The Good News of Cain and Abel

King Minos was required by the Greek god Poseidon to sacrifice a particularly lovely bull.  Minos had other ideas.  He liked the bull, and swapped out the sacrifice.  All of Crete then suffered the wrath of Poseidon (Edith Hamilton Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes).

As my daughter reviewed the story for her history class, I found myself comparing it to the story of Cain and Abel.  The God we find in the Hebrew Scriptures (Genesis 4) also takes a dim view of having the wrong sacrifice presented.  The stories diverge greatly after that point.

What do we learn about each deity in these stories?  In both stories the human is to present to the deity that which the deity requires, without regard to their own preferences.  Both men are sloppy in withholding sacrifice and both men approach their deity cavalierly.

The Greek god not only takes revenge on Minos but escalates to abusing Minos’ people.  In contrast, early on in the Hebrew story, God proceeds by reminding Cain to get it right and to check his attitude, with no further condemnation or punishment.  Cain’s response to his God’s correction is to murder an innocent.  Even there, God does not torture Cain, but works with him to offer protection.  Cain is forced out of community, but revenge is not exacted, and the story resolves with Cain bearing the consequence of his own malice.

Even immediately after the fall, we see God working with people instead of against them.  Although God does not exonerate Cain, we see that the loving, relational Hebrew God is quite different from the temperamental, capricious Greek god.

That news is as good today as it would have been in Euripides’ day, as it was in the beginning.

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