Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cain and Abel

According to the biblical book of Genesis, Cain (meaning "acquisition") and Abel (a biblical forename which may derive from the Hebrew Hebel, itself derived from hevel (breath or vapour), or from the Assyrian for son. In reference to the biblical story, the name Abel often occurs with that of his brother, as Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel were the first and second sons of Adam and Eve, born after the Fall of Man. Their story is told in Genesis 4:1-16. Cain, a farmer, commits the first murder by killing his brother Abel, a shepherd, after God rejects Cain's sacrifice but accepts Abel's.

The oldest known copy of the biblical narration is from the Dead Sea Scrolls (4QGenb = 4Q242, mid 1st century), inspected using infra-red photography and published by Jim R Davila as part of his doctoral dissertation in 1988. Cain and Abel 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 a progenitor 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.





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