Cain and His Legacy
Archaeologists have uncovered ancient human faeces and with them new evidence that blue cheese, paired with beer, was in the diets of Iron Age Austrian salt miners. The find has left microbiologist Frank Maixner baffled, having until this point believed that the craft of fermenting artisan cheese was too sophisticated for the miners’ time.
Kerstin Kowarik, archaeologist, summarized the implications of the unearthed faeces, commenting, “It is becoming increasingly clear that not only were prehistoric culinary practices sophisticated, but also that complex processed foodstuffs as well as the technique of fermentation have held a prominent role in our early food history.”
In other words, food which graces most of our tables in the Western world has been greatly influenced by an origin that we knew little about. We had the story wrong.
What if that also holds true with our understanding of some of the first humans?
The Cain and Abel story we’ve embraced is one of an evil, jealous man who slays his morally upright brother. This version of the first murder is not incorrect, but it is incomplete.
The original Hebrew text seems to suggest that Eve believed Cain to be the fulfilment of a Messianic prophecy. Cain even receives the focus of the texts, whereas Abel–whose name implies emptiness and worthlessness–is barely recorded in the history.
What we’ve been missing is that the “bad guy” is actually an antihero who, like all of us, is brought to humility and must rely upon God’s free gift of grace.
And in the midst of Cain’s fall and restoration, we also tend to overlook the third brother, Seth! Whereas Seth’s line will bring the fulfilment of the Messianic prophecy, Cain’s bloodline is marked with progressively evil descendants.
The lineage of Cain and Seth mirror the choice we have today: Despite sin’s role in the world, thanks to God’s grace we can joyfully embrace that we are redeemed children of God (Sethites), or, we can reject God’s mercy and pridefully follow our own way (Cainites).
Connecting: The original Hebrew texts make clear that Cain and Seth are to be our focus, and not so much Abel. What are the tradeoffs between reading Scripture in its original languages and in its translations?
Sharing: Why do you think the obedient, moral son of Adam and Eve was given an empty name?
- They didn’t care for the second son
- They foresaw that his life would be short and mostly uneventful
- It was merely a coincidence
- It’s a literary device and was not actually his name
- Abel is actually a great name that linguists have mistranslated
Applying: If you feel comfortable doing so, minister to the wounds of someone in your community who is hurting, reflecting the love of Christ in your words and actions.