Why did Cain kill Abel? How did Cain kill Abel? Methodological reflections on the retelling of the Cain and Abel narrative in Bereshit Rabbah
Keywords:Bible, Old Testament -- Criticism, interpretation, Jewish, Rabbinic literature, Talmud, Cain, (Biblical character), Abel, (Biblical character)
AbstractThis article begins with some reflections on the nature of the midrashic enterprise, focusing upon two major points. Any attempt to delineate the character of any biblical figure as he/she is presented in rabbinic literature is mistaken in its basic presuppositions. The Rabbis did not see the narratives they derived from their excavations into the biblical text as having the same level of facticity and historicity as they did the narrative of the Bible itself. An analysis of the “Our father Jacob never died” discussion in Talmud Bavli, Ta’anit 4b follows, and it leads to the conclusion that midrashic narrative is explicitly demarcated from the historical-literal reconstruction of past events. The remainder of the paper deals with the retelling of the Cain killing Abel history, or rather with the three different reconstructions of that story, in Bereshit Rabbah, and with the detailing of the method by which Cain killed Abel. One is presented as midrashic exegesis and the other as maximalist antiquarian exegesis, and the argument is made that these modes should be radically demarcated from each other.
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Copyright (c) 2003 Chaim Milikowsky
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