Cain, Abel, and the Politics of God : An Agambenian reading of Genesis 4:1-16 book cover
1st Edition

Cain, Abel, and the Politics of God
An Agambenian reading of Genesis 4:1-16

ISBN 9780367886820
Published December 12, 2019 by Routledge
206 Pages

FREE Standard Shipping
USD $48.95

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

The Genesis story of Cain’s murder of Abel is often told as a simplistic contrast between the innocence of Abel and the evil of Cain. This book subverts that reading of the Biblical text by utilising Giorgio Agamben’s concepts of homo sacer, the state of exception and the idea of sovereignty to re-examine this well-known tale of fratricide and bring to the fore its political implications.

Drawing from political theory, philosophy, and psychoanalysis, this book creates a theoretical framework from which to do two things: firstly, to describe and analyse the history of interpretation of Genesis 4:1-16, and secondly to propose an alternative reading of the Biblical text that incorporates other texts inside and outside of the Biblical canon. This intertextual analysis will highlight the motives of violence, law, divine rule, and the rejected as they emerge in different contexts and will evaluate them in an Agambenian framework.

The unique approach of this book makes it vital reading for any academic with interests in Biblical Studies and Theology and their interactions with politics and ethics.

Table of Contents


1 Cain’s Evil Nature: A Story of Otherness

2 God’s Intervention: A Story of Othering

3 Cain Speaks Back to Augustine: A Critical Reading from Byron to Vallejo

4 Genesis 4:1-16: A Paradoxical Narrative


View More



Julián Andrés González Holguín is an assistant professor of Old Testament at Church Divinity School of the Pacific and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, USA. He is a steering committee member of AAR "Sacred Texts, Theory and Theological Construction" group, a graduate from Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, and a Latino migrant scholar raised in Colombia with interests in postcolonial, feminist, and political theory in the interpretation of texts.


"This is a groundbreaking analysis of the famous biblical sibling rivalry between Cain and Abel, so crucial for the three Abrahamic religious traditions. In critical theoretical dialogue with Giorgio Agamben, Jacques Rancière, and Julia Kristeva, González adeptly transforms the classical interpretations of that first instance of homicide. Conscious of the centrality of that biblical saga for our literary and cultural traditions, González engages in a fruitful dialogue with Lord Byron’s play Cain: A Mystery. As a scholar of Latino heritage, he also holds an enlightening conversation with two of the most celebrated Latin American writers: Jorge Luis Borges and César Vallejo. This is an important contribution to the interpretation of one of the most perplexing and bewildering texts of the Hebrew sacred scriptures."

- Luis N. Rivera-Pagán, Henry Winters Luce Professor in Ecumenics Emeritus, Princeton Theological Seminary, USA

"Murder? He probes! González Holguín’s book is a significant and sophisticated study of the many "unsolved mysteries" involved in the first homicide and fratricide in human history narrated in the Hebrew Bible. Drawing from the scholarship of Agamben, Rancière, and Kristeva, González Holguín reads the reception history of this passage—within both biblical scholarship and the larger literary world—and relates Abel’s death to today’s questions about human rights and immigration. This book is wide-ranging, thought-provoking, and socio-politically relevant. Don’t miss it!"

- Tat-siong Benny Liew, Class of 1956 Professor in New Testament Studies, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA, USA

"Cain, Abel, and the Politics of God is a groundbreaking re-interpretation of Gen. 4:1-16. It demonstrates that biblical studies can greatly profit from taking into account literary rewritings and re-interpretatio