Paradise Resumed: Discussion

by Elmer G. Wiens

The sparse details of the early chapters of Genesis generated an emptiness that stimulated the imagination of story tellers and writers over the millennia. Authors exploit this narrative emptiness and the sensitivity of meaning to the words to craft stories that elaborate on subsequent chronicles in the Bible.

For example, John Milton locates Paradise Lost in the first three chapters of Genesis. He introduces characters that interact directly or indirectly with Adam and Eve — angels, demons, Satan and his children Sin and Death, and the Son of God — who are not mentioned in Genesis 1-3. Other authors, such as Lord Byron in Cain: A Mystery and José Saramago in Cain, begin their stories near Adam and Eve's expulsion from Eden, and expand on Abel's murder in Genesis 4. While Byron and Saramago's stories benefit from advances in science, they respect the historical truths the authors and redactors of Genesis communicated.

In the poem "Paradise Resumed," I construct a story centred on Paradise Lost that provides wives for Cain and Abel who are not the children of Adam and Eve. With this revision, the motive for the fratricide does not depend on Cain's envy of Abel caused by YHWH's preference for Abel's sacrifice over Cain's. Moreover, the revision absolves YHWH of the charge of capriciousness by Philip Culbertson in "De-Demonising Cain ... and Wondering Why?"

Genesis chapter 5 states that God created man in his own likeness, and that "male and female created he them; and called their name Adam" (5:1-2). The plural pronoun, their, suggests that other people were on earth with the first family of Genesis chapters 2-4. Byron explains their presence by imagining that Cain and Abel were born with twin sisters who become their incestuous spouses. Saramago imagines Adam and Eve encountering a caravan that brings them to a settlement where they learn to make a living and where Cain and Abel are born.

Milton ignores the identity of potential mates for Cain and Abel. His story does not justify Cain's inherently evil nature by having Satan father Cain with Eve after eating fruit of the tree of knowledge. After Eve succumbs to the temptation of Satan as the serpent, eats of the tree of knowledge and shares its fruit with Adam, the angel Michael gives Adam foreknowledge of Genesis 4 in which one of his sons is murdered. One wonders if Adam with foreknowledge could have prevented Abel's murder.

After Cain murders Abel, the Lord sets a mark upon Cain so that people finding Cain will not kill him. The Bible does not specify who these people might be. Certainly Adam and Eve wouldn't pursue him in revenge as he flees to the morning land of Nod. They are only mentioned once more, in Genesis 4:25, when Eve gives birth to their son Seth, and the Bible does not mention them having other children. After arriving in Nod, Cain and his wife have children who find spouses, and Cain builds a city for people to populate. Presumably as Genesis 5 suggests, people other than descendants of Adam and Eve are on earth.

Can an account of other people on earth be made compatible with the characterizations of Cain and Abel as found in 1 John 3:12: "... Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous."?

Angela Kim in "Cain and Abel in the Light of Envy" argues that post-biblical interpretations have emphasized sibling rivalry and envy as a motive for the murder to "deflect attention away from the more troubling problem of YHWH's capriciousness" in preferring Abel over Cain (66). Can YHWH's impartiality be inferred some other way by providing a rationale for YHWH's preferences?

In Genesis chapter 4, the Bible does not explain why Cain's works were evil and Abel's righteous, even before Cain killed Abel. The difference in their works is imputed from the way YHWH treats their offerings. The Authorized King James Version states, "And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering. But unto Cain and his offering he had not respect" (Genesis 4-5). Another translation uses the word "regard" in place of the word "respect" (Perry 261). A translation of the Hebrew text says of YHWH, "he looks at Abel and his offering, and he does not look at Cain and his offering" (van Wolde 28). Why does YHWH appear to prefer an offering of barbecued meat over an offering of grilled vegetables?

In Genesis chapter 4, the Bible does not explain the purpose of Cain and Abel's offerings. Are they offerings of atonement? Have both brothers done something wrong? What might Cain have done with Adam, Eve, or Abel? Was onanism already evil? Why does YHWH favour Abel's form of worship over Cain's if neither brother has sinned?

Cain is not listed in the lineage of Adam in Genesis chapter 5. Some biblical exegetes, who adopt a literal interpretation of 1 John 3:12, infer Cain is the son of Satan, conceived when the serpent seduced Eve to eat forbidden fruit. In modern terms, Cain is evil because he shares DNA with Satan. This begs the questions of how and why Abel was inherently righteous.

In my "Paradise Resumed" adaptation of the narrative of Paradise Lost, I attempt to explain an inherent difference in the Bible's first brothers. Must incest be the basis of Adam and Eve's progeny as Byron assumes? Is it necessary as Saramago implies that the Adam and Eve of the Bible be a particular instance of creation?

In Paradise Lost, Sin is the daughter of Satan, and Death is his son through incest with Sin. Sin and Death build a bridge across Chaos as they travel from Hell to Earth. After Satan gives them his blessing as his emissaries, he returns to Hell. However, Milton gives no indication how Sin and Death are to achieve Satan's purposes on Earth against Man and God, and he doesn't mention them again after line 409 of Book X. Presumably they are to continue with the agenda Satan outlined in Book I: If it is God's intention that "out of our evil seek to bring forth good, / Our labor must be to pervert that end, / And out of good still seek to find means of evil" (Lines 162-65).

In the poem "Paradise Interposed" by Elmer Wiens, Satan fathers Cain with Eve after they eat the forbidden fruit, providing an explanation for Cain's evil character. With Sin, or Dawn as she prefers to be called, Adam is the father of a daughter called Morgan, the intended wife of Cain. This scenario provides some DNA diversity for mankind. In keeping with Satan's agenda, the activities of Sin and Death purify mankind through interbreeding to provide God with a "cleansed chaste," and "incest atoned pure" human mother for his son Jesus, a righteous person like Abel.

With my poem "Paradise Resumed," I augment the narrative of "Paradise Interposed" to provide an account for Abel's righteousness, and for the righteousness of Biblical characters like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and the Virgin Mary.

Perhaps Eve is already pregnant with Adam's child before she eats fruit of the tree of knowledge. Abel, like Jesus, is born with X and Y chromosomes free of sin, without the knowledge of evil or of death. His fraternal twin brother Cain, born first after Adam and Eve's expulsion from Eden, is his older brother with sinful X and Y chromosomes, with knowledge of evil and its difference from good, and with an understanding of death. Perhaps also, Dawn gives birth to identical twin daughters, Morgen and Sorgen, with a pair of sinful and pure X chromosomes, providing wives for Cain and Abel. Righteous descendants of these two couples receive a pair of chromosomes free of sin, possibly infrequent events. Perhaps, gene mutations might deteriorate or ameliorate the purity of these genes for generations far removed from the original parents.

This account of the paternity of Cain and Abel and the birth of females by a mother other than Eve does not affect the text of Genesis 4. With some creative writing, a completely different motive for the death of Abel can be provided. The narrative could proceed as follows.

After Adam and Eve leave Eden, and Cain and Abel are young men, Adam recalls the vision the angel Michael gave him in which one of his sons murders the other. One day Adam unburdens this disturbing vision on Dawn, the mother of his sons' wives. As the angel Raphael had warned, Adam's weakness is women, and he has continued to see her over the years. Dawn suggests that Cain is not his son, since Cain has a dark complexion while Adam and Abel are fair skinned. Even the twins, Morgen and Sorgen, have blonde hair. Dawn goes on to tell Adam about the heathen religions she is founding, whose acolytes occasionally offer human sacrifices to idols.

And now please read the poem again...

Works Cited and Consulted

Byron, Lord George Gordon. "Cain: A Mystery." The Poetical Works of Lord Byron Vol. 5. Ed. Ernest Hartley Coleridge. NY, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2001.

Culbertson, Philip. "De-Demonising Cain ... and Wondering Why?" The Bible and Critical Theory. 2.3 (2006): 28.1-28.11.

Horowitz, Renee B. "Cain and Abel as Existentialist Symbols for Unamuno and Hesse." Papers on Language and Literature. 16.2 (1980): 174-83.

Kim, Angela Y. "Cain and Abel in the Light of Envy: A study in the History of the Interpretation of Envy in Genesis 4.1-16. Journal for the Study of the Pseudigrapha. 12.1 (2001): 65-84.

Michaels, Leonard. "Byron's Cain." Modern Language Association. 84.1 (1969) 71-78.

Milton, John. Paradise Lost. Ed. Merrit Y. Hughes. Indianapolis: Odyssey, 1962.

Moberly, R.W.L. "The Mark of Cain-Revealed at Last." Harvard Theological Review. 100.1 (2007): 11-28.

Perry, T.A. "Cain's Sin in Gen 4:1-7: Oracular Ambiguity and How to Avoid It." Prooftexts. 25 (2005): 258-75.

Saramago, José. Cain. Trans. Margaret Jull Costa. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011.

Tannenbaum, Leslie. 'Lord Byron in the Wilderness: Biblical Tradition in Byron's "Cain" and Blake's "The Ghost of Abel".' Modern Philology. 72.4 (1975): 350-364.

The Bible: Authorized King James Version with Apocrapha. Eds. Robert Carroll and Stephen Prickett. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997.

Van Wolde, Ellen. "The Story of Cain and Abel: A Narrative Study." Journal of the Study of the Old Testament. 52 (1991): 25-41.

Wiens, Elmer. Mennonite Poetry Website. 10 March 2013

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