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In the Hebrew Bible (Hebrew: קין ,הבל, Qayin, Hevel), Cain and Abel are the first and second sons of Adam and Eve. The Qur'an also contains this story, although Cain and Abel are named in the Qur'anic account as Habil(Abel) and Qabil(Cain).

In the Greek New Testament, Cain is referred to as εκ του πονηρου. In at least one translation this is rendered "from the evil one", while others have "of the evil one." Some interpreters take this to mean that Cain was literally the son of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. A parallel idea can be found in Jewish legend, that the serpent (Hebrew nahash נחש) from the Garden of Eden was father to firstborn Cain.

In all versions, Cain is a crop farmer and his younger brother Abel is a shepherd. Cain is portrayed as sinful, committing the first murder by killing his brother, after God has rejected his offerings of produce but accepted the animal sacrifices brought by Abel.

The oldest known copy of the Biblical narration is from the 1st century Dead Sea Scrolls.(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 See: Jim R Davila, Unpublished Pentateuchal Manuscripts from Cave IV Qumran: 4QGenExa, 4QGenb-h, j-k, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1988. Cain and Abel also appear in a number of other texts, and the story is the subject of various interpretations. Abel, the first murder victim, is sometimes seen as the first martyr; while Cain, the first murderer, is sometimes seen as an ancestor of evil. A few scholars suggest the pericope may have been based on a Sumerian story representing the conflict between nomadic shepherds and settled farmers. Others think that it may refer to the days in which agriculture began to replace the ways of the hunter-gatherer.

Allusions to Cain and Abel as an archetype of fratricide persist in numerous references and retellings, through medieval art and Shakespearean works up to present day fiction.

Etymology

Cain and Abel are traditional English renderings of the Hebrew names Qayin ( ) and Havel ( ). The original text did not provide vowels.Abel's name has the same three consonants as a root thought to have originally meant "breath", but is known from the Bible primarily as a metaphor for what is "elusive", especially the "vanity" of human enterprise.Julius Wellhausen, and many scholars following him, have proposed the name to be independent of the root.Eberhard Schrader had previously put forward the Akkadian (Old Assyrian dialect) ablu ("son") as a more likely etymology.In the Islamic tradition, Abel is named as Hābīl (هابيل), while Cain is named as Qābīl (قابيل). Although their story is cited in the Quran, neither of them is mentioned by name. Cain is called Qayen in the Ethiopian version of Genesis.The Greek of the New Testament refers to Cain three times,using two syllables ka-in ( ) for the name.

More recent scholarship has produced another theory, a more direct pun. Abel is here thought to derive from a reconstructed word meaning "herdsman", with the modern Arabic cognate ibil, now specifically referring only to "camels". Cain, on the other hand, is thought to be cognate to the mid-1st millennium BC South Arabianmarker word qyn, meaning "metal smith".This theory would make the names merely descriptions of the roles they take in the story—Abel working with livestock, and Cain with agriculture—and would parallel the names Adam ("man") and Eve ("life", Chavah in Hebrew).

The name Abel has been used in many European languages as both surname and first name. In English, however, even Cain features in 17th century, Puritan-influenced families, who had a taste for biblical names, sometimes despite the reputation of the original character.Contrary to popular belief , the surname McCain does not mean "Son of Cain" in Gaelic, rather it is a contraction (also McCann) of Mac Cathan. Gaelic cathan means "warrior", from cath "battle".

Murder and motive

For convenience, the story can be considered in two sections — 1. murder and motive and 2. confrontation and consequences.

Religious sources of the Cain and Abel story can be found in Genesis (950 to 450 BC) in the Hebrew Bible, Sura 5 (Al-Ma'ida) of the Qur'an (early 7th century) and Pearl of Great Price (1851).

Biblical account (Judeo-Christian)



Motives

The inherent selfishness of Cain, his jealousy, sibling rivalry, and aggression are central to the story. The disconnection between Cain and his higher nature is so great that he fails to understand and master his lower self even in the face of God's wisdom and hospitality. The account in The Qur'an [5.27-32], similar to one given in The Torah, also strongly implies that Cain's motivation was the rejection of his offering to God, but this is an implication and not explicitly clear.

Though Genesis depicts Cain's motive in killing Abel as simply being one of jealousy concerning God's favor for Abel, this is not the view of many extra-biblical works. The Midrash and the Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan both record that the real motive involved the desire of women. According to Midrashic tradition, Cain and Abel each had twin sisters, whom they were to marry. The Midrash records that Abel's promised wife was the more beautiful. Cain would not consent to this arrangement. Adam proposed to refer the question to God by means of a sacrifice. God rejected Cain's sacrifice, signifying His disapproval of his marriage with Aclima, and Cain slew his brother in a fit of jealousy.

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Community of Christ, there is a different view, found in part of their scripture, the Book of Moses (part of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible), which describes that Cain's motive is still jealousy, jealous of God's acceptance of Abel's offering and also Abel's livestock of which he is jealous. This translation also holds that it was Satan that "commanded" Cain to make the offering, thus making Cain's sacrifice vain and faithless.

Abel's death



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 , 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 ( ). The blood of Jesus is interpreted as bringing mercy; but that of Abel as demanding vengeance (hence the curse and mark).

Abel is invoked in the litany for the dying in Roman Catholic Church, and his sacrifice is mentioned in the Canon of the Mass with those of Abraham and Melchisedek. The Coptic Church commemorates him with a feast day on December 28.

Burial

According to the Qur'an, Cain (Kabil) buried Abel (Habil), prompted to do so by a single raven scratching the ground, on God's command. The Qur'an states that upon seeing the raven, Cain regretted his action [al-Ma'idah:27-31], and that rather than being cursed by God, since He hadn't done so before, God chose to create a law against murder:

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

Underworld

In classical times, as well as more recently, Abel was regarded as the first innocent victim of the power of evil, and hence the first martyr. In the esoteric Book of Enoch (at 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 (at A:13 / B:11), where Abel has been raised to the position as the judge of the souls:

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.

Confrontation and consequences

Bible

Qur'an

Pearl of Great Price (Mormon Scripture)

Mark of Cain

Much has been written about the curse of Cain, and associated mark. The word translated as mark ('Oth, ) could mean a sign, omen, warning, or remembrance. In the Bible, the same word is used to describe the stars as signs or omens, circumcision as a token of God's covenant with Abraham, and the signs performed by Moses before Pharaoh.

The word Ot (hard t) in Hebrew also means "a letter" (of the alphabet). Jewish mysticism, among other ancient lores, assigns spiritual ideas or powers to written letters and verses. The Mark of Cain may be a letter, a verse, a message, or a talisman.

The Bible makes reference on several occasions to Kenites, who, in the Hebrew, are referred to as Qayin, i.e. in a highly cognate manner to Cain (Qayin). Some therefore believe that the Mark of Cain referred originally to some very identifying mark of the Kenite tribe, such as red hair, or a ritual tattoo of some kind, which was transferred to Cain as the tribe's eponym. The mark is said to afford Cain some form of protection, in that harming Cain involved the harm being returned sevenfold. This is hence seen as some sort of protection that membership of the tribe offered, in a form such as the entire tribe attacking an individual who harms just one of their number.

Baptist and Catholic groups both consider the idea of God cursing an individual to be out of character, and hence take a different stance. Catholics officially view the curse being brought through the ground itself refusing to yield to, not being in harmony with, Cain, whereas some Baptists view the curse as Cain's own aggression, something already present that God merely pointed out rather than added. There are several theories; in the Catholic world one example has been put forth that rather this mark is one of grace, and that perhaps the mark of is that of Abel's blood, by which God is saying, "This man is still mine. Vengence is mine. I will repay. Hands off!" As the heart of God is always ready to show mercy. This view supports Abel as a Christ figure in paralleling Christ’s sacrifice; here a blood sacrifice which acknowledges guilt and counting himself as guilty seeks atonement (this is in contrast to Cain's sacrifice)

In Judaism, the mark is not a punishment but a sign of God's mercy. When Cain was sentenced to be a wanderer he did not dispute the punishment but only begged that the terms of his sentence be altered slightly , protesting "Whoever meets me will kill me!" For unspecified reasons, God agrees to this request. He puts the mark on Cain as a sign to others that Cain should not be killed until he has had seven generations of children. Lamech, his descendant, thought that the mark was passed down to him and also that it multiplied. In , he confesses to his wives that he killed two men (possibly one), and that if his grandfather Cain was protected seven times, then he should have it 77 times.

Wanderer

As Abel's murderer, Cain was ordered to wander the earth in punishment, a tradition arose that this punishment was to be forever, in a similar manner to the (much later) legends of the Flying Dutchman or the Wandering Jew. According to some Islamic sources, such as al-Tabari, Ibn Kathir and al-Tha'labi, he migrated to Yemenmarker.



Though variations on these traditions were strong in medieval times, with several claims of sightings being reported, they have generally gone out of favour. Nevertheless, the Wandering Cain theme has appeared in Mormon folklore (but not scripture)—a second-hand account relates that an early Mormon leader, David W. Patten, encountered a very tall, hairy, dark-skinned man in Tennesseemarker 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. 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.

Despite these later traditional beliefs of perpetual wandering, according to the earlier Book of Jubilees (chapter 4) Cain settled down, marrying his sister, Awan, resulting in his first son, Enoch (considered to be different from the more famous Enoch), approximately 196 years after the creation of Adam. Cain then established the first city, naming it after his son, built a house, and lived there until it collapsed on him, killing him in the same year that Adam died.

A medieval legend used to say that at the end, Cain arrived at the Moon, where he eternally settled with a bundle of twigs. This was originated by popular fantasy interpreting the shadows on the Moon face. An example of this belief can be found in Dante Alighieri's Inferno (XX, 126) where the expression "Cain and the twigs" is used as a synonym of "moon".

Legacy and symbolism

15th century depiction of Cain and Abel, Speculum Humane Salvationis, Germany.


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

Another view is taken in Latter-day Saint theology, where 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.

Literature

As the first murderer and first murder victim, Cain and Abel have often formed the basis of tragic drama. 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.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 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 Californiamarker. Also, his novelette 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.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.

Some form of legacy or curse of the name is often seen in literature: the monster Grendel in Beowulf is a descendant of Cain. 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, in Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. In the series, Cain is constantly killing off his brother, despite the fact they are both immortal.

Cain was traditionally considered to have red hair; the expression "Cain-coloured beard" is used in Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor. 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).

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 The Bourne Identity and its sequels was Cain, an operative name in the Treadstone 71 program.

See also



References

  1. Genesis 4:1-2, "And the man knew Eve his wife; and she conceived and bore Cain, and said: 'I have gotten a man with the help of the YHWH.' And again she bore his brother Abel." Jewish Publication Society Bible, 1917 (public domain)
  2. Qur'an, 5:27-32
  3. 1 John 3:12
  4. International Standard Version
  5. New American Standard Version, Douay-Rheims Bible, English Revised Version, World English Bible, Young's Literal Translation, etc.
  6. Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, Vol.1, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998, ISBN 0-8018-5890-9, p.105-9
  7. "Cain cultivated the land" -
  8. "Abel became a shepherd." ( )
  9. and others (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, BHS)
  10. Abel brought the from the firstborn of his flock and from their fats, whereas Cain brought from the fruits of the earth. Relevant passage quoted in text below
  11. PaeleoJudaica, Davila's blog post [search for 4QGenb].
  12. Jubilees 4:31; Patriarchs, Benjamin 7; Enoch 22:7.
  13. 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.
  14. J. H. Hatfield, Why Call Me God? : The Gospel Seen with a Single Eye, ISBN 978-0-9562057-0-4.
  15. Notably by Jesus of Nazareth as quoted by (mid 1st century), "The blood of righteous Abel," in a reference to many martyrs.
  16. Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer 21 (c. 833) and others.
  17. 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
  18. BHS.
  19. Brown Driver Briggs (BDB), p. 210.
  20. Julius Wellhausen, Skizzen und Vorarbeiten, volume 3, (1887), p. 70.
  21. Eberhard Schrader, Die Keilinschrift und das Alte Testament, 1872.
  22. ; ; .
  23. Novum Testamentum Graece (NA27).
  24. Richard S. Hess, Studies in the Personal Names of Genesis 1-11, pp. 24-25. ISBN 3-7887-1478-6.
  25. See Adam and Eve for details.
  26. For popularity in Thornton, Yorkshire see 'Thornton Village: History' [Internet], Brontë County.
  27. For a neutral comment regarding America see Myra Vanderpool Gormley, 'Given Names in Early America: Shaped by history, religion and traditions' [Internet], RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees, (Los Angeles Times Syndicate, 1989).
  28. For general unpopularity note that, "There was a natural dislike of Cain, Delilah, Jezebel, Herod." Donald Lines Jacobus, Genealogy As Pastime and Profession, 2nd revised edition, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publication Company, 1978), p. 29. ISBN 978-0-8063-0188-4
  29. Henry Harrison, Surnames of the United Kingdom: A Concise Etymological Dictionary, (London: 1912), p. 65.
  30. Franklin D. Richards, The Pearl of Great Price: Being a Choice Selection from the Revelations, Translations and Narrations of Joseph Smith, (Liverpool: KD Richards, 1851).
  31. For copies of a spectrum of notable translations and commentaries see Hebrews 12:24 at the Online Parallel Bible.
  32. Holweck, F. G., A Biographical Dictionary of the Saints. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1924.
  33. BDB, p. 16f.
  34. ).
  35. ).
  36. reference is wanted
  37. i.e. Archbishop Fulton J Sheen CCD & Life is Worth Living Series
  38. Catholic Stained Glass Window Pictures Abel as priest
  39. 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).
  40. Linda Shelley Whiting (2003). David W. Patten: Apostle and Martyr (Springville, Utah: Cedar Fort) p. 85.
  41. Spencer W. Kimball (1969). The Miracle of Forgiveness (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, ISBN 0884944441) pp. 127–128.
  42. 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?"


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