- For the Christian concept of the "seed of the serpent" see Seed of the Woman
Serpent seed, dual seed or two-seedline is a controversial doctrine, according to which the serpent in the Garden of Eden mated with Eve, and the offspring of their union was Cain. This belief is still held by some adherents of the white-supremacist theology known as Christian Identity, who claim that the Jews, as descendants of Cain, are also descended from the serpent. The idea has also existed in several other non-racial contexts, and major proponents include Daniel Parker (1781–1844) and William M. Branham (1909–65).
The doctrine that Eve mated with the serpent, or with Satan, to produce Cain also appears in early Gnostic writings such as the Gospel of Philip (c. 350); however, this teaching was explicitly rejected as heresy by Irenaeus (c. 180) and later mainstream Christian theologians. A similar doctrine appeared in Jewish midrashic texts in the 9th century and in the Kabalah. It is considered a false doctrine by mainstream Protestants. Catholic theologians point to the fact that the Bible states that the original sin is that of Adam and Eve eating a forbidden fruit.
The Serpent Seed idea appears in a 9th-century book called Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer. In his book Cain: Son of the Serpent, David Max Eichhorn, traces the idea back to early Jewish Midrashic texts and identifies many rabbis who taught that Cain was the son of the union between the serpent and Eve. Some Kabbalist rabbis also believe that Cain and Abel were of a different genetic background than Seth. This is known among Kabbalists as "The Theory of Origins". The theory teaches that God created two "Adams" (adam means "man" in Hebrew). To one he gave a soul and to the other he did not give a soul. The one without a soul is the creature known in Christianity as the serpent. The Kabbalists call the serpent Nahash (meaning serpent in Hebrew). This is recorded in the Zohar:
"Two beings [Adam and Nachash] had intercourse with Eve, and she conceived from both and bore two children. Each followed one of the male parents, and their spirits parted, one to this side and one to the other, and similarly their characters. On the side of Cain are all the haunts of the evil species; from the side of Abel comes a more merciful class, yet not wholly beneficial – good wine mixed with bad." (Zohar 136)
In The Scofield Study Bible Scofield says, "The serpent, in his Edenic form, is not to be thought of as a writhing reptile. That is the effect of the curse (Gen 3:14). The creature which lent itself to Satan may well have been the most beautiful as it was the most "subtle" of creatures less than man". Scofield's notes are silent as to the idea of Cain being the serpent's seed, however in Genesis 6:2 his notes claimed that while it was an "error" to believe that the offspring mentioned were the product of supernatural unions, it was instead the intermarriage of the "godly line of Seth" with the "godless line of Cain" being referred to. Advocates suggest that modern Christian translations of the Old Testament reduce emphasis on this concept, which they believe indicated that the serpent had been an upright, human-like creature.
The foundational scripture for the serpent's seed doctrine appears in Genesis 3:15, which in the King James Version states "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." Advocates interpret this literally to mean that an offspring of the Serpent via Eve would eventually lose in a mortal conflict with one of "her seed". Eve's son by Adam would have presumably been called "Adam's seed" so it has been suggested, since a woman does not naturally produce seed, that "her seed" is the first prophesy of an eventual human messiah produced by means of a virgin birth. Adherents believe this sets up the serpent's seed as an antitype to Jesus Christ.
Advocates also point out that in Genesis chapter 4 it is mentioned only once that Adam "knew" his wife, yet twice it is mentioned that she bore sons (Genesis 4:1-2; see heteropaternal superfecundation). Advocates also believe an unmentioned act of infidelity is implied by reproductive and marital curses placed on Eve in Genesis 3:16, that otherwise seem inappropriate to merely eating a forbidden fruit. St. Paul seems to suggest as much in the second Epistle to the Corinthians, where he may have implied that Eve was not a chaste virgin at the time Adam first had relations with her: "For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted..." (2 Corinthians 11:2-3)
In the New Testament, the first Epistle of John also states, "Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother." (1 John 3:12) John also recorded in his gospel that Christ said, "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him." (8:44) Advocates of the serpent seed doctrine have interpreted these verses to imply that the New Testament writers believed that Cain, the first murderer, was indeed the serpent's seed.
The doctrine that Eve mated with the serpent, or with Satan, to produce Cain, has been taught in various forms for thousands of years, and it finds its earliest expression in Gnostic writings (e.g., the Gospel of Philip) and especially in Manichaean doctrines; however, it was soundly rejected by mainstream Christian theologians such as Irenaeus in the 2nd century, and St. Augustine in the 4th century.
More recent variants are central to the beliefs of Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists founded by Daniel Parker. Other variations are espoused by groups that adhere to the Christian Identity movement. Some of these groups appear to use the doctrine as a rationalization for racist beliefs. One of the largest, but non-denominational, groups that believes in a form of the serpent seed doctrine are the followers of Branhamism who are documented to number over 1,500,000.
The doctrine of the Serpent's Seed is followed by several minor Christian groups, the followers of Branhamism, Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists, and some adherents of the Christian Identity Movement among others. There are variations of the doctrine and differences between these groups but the basic belief is that the Original Sin was an act of sexual intercourse between Adam and Eve and, prior to that act, Eve was sexually seduced by the serpent and committed sexual intercourse with the serpent; further, that Cain was conceived by the act with the serpent and Abel was conceived by the act with Adam.
The main variations are on the aftereffects of the act. Some proponents believe that the serpent was Satan himself. Others believe that the serpent was an animal being influenced by Satan. Another key difference is in the descendants of Cain. Some believe that the two lines remained separate and that eventually Cain's descendants were all destroyed, others believe that Cain's descendants became completely mixed with the descendants of Adam (meaning that all humanity is partially descended from Cain), and still others believe that the two lines remain separate to this day. Finally others disagree whether sex itself was the original sin or if the original sin was sex for pleasure rather than sex for reproduction.
The following points and scriptures are largely agreed upon by all proponents to be the basis of the Serpent Seed doctrine, although variations do occur as mentioned above.
- The Two Trees. The starting point of the discussion is usually on the two trees, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Gen 2:10) Proponents note the difference between the "trees that grow out the ground" as opposed to "the trees in the midst of the garden." This is used to indicate the two trees are not physical trees but principles (e.g. ideas, rules). They also point to the Book of Revelation, where the Tree of Life is now in heaven to show that the two trees are not the same kind of trees that grow on Earth but instead are something spiritual. (Rev 2:7 and 22:2) Furthermore they point out that since man chose to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, it should still be visible somewhere in the world today, which they claim is the overt sexuality of society.
- The Serpent. (Gen 3) The serpent in its original form was a creature capable of speech, and it had not yet at that point been cursed to go "upon [its] belly"; thus some proponents claim that the "serpent" was originally an upright human-like creature. Some proponents claim the serpent was intended to be used for manual labor and therefore was made to look like a man but was not given a soul. The chapter states that the serpent "beguiled" Eve. In Early Modern English this word literally meant to seduce or lead astray.
- Sex. In the Bible, the sexual act is always obliquely referenced in Moses' writings. It is always referred to discreetly, such as "knowing". Similarly in the Book of Proverbs, it states "such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness." (Prov 30:20) This is used as evidence that the trees and the fruit are just another cryptic way to describe sex.
- The Punishment. (Gen 3) Proponents also point to the punishment to show that the act was sexual. When Adam and Eve sinned they covered their genitals, not their mouths, indicating they sinned not with their mouths but with their genitals. The punishment God put on them also affected sexual reproduction: He caused the woman to have menstrual cycles and to have increased pain in childbirth. God's curse also put enmity between the descendants of Adam (e.g., Abel) and the descendants of the serpent (e.g., Abel's murderer Cain).
- The Birth. (Gen 4) At the birth of Cain, Eve said "I have gotten a man from the Lord." Proponents claim that in the remaining two pre-Flood chapters, Adam's descendants are called the "sons of God", not "men", while the word "men" refers solely to the descendants of Cain. Eve was also called "the mother of all living" (Gen 3:20), but Adam was not similarly called "the father of all living".
- The Offspring. (Gen 4) Cain and Abel were of different occupational backgrounds. Abel tended the flocks and Cain tilled the ground. Proponents claim these traits were inherited from their fathers; Adam was to rule over the animals and the serpent was intended to tend the Garden of Eden. Another difference between them was that Abel, being of pure birth, knew how to give a proper sacrifice to God. Cain, not being pure, did not know how to give a proper sacrifice, he only knew he needed to give one, indicating he was only inherited a portion of the knowledge that Abel had inherited. His impurity was also displayed by his jealousy and murder of Abel, some proponents argue that these are not traits God would have created in Adam and Eve and could not have been inherited from them.
- The Two Lines of Descent. (Gen 4-5) Some proponents claim that because the two lines of descent are recorded separately it indicates they were somehow different. It notes how the developments in Cain's sides were all negative (e.g. Lamech's declaration in Gen 4:23 that "I have slain a man to my wounding".) But in Seth's line (Gen. 5) nothing is mentioned of anything evil, and each patriarch "begat sons and daughters". Ultimately, the two lines intermarry (Gen 6:4 "There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown."), and God then destroyed the world with a flood. Proponents also point to the biological principle of heterosis being evidenced in the offspring of the interbreeding of the two lines being giants.
- Christ. Ultimately Seth's line leads to Jesus, who was born of a virgin. Proponents point to the fact that all humanity was impure and therefore incapable of "breeding" a "pure" Son of God as the reason Christ had to be born of a virgin. Many proponents claim that Christ was born in the same state that Adam was created: perfect and without sin. They claim he had to be created by God in order for him to be pure and to be the "perfect sacrifice".
- Parable of the Tares. Regardless of the understanding of the Serpent Seed based on the book of Genesis, many who believe in the doctrine hold that one of the most important evidences for the doctrine comes from Jesus unfolding the revelation the Parable of the Tares. In this parable Jesus confirmed there were two distinct children present in the world until the end.
Christian Identity movement
Adherents of the white supremacist theology known as Two-Seedline Christian Identity hold that white people are descendants of Adam and are hence the chosen people of God. The Jewish people are said to be descendants of Cain and thus of Satan. This belief was developed by Wesley A. Swift, Conrad Gaard, Dan Gayman and William Potter Gale among others. The opposing faction is called One-Seedline Christian Identity and it holds that all people are descended from Adam, but only Aryans (here meaning Northern Europeans) are truly God's people.
William Branham's teachings
William Branham was not the first to preach the doctrine of serpent seed, but he was one of the major proponents of the doctrine in modern times. Branham was the most widely known minister of the 20th century to actually teach serpent seed and much of its spread can be attributed to him. William Branham taught that the fall of mankind resulted from Eve having sexual intercourse with an upright Beast, man-like in appearance, whom Adam had named 'Serpent'.
Because of his wide acclaim in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, Branham was widely followed in Charismatic and Pentecostal movements and to a lesser degree by Methodists and Baptists. His meetings, held all over the world, were attended by hundreds of thousands of people which gave him a very large audience. This popularity and influence gave him the best platform among all adherents of the serpent seed doctrine and it enabled him to spread the doctrine to the masses. Although he did not regularly espouse the doctrine in front of his largest audiences his belief in the doctrine was not kept secret and he did preach several sermons on it in smaller meetings.
Branham was well aware of the potential connections of the doctrine to racism but he tried to show that his belief was not racially targeted. He tried to show that although he believed in the doctrine he did not think it was a basis for racism, never applying his understanding to any ethnic group or race.
Arnold Murray's teachings
Arnold Murray (1929–2014), founder of The Shepherd's Chapel, taught the serpent seed doctrine. He accepted that the Jews (Kingdom of Judah) were descended from Adam through Seth, as described in the Bible. However, his view was that the Kenites (rather than the Jews) were the offspring of Cain, and infiltrated the northern kingdom of Israel. Murray's teachings are disputed by Protestant apologetics ministries CARM and CRI.
Jung Myung Seok's teachings
Jung Myung Seok, the South Korean founder of the Providence religious movement, taught that the original sin was Eve having sex with the serpent (Satan), and that its effect can be reversed by having sex with the Messiah, who, according to the Providence movement, is Jung himself. Jung used this doctrine to entice numerous female followers into having sex with him, for which he is now in prison.
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