What is the Serpent Seed doctrine?Question: "What is the Serpent Seed doctrine?"
Answer: The serpent seed doctrine is a belief based on poor biblical interpretation and superstition. It is a primary doctrinal resource for those who want to use Scriptures to justify racial prejudice. The serpent seed doctrine is also closely related to other erroneous beliefs such as the Christian Identity Movement and the Kenite doctrine. Like many false beliefs, it has a built-in defense mechanism; that is, anyone who disagrees with it is accused of being a son of the serpent. One of the most unfortunate problems with the serpent seed doctrine is that it so heavily relies on prejudice and warped biblical interpretation that it can be very difficult to discuss rationally.
Simply stated, the serpent seed doctrine teaches that the sin of Eve was not simple disobedience, but sexual contact with the serpent, and that Cain was the son of Eve and the devil. Cain’s descendants are, according to this idea, the sons of Satan, and this includes most any race or group that the serpent-seed believer chooses to dislike. This idea is rooted in superstitious beliefs and is particularly popular with white supremacists and anti-Semites; the Unification Church also supports this idea. Noted false prophets and false teachers such as Arnold Murray of Shepherd’s Chapel and William Branham espoused the idea. Although an idea should not be criticized when it is wrongly applied, it is appropriate to condemn an idea when it logically leads to sin. A philosophy that teaches that some races or people are universally satanic, like the serpent seed doctrine, is one such philosophy.
Those who support serpent-seed ideas cite many passages in the Bible as proof that their idea is correct. Almost without exception, these “proofs” require an interpretation that is totally inappropriate to the context of the passage. For example, Genesis 3:13 is often cited, with the claim that the word translated “beguiled” in the King James Version really meant “seduced.” Context and scholarship would disagree. Proverbs 30:20 metaphorically compares eating and sexual immorality; this is greatly overstated by the serpent-seed believer as proof that the Fall was sexual. Another passage is the parable of the tares in Matthew chapter 13. Those who believe in the serpent seed doctrine teach that Jesus’ description of the “children of the devil” in this parable is true in a biological sense. Again, only one who is trying to force this belief into the Bible will see it this way; it is not naturally read out of Scripture.
There are literally dozens of places in the Bible where this false idea has been wedged in, yet every single one requires a person to believe in the serpent-seed idea beforehand. Only by reading a passage and saying, “If you assume that the serpent seed doctrine is true, then this means…” can a person support this false philosophy. For this reason, arguing against the serpent seed doctrine can be difficult. Those who believe it interpret Scripture through a sort of “serpent-seed lens,” and are not likely to accept other interpretations, no matter how well supported by context and scholarship.
There are some basic questions and contradictions inherent to the serpent seed doctrine that can be used to demonstrate its lack of truth. For example, Galatians 3:28 clearly states that race and gender have no impact on our standing with God. Second Peter 3:9 says that God wants everyone to be saved, not “everyone but the children of Cain.” Nowhere in Scripture is anyone identified as a “Kenite” or condemned based on being from Cain’s lineage. Never are we warned about such people by the New Testament writers. Also, there is the question of how or why such persons survived the flood. The doctrine supposes that original sin was sexual, but cannot explain why the whole remainder of the Bible lays out a worldview where the original sin was disobedience, not sexuality.
This philosophy is most unfortunate in that it leads directly and logically to two main problems. Racism is by far the worst; believing that certain races are irredeemable has no positive application. The only possible outcome of such a worldview is prejudice and bigotry. There is also a tendency to dismiss critics of the serpent seed doctrine as being the very “Kenites” the philosophy believes in. Arnold Murray is particularly guilty of this abuse. Fortunately for believers, God has given us a resource in Scripture that can show us the truth. We need only read it with unbiased and open eyes to find true wisdom.
Recommended Resource: The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel
Dig into this topic more with Logos Bible Software—Get 10% off any base package.
What is the origin of the different races?
What was the mark that God put on Cain (Genesis 4:15)?
What is the Christian Identity Movement?
Are the teachings of Arnold Murray and Shepherd’s Chapel biblical?
Who was Lilith / Lillith?
Questions about Creation
What is the Serpent Seed doctrine?