Mennonite Poetry Home | Elmer Wiens



Paradise Resumed                    Discussion

Kneeling with natural passion, face uplifted
Dawn repeats her prayers' fated refrain.
Redeem your sons to mingle my seed with Eve's!

Their hunger whetted and consummated, naked
she serves their repast, still libidinously
enamoured with Adam's masculine sight,
his divine resemblance and large front.

Lingering in embrace with cups of wine,
Dawn close at his ear whispers softly
fateful words to stir the animal spirits
of his male engendered pride.

is Cain your son? If so, why is he
so dark when Eve and you are so light?
Even our twin daughters, Morgen and Sorgen,
are fair and blonde. Perhaps my father,

with passion the Tree of Knowledge induced
conceived Cain in carnal knowledge with Eve.

Eve's secret exposed, Dawn reclines
on mossy cushions like Giorgione's
Venus at sunset and as the dusk rises
the supper's fire's embers pattern

lovely female body with flickering chiaroscuro
light and dark, mocking Adam's tortured soul.

Can you see the stars as this world darkens?
Do you discern the celestial constellations emerging?
Have you heard the stories their figures tell?
Do you feel the planets and moon constrain your horoscope?

Adam, the joint of lamb you enjoyed at supper
came from your son Abel. Such a man!
Giant Son of God. Sorgen loves him so.
As do their daughters, and the daughters
of the Others fleeing the Cherubim's flaming
sword out of Eden's east gate. Your

son is so different from Cain, always
weighing the consequences of his actions;
unlike Abel, always following his

You have changed, Adam, your character
more like Cain. When Eve tempted,
why did you succumb? You and I
could have stayed in Paradise,

for all eternity. Was it ever better
than conceiving our daughters? We had
it made. On and on Dawn berates Adam.

Bile darkening his soul, Adam relates
the vision the angel Michael revealed,
in Eden, its details disputed in later years
by John Milton.

And Adam unburdens this prediction —
one of his sons will murder the other —
sibling rivalry in mankind's first family.

Who will kill whom? asks Dawn.
It wasn't clear, replies Adam.
The smoke from the altars burnt
offerings obscured my sight. One
altar was Cain's; the other altar Abel's.

Can we influence this outcome? If God's
Providence out of our evil seek to bring forth good,
our labour must be to pervert that end,
and out of good still to find means of evil
the Serpent's daughter said.

Some of the Others worship gods of the sky,
deities of the moon, sun and planets demanding
their eldest child sacrificed on their heathen altars.
Was this the vision Michael revealed to you?

Not unlike Eve who tempted Adam
with Eden's forbidden fruit, Dawn whispers
her scheme. And why?

                                  Cain, her brother,
rejected Dawn's frequent incestuous advances
while she lay in wait at his field hut's door.

Like all couples, Cain and Morgen
had differences. Conceived under
the Tree of Knowledge with both sinful
X and Y chromosomes, Cain possesses
an acute knowledge of good and evil
and has avoided irreconcilable differences
with his beloved wife.

                                Conceived before
Adam sinned, Morgen has a pure X
chromosome from him, and a sinful X
chromosome from Dawn, conflicting
her desires. After a fight, Cain seeks refuge
in his hut while tilling his fields and growing
fruit and vegetables.

                              Loving all creatures, God
gives some words of fatherly advice to Cain.
If thou doest well shalt thou not be accepted?
And if thou doest not well, Sin (Dawn) lieth
at thy door. And unto thee shall be his (Satan
is the father of Sin) desire.

At their weekly family meeting,
Adam informs his sons that God
wants an offering of their products,
a burnt offering — like the heathens'.

Eve, who has turned Vegan, smiles warmly
at Cain; while Adam, a meat eater, looks
favourably on Abel with his vast herds
of sheep and cattle.

                              Conceived before
Adam and Eve sinned, Abel is a natural.
like Edmund of Shakespeare's King Lear,
operating on instinct, knowing good
without understanding evil.

                                    Abel is like an orphan,
because Adam and Eve became qualitatively
different people after the Fall. He is a giant,
whose stature the Fall did not diminish.

Women love him, because like Adam
before the Fall, he will have sex with
any woman who desires him. His many
offspring, the giant human sons of God,
grieved God so much before the Flood.

Many generations later, it will be said
the patriarch Abraham is much like Abel.
And like righteous Abraham, righteous
Abel is willing to undertake the task
when Adam informs him that God
wants his eldest son as an offering.

And on the appointed day of rest
Cain brought of the fruit of the ground
his offering. And Abel brought
an offering of his flocks of sheep.

And fires were built on the altars of stone,
and Cain roasted potatoes and corn,
and Abel braised lamb chops and steak.

The smoke from Abel's altar rose high
into the heavens, while Cain's altar
smouldered, smoke lingering on the ground.

And God noted Abel's smoke curling
to the heavens, but took no note
of Cain's lingering smoke. And Eve ate of Cain's
offering, while Adam availed himself of Abel's.

Dismayed at this show of favouritism
by his parents, Cain's countenance fell.
With his acute knowledge of good and evil,
Cain knows Abel is about to make another
of his unwitting mistakes.

                                        God notices
Cain's anger and disappointment as Abel's
older brother, and admonishes him again.

If thou doest well shalt thou not be accepted?
And if thou doest not well, Sin lieth at thy door.
And unto thee shall be his desire,
and thou shalt rule over him (Satan).

And in the process of time it came to pass,
that Abel visited Cain working his fields
intending to cut his throat with his sheep
slaughtering knife after knocking him
unconscious with a club. Cain, hoeing
his potatoes with his mattock, thinks
Abel has stopped by for a friendly visit.

After a few words pass between them,
Cain perceives Abel's intentions, dodging
Abel's club that strikes a glancing blow
to Cain's head knocking him to the ground.

As Abel advances on Cain with his knife,
Cain rises up and hits Abel in the temple
with his mattock, killing him instantly.

Cain digs a hole among his rows
of potatoes and buries Abel.

Many generations later when Noah
loads the Ark with animals and plants
to survive the Flood, God orders Noah
to leave out the potatoes.

only survived in the Andes Mountain,
and were only available for European
consumption after the Spanish conquistadors
arrived with their priests.

Cain deceives Adam and Eve with a tale:
Abel has run off with one of his concubines
to minister to some idol worshipers.

God is not gullible. Where is thy brother
God asks. Cain says, I know not: Am
I my brother's keeper?

                                  Cain, of course,
knows that God knows Abel is dead.
But with the theology available
in mankind's early days, Cain
doesn't know if Abel is in hell
or in heaven. His superb knowledge
of good and evil isn't much help
solving paradoxes.

                            If Abel is in heaven,
then God acquiesced to Abel sacrificing
Cain. Abel, with his pure genes, is righteous.
So how can he be in hell?

                                      To be his brother's
keeper, Cain must take over from Satan
in hell with Abel already there.

                                              Cain decides
to leave it up to God to get good
out of this evil conundrum.

that Cain is genuinely sorry for killing
Abel, God banishes Cain to the land of Nod.
Because Cain's potatoes are tainted
with Abel's blood, Cain agrees to focus
his agrarian activities on crops like grain
and corn, crops more difficult to grow.

Cain leaves the sight of God, to raise
children with Morgen and Sorgen,
the inseparable twin daughters
of Adam and Dawn.

And God leaves
the mark on Cain's head from Abel's
club so that the Others will not kill him.

Five generations later, Lamech
also takes two wives, Adah and Zillah.
He retains Cain's acute knowledge
of good and evil, passed down
from Satan's Y chromosome.

When Lamech in self-defence kills a man,
he knows God will protect him from retaliation.

New Testament exegetes dwell
on this paradox of Cain and Abel.

They agree that Cain was the literal
son of Satan. Abel, not affected
genetically by the Fall, was literally

                To kill in self-defence
is evil. To let oneself be killed
is also evil.

God's battle with Satan
is not yet resolved. Mankind
must leave it up to God and Jesus
to get good out of this evil conundrum.

© Elmer Wiens

Paradise Resumed: Discussion

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. "Paradise Interposed." Mennonite Poetry Website. 10 March 2013

© Elmer Wiens




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