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The Morality of Incest

Discussion in 'Political Debates' started by linwood, Apr 5, 2005.

  1. linwood

    linwood Well-Known Member

    Jul 20, 2004
    Eventually, first cousins Donald W. Andrews Sr. and Eleanore Amrhein realized they had a deeper love and wanted to wed. It couldn't happen in their home state of Pennsylvania, though, or 23 other states that prohibit first cousins from marrying each other.

    Robin Bennett, associate director of the medical genetics clinic at the University of Washington, said that laws prohibiting cousins from marrying are "a form of genetic discrimination."

  2. michel

    michel Administrator Emeritus
    Staff Member

    Sep 27, 2004
    The trouble, as usual, is that I can see 'both sides of the story' ; I happen to know two first cousins who married; both their children are mentally retarded - the older one, now some 65 years old has the mentallity of an eight year old. It is sad, and it is a difficult subject to approach.

    The title of the thread though, is 'The morality of incest'; not for the legal aspect of the potential ramifications of incest - which is there presumably to 'counteract' the effect of incest on future generations. One only has to look at the Royal Families of European Countries throughout history to see what the effects of incest can be.
    However, I found this on the Web, which is very apt and comprehensive, in this particular case
    Does the Bible Endorse Incest?

    Some superficial critics of the Bible charge that it contains a moral contradiction. It is alleged that whereas the practice of “incest” is condemned in the law of Moses, there appear to be cases in scripture where it is sanctioned. Abraham married his half-sister (Genesis 20:12), and both Isaac and Jacob married kinsmen (Genesis 22:20ff; 24:4; 24:43). Paul is said to have given his permission for a man to marry his own daughter (1 Corinthians 7:36-38). What does the Bible student say in response to these supposed problems?

    The Crime Defined

    Incest is defined as: “The crime of sexual intercourse or cohabitation between a man and woman who are related to each other within the degrees wherein marriage is prohibited by law” (Black, p. 685). Incest has been held to be repulsive, dangerous, and illegal among many civilizations – even some of the most primitive. In ancient Rome, Augustus implemented a law against incest, and children born to incestuous relationships were deemed illegitimate. Modern laws against incest appear to be grounded mainly in the Levitical code (McClintock, p. 541).

    Old Testament Examples

    There are several clear cases of incest in the Old Testament. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, begat two sons by his own daughters while in a drunken stupor (Genesis 19:30-35). Moses recorded the sordid act as a matter of history, but there is no sanction of the sin in the sacred text. In fact it is placed in a decidedly negative light. Ruben was intimate with Bilhah, his father’s concubine (Genesis 35:22) – a shameful act that was condemned and penalized (Genesis 49:4). Amnon, one of David’s sons, committed incest/rape against his half-sister, Tamar (2 Samuel 13:7-14), and, as a consequence, was murdered later by the order of Absalom, Tamar’s full brother (2 Samuel 13).

    The Levitical Code

    The most comprehensive segment of the Old Testament dealing with this offense is in Leviticus 18:6-18. Sexual cohabitation was not permitted between a man and his mother, his sister, a granddaughter, an aunt, etc. The most serious punishment was execution (Leviticus 20:11-17), and in the New Testament era, disfellowship from the local church was enjoined for the offence (1 Corinthians 5:1-5).

    In evaluating some of the cases mentioned above (e.g., Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) several factors must be borne in mind, which reveal that those situations were not parallel with some of the egregious examples that came later (e.g., Reuben, Amnon).

    1. The regulations of the Law of Moses were binding only upon those to whom it was given at the time, and subsequently upon all who lived under that law until its abolition (at the death of Christ – Romans 7:1ff; Ephesians 2:11ff; Colossians 2:13-17). Even in our legal system there is recognition of the ex post facto principle, namely that one is not amenable to the consequences of a law passed after the commission of a certain act. The people of the Patriarchal Period, therefore, were not under the specific regulations of the Mosaic Code. They were obligated to universal moral principles, but not to the intricate details of some of the Mosaic regulations which came later. Note this comment from Professor Walter Kaiser.

      “Prior to Moses’ time, incest in many of the forms later proscribed, were not thought to be wrong. Thus, even Moses’ own father, Amram, married an aunt, his father’s sister, Jochebed (Exodus 6:20)” (Kaiser, et al., p. 101). ​
    2. God has never approved of indiscriminate sexual activity outside of the marriage relationship in any age of human history. As one writer has noted,

      “the fundamental problem with incest [and other extra-marital sexual sins] is that it strikes at the soundness of the family. And since the family is central to God’s purposes and work on earth, his judgment on this practice is fierce” (Coppenger, p. 1030). ​

    The Patriarchal Circumstance

    In the early stages of human history, “marriage” among kinsmen was not deemed immoral. The fact is, such was a necessity from the nature of the situation. The children of Adam and Eve must have married kinsmen, for there were no other people on earth except those descended from the original pair.

    1. And so, as noted already at the beginning of this article, in the Patriarchal period there were familial marriages that do not appear to have been censured by Jehovah, but which were prohibited in a later epoch of law.
    2. There is another factor that must be considered. In the early days of the human family, before sin, disease, and genetics took such a deadly accumulative toll, Adam’s offspring were much more physically vigorous than they now are. And so inter-family unions would not have resulted in the debilitating effects that are characteristic of such relationships in the modern world. Adam himself lived to be 930 years of age, yet by the time of Abraham, 175 was a “good old age” (Genesis 25:7-8); eventually human longevity would level out at approximately 80 years on average (Psalm 90:10). “Time,” in a sinful world, has extracted a high cost.

    Paul and the Corinthian Situation

    In the 7th chapter of his First Corinthian letter, Paul, by the inspiration of the Spirit, gave a variety of instructions pertaining to the marriage relationship. Some of these were fixed rigidly as a matter of moral correctness. Others were given by way of the apostle’s seasoned advice.

    One of the historical realities woven into the fabric of Paul’s message is that of a serious, impending persecution that threatened the ancient saints (see: vv. 26,29,32,35,38,40). Some of his instruction hinged on the premise of this coming reality.

    Here is the passage that is the focus of this “tempest in a tea pot” controversy.

    “But if any man thinks that he is behaving himself unseemly toward his virgin daughter, if she be past the flower of her age, and if need so requires, let him do what he will; he is not sinning; let them marry” (1 Corinthians 7:36). ​

    To foist upon this text the meaning that a father is allowed to marry his own daughter, if he cannot resist the temptation of being intimate with her, is one of the most perverse misappropriations of scripture imaginable. Let us examine the context with common sense.

    1. First, the historical or cultural circumstances must be taken into consideration. In that age, parents arranged their children’s marriages more often than not. A father could consent to his daughter’s marriage, or withhold permission, depending upon the circumstances. Children grew up in this environment, and they embraced this process out of respect for their parents and tradition. Apparently, these unions were much more stable than those of the modern merry-go-round, marriage/divorce glitches that so trouble society today (where about half of all marriages end in divorce). It is against this background that Paul’s advice takes its rise.
    2. In view of the foregoing, we would paraphrase verse 36 as follows:

      “But if any man [father] thinks that he is behaving himself improperly [by refusing his daughter permission to marry due to the impending persecution] with reference to his virgin [daughter], if she is past the flower of her age [mature enough for marriage], and if need so requires [there is a more compelling factor that overrides the danger of persecution], let him [the father] use his own judgment [and grant her permission to marry in spite of the apostle’s general advice to remain single]; he [the father] will not be sinning [in granting this concession].” ​
      Thus, Paul himself concedes permission for the marriage at the father’s discretion. Yet (in v. 37), the apostle thinks that in most cases the father would do better to stand his ground [against his daughter’s emotional pleading], and think foremost of her safety and Christian fidelity – that could be jeopardized in a time of intense tribulation.
    This text, therefore, has nothing under the sun to do with incest.:)
  3. Scuba Pete

    Scuba Pete Le plongeur avec attitude...

    Dec 1, 2004
    Christian Taoist
    The word "man":

    Romanized tis
    Pronounced tis
    an enclitic indefinite pronoun; some or any person or object:
    KJV--a (kind of), any (man, thing, thing at all), certain (thing), divers, he (every) man, one (X thing), ought, + partly, some (man, -body, - thing, -what), (+ that no-)thing, what(-soever), X wherewith, whom[-soever], whose([-soever]).

    The word "Virgin":

    Romanized parthenos
    Pronounced par-then'-os
    of unknown origin; a maiden; by implication, an unmarried daughter:

    This is how the NIV translates the same passage:

    I Corinthians 7:36 If anyone thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if she is getting along in years and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. 37 But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin--this man also does the right thing. 38 So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does even better.

    As for first cousins marrying and whether this constitutes "incest" is not for me decide. I would agree with the court of the land.
  4. Melody

    Melody Well-Known Member

    Aug 27, 2004
    I don't know about incest but I still don't think it's a good idea. You're combining lots of recessives with the potential for disaster. One of my teachers in high school married her first cousin and had 5 children....all of whom ended up at Applecreek which is an institution for severely retarded children.
  5. Jaymes

    Jaymes The cake is a lie

    Sep 18, 2004
    Definately not my cup of tea... but if they take the measures to sterilize themselves, who am I to judge?
  6. Melody

    Melody Well-Known Member

    Aug 27, 2004
    Personally, I don't see that it's the same as a brother or sister but perhaps I'm not seeing all of it. I'm more concerned about the children they might have.
  7. betweenangelsandinsects

    Mar 29, 2005
    In the bible it says that the string of people started from one family. Once with Adam and Eve, and once with Noah. Sso somewhere in there had to be incest. But now I think they won't let first cousins marry because of birth defects but they'll let 2nds marry, for gentic reasons only because one person may have a weak chromosome and the other might have the same, resulting in imune problems etc... In the bible it does say that a son or daughter can not have sex with their mother, father, brother or his wife, sister or her husband, uncles, aunts, and their spouces, your children or their children or your childrens spouces etc... That is considered a sin. Of course that is what it says in my Catholic Bible and I am sure it says the same in other Christian Bibles.

  8. Snowbear

    Snowbear Nita Okhata

    Feb 7, 2005
    It is not my place to judge about incest, but as for the reproductive consequences...

    In the "wild," it is rare that closely related animals breed....For example... a wild stallion (male horse) will drive his offspring away from the herd when they reach sexual maturity (about 1 1'/2 years old). The males tend to hang out in bachelor herds until they find mares (females) of their own.

    In captivity, when closely related horses are bred for a successful cross, it's called "line breeding" and is considered a good thing as desireable characteristics are enhanced or passed on. When the cross ends up producing an undesirable "problem," it's either glossed over or called inbreeding.
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