Who Were Cain and Abel’s Wives?

Dear Catholic Exchange:

Someone asked me about Adam and Eve. They had two sons, where did the women come from for them to marry? I said, “I don't know, but I'll find out.” Help! How did all this happen? Thank you.

In Jesus and Mary,


Dear Kathy,

Peace in Christ!

The testimony of the ancient rabbis is that Cain and Abel married their sisters. This is also logically inferred from the Church’s doctrine on original sin. Original sin is passed on to all human beings from our first parents, Adam and Eve. As St. Paul says, “[S]in came into the world through one man” (Rom. 5:12; cf. Rom. 5:19-20 and Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 402-06).

The typical response is, “How could God sanction incest, even if only for a limited time?” The short answer is that, unlike fornication and adultery, there is nothing morally wrong with intermarriage within the first generation of offspring for Adam and Eve. They had no choice of spouse except their siblings. Beyond the first generation, there arise concerns regarding incestual birth defects and also inbreeding that will impair, not foster, family ties and the covenantal expansion of the family of God. Because of these concerns, there developed proscriptions against incest in both the Bible and modern Church Canon Law (cf. Lev. 20:17; Canon, no. 1091.2).

As a result of original sin, disease and other defects began to plague man, culminating in death. These diseases and defects are more likely to be passed on via procreation within incestual unions. However, because Adam and Eve were created directly by God, this was not a major concern for children procreated through the intermarriage of their first-generation sons and daughters; the gene pool had not been impaired as it would be in successive generations. The ancient rabbis teach that Adam and Eve had upwards of 25 sets of twins, so there would certainly be no need for incestual unions to continue after the first generation of their offspring.

United in the Faith,

Peter Balbirnie

Information Specialist

Catholics United for the Faith

827 North Fourth Street

Steubenville, OH 43952

800-MY-FAITH (800-693-2484)

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