Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

A name used for (1) the descendants of Cain, (2) a sect of Gnostics and Antinomians.

(1) The Descendants of Cain

The Bible ( Genesis 4:17-22 ) mentions nine of Cain's descendants in the direct line: Henoch, Irad, Maviael, Mathusael, and Lamech, who had four children: Jabel and Jubal by his wife Ada, and Tubalcain with his sister Noemi by his second wife Sella.

The etymology of several of these names is obscure because it is uncertain whether they are Hebrew, Babylonian, or Sumerian. The derivation of Mathusael, however, is obvious, mutusha-ilu being the Babylonian for "vassal of God ". Maviael, if the Septuagint reading is right, would mean " God is my life-giver"; but according to the Hebrew text Mehujael would mean "wiped out by God ". Most likely, however, the word is Babylonian and connected with amel ilu , "man of God ". Lamech is perhaps connected with lamga , the Sumerian for "servant" (of God ). Cain "built a city and called the name thereof by the name of his son Henoch". To some scholars this has suggested "dedication" as the Hebrew derivation of Henoch; but others see in it the name of the famous Sumerian city, Unug (later Uruk, Erech, Warka). For Irad no satisfactory etymology has been found; it means, perhaps, "scion" from arada , "to sprout". It is remarkable that amongst the Sethites four names occur similar to those of Cainites: Cainan, Mahalael, Jared, and Mathusala, and two, Henoch and Lamech, are identical in both pedigrees. Ada probably means "dawn", Sella, "shade", Jabel, "shepherd", Jubal, "musician". Noemi means "beautiful". The Septuagint omits Cain after Jubal, thereby suggesting connection with a tribe of Asia Minor ( Genesis 10:2 , Ezekiel 27:13 ) called Tabalu by Assyrians and Tybarenoi by Herodotus. But the Massoretic Tubalcain is certainly correct if it be connected with Balgin, the Sumerian Vulcan, as recently suggested. If we substitute English equivalents for proper names, Genesis 4:19-22 would read: " God's servant took two wives, the name of the one was Dawn and the name of the other Shade. And Dawn brought forth Shepherd, the father of dwellers in tents and herdsmen and his brother's name was Musician, the father of harp- and pipe-players. But Shade brought forth Blacksmith, the forger of brass and iron, and Blacksmith's sister's name was Beautiful." This has led some to believe that the inspired narrative merely records under a figure of speech the introduction of polygamy and the spread of civilization.

A similar description existed amongst Phoenicians. As the most recent research has shown that iron was used in Egypt 3500 B.C., no argument for lateness of narrative can be drawn from the mention of iron. As for the six lines of Hebrew poetry (verses 23-24) put into the mouth of Lemach, though their origin and occasion will probably remain forever obscure, their general meaning is clear: Cain had committed deliberate murder, fratricide, yet he was not handed over to the lawless private vengeance of man. How much less was Lamech, in self-defence, i.e. slain a man for wounding him, or, in Hebrew parallelism, for bruising him. In Num., xxiv, 22, Jud., iv, 11, I Par., ii, 55, Cinites are mentioned as neighbours to Israel. The Hebrew consonants would allow the reading Cainites , which some scholars have adopted against the Massora and Septuagint ; but this is at present mere conjecture.

(2) Sect of Gnostics and Antinomians

A Gnostic Sect of the second century was called Cainites or Caianites. They regarded all characters held up to reprobation in the Old Testament as worthy of veneration, as having suffered at the hands of the cruel God of the Jews ; hence Cain, as the first man cursed by Hysteraa, the Demiurg, claimed their special admiration. This sect of Antinomians never found many adherents, and Hippolytus at the beginning of the third century dismisses them with the bare mention of their name. (See GNOSTICISM.)


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 2:1-10
1 And you were dead, through the crimes and the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 100:2, 3, 4, 5
2 serve Yahweh with gladness, come into his presence ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 12:13-21
13 A man in the crowd said to him, 'Master, tell my ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 20th, 2014 Image

St. Paul of the Cross
October 20: St. Paul of the Cross was born at Ovada in the Republic of ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter