IN THIS ISSUE

 


 

COLD CASE FILES: CAIN AND ABEL



In recent years, one of the most popular subjects on American television has been forensic science, the application of science in solving crimes. In a twenty-first century version of the traditional detective story, the heroes are teams of CSIs (crime scene investigators) who use a combination of persistence, ingenuity, and sophisticated technology to reconstruct what happened at a crime scene and assist in identifying the perpetrator(s) of the crime.

 

The television shows are not entirely realistic. In particular, some of the high-tech methods of investigation that are routinely applied are surely expensive enough to be beyond the budgets of most police departments. Still, the power of these modern methods is impressive. With these methods, it has even become possible to reexamine evidence from crimes of years ago and settle cases previously thought to be unsolvable.

 

Of course, some "cold cases" are so "cold" that they are beyond the reach of high-tech forensic science. The mysteries of centuries past lie in the domain of historians and archaeologists rather than CSIs. These older mysteries continue to fascinate us as well. For example, I recently saw an interesting documentary that took a fresh look at the circumstances surrounding the death of Alexander the Great.

 

The ultimate murder mystery may be the one involving Cain (not to be confused with Horatio Caine of the television show CSI Miami), the oldest son of Adam and Eve, who committed the world's first murder when he killed his younger brother Abel. Here the identity of the murderer is not in doubt, but many questions remain about the details of the case:



What was Cain's motive? Was it simply jealousy over the fact that his offering was not accepted while Abel's was, or were there additional events that led to the crime?



Was the murder premeditated? Did Cain lure Abel out into a field with the intention of killing him, or was this murder a crime of passion?



What exactly were the curse and mark that were part of the "life sentence" served by Cain for his crime?


These questions and others have been explored over the centuries by biblical detectives who have carefully examined every word of the evidence-the text of Genesis chapter 4-in search of clues. Studying their answers can help us to view a familiar text from new angles. In the lead article of this issue of Grace & Knowledge, Jared Olar provides a comprehensive explanation of the traditions and legends that have developed around the case of Cain and Abel.

 

Even though Cain was one of the "villains" of the Bible, there was a second-century Gnostic Christian sect that held up Cain as a role model. According to the church father Irenaeus of Lyons, this group also championed the cause of another villain, Judas Iscariot, in a document called the Gospel of Judas. In an amazing piece of textual detective work, a fragmentary papyrus copy of this document has recently been restored and translated into English. A report on the Cainite Gnostics and the Gospel of Judas also appears in this issue. Enjoy!

 

--Doug Ward

Issue 22

 

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23 Oct 2006, 14:54.