Cain and Abel


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Wikipedia.
Abel
Known for First murderer in human history

Cain and Abel

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

According to the Bible, Cain and Abel were the first two sons born to Adam and Eve after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 5:4 adds the fact that many other children came later.) In a fit of jealous rage, Cain, the first agriculturist, murdered his brother Abel, the sheepherder, because God accepted Abel's sacrifice but rejected Cain's.

When God banished him, Cain feared he would be persecuted because of his crime. God placed upon him "the mark of Cain" to warn any who might harm him. Much speculation has centered upon this mysterious "mark." No indication is given in the Bible as to what constituted the mark of Cain. It is simply presented as history.

Cain migrated to "the land of Nod, east of Eden." "Nod" means "wandering," so this might be describing a condition rather than a place, but Cain's first act was to build a city.

The story of Cain and Abel raises questions for some readers of the Bible. First, if Cain and Abel were the only two young people in the world, and one murdered the other, why would the survivor require a mark to protect him from others? Second, when Cain established his city, who populated it? Such questions reveal the questioner's method of biblical interpretation. Those who ask such questions are demanding that the story be read as history. They either accept scripture as true or reject it as irrelevant based on their own personal bias. Those who think such questions are insignificant are reading scripture mythologically or allegorically.

Genesis 4 tells Cain's story, and it has been interpreted in many different ways. Some Christians understand it to mean God rejected Cain's "religion of works" in favor of Abel's "religion of blood sacrifice." Here they find the root of the doctrine that salvation comes through the blood sacrifice of Jesus rather than humans "being good enough" or "working hard enough" to earn it (see Covenant). Later, blood sacrifice of animals was developed by the Hebrew people during the time of Moses (see Judaism, Development of).

References in periodicals archive ?
The narrative of Cain and Abel brings home the difficulty humans have coping with rejection and defeat, ubiquitous conditions in human existence which no one escapes and everyone needs to learn to cope with.
Returning to Baudelaire, however, it is interesting how this theme of the biblical myth of Cain and Abel also undertakes new interpretive possibilities in the work of the French poet.
Byron (New Testament, Ashland Theological Seminary) traces the interpretative history of the Cain and Abel story over the first millennium CE.
Malandain combined these with obtuse, Cain and Abel, and company, the effect veered toward bizarre pageantry.
The narrative about Cain and Abel is turned into a full-fledged family saga in which Abel is obsessed with getting around the angels who guard the way to the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.
My essay begins by looking at the story of Cain and Abel, with a
3) Both Cain and Abel gave sacrificial gifts to God and Abel's was accepted above that of Cain.
Cain and Abel have an altercation of some kind, beginning with words and ending with Cain's killing Abel.
The empire builders already have their answer, following an ideological line that stretches back to Samuel Huntington, George Kennan, and Cain and Abel.
Quinones develops: "Although differing in their directions, each category [of the Cain and Abel story] begins by addressing the fundamental proposition over which the theme presides, that is, the reality of a fracture at the basis of existence, a breach in its heart, and the correlative need for finding and promoting means of reconstitution" (239).