Cain and Abel..... why the disagreements?

by anti-absolutism 30 Replies latest jw friends

  • Gamaliel


    You are right that there is no specific talk of bad conduct and no specific talk of a bad sacrifice. I was just saying that the text gives more specific evidence of an insufficient sacrifice. That is the only comparative difference that's noted in the text. "But Abel brought fat portions from the firstborn of his flock." The rest of the OT shows that meat sacrifices were more valuable than non-meat, fatty meat was more valuable than non-fatty, and firstborn were more valuable than non-firstborn. Still, there's not a lot to go on, and maybe the first audience saw something else that we can't. I also agree that a story like this begs for some further explanation like the one you give it. And that's also the mark of several of the small but powerful "morality play" stories that survive from ancient cultures.

    The real differences in the way you read it and the way I read it is that issue of reading the Bible as one great story. You admit that you do, and admit that I no longer do. I am still very interested in what the Bible means, what it meant to the audience, what the writer meant, why it was kept and later called inspired (and why some other parts were kept and were not later called inspired).

    As just a minor example of why I see the Bible as a collection of potentially disjointed stories is exemplified by the fact that (coincidentally) two New Testament writers seemed to have the same two differing viewpoints that we are discussing. The writer of Hebrews sees Cain as having an insufficient sacrifice. Yet, the writer of First John sees him as having an insufficient way of living.

    For example:

    Hebrews 11:4
    By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.

    1 John 3:12
    Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous.


  • anti-absolutism

    Francois, as usual, has a very simple yet profound way of looking at this.

    It has always been my opinion, (although not really understood until recently), that the Old Testament is a bunch of hooey!! I don't think that Christians should put as much stock in it as they do.

    No offense intended towards the Jewish people, since all other ancient cultures were very primitive in their beliefs in a God as well. However, it seems to me from my research that Christians as a whole believe that the Jews were the chosen people. I have never, personally been able to grasp that fact. I am JUST a lowly human, but I cannot accept that our Higher Power would be as evil as is exemplified in the Old Testament.

    Personally, I agree with the fact that the winners of the wars got to write history. Humanity accepted the Jews' stories, and therefore their God, because they seemed to be the only ones who INCLUDED and ADMITTED their failures, other than that one big one called Jesus....

    At that point it became acceptable to adopt the Jewish history, since they FINALLY made a big enough mistake to be able to see that they were fallible as well. Isn't it interesting that when we look back at history, even in the Bible, it is always about how much better we are than the people of the past?

    I still believe though that certain religions have been and still are more evil than others.

    Francois, in 50 words or less, if you had to describe an exact faith for you, what would it be?


  • NeonMadman

    Hebrews 11:4
    By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.

    While this does appear, on the face of it, to imply that the sacrifice itself was deficient, I find the comments of the NIV Study Bibleon this text to be both interesting and instructive:

    "Both brothers brought offerings to the Lord: Cain from the fruits of the soil, and Abel from the firstborn of his flock. The chief reason for the acceptance of Abel's sacrifice was that he offered it "by faith". It is implied that Cain's sacrifice was rejected because he offered it without faith, as a mere formality."

    By understanding the text in this way, all of the scriptures are harmonized, and common sense is also satisfied - after all, doesn't it make more sense that God would reject a sacrifice because the one offering it lacked faith and was living in an improper fashion, rather than that it was simply the wrong stuff that he offered? It seems to me that the only reason for viewing the matter differently would be that one wanted to see the Bible from that angle, as flawed and of human origin, and was therefore unwilling to see very reasonable ways of reconciling minor textual problems. You could certainly find such discrepancies among Shakespeare's plays, if you looked, but no one would conclude as a result that the various plays had different authors and didn't belong together as a single body of work.

  • hurt


    it would seem that there's much more to the "by faith" expression than it being the reson for the acceptance/rejection of the sacrificies. The subsequent "by faith" expressions, in the same scripture, do not form a harmonious whole. How do we explain Abel speaking "by faith" after he had died, even if that's only figurative? For example, are we to conclude that Enoch, in verse 5, was taken away because he had faith?


    It's good that people are posting things scriptural, because...well...people who are basing their question and belief through the bible, need some objectivity.

    OK...wrench in the fan. Sorry folks.....

    All I have known, when looking into the bible or observations re: god - there's a lot of killing, or imminent disaster or disfavour from god.

    god creates so-called 'perfect' couple, who fall to a once 'perfect' angel. god can't really make anything 'really' perfect because one has to wonder: is god perfect?

    Like man, me thinks...god is imperfect, which leads me to wonder if we 'created' HIM?

    The whole Cain & Abel discussion is interesting and worthy of consideration, so many questions eh?

    Cain dis-Abels - and god is NOT a vegetarian, 'sorry're toast!!'

  • anti-absolutism


    I appreciate your witty sarcasm. I feel the same way. I read a quote by Montaigne recently, maybe even on this site, that was very interesting:

    "Man must certainly be stark mad. He cannot make a flea and yet he makes Gods by the dozen."

    Very true!!!!! Brad

  • Liberty

    Hi Neonmadman,

    You are right, Cain being murdered is not in the modern Bible. It's been so long since I researched the Cain and Able story that I got a Rabbinical tradition mixed up with the Cannonized Bible books. So since it's just a Jewish tradition and not in the Bible I'll pull this argument from the table and admit I made an error. However, my other questions are valid and I have seen no good refutations of them so far. How can one be cursed to wander and at the same time found a city? Who populated this city since Cain was a wanderer far from the only humans, Adam, Eve, and their other children? Who was Cain afraid of that might kill him since God could easily tell his family, the world's only humans, to leave him alone and he wandered away from them?

  • freedom96

    The gifts that Cain gave were not of quality. Abel would offer up the best that he had. Not just any ole one.

  • Francois

    I think it was NameWitheld who said it "carrots don't bleed." And therein is the crux of the matter. Abel's sacrifice had blood in it, which he poured out for the enjoyment of God. And we know the God of that time put a great deal of value on blood. Well, hell, the blood is where the soul is, right? And to this very day that's why we're told "can't eat blood."

    Anyway, I think it's got to do with the blood issue, that Jehovah character being a pretty blood-thirsty conceptualization of who and what God is. And wrong, to boot.



  • Francois

    Anti-absolutism, I hadn't noticed your question till just now, and so I'll take a stab at answering it. In fifty words or less characterize my beliefs? Zounds.

    OK, how 'bout "Tao Te Ching"? This laconic work by Lao Tzu, written 600 years before Christ, contains many elements of the Sermon on the Mount. And as for God it states, "The God you can name is not the eternal God." This because as soon as you name something, label it, it becomes utterly defined, and limited to the boundaries of that definition; and a limited God isn't God at all.

    That's probably more than fifty words, but there it is.

    I would be happy to discuss this further with you if you like.


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