Cain and Abel

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File:Cain and Abel.jpg
Abel (left) and Cain (right), 19th century Bible illustration

Cain and Abel (Template:Lang-he-n Qayin, Hevel) were, according to the Book of Genesis, two sons of Adam and Eve. Cain is described as a crop farmer and his younger brother Abel as a shepherd. Cain was the first human born and the first murderer, and Abel was the first human to die. Cain committed the first murder by killing his brother. No motive is given in the Genesis narrative for the murder. Exegesis of Genesis 4 by both ancient and modern commentators have typically assumed that the motive was driven by jealousy.<ref name="Kim,2001">Template:Harvnb: Anglea Y. Kim, "Cain and Abel in the Light of Envy: A Study of the History of the Interpretation of Envy in Genesis 4:1-16," JSP (2001), p.65-84</ref> A millenniums old explanation for Cain being capable of murder is that he may have been the offspring of a fallen angel or Satan himself, rather than being from Adam.Template:SfnTemplate:SfnTemplate:Sfn Allusions to Cain and Abel as an archetype of fratricide persist in numerous references and retellings, through medieval art and Shakespearean worksTemplate:Sfn up to present day fiction.

In Islamic tradition, the Quran mentions the Cain and Abel story, referring to them as the two sons of Adam (Arabic: ابني آدم). Although their story is cited in the Quran, neither of them is mentioned by name.



Genesis narrative

Hebrew bible version: Template:Quote

Septuagint version; alternate verse 7: Template:Quote


Cain and Abel are traditional English renderings of the Hebrew names Qayin (Template:Hebrew) and Havel (Template:Hebrew). The original text did not provide vowels. It has been proposed that the etymology of their names may be a direct pun on the roles they take in the Genesis narrative. Abel is thought to derive from a reconstructed word meaning "herdsman", with the modern Arabic cognate ibil now specifically referring only to "camels". Cain is thought to be cognate to the mid-1st millennium BC South Arabian word qyn, meaning "metalsmith".<ref>Richard S. Hess, Studies in the Personal Names of Genesis 1-11, pp. 24-25. ISBN 3-7887-1478-6.</ref> This theory would make the names descriptions of their roles, where Abel works with livestock, and Cain with agriculture—and would parallel the names Adam ("man") and Eve ("life", Chavah in Hebrew).

The oldest known copy of the Biblical narration is from the 1st century Dead Sea Scrolls.<ref>(4QGenb = 4Q242) The Dead Sea Scrolls were inspected using infra-red photography and published by Jim R Davila as part of his doctoral dissertation in 1988. See: Jim R Davila, Unpublished Pentateuchal Manuscripts from Cave IV Qumran: 4QGenExa, 4QGenb-h, j-k, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1988.</ref><ref>PaeleoJudaica, Davila's blog post [search for 4QGenb].</ref> Cain and Abel also appear in a number of other texts,<ref>Jubilees 4:31; Patriarchs, Benjamin 7; Enoch 22:7.</ref> and the story is the subject of various interpretations.<ref>Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 1:7:5 (c. 180) describes (unfavourably) a Gnostic interpretation. Church Fathers, Rabbinic commentators and more recent scholars have also proposed interpretations.</ref> Abel, the first murder victim, is sometimes seen as the first martyr;<ref>Notably by Jesus of Nazareth as quoted by Template:Bibleref2 (mid 1st century), "The blood of righteous Abel," in a reference to many martyrs.</ref> while Cain, the first murderer, is sometimes seen as an ancestor of evil.<ref>Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer 21 (c. 833) and others.</ref> A few scholars suggest the pericope may have been based on a Sumerian story representing the conflict between nomadic shepherds and settled farmers.<ref>Transliteration of original language version: Dumuzid and Enkimdu at Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature (ETCSL) founded by Jeremy Allen Black from Oxford University. English translation at Template:Cite web</ref> Modern thinkers typically view the stories of Adam and Eve, which includes the story of Cain and Abel, to be about the development of civilization, during the age of agriculture. It is not considered as the beginnings of man, but well past that concept when people first learned the secret of agriculture, replacing the ways of the hunter-gatherer.Template:Sfn


The Genesis narrative does not give a specific reason for the murder of Abel. Modern commentators typically assume that the motive was jealousy due to God rejecting his offering, while accepting Abel's.<ref name="Kim,2001"/> Ancient exegetes, such as the Midrash and the Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan, suggest something even more sinister behind the killing.Template:Sfn They supplement that the motive involved a desire for the most beautiful woman. According to Midrashic tradition, Cain and Abel each had twin sisters whom they were to marry. The Midrash states that Abel's promised wife, Aclima, was more beautiful. Since Cain would not consent to this arrangement, Adam suggested seeking God's blessing by means of a sacrifice. Whomever God blessed, would marry Aclima. When God openly rejected Cain's sacrifice, Cain slew his brother in a fit of jealousy.<ref name="brewer">Template:Cite book</ref>


Template:Infobox saint

Abel (Template:Lang-he-n, Hevel; Arabic: هابيل, Hābīl) is Eve's second son. His name is composed in Hebrew of the same three consonants as a root speculated by people to have originally meant "breath", because rabbis postulated one of its roots thus, also "waste", but is used in the Hebrew Bible primarily as a metaphor for what is "elusive", especially the "vanity" (another definition by the rabbis of medieval France, Rashi in specific from his translation into Old French) of human beauty and work e.g. Hevel Hayophi (He-vel Ha-yo-fi) vanity is as beauty from the Song of Songs of Solomon.<ref>Brown Driver Briggs (BDB), p. 210.</ref>Template:Clarify Julius Wellhausen, and many scholars following him, have proposed that the name is independent of the root.<ref>Julius Wellhausen, Skizzen und Vorarbeiten, volume 3, (1887), p. 70.</ref> Eberhard Schrader had previously put forward the Akkadian (Old Assyrian dialect) ablu ("son") as a more likely etymology.<ref>Eberhard Schrader, Die Keilinschrift und das Alte Testament, 1872.</ref>

In Christianity, comparisons are sometimes made between the death of Abel and that of Jesus, the former thus seen as being the first martyr. In Template:Bibleref2 Jesus speaks of Abel as "righteous", and the Epistle to the Hebrews states that "The blood of sprinkling ... [speaks] better things than that of Abel".(Template:Bibleref2) The blood of Jesus is interpreted as bringing mercy; but that of Abel as demanding vengeance (hence the curse and mark).<ref>For copies of a spectrum of notable translations and commentaries see Hebrews 12:24 at the Online Parallel Bible.</ref>

Abel is invoked in the litany for the dying in Roman Catholic Church, and his sacrifice is mentioned in the Canon of the Mass along with those of Abraham and Melchizedek. The Coptic Church commemorates him with a feast day on December 28.<ref>Holweck, F. G., A Biographical Dictionary of the Saints. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1924.</ref>

According to the Coptic Book of Adam and Eve (at 2:1-15), and the Syriac Cave of Treasures, Abel's body, after many days of mourning, was placed in the Cave of Treasures, before which Adam and Eve, and descendants, offered their prayers. In addition, the Sethite line of the Generations of Adam swear by Abel's blood to segregate themselves from the unrighteous.

In the extra-biblical Book of Enoch (22:7), the soul of Abel is described as having been appointed as the chief of martyrs, crying for vengeance, for the destruction of the seed of Cain. This view is later repeated in the Testament of Abraham (A:13 / B:11), where Abel has been raised to the position as the judge of the souls.

According to Shi'a Muslim belief, Abel is buried in Nabi Habeel Mosque, located west of Damascus, in Syria.



Cain (Template:Lang-he-n, Qayin; Koine: Template:Lang, Ka-in;<ref>Novum Testamentum Graece (NA27): Template:Bibleref2, Template:Bibleref2, Template:Bibleref2</ref> Ethiopian version: Qayen; Arabic: قابيل, Qābīl) is the first child of Eve,Template:Sfn the first murderer, and the first human being to fall under a curse.Template:Sfn

According to the biblical narrative in Template:Bibleref2, Cain treacherously murdered his brother Abel, lied about the murder to God, and as a result was cursed and marked for life.Template:Sfn With the earth left cursed to drink Abel's blood, Cain was no longer able to farm the land.Template:Sfn Exegesis of the Hebrew narrative has Cain punished as a "fugitive and wanderer".Template:Sfn Exegesis of the Septuagint's narrative, "groaning and shaking upon the earth" has Cain suffering from body tremors.Template:Sfn Interpretations extend Cain's curse to his descendants, where they all died in the Great Deluge as retribution for the loss of Abel's potential offspring.Template:Sfn Cain's curse involves receiving a mark from God, commonly referred to as the mark of Cain. This mark serves as God's promise to Cain for divine protection from premature death, with the stated purpose to prevent anyone from killing him. It is not known what the mark is, but it is assumed that the mark is visible.Template:Sfn

The Targumim, rabbinic sources, and later speculations supplemented background details for the daughters of Adam and Eve.Template:Sfn Such exegesis of Genesis 4 introduced Cain's wife as being his sister, a concept that has been accepted for at least 1800 years.Template:Sfn This can be seen with Jubilees 4 which narrates that Cain settled down and married his sister Awan, who bore his first son, the first Enoch,<ref>Not to be confused with Enoch (ancestor of Noah)</ref> approximately 196 years after the creation of Adam. Cain then establishes the first city, naming it after his son, builds a house, and lives there until it collapses on him, killing him in the same year that Adam dies.Template:Citation needed

Concerning the commandment for Cain to wander the earth, later traditions arose that this punishment was to be forever, as referenced in the legends of the Flying Dutchman or the Wandering Jew. According to some Islamic sources, such as al-Tabari, Ibn Kathir and al-Tha'labi, Cain migrated to Yemen.Template:Citation needed

In Jewish tradition, Philo, Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer and the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan asserted that Adam was not the father of Cain. Rather, Eve was subject to adultery having been seduced by either Sammael,Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn the SerpentTemplate:Sfn (nahash, Template:Lang-he-n) in the Garden of Eden,<ref>Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, Vol.1, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998, ISBN 0-8018-5890-9, p.105-9</ref> or the Devil himself.Template:Sfn Christian exegesis of the "evil one" in Template:Bibleref2 have also led some commentators, like Tertullian, to agree that Cain was the son of the DevilTemplate:Sfn or some fallen angel. Thus, according to some interpreters, Cain was half-human and half-angelic. Gnostic exegesis in the Apocryphon of John has Eve seduced by Yaldaboth. However, in the Hypostasis of the Archons, Eve is raped by a pair of Archons.Template:Sfn

In Gnosticism, according to the Life of Adam and Eve, Cain fetched his mother a reed (Heb. qaneh) which is how he received his name Qayin (Cain). The symbolism of him fetching a reed may be a nod to his occupation as a farmer, as well as a commentary to his destructive nature. He is also described as "lustrous", which may reflect the Gnostic association of Cain with the sun. Template:Sfn

Legacy and symbolism

A medieval legend has Cain arriving at the Moon, where he eternally settled with a bundle of twigs. This was originated by the popular fantasy of interpreting the shadows on the Moon face. An example of this belief can be found in Dante Alighieri's Inferno (XX, 126<ref name="Inferno126">Dante, The Divine Comedy, Inferno, canto 20, line 126 and 127. The Dante Dartmouth Project contains the original text and centuries of commentary.

"For now doth Cain with fork of thorns confine
On either hemisphere, touching the wave
Beneath the towers of Seville. Yesternight
The moon was round."

Also in Paradiso, canto 2, line 51.

But tell, I pray thee, whence the gloomy spots
Upon this body, which below on earth
Give rise to talk of Cain in fabling quaint?"

</ref>) where the expression "Cain and the twigs" is used as a kenning for "moon".

In medieval Christian art, particularly in 16th century Germany, Cain is depicted as a stereotypical ringleted, bearded Jew, who killed Abel the blonde, European gentile symbolizing Christ.<ref name="deVries76"/> This traditional depiction has continued for centuries in some form, such as James Tissot's 19th century Cain leads Abel to Death.

In the treatise on Christian Hermeticism, Meditations on the Tarot: A journey into Christian Hermeticism, describes the Biblical account of Cain and Abel as a myth, i.e. it expresses, in a form narrated for a particular case, an "eternal" idea. It shows us how brothers can become mortal enemies through the very fact that they worship the same God in the same way. According to the author, the source of religious wars is revealed. It is not the difference in dogma or ritual which is the cause, but the "pretention to equality" or "the negation of hierarchy".<ref name="Meditations on the Tarot">Anonymous, Meditations on the Tarot: A journey into Christian Hermeticism, translated by Robert Powell 1985, 2002 ed, pp14-15</ref>

In Latter-day Saint theology, Cain is considered to be the quintessential Son of Perdition, the father of secret combinations (i.e. secret societies and organized crime), as well as the first to hold the title Master Mahan meaning master of [the] great secret, that [he] may murder and get gain.<ref>Moses 5:31</ref>

In Mormon folklore — a second-hand account relates that an early Mormon leader, David W. Patten, encountered a very tall, hairy, dark-skinned man in Tennessee who said that he was Cain. The account states that Cain had earnestly sought death but was denied it, and that his mission was to destroy the souls of men.<ref>Letter by Abraham O. Smoot, quoted in Lycurgus A. Wilson (1900). Life of David W. Patten, the First Apostolic Martyr (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News) p. 50 (pp. 46–47 in 1993 reprint by Eborn Books).</ref><ref>Linda Shelley Whiting (2003). David W. Patten: Apostle and Martyr (Springville, Utah: Cedar Fort) p. 85.</ref> The recollection of Patten's story is quoted in Spencer W. Kimball's The Miracle of Forgiveness, a popular book within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.<ref>Spencer W. Kimball (1969). The Miracle of Forgiveness (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, ISBN 0-88494-444-1) pp. 127–128.</ref> This widespread Mormon belief is further emphasized by an account from Salt Lake City in 1963 which stated that "One superstition is based on the old Mormon belief that Cain is a black man who wanders the earth begging people to kill him and take his curse upon themselves (M, 24, SLC, 1963)."<ref>Cannon, Anthon S., Wayland D. Hand, and Jeannine Talley. "Religion, Magic, Ghostlore." Popular Beliefs and Superstitions from Utah. Salt Lake City: University of Utah, 1984. 314. Print.</ref>

Popular culture

  • In the computer video game Command and Conquer, it is strongly belived that the character Kane is infact Caine. Many characters reference him as being this biblical person and in Command and Conquer 4 - Tiberium Twilight, he acends "into heaven" through the Scrin portal after being exciled on earth for killing his brother as punishment by God.
  • As the first murderer and first murder victim in the Bible, Cain and Abel have often formed the basis of tragic drama. In the classic poem Beowulf, the monstrous Grendel and his mother are believed to be descended from Cain. Lord Byron rewrote and dramatized the story in the poem "Cain", viewing Cain as symbolic of a sanguinary temperament, provoked by Abel's hypocrisy and sanctimony.<ref name="deVries76">Template:Cite book</ref>
  • In Dante's Purgatory Cain is remembered by the souls in Purgatory in Canto XIV (14) on page 153, verse 133 saying "I shall be slain by all who find me!", Cain is facing the punishment that God has visited upon him for the sin of Envy, which is a similar play on the words in Template:Bibleref2 where he says, "I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me."
  • John Steinbeck's novel East of Eden retells the Cain and Abel story in the setting of the late 19th and early 20th century western migration towards California. Also, his novella Of Mice and Men draws elements from the story.
  • Baudelaire is more sympathetic to Cain in his poem "Abel et Caïn" in the collection Les Fleurs du mal, where he depicts Cain as representing all the downtrodden people of the world. The poem's last lines exhort, "Race de Caïn, au ciel monte/Et sur la terre jette Dieu!" (In English: "Race of Cain, storm up the sky / And cast God down to Earth!")
  • Miguel de Unamuno's Abel Sánchez (1917) is a study on envy. Abel receives everything undeservingly, while his friend Joaquín is despised by God and society and envies him.
  • In Thornton Wilder's play The Skin Of Our Teeth (1942), it is stated that Henry Antrobus' real name is Cain and he accidentally killed his brother Abel with a stone.
  • Kane and Abel is a modern adaptation, a 1979 novel by British author Jeffrey Archer. In 1985, it was made into a CBS television miniseries titled Kane & Abel, starring Peter Strauss as Rosnovski and Sam Neill as Kane. In A Time for Everything (2004) by Karl Ove Knausgård, the story of Cain and Abel is retold with a focus on Cain - an introvert and troubled man who gets the reader's sympathy. In this version, God's favouring of Abel is simultaneously a curse for sneaking into Eden past the Cherubs guarding the gate. It is suggested that Abel in fact wants Cain to kill him, or at least this is what Cain believes - though he later regrets his act, and takes his punishment willingly.
  • Hermann Hesse briefly discussed the story of Cain and Abel from a non-orthodox point of view in his novel Demian where he also referred to the gnostic group called the Cainites. In Ishmael, Daniel Quinn puts forth the idea of the story of Cain and Abel being an allegory describing the conflict between agricultural and pastoral peoples in the Fertile Crescent.
  • In the epilogue to Agatha Christie's novel And Then There Were None, the author refers to the Mark of Cain in laying out the clues. There is a Stephen King short story titled Cain Rose Up, in which a college student goes on a killing spree while ruminating on the story of Cain and Abel. In the DC Comics (Vertigo division) universe, Cain and Abel are a pair of fictional characters based on the Biblical Cain and Abel. Cain is constantly killing off his brother, despite the fact they are both immortals.
  • In White Wolf Publishing's Vampire: The Masquerade RPG, an altered version of Cain's story, sees Cain(e) visited by three angels on separate occasions while wandering the earth, each of whom ask that he repent for his sins, and each of whom curses him (and all his Progeny) when he refuses. Those curses being: weakness to fire and sunlight, a need to drink of the blood of man, and an inner beast to forever torment him from within, thus making him the Progenitor of all Vampire kind, known among themselves as Cainites.<ref name="Book of Nod">Andrew Greenberg, Book of Nod (1995), pp.134, White Wolf Publishing, Inc. ISBN 1-56504-078-3</ref>
  • Cain was traditionally considered to have red hair; the expression "Cain-coloured beard" is used in Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor.<ref name="deVries76"/> In addition, Shakespeare also references Cain and Abel in Act III Scene iii of Hamlet when Claudius says, "It hath the primal eldest curse upon't/ A brother's murder!" (Lines 40-41), and in Act V, Scene i when Hamlet and Horatio are standing with the Gravedigger, who digs up a skull and Hamlet says "And yet this knave jowls it to the ground/as if it were Cain's jawbone, that did the first murther!".
  • Their names are often used in works of fiction simply as a reference, also. In Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, the character of Estragon tries to guess the names of two other characters. He guesses Abel and Cain. One of Jason Bourne's many names in The Bourne Identity and its sequels was Cain, an operative name in the Treadstone 71 program.
  • In Masami Kurumada's comic book Saint Seiya Next Dimension, characters inspired in the biblical story have been recently introduced: The Gemini Gold Saints in the 18th century are named Cain and Abel, both representing good and evil, respectively.
  • In 2009, Portuguese writer José Saramago wrote a novel entitled Cain, which tells an alternative version of the murder of Abel and the life of Cain afterwards.
  • Echo, a self-published comic-book series by Terry Moore following the Phi-project, features as an early antagonist a character who claims to be the original, biblical Cain. He spends much of his time speaking to God and frequently screams biblical and religious-themed quotations in his interactions with other characters. After his death, the character Ivy Raven had one of his fingers sent to a laboratory for carbon dating which revealed that he was approximately 25,000 years old, offering the first substantive proof to support the character's claims. Ivy later performs further research on the history of the story of Cain and Abel, and at one point visits Wikipedia; this portion of the comic includes verbatim quotations from this page.
  • Fantasy author Karl Edward Wagner wrote a series of novels and stories about an immortal red-bearded warrior named Kane, who is clearly modeled on the biblical Cain. In Wagner's story there is a moral inversion where God is an evil ancient astronaut performing genetic experiments on early humans. Kane's brother accepts God's authority, but Kane rises up in heroic defiance, murders his brother, and rejects God. He is cursed with blue eyes that seem to literally glow with hatred and insanity. The Kane stories mostly take place in a fantasy age of Earth's past and are made distinctive by the presence of both magic and alien technology. Wagner wrote several stories that bring the immortal character into the 20th century and which imply that at some point he succeeded in his quest to kill God.
  • The character Kwai Chang Caine in the television series Kung Fu, is modeled after the character Cain. After killing, Caine is forced to wander the Earth, remorse torn but unrepentant because of his sense of social justice.
  • In the 2011 comic mini-series The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, the biblical Cain is an immortal who wrote a book that would be later called the Hercules Method. The book only truly works for a select few, who through its use become inhumanly strong, durable and able to see humans as just musculature; but at the price that it also causes aggressive and violent traits to become dominate. Passing down this book in many forms, Cain has gained a cult following of people who could access the hidden abilities, including Jack the Ripper. Luther Strode, the title character, is one person to receive this book and truly use it, he obtains it from a mail order Charles Atlas parody. Because of this, he is sought out to be recruited by Cain, who sends a man known as the Librarian in his place. Cain only makes an appearance twice during the series, once in the beginning when he's bound to a wall, then in a detailed flashback of his journey from killing his brother, becoming the king of Nod, to writing the book.
  • The Oasis song "Guess God Thinks I'm Abel" from their 2005 album Don't Believe The Truth.
  • The song on Marilyn Manson's 2012 album Born Villain titled "Children of Cain", references the biblical character.
  • In the game Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor the main character and his cousin, who considers himself the main character's older brother, are supposed to be the reincarnation of Abel and Cain respectively.
  • The science fiction/horror writing site The SCP Foundation has many articles referencing Cain and Abel, most notably SCP-073 and SCP-076, which very closely resemble the biblical characters and even share names with them.
  • In the 2009 movie Year One, the two main characters, Zed and Oh, meet Cain and Abel shortly after leaving their home forest, and witness Cain kill Abel. Cain then tells them that they have to escape with him or else risk being blamed for Abel's death, and then sells them into slavery. Zed and Oh meet Cain again later in the movie in Sodom, where Cain is a guard and apologizes for selling them into slavery, also convincing them to join the guard as well. Cain eventually is present at Zed and Oh's trial, where he reads the charges against them (slipping in the murder of Abel), and fights with the king in the final battle.
  • Heavy Metal band Avenged Sevenfold gained their name from Genesis 4:24 and tell the story of Cain and Abel through the track "Chapter Four" <ref></ref>


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See also




Further reading

External links


da:Kain og Abel fa:هابیل و قابیل ko:카인과 아벨 hy:Կայեն և Աբել id:Kain dan Habel it:Caino e Abele he:קין והבל lt:Kainas ir Abelis nl:Kaïn en Abel ja:カインとアベル no:Kain og Abel pl:Kain i Abel pt:Caim e Abel sr:Каин и Авељ tl:Cain at Abel te:కయీను tr:Habil ve Kabil

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