hangin’ on tour

i’ve been on tour in the midwest for the past week or so. it’s been a great trip….awesome shows, good weather (for the most part) and some great hang out sessions.

first was tony jones in minneapolis. we hung out for a bit before the show. he gave me a tour of solomon’s porch church which was really great. we also got some food/beers and had some great conversation. he blogged about it here in more detail so check it out.

in chicago i met up with rob and kristen bell along with some friends of theirs. it’s always great catching up with friends on the road. we also had some great conversation and I ended up stumping both Rob and his colleague Kent Dobson with a question about Genesis. My question is who was Cain so afraid of being harmed by after he had killed Abel? Was he afraid of his own parents? He would have to be because as far as the story goes, after Abel was killed, there’s no one else there. Who are all these people that Cain was worried about and where did they come from?

if you have a theory, hit me with it.


38 thoughts on “hangin’ on tour

  1. Um…there were other people there. Reading Genesis like that is reading it in a paradigm it does not fit. In other words, the pre-historical section of Genesis (that is, before Abram) isn’t concerned with that kind of facticity.

  2. agreed w/ tony…

    gen 1-11 is, in my newer understanding, best read as “language the hebrew people used to explain/identify their ‘origins'”

    … very simply speaking.

  3. i went to church with rob bell when he was in seminary. i wish i had gotten to know him a bit better back then so i could hang with him nowadays. he fascinates me. i am hoping to make it to your dallas show next week, but it’s not looking so good at the moment…tix are sold out. it’s a fantastic venue though…you’ll have a good time.

  4. In sticking with Jamie’s “N” theme, No one, Nancies, Nerds?

    I just love that Tony used the word “facticity”. At least you went to what looks like a good restaurant. He made me eat Mexican Food… in Minnesota – it was weird.

    Like Patrick, coming to the show in Dallas isn’t looking promising because ticketmaster is short on tickets(that’s what happens when cool rock bands come to town)- I was hoping to get a chance to say “hello”. He is right, The Granada is cool… Maybe I’ll come anyway, but only if you promise to play “Sweetness” πŸ™‚

  5. you mean genesis isn’t literally factual? tony, you’re crushing all that i’ve come to know from my baptist upbringing. al mohler will be REALLY pissed at you now……


  6. wait zach and tony, if genesis isn’t “literally factual,” then what is it? do you mean to say that there wasn’t really a “fall” or a cain or noah? i’m curious to konw how you believe that and still find the bible meaningful as more than just a story to give arbitrary meaning to existence.

  7. poor marks for patrick and chris. you snooze, you lose, right? maybe if you email me your names, i can figure something out.

    jack, thanks for the comment. along the same lines as justin, i don’t really treat the genesis 1-11 as a literal historical account. that’s sort of why i asked the question about Cain. I think it’s one example of how the story itself undermines that kind of approach. for me Genesis is story that reveals the nature of God in a very truthful, meaningful way while not necessarily being historically accurate %100 of the time. does that make sense?

  8. Well said, Zach. I agree that the story of Cain is one way to point that the literal approach may not always be the best one.

    Is having Patrick and Chris email you their names some kind of game – “Find Zach’s email address” I tried to do that a while back, but I think I failed in that scavenger hunt, I don’t think my email made it through. πŸ™‚

    You think Al Mohler doesn’t like Tony? Nawww!;)

    Hope to catch you Tuesday rocking the Granada! Blessings!

  9. I love wrestling with this idea, because it makes people think rather than just read.

    To comment on jack’s statement and add to Zach’s response: If the story of Adam and Eve is taken literally, then you have to admit that there is a problem with Cains ‘adversaries’. The Hebrew people, for centuries, had these scriptures memorized. Did they not see this problem? Or did they understand that this form of writing, especially since it was not an eye-witness account, was to be taken figuratively? Not to say there’s no truth in it, but maybe the truth can’t be perfectly known, and that is acceptable. Adam is the same word as man right? So could it be read like God created man, just more poetically written? And am I saying that I could sleep tonight if there was no actual Adam and Eve? Yes, I guess I am.

  10. Hey Zach,
    Hope you enjoyed the show at Southgate.

    Would it really affect the literal interpretation of Genesis if his adversaries were his family? It would almost make sense for them to want to take vengeance on the one who killed one of their own. What is the time frame that Cain and Abel were born. Judging by how long Adam lived, could their be the potential that some of his offspring wandered off to start their own communities?

  11. I suppose you could be right Jacob, but we’ll never really know. Even if the Cain and Abel story doesn’t undermine a literal interpretation of Genesis, there are numerous other hurdles for one to overcome in order to hold on to a literal interpretation with any ounce of intellectual honesty.

  12. jacob, it seems that you are in defense of a literal interpretation of Genesis. If that’s your inclination, then i’m sorry if i’ve stepped on your toes a bit.

    Before I attempt to answer your question, can I ask why this issue is important for you considering you haven’t found it important enough to study Genesis with any “scrutiny”?

  13. Zach, looking forward to the show in Dallas tomorrow night.

    I really enjoyed Brian McLaren’s “Why I Am Biblical” chapter from A Generous Orthodoxy, and discussions like this one on Genesis always bring me back to that. Perhaps finding value in Scripture beyond facticity should be talked about more often in many circles.

  14. I had a guy come into work last night and when he found out I’m a religion major at Baylor proceeded to ask me my views on evolution. I told him I didn’t know enough about science to make a call on it.

    He then said, “You know what I say when some one tells me they believe in evolution? ‘you gotta be stupid to believe in evolution!'”

    So I asked him if he believed that when God created the world if he breathed air from his lungs across his vocal chords and out his mouth in order to form the word “Let there be…” and he got this really contorted look on his face like it was something he’d never thought of before.

    I too will be at the show tomorrow night. Can’t wait.

  15. Nah, you haven’t stepped on my toes.
    I have grown up in circles where the idea of Genesis being a literal account was never even raised. I just read it assuming it was.
    I have never taken the time to figure out if parts of it could lead to a non-literal interpretation.

  16. I think this can be taken literally. It may lack some of the broader storylines, but it’s pretty juicy on its own.

    Gen 4:10 – And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.

    Is that literal blood figuratively speaking to God or is it Abel’s family? If it’s Abel’s family then it would give Cain reason to fear for his life.

    Most people started having kids around 70, so it’s safe to assume that if that holds true for Adam and Eve then there could easily be over 1,000 people in the area at the time of the murder.

    Also, why did God set a mark on Cain warning others not to kill him? In Gen 9:6 Noah and his kids are told to punish by death anyone who murders.

    Lots of good stuff to ponder.

  17. Growing up Catholic, and later going to catholic school, it amazed me that many catholics did not understand Vatican 2. So, while Genesis to me, and according to V2 is a ‘story’ meant to teach lessons…I had thought Cain was afraid of God.

    Now get your band in gear and come on out east (just not during Aug or Sept when I will be out your way visiting heather and daren) πŸ™‚

  18. Jacob, I really appreciate your honesty about how you never even thought about it that way until now – there are lots of people out there who wouldn’t be so honest…

    On another note, I think that all of us who are going to be at the show tonight should find a way to connect… Maybe create a “Finding Rhythms” reader section? πŸ˜‰

  19. I was under the impression from bible school that the first part of genisis is written using a poetic form of hebrew that was not meant to be literal but someone with a deeper understanding of ancient hebrew then my self should probably correct me if I am wrong. Good question though… if I were Cain I would probably be afraid of God.

  20. Zach — I like the “emo-emergent” tag you coined over at Tony’s blog. Maybe you could shorten it to “emogent” — though that does sound a bit like a muscle relaxer or sleep aid. After the whole rockstar thing is done, maybe a job in Big Pharma is waiting for you πŸ˜‰

  21. Does the emergent movement simply get all followers to agree that EVERYTHING in the Bible is figurative? Nothing is literal? No heaven, no hell, no Adam , no Eve, No sin…(how convenient….no savior needed now, then) It’s like you’re gerbils on wheels ever running, studying, searching, re-inventing or re-imagining till you come to the place of absolute nothingness. THAT is what you can be SURE OF….NOTHING…NO ANSWERS…NO FAITH…the journey leads you to the self-inflicted self-portrait of Van Gough…after screaming into the silent abyss you come to profound place of NOTHINGNESS…..(where stark raving mad Solomon said it was all MEANINGLESS. Maybe he should have steered clear of those 3,000 wives and their false gods!!)

    What I come away with from reading posts by emergents is one thing:


  22. As an outsider in this debate I see your concern; however to take literal meaning in things that can be physically proven to be incorrect seems somewhat worse. Life IS confusing, no one knows the whole truth, but there are some things that we do know.

    Surely a central part of healthy faith should be a continuous internal debate over God, one’s own meaning etc. Here lies the difference between faith and blind faith.

  23. I think Abraham had blind faith…why , NOAH had blind faith…Moses had it after the Burning Bush encounter. Rahab had it and DID NOT PERISH….John the Baptist had it…proclaimg the Lamb of God…yet still wondering in the clink if Jesus was truly the One . John’s days were numbered. I think emergents beat their blind faith into a “faith that is pliable” by their own hands. Sometimes you have to just have BLIND FAITH and trust and believe God. Job sure did. Blessing came out of his chaos.

  24. Back to the original topic of the post…

    Why would the Cain and Abel story, if taken literally, imply that there was no one else around to kill Cain? That reading seems just a little simplistic…

    The next chapter says that Adam lived 930 years and that Seth lived 807 years and so on an so on. Let’s imagine that Cain and Abel married their sisters (hehehe). Now, let’s imagine that Cain gets pissed (mad, not drunk) with Abel somewhere around his 200th birthday and kills him. By this time, both Cain and Abel could have had 6 living generations under them. That would literally be thousands of people.

    Obviously the story doesn’t give us all the details, but why should it? It’s not a science book or a history text. You’re right about that. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t to be taken “literally.” Does it?

  25. yeah, matt….i guess as far as the story goes, what you’re suggesting isn’t impossible. what is impossible, or at least unheard of, is a human being actually living 930 years. something about that number tips me off that maybe this story isn’t as entirely as factual as many claim it to be.

  26. C.S. Lewis presents a really cool idea about the age thing in his Space Trilogy. In the books at one point the character essentially meets God somewhat face-to-face. Then he ends up living abnormally long and somewhere along the lines makes a comment that people who have been in the direct presence of God have a tendency to live longer. And then it has kind of a trickle off effect as the lineage moves down away from the original person.

    Disclaimer: I’m not saying this is some kind of absolute explanation, or that this proves that it is literal. It’s just a cool idea.

  27. I’m more prone to taking scientific stances on these things. The explanation I’ve heard is that the rate of decay in age is directly related to the amount of radiation. Throughout time our cells have become weaker and weaker with more exposure to radiation. When the flood occurred the amount of radiation went haywire due to the canopy basically falling onto earth. If you look at the ages in the Bible they take a dramatic fall in the years following the flood. You can follow it all the way to now, where we’ve reached an equilibrium and the age expectancy is pretty uniform with sufficient health care.

    Just a thought. πŸ™‚

  28. Zach,
    You assert that no one has “actually lived 930 years.” You can only make that statement because you have no first hand knowledge or scientifically-verified knowledge of someone living that long. However, you probably also do not possess these types of knowledge for things like someone rising from the dead, for a sack lunch being multipled into a feast for thousands, or for the mysterious feat of God-become-man….just a thought….

  29. so adam and all his longer living kind are comparable to Jesus? interesting….

    the problem with your comparison is that someone living for hundreds of years in Genesis is not that unusual. It’s a common occurrence. The miracles of Jesus were the exact opposite. They are mysterious and wonderful happenings that came as a surprise to those in that time. are you categorizing the length of lives recorded in the bible as miracles?

    just a thought……

  30. i’ve kind of used narnia to shape this part of my theology (shame on me)β€”when narnia was young, the “miraculous” was more regular. the uncommon, the common.

    so, similarly, genesis, there’s uncommon happening all over the place. and as time passes, it slows down. then again, exodus-deuteronomy, you have a good mix that has almost all but disappeared by the babylonian exile. during david’s life? some “miraculous,” but a lot less than moses. by the time of jeremiahβ€”even less and less. post exile? i can think of exactly zero in nehemiah.

    again, i’m talking trends, nothing you can draw a calendar by. and then by Jesus, you have almost a rebirth. a spike of things starting anew.

    but, all of this is me. i can only point to what i observe, and i can prove even less.

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