From a Catholic perspective, what can be said about the fact that Adam and Eve 'knew each other' only after original sin?

  • 1
    Can you please provide a quote or reference showing this is actually a Catholic belief? And do you mean the fall rather than original sin? The whole question doesn't really make much sense... even after I tried editing it.
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 2 '15 at 0:36
  • @curiousdannii Gn 4:1 Also, 'to know each other' is euphemism used in the Bible, at least in my language, to denote a conjugal relationship Feb 2 '15 at 0:40
  • That doesn't say they didn't sleep together before the fall!
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 2 '15 at 0:41
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    Though Catholics may believe the opposite of this question's premise (that Adam and Eve only had sex after the fall), that is not a reason to close, but it should certainly be in any answer given. I think the question is fine @curiousdannii
    – fгedsbend
    Feb 2 '15 at 4:20
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    @curiousdannii Using the expression "original sin" to refer to the event of the fall rather than the doctrine is pretty common among Catholic laity. I don't see any issue with leaving it the way it is as what is meant will be readily apparent to anyone with expertise to answer the question anyway.
    – Caleb
    Feb 2 '15 at 12:33

St. Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica question "Whether in the state of innocence there would have been generation by coition?" sheds some light on this. St. Thomas quotes a chapter of Gregory of Nyssa entitled "What we must answer to those who raise the question—'If procreation is after sin, how would souls have come into being if the first of mankind had remained sinless?'," who

says (De Hom. Opif. [On the Making of Man] xvii) that in paradise the human race would have been multiplied by some other means, as the angels were multiplied without coition by the operation of the Divine Power. He adds that God made man male and female before sin, because He foreknew the mode of generation which would take place after sin, which He foresaw.

Yet, according to St. Thomas, "this is unreasonable" because

what is natural to man was neither acquired nor forfeited by sin. Now it is clear that generation by coition is natural to man by reason of his animal life, which he possessed even before sin, as above explained (Question [97], Article [3]), just as it is natural to other perfect animals, as the corporeal members make it clear. So we cannot allow that these members would not have had a natural use, as other members had, before sin.

St. Thomas also quotes St. Augustine's De Civ. Dei [City of God] xiv, 26:

We must be far from supposing that offspring could not be begotten without concupiscence. All the bodily members would have been equally moved by the will, without ardent or wanton incentive, with calmness of soul and body.

Thus, there is nothing sinful about sexual intercourse itself, nor is it the result of sin.

More to the point of your question is the objection St. Thomas poses in the same article:

Objection 2: Further, our first parents were created at the age of perfect development. Therefore, if generation by coition had existed before sin, they would have had intercourse while still in paradise: which was not the case according to Scripture (Gn. 4:1 ["…Adam knew Eve his wife…" after the fall]).

to which he replies with St. Augustine's opinion:

Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. [Literal Interpretation of Genesis] ix, 4), our first parents did not come together in paradise, because on account of sin they were ejected from paradise shortly after the creation of the woman; or because, having received the general Divine command relative to generation, they awaited the special command relative to time.

Here's the original Latin of St. Augustine with the translations from here:

Quare primi parentes in paradiso non coierint.
[Why was there no nuptial union in Paradise?]

Cur ergo non coierunt, nisi cum exiissent de paradiso? Cito responderi potest: Quia mox creata muliere, prius quam coirent, facta est illa transgressio, cuius merito in mortem destinati, etiam de loco illius felicitatis exierunt. Non enim Scriptura tempus expressit, quantum interfuerit inter eos factos, et ex eis natum Cain.
[Why, then, did they not have intercourse until they had left Paradise? The reason is that soon after the creation of the woman, before they had relations, they committed the sin because of which they were destined to die and because of which they went forth from the place of their blessedness. As a matter of fact, Scripture has not specified the length of time between their creation and the birth of their son Cain.]

Potest etiam dici quia nondum Deus iusserat ut coirent. Cur enim non ad hanc rem divina exspectaretur auctoritas, ubi nulla concupiscentia tamquam stimulus inobedientis carnis urgebat? Ideo autem hoc non iusserat Deus, quia secundum suam praescientiam disponebat omnia, in qua et eorum casum procul dubio praesciebat, unde iam mortale genus propagandum esset humanum.
[One might also say that the delay was due to the fact that God had not yet ordered them to come together in nuptial union. For why should they not await God's authorization for this, since there was no drive of concupiscence coming from rebellious flesh? God had not ordered such a union because He provided for everything in the light of His foreknowledge, in which He undoubtedly foresaw their fall, as a result of which the human race was to be generated as a mortal race.²²]
²²[Translator's note: "I understand mortale as a predicate adjective referring back to genus humanum."]

  • Thanks Geremia. You've helped me both in this question and in defending the suitability of another question that I asked on what would have happened if Israel had accepted Jesus as their Lord. ;) Feb 1 '15 at 21:52
  • Geremia, from a comment by curiousdanii to my question, he rightly points out that just because the Bible is silent about a conjugal relationship previous to the fall, we cannot assumes that it did not happen, or can we? What is the basis for us to know that the first couple only came together after the fall? Feb 2 '15 at 0:55
  • I'm thinking that in a perfect state, that conjugal relationship would have given fruits, children. If nothing is written in the Bible, then there could not have been any relationship before... Feb 2 '15 at 1:14
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    @Anoldmaninthesea. Yes, I can't imagine Eve before the fall not conceiving upon just one act of intercourse with Adam, had they done so. St. Augustine's argument that they were awaiting "God's authorization for this, since there was no drive of concupiscence coming from rebellious flesh" is thus cogent, esp. since Gen. 1:22 ("…increase and multiply…") is not a command or precept (cf. this).
    – Geremia
    Feb 2 '15 at 3:35

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