Who Was Cain's Father?

By Vorjack
Marriage in the Bible, Part 4

Eve SerpentLet’s take a look at Genesis 4:1:

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” (RSV)

If you stop and think about it, that one line has a number of problems. Just what kind of help are we talking about? Remember that God has just increased the pain of labor for Eve, then kicked her out of the garden. It seems odd to be giving God any credit at this point.

There are also problems with the language. The words “the help of” could just as easily be omitted from the translation. But “I have gotten a man (the child?) with the Lord” raises all sorts of questions. What exactly is going on here?

The ancient Jewish sages pondered this question. They were not only concerned with this one line, but also the fact that Cain would go on to kill his brother in a fit of jealousy. Could the answer to the problems of this one line explain the later crime?

Questions of Paternity

Pullquote: Was Cain was really the son of the Satan?

At some point, it occurred to someone that the word Lord could refer to a number of entities. Many of the angels could be referred to as a Lord when addressed by we mere mortals. Including one particular, fallen angel. Could it be that Eve really meant that her son was fathered by this Lord? And could that Lord be … SATAN?

Now, some people will quickly notice a problem here. In the passage quoted above, the word LORD is in all capitals. This signifies (in most translations) that the word being translated is “YHWH,” the four consonants making up the name of God, sometimes called the tetragrammaton. So this interpretation really shouldn’t fly.

But the rules of the interpretive game that the sages were playing required them to stick with the hands that they’d been dealt — even if they knew the deck had been stacked. Since the name of God was too sacred to be spoken, scribes had marked the four letters, or perhaps wrote the word “adonai” — literally “lord” — underneath as a reminder to the reader not to speak the name itself. So the sages seemed to accept this alteration, and interpreted the passage as if the word really were adonai instead of YHWH.

And so it was settled: Cain was really the son of the serpent. His half-demonic nature was what led to his later self-control problems.

Questions of Dating

Pullquote: If you combine it with the story of Lilith, you find that Adam’s first wife ran off, while his second wife had a fling with Satan.

Just as in the case of Lilith, it is extremely difficult to know when this interpretation came about. It is presented clearly in medieval sources, and it is assumed to have deeper roots. But how deep?

There are any number of passages from ancient Hebrew texts that could be interpreted as presuming this legend. For example:

The mother of seven sons expressed also these principles to her children: “I was a pure virgin and did not go outside my father’s house; but I guarded the rib from which woman was made. No seducer corrupted me on a desert plain, nor did the destroyer, the deceitful serpent, defile the purity of my virginity. (4 Maccabees 18:6-8)

In other words, this woman was no Eve. But the connection is not explicitly made. Other passages have similar problems.

There are early Christian sources that might help. One passage that gets cited a lot is from Tertullian: “Having been made pregnant by the seed of the devil … she brought forth a son.” But this translation is suspect, and it ignores the full passage:

For straightway that impatience conceived of the devil’s seed, produced, in the fecundity of malice, anger as her son; and when brought forth, trained him in her own arts. For that very thing which had immersed Adam and Eve in death, taught their son, too, to begin with murder. (On Patience)

Tertullian seems to be saying that Adam and Eve were infected by the serpent with a sense of impatience, which they passed on to Cain.

There are gnostic sources that depict Satan fathering Cain. There are gnostic sources that depict Satan fathering both Cain and Abel. There are gnostic sources that depict Eve escaping from some amorous angels by turning into a tree. It’s perhaps best not to make too much of gnostic sources.

Ancient or medieval, it’s still an interesting take on things. It handily explains Cain’s temper problem. Of course, if you combine it with the story of Lilith, you find that Adam’s first wife ran off, while his second wife had a fling with Satan. If the first humans behaved this way, I think I understand our history a lot better.

  • EvanT

    Hmm… this revised translation has a couple of distinct differences to the Septuagint translation. This is the verse in question in the Septuagint:

    ᾿Αδὰμ δὲ ἔγνω Εὔαν τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ, καὶ συλλαβοῦσα ἔτεκε τὸν Κάϊν καὶ εἶπεν· ἐκτησάμην ἄνθρωπον διά τοῦ Θεοῦ. (Phonetic/Not Erasmian: Atham the egno Evan tin ginekan aftu, ke sillavusa eteke ton Kain ke ipen; ektisamin anthropon thia tu Theu)
    Atham the egno Evan tin ginekan aftu (As for Adam, he knew Eve his wife)
    ke sillavusa eteke ton Kain ke ipen; (and having conceived she gave birth to Cain and she said)
    ektisamin anthropon thia tu Theu (WE have gained a human THROUGH GOD)

    The differences:
    a) The Septuagint doesn’t use the word LORD (Kirios), but plain God (Theos). Intrestingly, the RSV keeps referring to God as LORD in this chapter, while the Septuagint mixes “God”, “Lord” and “the Lord God” in later verses.
    b) Eve credits Cain to both Adam and herself using the 1st person plural (not singular) (WE have gained)
    c) Cain is described as a human (anthropos) and not man (anir), but I don’t know if the RSV makes this kind of distinction anyway.
    d) As a side-note, the verb “ektisamin” is the verb “ktaome” in the aorist and means “to come to possess”

    In the Greek text, the divine help is toned down and of course there is no chance of assuming that Satan could’ve spawned Cain. Not to mention that Even doesn’t say “I got a man”, but “We”.

  • Michael Gray

    But the Septuagint is a translation of the Hebrew!
    Why on Earth would you reference a distal source in another language?
    (Especially for the nuances of grammar?)

    Seriously, I want an answer to why people do this posing bullshit, pretending that a stylised Greek translation of Hebrew is in ANY WAY authoritative.

    I await your response with apprehension…

    • http://notdrjekyll.blogspot.com Mr. Hyde

      The only importance of looking to the Greek Septuagint at times is that it was translated from Hebrew to Greek by Jews. They knew the nuances of the Hebrew and the best way to communicate those when translating into the Greek. So looking to the Septuagint gives some insight into how Hebrew scholars read the text.

  • EvanT

    Good point. But this just a comparison between the Septuagint and the RSV, not the Greek and Hebrew text.Basically I’m comparing an older translation with a newer one. And the Septuagint can’t be really called authoritative, but it WAS a translation made by Hebrews for Hebrews who were alienated from their native language and couldn’t understand the original. I won’t argue that it couldn’t have been doctored later, that can be true for all ancient texts.

    If I knew Hebrew, I would’ve posted comments directly on the Hebrew text, but I don’t, so I can only comment on the oldest version I can actually read from the original. These comments are my own and not transplanted from somewhere else. I just opened a digital Bible copy I keep, read the verse, noticed some differences and posted them, thinking someone might find the differences interesting. THAT IS ALL. As for me this was interesting since it explains why this legend of the demonic origin of Cain never entered Greek-Orthodox mainstream theology. Personally, I had never heard of it till now.

    Your comments (“Seriously, I want an answer to why people do this posing bullshit”) were rather rude and I would appreciate it if you would refrain from using them in the future, at least with me. I don’t know how often you get Christian trolls here, so I cannot really judge how uncalled-for your comment might have been, but we’re big boys. We can certainly play nicer than this. And I’m not even a Christian. Boy, it can be hard work proving one’s not an elephant.

  • http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com James McGrath

    The main point that makes this interpretation untenable is that the Hebrew says “with Yahweh”, not “with the lord”. Most modern English translations use LORD in capitals in place of the divine name.

    • vorjack

      Yes, and I mentioned that in the post, along with my guess as to how the Rabbis got around that problem.. I’m not making a statement about how this should be interpreted, just a statement about one of the existing interpretations.

      And this interpretation did exist, at least during medival times. James Kugel cites the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan:

      “And Adam knew that his wife Eve had conceived from the angel Sammael, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. He was like the angels and not like the humans, so she said, “I have acquired a man, indeed, an angel of the Lord.”

      See also, F.R. Tennant, The Sources of the Doctrines of the Fall and Original Sin.

      • UU4077

        On the other hand, why don’t you look to the NRSV instead of the RSV when looking at a “modern” translation. The NRSV uses “Lord”, hence updating the interpretation and translation.

  • Francesc

    Remember what Vorjack explain us some posts ago, those were Jewish looking for -or maybe playing with- hided meanings of the bible. It would be like picking a text and changing some keywords to obtain a different meaning, he is not saying that this is a pausible history.

    By the way, I found here the perfect explanation for Adam and Eve’s daughters-in-law:
    http://www.besse.at/sms/descent.html

  • Jer

    It’s always kind of funny to see the lengths that medieval sages would go to when interpreting text – especially the Bible. I read that line and see a line that was left in place by the Redactor because it can be read as a pious thanking of God for the birth of a child. Women should thank God for their children, Eve is a woman, therefore Eve thanks God for her children. Punt. That may be reading it through a modern lens, but somehow I doubt it. (What the story was originally is another question, of course. Who knows – maybe the sages and rabbis were closer to the original Canaanite or Babylonian or whatever myth that the Adam and Eve story grew out of.)

    • vorjack

      That may be reading it through a modern lens, but somehow I doubt it.

      I suspect you’re right, or close enough. That’s probably how the original story went, at least. This may be another case where we’ve got multiple stories, and the oddness of Eve thanking a God who just threw her out of the garden wasn’t originally there. The priestly redactors likely left it in for the reason you suggest.

      But the Rabbinic style of interpretation is noted for it’s playfulness with the text. Whatever the justification, I suspect that some Rabbis accepted as a possible interpretation simply because it was more interesting. Of course, it also gave them another answer to the problem of evil: people do bad such things because some are still tainted with the blood of the serpent.

  • Zotz

    Truly silly. Parsing scripture is total BS except for understanding literary references and pointing out the total nonsense that is judeo-christianity.

    Judeo-Christian Scripture = selectively assembled nonsense from largely borrowed mythology = TOTAL BS.

    Come on, guys…

    • Thatoneguy

      Speak not of what you know nothing. All of the Bible is back up by other non-jewish/christian historical fact. That the Bible is a collection of borrowed mythology is a myth itself that has been widely spread to try and discredit the Bible. Most of the myths the the bible was supposedly taken from were made up long after the Bible was written.

      • Elemenope

        Source?

      • Ty

        Uh, yeah, what Nope said.

        Source?

        In my many years of training for the ministry, I never came across these “non-Jewish/Christian historical facts” you’re speaking of. Methinks you are the one talking out your ass.

  • Siberia

    Adam was truly awful in the sack, eh? First wife runs off with the sexy fallen angel, second wife has a child that looks suspiciously like a certain serpent… tsk.

  • Yoav

    Reading the Hebrew text I really can’t see how you get to this interpatetion. Unlike the greek (and I’ll take evanT word for it) the hebrew use the single 1st person but this is also the case in other instances where you get this form of name and then the reason for the choice of the name where both father and mother are clearly known so I will put that to a stylistic issue (or maybe naming a child was a female responsibility in the middle east during the bronze age). As to why would eve be crediting god who just cursed her, the obvious reason is that the story is a complete work of fiction written thousands of years after it was supposed to happen by someone with a clear agenda. another raeson may be from the way Rashy (one of the most famous Jewish interpaters of the bible) explain the past tense used in describing adam doing eve in the text to mean that cain was concieved before the whole serpent and fruit episode.

    • vorjack

      Reading the Hebrew text I really can’t see how you get to this interpatetion

      Sheesh. I’ll yield to your knowledge of Hebrew and evanT’s knowledge of Greek. But I question your understanding of english: this is not my interpretation! I am merely reporting on what I thought was a very interesting interpretation from Rabbinic lore. I have provided my own hypothesis as to how they arrived at that interpretation, which comes partially from James Kugel’s How To Read The Bible and partially from my own understanding of Rabbinic methods. I am not suggesting that you or anybody else accept it as the one true interpretation – particularly since rabbinic methods allow for multiple true interpretations.

      But again, I point out that this is an interpretation that was held by some (many?) Rabbis. As F.R. Tennant says in The Sources of the Doctrines of the Fall and Original Sin: “It is beyond question, however, that various legends concerning the monstrous intercourse of Adam and Eve with demons, and especially of Eve with the serpent or Satan, were both widespread and ancient among the Jews.” (p.156)

      • Yoav

        Don’t take it so hard. In you I didn’t mean you personally but the general you (as in anybody). I thought we were just trying to have an interesting discussion about the story and I was gaving my point of view not trying to attack you. Can’t we all be friends (Scene of sun breaking through the clouds onto a field full of flowers with fluffy bunnies and butterflies).

  • Olaf

    It amazes me that people always take everything so literally, while I guarantee that dyslectic people also existed back then that copied that book.

  • Daniel Florien

    Vorjack, it seems people think you’re actually advocating this interpretation, lol.

  • vorjack

    That’s what it looks like. Dammit, if I’m going to get accused of an interpretation, I wish it were something more interesting that Eve having sex with a talking snake. That’s just so … greek.

    Listen up! You folks want my interpretation? Eve screwed the snake. And Adam, Satan, Yahweh, the Seraphim, Churibim, , whoever the other gods were that YHWH was talking to, and all 356 members of the divine pluroma. Eden was one gigantic orgy, all the time. The “forbidden fruit” was the wine grape, and they grew some killer weed near the junction of the rivers.

    But then YHWH got pissy because by the time he got a chance with Eve she was already chafing. Then they made him sleep in the wet spot. “Come’on, your prexistant son can walk on water, you can handle a little sweat …” So he got in a snit and kicked them out of Eden.

    But this isn’t just my interpretation! I got this from DIVINE REVELATION! The Divine Sophia, her own bad self, came down and wrote the whole story in red lipstick on my bathroom mirror.

    • EvanT

      “That’s just so … greek.”
      Yeah, yeah… I know. Zeus really gave us a bad name with all his bestiality stunts.

      BTW, be sure to use Windex on that mirror. Lipstick smudges. :P

    • DDM

      In your own handwriting.

      Coincidentally.

    • Zotz

      Well done, LOL.

  • John C

    Adam’s offspring were of his (fallen) nature, for all things reproduce after their (own) kind. Children were born, but not in the likeness of God and carried forth the marred image and behavior patterns dominated by the flesh, not the spirit (the original God-kind). Every child since in the seed of adam has ceased to be born (true) man for it takes God in man for man to be fully human.

    Ian Thomas in his book “The Mystery of Godliness” a reference to 1 Tim 3.16 states “As descendents of the first Adam, we were born uninhabited by God-heirs of His absence-and inhabited only by sin (death marred image), but Christ miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary (the seed which was to bruise (rule over) the head of the Serpant) was born uninhabited by sin and wholly inhabited by God. He was the Last Adam-the Second Man, as sinless (devoid of death) had created man to be; He was able to turn to His disciples and say “….the prince of this world (satan) cometh but he finds nothing (nothing of the old, sin marred image) in me (John 14.30)”.

    It took me many years to fully comprehend what the “gospel” is all about. I had to get thru all the religious conditioning, pre-conceived notions and layers etc. Primarily what the gospel is all about is this….getting the wrong man out and the right man (the Second Man) Christ in. It’s that simple, but oh what a war it is indeed. That process is the “mystery of Godliness” the author refers to. God would set up His (true) kingdom in a man’s heart deposing that other one and rule and reign from within (Christ in you being the “mystery of the ages”) in peace and righteousness.

    • Sunny Day

      Pics or it didn’t happen.

      • John C

        You, your life is intended to be a “living” pic Sunny. But since you choose to remain in the dark, there is not ample Light to generate an accurate print, the image of God in you. That’s why the “life is made manifest in them that believe”. Believe what? That Christ (God-man) has come in the flesh…your flesh.

        • Aor

          Proselyte.

    • fftysmthg

      Or, just close your eyes (tight) to most of the other chapters and verses of the bible and repeat after me— I am a good boy, I am a good boy, I am a good boy… that’s right… just let go… just like a child … have child like faith… There, now wasn’t that easier? Don’t bother yourself with all those other troublesome chapters and verses. No need to. You are in him and he in you. Done, it’s that simple!

      • John C

        Yes, living from the epignosis (full revelation knowledge) of Christ and His preeminence is the key. Since darkness gains its power solely on the basis of deception, and not from any intrinsic power, any revealing or unveiling of Christ (in the flesh) is hotly contested. To the extent that we see Christ, to that same extent the enemy has lost power over us, its that simple. The only way to destroy the darkness is to bring in the Light, and all we need is the (epignosis) of Christ, His preeminence in all things.

        • fftysmthg

          Or, this “darkness” comes from the same book that this “light” comes from and one doesn’t exist without the other.

          • John C

            How can one thing be known without the contrasting other? Night is only night because we have the day, no? Hence…thru the tender mercies of our God with which the DAYspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. Luke 1.77-79.

            • fftysmthg

              The point being that the “light” and the “darkness” has the same source. Get it?

            • trj

              Sorry, that’s just silly anthropomorphism.

              Things exist regardless of our human conventions and classifications. You might have a case about definitions existing through opposites because those are arbitrary human constructs to begin with (such as good vs bad), but all actual physical phenomena are entirely unconcerned with those definitions.

              Ideas may exist by opposites. The physical things they are derived from do not.

            • fftysmthg

              I’ll just have to be silly then.

            • trj

              Not at all. My comment was directed at John C. On the contrary, I agree that light and darkness are simply varying degrees of exactly the same physical phenomenon (ie. photons), rather than opposites. That was my point all the time.

    • Zotz

      Oh, for christ’s sake, do you have nothing better to do than this incoherent blather?

  • Sunny Day

    So, thats a “No” on the pics then? You could make it easy on yourself and just admit you don’t have anything except bullshit.

    • John C

      Faith (the ability to see into the unseen realm where truth originates) is neither a pic or bs…but a gift which He supplies. Don’t you want to experience all you were intended, ie your…birthright? The truth of every man is Christ perfected in him.

      • wazza

        I think I just ate one of my own pubic hairs (complete accident… look, I’m a student, ok? I can’t always afford to look at what I’m eating, or what I’m eating it off…)

        my point being… would something made in the image of a perfect being really eat one of its own pubic hairs?

        • John C

          No, not if he had “exchanged his glory for shame”. That’s what happened in the fall of man. And all those who live apart from the life of Christ (within) are living from the seed of Adam, the fallen man. But its His resurrected Life that we are invited to live from now so that “all things become new…again”, a new creation in Christ.

          • wazza

            so I would be eating completely new pubic hairs.

          • Aor

            Seriously man, who do you think you are with your constant witnessing and evangelizing? Have you no self respect?

            • Thatoneguy

              Good job JohnC.

      • Jabster

        You’re lucky, it could have been someone elses!

      • Olaf

        “Faith (the ability to see into the unseen realm where truth originates)”

        Faith is virtual truth.
        And any virtual world does not mean that it is real.

        Reality is that the Universe does not care about Faith and truth.

      • Aor

        If faith is a gift supplied by your version of your god, then all other religions exist only due to your god providing them with faith. If only you had the ability to see how batshit insane your beliefs are.

        • Olaf

          It is very interesting how humans, when repeated enough BS will actually believe that BS to be true.

          Just like believing your own lies if you lie so much.

  • rodneyAnonymous

    Moral of the story: the Bible is obviously ancient folklore.

    • fftysmthg

      Bingo!

    • wazza

      Plural, dude, there are at least four sources for Genesis…

      • UU4077

        Actually, it’s 3. “D” isn’t an “author” of Genesis. And, some modern scholars have, on new evidence, reverted back to 2 (“E” is maybe actually a version of “J”.)

  • Moji

    Hey, I respect your site, but this is the most silly “interpretation” ever. One need look no further than the original Hebrew which says “Yahweh” and not “the LORD” or “a Lord” to rule out the silly snake theories. Please remember that at the time of genesis, there was no concept yet of Satan or Hell. Indeed, the snake was just a snake. A dick of a snake, but a snake (hence all snakes being punished by having to roam the earth on their bellies). Satan didn’t really show up until Job, and even then he was actually a good guy, trying to help the Lord weed out those with weak faith. The passages and lost books that mention Lilith, Sammael, etc. are an interesting read but just fanfic mostly that came centuries later. These texts aren’t just disregarded by the churches, but also the Jewish communities whose ancestors supposedly penned them.
    This whole thing reeks of a biblical conspiracy theory and is just funny to me. Ooooh she said “with the help of the Lord”, maybe Adam’s not the father. Really? That’s the conclusion we jump to? This has a slew of its own problems. Cain is referred to as a man, not a nephelim. Nephelim are first mentioned in Genesis, too, so if Cain truly were one than they would’ve said it. Eve said this because it was God that gave her the ability to conceive and give birth. There’s no hidden other meaning.
    What I’m interested to see is who in the professional community is really pondering the question that you pose. I would put forth that no one is pondering it at all, except the people on this page. It’s good that you’re exercising your brain, but maybe we should focus on more pressing questions, like where the hell did my guitar pick go?