:2)
Clearly, when John called those that practice sin “of the devil,” he was using metaphorical speech to emphasize his point. When Jesus called Peter Satan, did he really mean that Peter was actually Satan (Matthew 16:23)? Or, did he mean that Peter was thinking in a way that did not reflect God’s will? The latter meaning is, of course, the reasonable interpretation since Christ goes on to say that “thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”3 It was Peter’s thoughts and emotions that Jesus rebuked, not his identity.
Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. 37 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; 38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; 39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. 40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (KJV)
Once again, we find a passage that is appealed to in support of the serpent seed doctrine; however, the doctrine can only be found in this passage if one reads it into the text. The most natural reading of this text acknowledges the “children of the wicked one” as “all things that offend, and them which do iniquity.”4 This passage harmonizes well with 1 John 3:8-12, as both utilize a similar symbolic use of words. Similar passages, including those that use expressions such as “generation of vipers” and “of your father the devil” (Matthew 3:7; 12:34; 23:33; Luke 3:7; John 8:44), can be interpreted most accurately in light of 1 John 3:8-12 and Matthew 13:36-42, rather than in light of the serpent seed doctrine. The Pharisees were described as a “generation of vipers” and as being “of your father the devil” because of their unrighteous fruits (Matthew 3:8; 12:35; 23:34; Luke 3:8), which is often a metaphor describing the acts that proceed forth from a person. In fact, bearing in mind that unrighteous practices themselves are what make one a child of the devil (1 John 3:8), one can see that this is clearly what is being brought to attention in this passage. Since parables often use symbols of speech, it would be unwise to immediately assume any different.
Genesis 3:1-7, 15
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of 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 hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. … 15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (KJV)
Genesis 3—the account of the fall of man—is one of the main proof-texts for the serpent seed doctrine. Before we can examine this passage, however, it would do us well to first take a look at Genesis 2.
And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. … 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Genesis 2:9, 16-17, KJV)
God caused every food-bearing tree that looked pleasant to the eye to come out of the ground. It is always asserted by serpent seed adherents that the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil are not literal trees and thus their fruit was not literal fruit. By association, however, these two trees are indeed literal trees; otherwise the other trees reasonably cannot be literal trees. Thus, by natural implication, partaking of these literal trees would be eating the literal fruits of the literal trees.
Moving forward to Genesis 3, we are introduced to a serpent in the Garden, whom we know to be Satan (Revelation 12:9). Satan may have temporarily taken on the form of a serpent, or perhaps a real serpent was possessed by Satan since we know it is possible for spirit-beings (id est angels) to inhabit a carnal body, whether human or animal (Luke 8:27-33). If Satan merely inhabited a serpent’s body, then he could not have personally fathered any offspring. Therefore, the issue that must be addressed is the possibility for Satan to have produced offspring, which would only be remotely possible if Satan actually took physical form rather than merely inhabiting an existing serpent. If this were indeed the case, which it must be for the serpent seed doctrine to retain some bit of coherency, why were all later snakes cursed to crawl on their belly and eat dust?
There is nothing here that suggests the serpent engaged in sexual relations with Eve. While it may be possible for angelic beings to impregnate women (as Genesis 6, Jude, and other non-canonical Jewish texts suggest), the punishment for doing so was being bound in chains and cast into outer darkness (Jude 1:6-7).5 If Satan committed a similar sin, why did he not suffer a similar fate? Why would God make an exception for Satan?6 Furthermore, how could Satan have had intercourse with a human if he was in the form of a serpent?7 It is physically impossible for a human to have intercourse with a snake, let alone successfully produce offspring. However, the heart of the point is this: in order to reproduce with Eve, Satan must have become entirely human; nothing in the passage even remotely suggests that he did.8
Some argue that the serpent was not truly a serpent since the Hebrew word for serpent, naw-khawsh'9, is derived from naw-khash'10, which means “hiss” or “whisper (a magic spell)” or “foretell.” The usual goal of noting this is to persuade others that this means that the serpent was not really a serpent but some kind of enchanter. While what is said aboutnaw-khash' is true, the word used for “serpent” is still naw-khawsh', which denotes, in every case, “serpent.” These words, though similar and related, are not the same and do not have the same meaning. The object of reference is most definitely a snake. If something else was intended, would it not be explained more clearly by the one that penned this account?
According to the serpent seed doctrine, the original sin was Eve’s sexual intercourse with the serpent. According to Genesis 3, however, the original sin is clearly identified as eating of the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 3:11).11
Suggesting that Genesis 3:15 supports the serpent seed doctrine requires an inconsistent interpretation of “seed” in Genesis. If Cain is to be identified as the seed of the serpent, then the distinction being made would not have been between the serpent’s seed and Eve’s seed, but between the serpent and Eve’s seed, and Adam and Eve’s seed. Instead, the seed of the serpent is clearly distinguished from the seed of the woman. Therefore, the meaning of the text is that the serpent’s offspring, other snakes, will be at enmity with the woman’s seed, other humans. Because of the distinction between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman, it is not possible for the seed of the woman to have been tainted by the serpent.
If there existed humans who were the physical descendents of Satan himself, then marriage with these people would undoubtedly be abominable. Those nations known for idolatry, witchcraft, and general savagery would obviously have to be of that tainted bloodline because it is “them that offend” and “them which do iniquity” that are identified as the children of the Devil. Most people can easily identify several of these nations. Egypt, Moab, and Babylon immediately come to mind. We will include the Kenites as well since they have been targeted as being “of Cain” by some promoters of the serpent seed doctrine.12
If Egyptians were physical descendents of Satan, then it should have been a sin for Abraham to have sexual relations with the Egyptian woman Hagar, and yet God never condemned or punished Abraham’s action.
Joseph married an Egyptian woman. His children—Ephraim and Manasseh—were both blessed by Jacob and distinguished in the nation of Israel. Surely, if their blood had been tainted by Satan, they would not have received such blessings.
Moses married the daughter of a Kenite. He was the prophet chosen by God—even after his marriage—to lead Israel out of Egypt.13 Moses’ sin that kept him from the Promised Land was not his marriage, but his disobedience to God at Meribah (Numbers 20:8-12).
Matthew’s genealogy of Christ includes Boaz, whose mother was Rahab the harlot.14 As a harlot, she would necessarily be identified as a descendent of Satan, and yet her blood is mixed in the lineage of our holy savior, Jesus Christ.
Ruth, another ancestor of Jesus, was a Moabite. The Bible paints a colorful portrait of the idolatrous nation of Moab, which came from the incestuous loins of the drunkard Lot and his two daughters. Surely Ruth must have been a descendent of Satan, and yet just like Rahab, her blood is found in Christ’s lineage.
In two of these instances, it is an Israelite marrying what the King James Version calls “strange” women. They were foreigners. What was wrong with marrying foreign women? Deuteronomy 7:2-4 makes it clear that “they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.” This reasoning would have applied even before the Law, which is why Abraham did not want Isaac to marry a Canaanite woman. If there was no threat of this happening, the marriage would be permissible, as in the case of Ruth and probably in the case of Rahab. The same reasoning is true of believers marrying unbelievers in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 6:14). Except in the case of close relatives,15 there is nothing wrong with a person marrying someone of different genealogical background.
And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. (KJV)
The truth of this passage is inescapable. “She conceived” is most definitely the effect of “Adam knew Eve his wife.” Let us examine a few other translations:
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD." (English Standard Version)
And Adam knew Eve his wife. And conceiving, she bore Cain, and said, I acquired a man through God. (Apostolic Bible Polyglot)
The phrase “and she conceived” is translated from the Hebrew word haw-raw', which means “to be (or become) pregnant, conceive (literally or figuratively).”16 The word “and” is translated as part of the description of the conception. The word itself is not in the Hebrew manuscripts. It does occur in the Septuagint as kai, which, though translated “and” in the ABP, can be translated as “and, also, even, so, then, too, etc.”17 Kai offers no indicator other than context to reveal its best translation. If one enters with preconceived notions about what the passage is saying, he or she might very well translate kai as “also.” However, a plain reading of the text easily shows that the conception of Cain is an event caused by Adam’s intercourse with his wife Eve. Taking this into account, along with the fact that the Hebrew lacks any kind of copulative article, it is clear that kai should be understood as a conjunctive rather than copulative article. Adam was indeed the father of Cain.
And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. 7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. (Genesis 6:5-7, KJV)
The reason for the Noahic flood was “that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” If the wickedness in the earth was caused by the propagation of serpentine people, then they would specifically have been the target of the flood. The reason Noah was spared was that “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.”18 God regretted that he had made man because mankind had turned utterly to wickedness. He desired to begin again with someone who would be willing to be upright and hold to the ethical principles of holiness. Noah, because of his dedication to God in the midst an evil world, found favor in the sight of God and was spared from the coming destruction.
There is no way that any descendant of Cain could have survived the flood because the purpose of the flood was to destroy the earth in order to eradicate the complete wickedness of humanity. Furthermore, Peter wrote that “few, that is, eight souls were saved by water (1 Peter 3:20).”19 These eight people were Noah, his wife, Shem, his wife, Ham, his wife, Japheth, and his wife. Only if one of the three brothers’ wives were descendants of Cain could his bloodline have survived the flood. While possible, this is unlikely. Would Noah, a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5), have allowed one of his sons to marry one of these genealogically corrupt people? It is extremely doubtful. Yet, even if this were the case, and one of Noah's sons had married a descendant of Cain, would it support the idea that Cain was fathered by Satan? Certainly not.
God that made the world and all things therein… 26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; 27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: 28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. 29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. (Acts 17:24-29, KJV)
This passage from Paul’s sermon in Athens is probably the most compelling piece of evidence against the serpent seed doctrine. All humans are of the same blood, whether they be Semitic, Aryan, Negroid, or Oriental. How could that be if there were, in the genetics of some men, the serpent’s seed? Clearly, no humans are of the serpent’s seed. Many people exhibit the same spiritual characteristics as Satan, but they are not his physical descendents.
Given the lack of evidence for the serpent seed doctrine, and the abundance of evidence against it, we ought to reject the doctrine. While people can be children of the Devil in a spiritual sense, no human is a physical descendent of the Devil. Being a child of the Devil is not a matter of race, but of the heart.
“And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11).”
1. The English Standard Version (ESV) renders this passage as “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil” (1 John 3:8). The Greek word used here for “committeth” and “makes a practice” is poieo, Strong’s word G4160, which means “make” or “do.” The tense is present and active, meaning that it is a current, active doing. In essence, anyone who is living in sin, continuing in sin, is of the devil. This is the concept that understands verse 9. The ESV represents this well.
2. Some of Solomon’s descendents broke from the pattern set by their fathers and served God. This indicates that they could not have been “children of the devil” like their fathers and some of their children supposedly were.
3. The ESV renders this “you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” The Greek word phroneo, translated “savourest” in the KJV, involves activity of the mind. This is Strong’s word G5426.
4. The ESV renders these two phrases as “sons of the evil one” and “all causes of sin and all law-breakers,” respectively.
5. This punishment applies here only if one already accepts that the “Sons of God” in Genesis 6 were fallen angels. Otherwise, it refers to something else that is, at this juncture, unknown.
6. Again, this is all said under the assumption that the theory that the Sons of God reproduced with human women is true.
7. The serpent is referred to as such throughout the entire account. Even after the sin, the serpent is called a serpent and cursed to crawl on his belly. Does Satan crawl on his belly? No. He is a spirit being, having no physical form.
8. On the broader subject of angels reproducing with human women, by the laws of nature, a being in a spiritual form of existence cannot mate with a being in a physical form of existence, let alone produce offspring. So, to what extent must those fallen angels have taken physical form for it to have been possible? They must have taken complete human form, with fully-functioning human reproductive organs, in order to produce the “mighty men.” But, can we say with certainty that this did happen? Is there enough evidence to conclude that angels became men? It is not my purpose to proclaim yea or nay in this matter, but it is certainly a bold conclusion to make based off such tricky information.
9. Strong’s word H5175.
10. Strong’s word H5172.
11. Some, while still maintaining that this Tree of Knowledge is still figurative language, claim that “eat” can mean “partake.” However, neither Strong’s nor Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew dictionaries affirm that aw-kal', the word translated in the KJV as “eaten,” can mean or be translated as “partake.”
12. The entry about the Kenites in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says this: “The word keen-ai in Aramaic means ‘smith.’ Professor Sayce thinks they may really have been a tribe of smiths, resembling ‘the gypsies of modern Europe, as well as the traveling tinkers or blacksmiths of the Middle Ages’ (HDB, under the word). This would account for their relations with the different peoples, among whom they would reside in pursuit of their calling.” (Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. “Kenites.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. E-Sword. Computer software. Ver. 9.) This indicates that their name probably has nothing to do with Cain.
13. Upon Moses’ return to his people, God’s wrath was upon him because Moses’ son was uncircumcised, not because of his son’s Kenite genealogy (Exodus 4:24-26).
14. Though it may be possible that this Rahab was not the same Rahab that helped the Israelite spies, there is no other Rahab mentioned in Biblical history, rendering the likeliness that this Rahab in Matthew’s account is the very same Rahab in Moses’ account. John Gill had this to say: “The truth of the matter is, she became the wife of Salmon, or Salma, as he is called, 1 Chronicles 2:11. And in the Targum on Ruth 4:20 is said to be of Bethlehem; he was the son of Nahshon or Naasson, a famous prince in Judah, and the head and captain of the tribe, Numbers 1:7, Numbers 7:12. And from Rahab sprung the Messiah, another instance of a Gentile in the genealogy of Christ; and a third follows.” (Gill, John. John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible. E-Sword. Computer software. Ver. 9.)
15. Although it is not explained why God forbid marriages between close family members, it is generally believed that the breakdown of the genetic structure due to the Curse is the reason.
16. Strong’s word H2029.
17. Strong’s word G2532. Kai may be copulative or conjunctive.
18. “Perfect in his generations” is rendered “blameless in his generation” in the ESV and “perfected among his family” in the Literal Translation of the Holy Bible (LITV). This passage is dealing with the moral character of Noah, not his descent.
19. The ESV renders this “few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.”
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