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Detail of the Ghent Altarpiece (1432) at Saint Bavo Cathedral

In the Hebrew Bible, Cain and Abel (Hebrew: קין ,הבל, Qayin, Hevel)[1] are two sons of Adam and Eve. The Qur'an also contains this story, although Cain and Abel are not mentioned by name.[2]

In the Greek New Testament, Cain is referred to as εκ του πονηρου. [3] In at least one translation this is rendered "from the evil one"[4], while others have "of the evil one."[5] Some interpreters take this to mean that Cain was literally the son of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. A parallel idea can be found in Jewish tradition,[6] that the serpent (Hebrew nahash נחש) from the Garden of Eden was father to firstborn Cain.

In all versions, Cain is a crop farmer and his younger brother Abel is a shepherd.[7] Cain is portrayed as sinful, committing the first murder by killing his brother,[8] after God[9] has rejected his offerings of produce but accepted the animal sacrifices brought by Abel.[10]

The oldest known copy of the Biblical narration is from the 1st century Dead Sea Scrolls.[11][12] Cain and Abel also appear in a number of other texts,[13] and the story is the subject of various interpretations.[14] Abel, the first murder victim, is sometimes seen as the first martyr;[15] while Cain, the first murderer, is sometimes seen as an ancestor of evil.[16] Some scholars think that it may refer to the days in which agriculture began to replace the ways of the hunter-gatherer.[17] [18]

Allusions to Cain and Abel as an archetype of fratricide persist in numerous references and retellings, through medieval art and Shakespearean works up to present day fiction.



Cain and Abel are traditional English renderings of the Hebrew names Qayin (קין) and Havel (הבל). The original text did not provide vowels.[19] Abel's name is the same three consonants as a root speculated by people to have originally meant "breath", because Rabbis postulated one of its roots thus, also "waste", but is used in the Hebrew Bible primarily as a metaphor for what is "elusive", especially the "vanity" (another definition by the Rabbis of medieval France, Rashi in specific from his translation into Old French) of human beauty and work eg Hebel Jayophe vanity is as beauty from the Song of Songs of Solomon.[20] Julius Wellhausen, and many 'scholars' following him, have proposed that the name is independent of the root.[21] Eberhard Schrader had previously put forward the Akkadian (Old Assyrian dialect) ablu ("son") as a more likely etymology.[22] In the Islamic tradition, Abel is named as Hābīl (هابيل), while Cain is named as Qābīl (قابيل). Although their story is cited in the Quran, neither of them is mentioned by name. Cain is called Qayen in the Ethiopian version of Genesis.[23] The Greek of the New Testament refers to Cain three times,[24] using two syllables ka-in (Κάïν) for the name.[25]

More recent scholarship has produced another theory, a more direct pun. Abel is here thought to derive from a reconstructed word meaning "herdsman", with the modern Arabic cognate ibil, now specifically referring only to "camels". Cain, on the other hand, is thought to be cognate to the mid-1st millennium BC South Arabian word qyn, meaning "metal smith".[26] This theory would make the names merely descriptions of the roles they take in the story—Abel working with livestock, and Cain with agriculture—and would parallel the names Adam ("man") and Eve ("life", Chavah in Hebrew).[27]

The name Abel has been used in many European languages as both surname and first name. In English, however, even Cain features in 17th century, Puritan-influenced families, who had a taste for biblical names, sometimes despite the reputation of the original character.[28][29][30] Contrary to popular belief[citation needed], the surname McCain does not mean "Son of Cain" in Gaelic, rather it is a contraction (also McCann) of Mac Cathan. Gaelic cathan means "warrior", from cath "battle".[31]

Murder and motive

For convenience, the story can be considered in two sections — 1. murder and motive and 2. confrontation and consequences.

Religious sources of the Cain and Abel story can be found in Genesis (950 to 450 BC) in the Hebrew Bible, Sura 5 (Al-Ma'ida) of the Qur'an (early 7th century) and Pearl of Great Price (1851).[32]

Biblical account (Judeo-Christian)

Cain leads Abel to death, by James Tissot.

1Adam knew his wife Eve intimately, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. She said, "I have had a male child with the LORD's help."[33] 2Then she also gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel became a shepherd of a flock, but Cain cultivated the land. 3In the course of time Cain presented some of the land's produce as an offering to the LORD. 4And Abel also presented [an offering][34] — some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions.[35] The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he was downcast.[36] 6Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you furious? And why are you downcast?[37] 7If you do right, won't you be accepted? But if you do not do right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must master it." 8Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go out to the field."[38] And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

Genesis 4:1-8 (HCSB)


Though Genesis depicts Cain's motive in killing Abel as simply being one of jealousy concerning God's favor for Abel, this is not the view of many extra-biblical works. The Midrash and the Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan both record that the real motive involved the desire of women. According to Midrashic tradition, Cain and Abel each had twin sisters, whom they were to marry. The Midrash records that Abel's promised wife was the more beautiful. Cain would not consent to this arrangement. Adam proposed to refer the question to God by means of a sacrifice. God rejected Cain's sacrifice, signifying His disapproval of his marriage with Aclima, and Cain slew his brother in a fit of jealousy.[39]

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Community of Christ, there is a different view, found in part of their scripture, the Book of Moses (part of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible), which describes that Cain's motive is still jealousy, jealous of God's acceptance of Abel's offering and also Abel's livestock of which he is jealous. This translation also holds that it was Satan that "commanded" Cain to make the offering, thus making Cain's sacrifice vain and faithless.

Abel's death

William Blake's The Body of Abel Found by Adam and Eve.

In Christianity, Comparisons are sometimes made between the death of Abel and that of Jesus, the former thus seen as being the first martyr: in Matthew 23:35, Jesus speaks of Abel as righteous; and the Epistle to the Hebrews states that The blood of sprinkling ... [speaks] better things than that of Abel (Hebrews 12:24). The blood of Jesus is interpreted as bringing mercy; but that of Abel as demanding vengeance (hence the curse and mark).[40]

Abel is invoked in the litany for the dying in Roman Catholic Church, and his sacrifice is mentioned in the Canon of the Mass with those of Abraham and Melchisedek. The Coptic Church commemorates him with a feast day on December 28.[41]


According to the Qur'an, Cain (Kabil) buried Abel (Habil), prompted to do so by a single raven scratching the ground, on God's command. The Qur'an states that upon seeing the raven, Cain regretted his action [al-Ma'idah:27-31], and that rather than being cursed by God, since He hadn't done so before, God chose to create a law against murder:

If anyone slew a person – be it for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people; and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.

According to Shi'a Muslim belief, Abel is buried in Nabi Habeel Mosque, located west of Damascus, in Syria.


In classical times, as well as more recently, Abel was regarded as the first innocent victim of the power of evil, and hence the first martyr. In the Book of Enoch (at 22:7), the soul of Abel is described as having been appointed as the chief of martyrs, crying for vengeance, for the destruction of the seed of Cain. This view is later repeated in the Testament of Abraham (at A:13 / B:11), where Abel has been raised to the position as the judge of the souls:

An awful man sitting upon the throne to judge all creatures, and examining the righteous and the sinners. He being the first to die as martyr, God brought him hither [to the place of judgment in the nether world] to give judgment, while Enoch, the heavenly scribe, stands at his side writing down the sin and the righteousness of each. For God said: I shall not judge you, but each man shall be judged by man. Being descendants of the first man, they shall be judged by his son until the great and glorious appearance of the Lord, when they will be judged by the twelve tribes of Israel, and then the last judgment by the Lord Himself shall be perfect and unchangeable.

According to the Coptic Book of Adam and Eve (at 2:1-15), and the Syriac Cave of Treasures, Abel's body, after many days of mourning, was placed in the Cave of Treasures, before which Adam and Eve, and descendants, offered their prayers. In addition, the Sethite line of the Generations of Adam swear by Abel's blood to segregate themselves from the unrighteous.

Confrontation and consequences


9Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?"
"I know not," he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?"
10Then He said, "What have you done? Your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground! 11So now you are cursed [with alienation][42] from the ground that opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood you have shed. 12If you work the land, it will never again give you its yield. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth."
13But Cain answered the Lord, "My punishment[43] is too great to bear! 14Since You are banishing me today from the soil, and I must hide myself from Your presence and become a restless wanderer on the earth, whoever finds me will kill me."
15Then the Lord replied to him, "Therefore,[44] whosoever slayeth Cain vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold. "[45] And the Lord set a Mark upon Cain,lest any finding him should kill him. 16Then Cain went out from the Lord's presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Genesis 4:9-16 (HCSB)


(5:26) Tell them the true story of the two sons of Adam. Each one of them offered a sacrifice. God accepted the sacrifice of one of them but not that of the other who then said to his brother, "I shall certainly kill you." His brother replied, "God only accepts the offerings of the pious ones"(5:27). "Even if you try to kill me, I certainly shall not try to kill you. I have fear of God, the Lord of the creation" (5:28).

"I would prefer you to take sole responsibility for both our sins and thus become a dweller of hell; this is what an unjust person deserves." (5:29) His soul prompted him to kill his own brother. In doing so he became of those who lose(5:30). God sent down a raven which started to dig up the earth to show the killer how to bury the corpse of his brother. On seeing the raven, he said, "Woe to me! Am I less able than a raven to bury the corpse of my brother?" He became greatly remorseful. (5:31) .

Al-Ma'ida (Sura 5)[46]

Pearl of Great Price (Mormon Scripture)

33And Cain gloried in that which he had done, saying: I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands.
34And the Lord said unto Cain: Where is Abel, thy brother? And he said: I know not. Am I my brother's keeper?
35And the Lord said: What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother's blood cries unto me from the ground.
36And now thou shalt be cursed from the earth which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand.
37When thou tillest the ground it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength. A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.
38And Cain said unto the Lord: Satan tempted me because of my brother's flocks. And I was wroth also; for his offering thou didst accept and not mine; my punishment is greater than I can bear.
39Behold thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the Lord, and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that he that findeth me will slay me, because of mine iniquities, for these things are not hid from the Lord.
40And I the Lord said unto him: Whosoever slayeth thee, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And I the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.
41And Cain was shut out from the presence of the Lord, and with his wife and many of his brethren dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.

Moses 5:16-41

Mark of Cain

Much has been written about the curse of Cain, and associated mark. The word translated as mark ('Oth, אות) could mean a sign, omen, warning, or remembrance.[47] In the Bible, the same word is used to describe the stars as signs or omens,[48] circumcision as a token of God's covenant with Abraham,[49] and the signs performed by Moses before Pharaoh.[50]

The word Ot (hard t) in Hebrew also means "a letter" (of the alphabet). Jewish mysticism, among other ancient lores, assigns spiritual ideas or powers to written letters and verses. The Mark of Cain may be a letter, a verse, a message, or a talisman.

The Bible makes reference on several occasions to Kenites, who, in the Hebrew, are referred to as Qayin, i.e. in a highly cognate manner to Cain (Qayin). Some therefore believe that the Mark of Cain referred originally to some very identifying mark of the Kenite tribe, such as red hair, or a ritual tattoo of some kind, which was transferred to Cain as the tribe's eponym. The mark is said to afford Cain some form of protection, in that harming Cain involved the harm being returned sevenfold. This is hence seen as some sort of protection that membership of the tribe offered, in a form such as the entire tribe attacking an individual who harms just one of their number.

Baptist[citation needed] and Catholic[citation needed] groups both consider the idea of God cursing an individual to be out of character, and hence take a different stance. Catholics officially view the curse being brought through the ground itself refusing to yield to, not being in harmony with, Cain[citation needed], whereas some Baptists view the curse as Cain's own aggression, something already present that God merely pointed out rather than added. There are several theories; in the Catholic world one example has been put forth that rather this mark is one of grace, and that perhaps the mark of is that of Abel's blood[51], by which God is saying, "This man is still mine. Vengeance is mine. I will repay. Hands off!" As the heart of God is always ready to show mercy. This view supports Abel as a Christ figure in paralleling Christ’s sacrifice; here a blood sacrifice which acknowledges guilt and counting himself as guilty seeks atonement (this is in contrast to Cain's sacrifice)[52]

In Judaism, the mark is not a punishment but a sign of God's mercy. When Cain was sentenced to be a wanderer he did not dispute the punishment but only begged that the terms of his sentence be altered slightly[citation needed], protesting "Whoever meets me will kill me!" For unspecified reasons, God agrees to this request. He puts the mark on Cain as a sign to others that Cain should not be killed until he has had seven generations of children. Lamech, Cain's descendant, refers poetically to the "mark of Cain" in Genesis 4:19-24, in a passage which has been subject to several interpretations.


As Abel's murderer, Cain was ordered to wander the earth in punishment, a tradition arose that this punishment was to be forever, in a similar manner to the (much later) legends of the Flying Dutchman or the Wandering Jew. According to some Islamic sources, such as al-Tabari, Ibn Kathir and al-Tha'labi, he migrated to Yemen.

Fernand-Anne Piestre Cormon's painting titled "Cain flying before Jehovah's Curse", c. 1880, Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

Though variations on these traditions were strong in medieval times, with several claims of sightings being reported, they have generally gone out of favour. Nevertheless, the Wandering Cain theme has appeared in Mormon folklore (but not scripture)—a second-hand account relates that an early Mormon leader, David W. Patten, encountered a very tall, hairy, dark-skinned man in Tennessee who said that he was Cain. The account states that Cain had earnestly sought death but was denied it, and that his mission was to destroy the souls of men.[53][54] The recollection of Patten's story is quoted in Spencer W. Kimball's The Miracle of Forgiveness, a popular book within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[55]

Despite these later traditional beliefs of perpetual wandering, according to the earlier Book of Jubilees (chapter 4) Cain settled down, marrying his sister, Awan, resulting in his first son, Enoch (considered to be different from the more famous Enoch), approximately 196 years after the creation of Adam. Cain then established the first city, naming it after his son, built a house, and lived there until it collapsed on him, killing him in the same year that Adam died.

A medieval legend used to say that at the end, Cain arrived at the Moon, where he eternally settled with a bundle of twigs. This was originated by popular fantasy interpreting the shadows on the Moon face. An example of this belief can be found in Dante Alighieri's Inferno (XX, 126[56]) where the expression "Cain and the twigs" is used as a synonym of "moon".

Legacy and symbolism

15th century depiction of Cain and Abel, Speculum Humane Salvationis, Germany.

In medieval Christian art, particularly in 16th century Germany, Cain is depicted as a stereotypical ringleted, bearded Jew, who killed Abel the blonde, European gentile symbolizing Christ.[57] This traditional depiction has continued for centuries in some form, such as James Tissot's 19th century Cain leads Abel to Death.

Another view is taken in Latter-day Saint theology, where Cain is considered to be the quintessential Son of Perdition, the father of secret combinations (i.e. secret societies and organized crime), as well as the first to hold the title Master Mahan meaning master of [the] great secret, that [he] may murder and get gain.[citation needed]


As the first murderer and first murder victim, Cain and Abel have often formed the basis of tragic drama. Lord Byron rewrote and dramatized the story in the poem "Cain", viewing Cain as symbolic of a sanguinary temperament, provoked by Abel's hypocrisy and sanctimony.[57] In Dante's Purgatory Cain is remembered by the souls in Purgatory in Canto XIV (14) on page 153, verse 133 saying "I shall be slain by all who find me!", Cain is facing the punishment that God has visited upon him for the sin of Envy, which is a similar play on the words in Genesis 4:13-14 where he says, "I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me." John Steinbeck's novel East of Eden retells the Cain and Abel story in the setting of the late 19th and early 20th century western migration towards California. Also, his novelette Of Mice and Men draws elements from the story. Baudelaire is more sympathetic to Cain in his poem "Abel et Caïn" in the collection Les Fleurs du mal, where he depicts Cain as representing all the downtrodden people of the world. The poem's last lines exhort, "Race de Caïn, au ciel monte/Et sur la terre jette Dieu!" (In English: "Race of Cain, storm up the sky / And cast God down to Earth!") Miguel de Unamuno's Abel Sánchez (1917) is a study on envy. Abel receives everything undeservingly, while his friend Joaquín is despised by God and society and envies him. Kane and Abel is a modern adaptation, a 1979 novel by British author Jeffrey Archer. In 1985, it was made into a CBS television miniseries titled Kane & Abel, starring Peter Strauss as Rosnovski and Sam Neill as Kane. In A Time For Everything (2004) by Karl Ove Knausgård, the story of Cain and Abel is retold with a focus on Cain - an introvert and troubled man who gets the reader's sympathy. In this version, God's favouring of Abel is simultaneously a curse for sneaking into Eden past the Cherubs guarding the gate. It is suggested that Abel in fact wants Cain to kill him, or at least this is what Cain believes - though he later regrets his act, and takes his punishment willingly.

Some form of legacy or curse of the name is often seen in literature: the monster Grendel in Beowulf is a descendant of Cain. In the epilogue to Agatha Christie's novel And Then There Were None, the author refers to the Mark of Cain in laying out the clues. There is a Stephen King short story titled Cain Rose Up, in which a college student goes on a killing spree while ruminating on the story of Cain and Abel. In the DC Comics (Vertigo division) universe, Cain and Abel are a pair of fictional characters based on the Biblical Cain and Abel, in Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. In the series, Cain is constantly killing off his brother, despite the fact they are both immortals.

Cain was traditionally considered to have red hair; the expression "Cain-coloured beard" is used in Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor.[57] In addition, Shakespeare also references Cain and Abel in Act III Scene iii of Hamlet when Claudius says, "It hath the primal eldest curse upon't/ A brother's murder!" (Lines 40-41).

Their names are often used in works of fiction simply as a reference, also. In Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, the character of Estragon tries to guess the names of two other characters. He guesses Abel and Cain. One of Jason Bourne's many names in the The Bourne Identity and its sequels was Cain, an operative name in the Treadstone 71 program.


Both Cain and his name have been used in works of television, film and video games. In the Command & Conquer series, the main antagonist is Kane, the leader of the Brotherhood of Nod. In addition to having a subordinate officer named Seth, Kane has a sarcophagus with the name Abel inscribed on it.

In both incarnations of Battlestar Galactica, the commander of the Battlestar Pegasus is named Cain.

In Mass Effect 2, the most powerful heavy weapon is named Cain.

See also


  1. ^ Genesis 4:1-2, "And the man knew Eve his wife; and she conceived and bore Cain, and said: 'I have gotten a man with the help of the YHWH.' And again she bore his brother Abel." Jewish Publication Society Bible, 1917 (public domain)
  2. ^ Qur'an, 5:27-32
  3. ^ 1 John 3:12
  4. ^ International Standard Version
  5. ^ New American Standard Version, Douay-Rheims Bible, English Revised Version, World English Bible, Young's Literal Translation, etc.
  6. ^ Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, Vol.1, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998, ISBN 0-8018-5890-9, p.105-9
  7. ^ "Cain cultivated the land" - Genesis 4:2
  8. ^ "Abel became a shepherd." (Genesis 4:2)
  9. ^ Genesis 4:1,3 and others (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, BHS)
  10. ^ Abel brought the from the firstborn of his flock and from their fats, whereas Cain brought from the fruits of the earth. Relevant passage quoted in text below
  11. ^ (4QGenb = 4Q242) The Dead Sea Scrolls were inspected using infra-red photography and published by Jim R Davila as part of his doctoral dissertation in 1988. See: Jim R Davila, Unpublished Pentateuchal Manuscripts from Cave IV Qumran: 4QGenExa, 4QGenb-h, j-k, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1988.
  12. ^ PaeleoJudaica, Davila's blog post [search for 4QGenb].
  13. ^ Jubilees 4:31; Patriarchs, Benjamin 7; Enoch 22:7.
  14. ^ Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 1:7:5 (c. 180) describes (unfavourably) a Gnostic interpretation. Church Fathers, Rabbinic commentators and more recent scholars have also proposed interpretations.
  15. ^ Notably by Jesus of Nazareth as quoted by Matthew 23:35 (mid 1st century), "The blood of righteous Abel," in a reference to many martyrs.
  16. ^ Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer 21 (c. 833) and others.
  17. ^ J. H. Hatfield, Why Call Me God? : The Gospel Seen with a Single Eye, ISBN 978-0-9562057-0-4.
  18. ^ "Kain and Abel". Retrieved 2007-10-09. 
  19. ^ BHS. A very small minority of scholars believe that the original Hebrew Bible did have vowels, but their viewpoint is in disagreement with almost all of modern Hebrew scholarship.
  20. ^ Brown Driver Briggs (BDB), p. 210.
  21. ^ Julius Wellhausen, Skizzen und Vorarbeiten, volume 3, (1887), p. 70.
  22. ^ Eberhard Schrader, Die Keilinschrift und das Alte Testament, 1872.
  23. ^ "Holy of Holies". Time Emits. Retrieved 2007-09-08. 
  24. ^ Hebrews 11:4; 1John 3:12; Jude 1:11.
  25. ^ Novum Testamentum Graece (NA27).
  26. ^ Richard S. Hess, Studies in the Personal Names of Genesis 1-11, pp. 24-25. ISBN 3-7887-1478-6.
  27. ^ See Adam and Eve for details.
  28. ^ For popularity in Thornton, Yorkshire see 'Thornton Village: History' [Internet], Brontë County.
  29. ^ For a neutral comment regarding America see Myra Vanderpool Gormley, 'Given Names in Early America: Shaped by history, religion and traditions' [Internet], RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees, (Los Angeles Times Syndicate, 1989).
  30. ^ For general unpopularity note that, "There was a natural dislike of Cain, Delilah, Jezebel, Herod." Donald Lines Jacobus, Genealogy As Pastime and Profession, 2nd revised edition, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publication Company, 1978), p. 29. ISBN 978-0-8063-0188-4
  31. ^ Henry Harrison, Surnames of the United Kingdom: A Concise Etymological Dictionary, (London: 1912), p. 65.
  32. ^ Franklin D. Richards, The Pearl of Great Price: Being a Choice Selection from the Revelations, Translations and Narrations of Joseph Smith, (Liverpool: KD Richards, 1851).
  33. ^ Literally, the Lord (HCSB).
  34. ^ The bracketed text has been added for clarity (HCSB).
  35. ^ or fat calves, or milk Josephus — all plausible renderings the Hebrew consonants
  36. ^ Lit and his face fell (HCSB).
  37. ^ Lit. why has your face fallen (HCSB).
  38. ^ Sam, LXX, Syr, Vg; MT omits Let's go out to the field (HCSB).
  39. ^ Brewer, E. Cobham (1978 (reprint of 1894 version)). The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Edwinstowe, England: Avenel Books. pp. 3. ISBN 0-517-259-21-4. 
  40. ^ For copies of a spectrum of notable translations and commentaries see Hebrews 12:24 at the Online Parallel Bible.
  41. ^ Holweck, F. G., A Biographical Dictionary of the Saints. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1924.
  42. ^ The bracketed text has been added for clarity. HCSB
  43. ^ Or sin
  44. ^ LXX, Syr, Vg read Not so!
  45. ^ .
  46. ^ S. Abul A'la Maududi The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Brief Notes. Lahore, Pakistan: 13E, Shahalam Market, 12th Edition 1995.
  47. ^ BDB, p. 16f.
  48. ^ Genesis 1:14
  49. ^ Genesis 17:11.
  50. ^ Exodus 4:8-9).
  51. ^ i.e. Archbishop Fulton J Sheen CCD & Life is Worth Living Series
  52. ^ Catholic Stained Glass Window Pictures Abel as priest
  53. ^ Letter by Abraham O. Smoot, quoted in Lycurgus A. Wilson (1900). Life of David W. Patten, the First Apostolic Martyr (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News) p. 50 (pp. 46–47 in 1993 reprint by Eborn Books).
  54. ^ Linda Shelley Whiting (2003). David W. Patten: Apostle and Martyr (Springville, Utah: Cedar Fort) p. 85.
  55. ^ Spencer W. Kimball (1969). The Miracle of Forgiveness (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, ISBN 0884944441) pp. 127–128.
  56. ^ Dante, The Divine Comedy, Inferno, canto 20, line 126 and 127. The Dante Dartmouth Project contains the original text and centuries of commentary.
    "For now doth Cain with fork of thorns confine
    On either hemisphere, touching the wave
    Beneath the towers of Seville. Yesternight
    The moon was round."
    Also in Paradiso, canto 2, line 51.
    But tell, I pray thee, whence the gloomy spots
    Upon this body, which below on earth
    Give rise to talk of Cain in fabling quaint?"
  57. ^ a b c de Vries, Ad (1976). Dictionary of Symbols and Imagery. Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Company. pp. 75. ISBN 0-7204-8021-3. 

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See also abel



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From Hebrew הבל (hebel, hevel), breath, vapor; vanity) or from Assyrian Neo-Aramaic  (aplu), son)


  • IPA: /ˈeɪbəl/


Proper noun




  1. (Biblical) The son of Adam and Eve who was killed by his brother Cain.
  2. A male given name.


  • 1611King James Version of the Bible, Genesis 4:8
    And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.

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Proper noun


  1. A male given name of biblical origin.

Related terms



Proper noun


  1. (Biblical) Abel.
  2. A male given name.

Related terms




From Hebrew הבל (Hebel).

Proper noun

Abel m. (Cyrillic spelling Абел)

  1. (Biblical) Abel (son of Adam and Eve).
  2. A male given name.


See also

  • Avelj


Proper noun


  1. (Biblical) Abel


  • 1602La Santa Biblia (antigua versión de Casiodoro de Reina), rev., Génesis 4:8
    Y habló Caín á su hermano Abel: y aconteció que estando ellos en el campo, Caín se levantó contra su hermano Abel, y le mató.

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Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Othenio Abel article)

From Wikispecies

Austrian palaeontologist (1875 – 1945)

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Meaning: a breath, or vanity

(Heb. Hebhel),

The second son of Adam and Eve. He was put to death by his brother Cain (Gen 4:1). Guided by the instruction of their father, the two brothers were trained in the duty of worshipping God. "And in process of time" (marg. "at the end of days", i.e., on the Sabbath) each of them offered up to God of the first-fruits of his labours. Cain, as a husbandman, offered the fruits of the field; Abel, as a shepherd, of the firstlings of his flock.

"The Lord had respect unto Abel and his offering; but unto Cain and his offering he had not respect". On this account Cain was angry with his brother, and formed the design of putting him to death; a design which he at length found an opportunity of carrying into effect (Gen 4:8. Comp. 1Jn 3:12).

There are several references to Abel in the New Testament. Jesus speaks of him as "righteous" (Mt 23:35). "The blood of sprinkling" is said to speak "better things than that of Abel" (Heb 12:24); i.e., the blood of Jesus is the reality of which the blood of the offering made by Abel was only the type. The comparison here is between the sacrifice offered by Christ and that offered by Abel, and not between the blood of Christ calling for mercy and the blood of the murdered Abel calling for vengeance, as has sometimes been supposed.

It is also said (Heb 11:4) that "Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain." This sacrifice was made "by faith;" this faith rested in God, not only as the Creator and the God of providence, but especially in God as the great Redeemer, whose sacrifice was typified by the sacrifices which, no doubt by the divine institution, were offered from the days of Adam downward. On account of that "faith" which looked forward to the great atoning sacrifice, Abel's offering was accepted of God. Cain's offering had no such reference, and therefore was rejected.

Abel was the first martyr, as he was the first of our race to die.

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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Biblical Data

The younger brother of Cain and the second son of Adam and Eve. He was the first shepherd, while Cain was a tiller of the soil. The writer of Gen. iv. tells us that when the brothers came as a matter of course to present their offerings to God, the sacrifice of Abel—the first-lings of his flock—was preferred to that of Cain, who gave of the fruits of the earth. The acceptance of Abel's offering aroused the jealousy of Cain, who, in spite of the warnings of God, wreaked his vengeance upon the favorite by murdering him.

In Hellenistic and Rabbinical Literature:

Abel was regarded as the first innocent victim of the power of evil, represented by Cain; the first martyrsaint, with the title the Just. In Enoch 227 the soul of Abel is the chief of the martyr-souls in Sheol, crying to God for vengeance until the seed of Cain shall be destroyed from the earth. In the vision of the bulls and lambs (Enoch 853ff) Abel, whose death is deeply mourned by Eve, is the red bull pursued by Cain, the black bull. In the Testament of Abraham (recension A, chap. xiii., and recension B, chap. xi.) Abel is described as the judge of the souls:

"an awful man sitting upon the throne to judge all creatures, and examining the righteous and the sinners. He being the first to die as martyr, God brought him hither [to the place of judgment in the nether world] to give judgment, while Enoch, the heavenly scribe, stands at his side writing down the sin and the righteousness of each. For God said: I shall not judge you, but each man shall be judged by man. Being descendants of the first man, they shall be judged by his son until the great and glorious appearance of the Lord, when they will be judged by the twelve tribes [judges] of Israel [compare Mt 19:28], and then the last judgment by the Lord Himself shall be perfect and unchangeable."

Josephus ("Ant." i. 2, § 1) calls Abel "a lover of righteousness, excellent in virtue, and a believer in God's omnipresence; Cain altogether wicked, greedy, and wholly intent upon 'getting' [ קבל]."

According to the Ethiopic Book of Adam and Eve (ii. 1-15) and the Syrian Cave of Treasures, both works of half-Jewish, half-pagan (Egyptian) character (see Gelzer, "Julius Africanus," ii. 272 et seq.), the body of Abel the Just, after many days of mourning, was placed in the Cave of Treasures. Before this cave, Adam and Eve and their descendants offered their prayers; and "by the blood of Abel the Just" Seth and his descendants adjured their children not to mingle with the seed of the unrighteous.

It is, therefore, an awful curse hurled against the Pharisees when Jesus is represented as saying: "Upon you may all the righteous blood shed upon the earth come, from the blood of the righteous Abel [compare Epistle to the Hebrews, xi. 4, and I John, iii. 12] unto the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom ye slew between the sanctuary and the altar" (Matt. xxiii. 35). From Josephus ("B. J." iv. 5, § 4) it appears that this murder took place thirty-four years after the death of Jesus.

Abel, according to Midrash, protested against Cain's denial of a divine judgment and of a future retribution, and declared for the existence of a divine judgment and a judge, a future world with reward for the righteous and punishment for the wicked. "With the first produce of the field the Lord blessed all the saints from Abel until now," says Issachar (Test. Patriarchs, p. 5). According to Pirḳe de-R. Eliezer (chap. xxi.), Abel's dog watched by his corpse to keep off the beasts of prey; and while Adam and Eve were sitting there, weeping and mourning, a raven came and buried a bird in the sand. Thereupon Adam said, "Let us do the same"; and he dug up the earth and buried his son.

Regarding the mourning over Abel, compare the Book of Jubilees, iv. 7, with the strange interpretation of Abel as "Mourning" (as if the name were written ). Compare Philo, "De Migratione Abrahami," xiii., and Josephus, "Ant." i. 2, § 1. K.

God's favorable attitude toward Abel's sacrifice (Gen. iv. 4) is shown in the fact that it was consumed by fire from heaven. This is a haggadic idea known to Theodotion, accepted by the Christians, and found in the works of many Church Fathers, such as Cyril of Alexandria, Jerome, Ephraem Syrus, and Aphraates. In midrashic literature, however, it is found only in later works (Midrash Zuṭṭa, p. 35, ed. Buber, Berlin, 1899).

Woman was at the bottom of the strife between the first brothers. Each of the sons of Adam had a twin-sister whom he was to marry. As Abel's twin-sister was the more beautiful, Cain wished to have her for his wife, and sought to get rid of Abel (Pirḳe R. Eliezer, xxi.; Gen. R. xxii. 7, according to Ginzberg's emendation; Epiphanius, "De Hæresi," xl. 5, "Schatzhöhle," ed. Bezold, p. 34; compare, too, "The Book of the Bee," ed. Budge, pp. 26, 27).

Abel, stronger than Cain, overcame him in a struggle between them, but mercifully spared his life. Cain, however, took Abel unawares and, overpowering him, killed him with a stone (Gen. R. xxii. 18)—some say with a cane, or even that he choked him with his fingers (compare Ginzberg, cited below, pp. 229, 230, 298, 299).

The place where Abel was killed remained desolate forever, never producing vegetation (Midrash Canticles, ed. Shechter; "Jew. Quart. Rev.," 1894-95, vii. 160. Jerome, "Commentary on Ezekiel," xxvii.18, supported by Jewish tradition, held it to be Damascus (Heb. : blood; drink). According to another version, the earth refused to take up Abel's blood (Apocalypsis Mosis, xl.).

Since man had no knowledge of burial, Abel's corpse remained unburied for some time. At God's command, two turtle-doves flew down; one died; the other dug a hollow place and moved the dead one into it. Thereupon Adam and Eve did likewise to Abel's body (Tan., Bereshit, § 10; Pirḳe R. Eliezer, xxi., see also Gen. R. l.c.; compare "Denkschrift d. Wiener Akademie," xx. 52, and Ginzberg, l.c. 295).

Bibliography: Ginzberg, in Monatsschrift, 1899, 226-230, 294-298.L. G.

In Mohammedan Legend:

The story of Cain and Abel is thus told in the Koran (sura v. 30 et seq.): "Recite to them the story of the two sons of Adam: Truly, when they offered an offering and it was accepted from one of them, and was not accepted from the other, that one [Cain] said, 'I will surely kill thee.' He [Abel] said, 'God only accepts from those who fear. If thou dost stretch forth to me thine hand to kill me, I will not stretch forth mine hand to kill thee; verily, I fear God, the Lord of the worlds; verily, I wish that thou mayest draw upon thee my sin and thy sin, and be of the fellows of the fire; for that is the reward of the unjust.' But his soul allowed him to slay his brother, and he slew him, and in the morning he was of those who perish. And God sent a crow to scratch in the earth and show him how he might hide his brother's shame; he said, 'Alas for me! Am I too helpless to become like this crow and hide my brother's shame?' And in the morning he was of those that did repent " (compare Pirḳe R. El. xxi).

No further mention is made of Abel; and the absence of his name here causes the commentator Baidawi and the historian Tabari to say that the two mentioned here were not sons of Adam, but "children of Adam" or merely descendants. The Arabic historians (Ya'ḳubi, Tabari, Ibn al-Athir, etc.) call Abel "Habil"; and, following Jewish tradition, they say that to each one of the brothers a sister or sisters were born. Adam wished that each should marry the sister of the other; but Cain's sister was the handsomer of the two and had been born in paradise; while Abel and his sister had been begotten outside of the garden. Adam suggested that the question should be settled by each one bringing an offering. Abel brought of the best of his flock, but Cain of the worst of the products of the ground. Fire fell from heaven, and consumed only the offering of Abel. The sister of Abel is called Kelimia; that of Cain, Lubda (compare Lebuda and Kelimat in the Syriac "Schatzhöhle," ed. Bezold, trans., p. 8; and in the "Book of the Bee," ed. Budge, trans., p. 25; in the Ethiopic Midrash the names are Aklemia and Lubuwa; see Malan, "Book of Adam and Eve," pp. 93, 104). According to an another tradition, Adam's height shrank considerably through grief at the death of Abel.

Critical View

The Biblical account of Abel comes from one writer (J) only, and is so brief and fragmentary that much is left to speculation when we try to get the original form of the story. The name itself can not be satisfactorily explained, as it is only clear that the narrative comes from a very old tradition. The Assyrian word for son is hablu, and the derivation from a Babylonian source seems to be quite probable (Stade's "Zeitschrift," 1884, p. 250). The story is intended to set forth: First, the superiority of the pastoral over the agricultural occupation. This prejudice naturally inhered in the nomadic life. The fact confirms the antiquity of the original story. Secondly, it emphasizes the peculiar value of the choicest animal sacrifices as developed later in the ritual system. Thirdly, it shows how deep-seated was the jealousy and rivalry between people of different occupations, who in ancient times formed separate communities and were continually at war. Fourthly, there also lurks in the story a consciousness that certain people are more pleasing to God than others, and that the difference is, in part at least, connected with modes of worship and sacrifice. Neither Abel nor Cain is referred to in later Old Testament books. The New Testament has several references.


  • Weil, Biblische Legenden der Musulmänner, p. 30;
  • Grünbaum, Neue Beiträge zur Semitischen Sagenkunde, pp. 67 et seq.G.
This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
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Sex: Male
Father: Adam (4004 BC-3074 BC)
Mother: Eve (4004 BC-?)
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(English): Cain and Abel
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Book of Genesis

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