The Bible and Critical Theory, Vol 2, No 3 (2006)

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De-Demonising Cain … and Wondering Why?

Philip Culbertson

Abstract


Freud’s theory of sibling rivalry is cited relatively frequently by both biblical scholars and psychodynamic theorists as an explanation for Cain’s murder of Abel. But this seems inadequate to explain fully the dynamics of the story. There seem to be two intergenerational processes at work in Cain’s violence that are often overlooked by biblical exegetes – maternal anger and paternal shaming. Yet this too seems overly-simplistic. A man – Cain – is so angry that he wants to murder someone. But who does he want to murder: the brother who seems to have stolen divine favour from him? The biological father whose shame he already carries, so that it erupts when he is shamed again? Or the great Father, the heavenly Lover with the ultimate power to bless or destroy?

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Bible and Critical Theory: ISSN 1832-3391