In Genesis 4, after Cain kills his brother Abel, Yahweh (the god of the Hebrews) puts a mark on Cain’s forehead to “protect” the murderer. In exploring this puzzling story, I ran into the term “Pre-Adamites” (see wiki) and a few other interesting ideas:
Emperor Julian the Apostate (331-363)
Julian wanted to return Rome to neoplatonic paganism and away from the state religion of Christianity. Constantine before him had made Christianity the religion of the empire. If Julian had not died at 32 years-old and succeeded in separating church and state, Christianity would have ceased being protected under the State, I imagine it would have withered like so many other religions. But we shall never know. What do you think — good thought experiment material, eh?
Anyway, Julian believed in “Pre-adamite” doctrine that rejected the “single pair (Adam & Even)” doctrine of Christians and Jews.
Interestingly, Gore Vidal wrote a novel based on him: “Julian“
Biblical Adamism & Fundamentalism
But well before Julian, the Biblical story of Genesis was defended as literally true. In 170 AD, the Christian Theophilus of Antioch refuted an Egyptian Pagan who argued the world was 153,075 years old. Theophilus was a young earth Biblical literalist. Even St. Augustine argues in “The City of God” (400s AD) that old earth ideas were “abominable lies”.
All this made me consider the claims of many liberal Christians that the ancients weren’t fundamentalists like today’s fundamentalists and instead Liberal Christians try to tell us that the ancients took the Biblical stories as only stories and not science. Well, these examples seem to show such historical revisionism to be false.
The Mark of Cain
While working on some poetry today for my poetry site, I played with an image of “The Mark of Cain.” When I re-read the Genesis 4 story, I realized that I didn’t understand the story. God marks Cain only to protect him — not like the Scarlet A, as a sign of guilt, but to protect.
Steve over at “Undeception” takes a stab at Cain’s Mark. Steve is a non-literalist Christian — he does not take the fundamentalist position that the Bible is the exact words of God nor that it is meant to be taken as accurate by their exact wording. Steve offers three suggested ways to interpret the story:
- Cain’s Mark is a ‘plot device’ to allow ungodly descendants of Canin as opposed to the godly descendants of Set — keeping the evil vs good folks theme in the OT.
- Cain’s Mark may just be an old story that the redactors wanted to make sure got tucked in the Bible — to preserve a favorite folk story.
- Cain’s Mark may be a literary tool to put forward the doctrine that “the wicked can only live and prosper because God allows it.”
Can anyone point me to other of the various interpretations that must have been generated over the millenium on this story? I wonder what the common sermon positions on this story are.
Anyway, that was my interesting read this morning. What are your thoughts?