In 1945, a cache of apocrypha (non-canonical religious texts) written by Gnostic Christians was discovered near Nag Hammadi in southern Egypt. Among them was a Gnostic retelling of the first 6 chapters of the book of Genesis: The Hypostasis of the Archons. The forth chapter tells the story of Eve’s children:
After Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden, she bore Cain, their son, and Cain cultivated the land. Again becoming pregnant, she bore Abel, and Abel became a shepherd. Cain brought an offering from the crops of his field, but Abel brought an offering from among his lambs. Samael* looked favorably on the votive offerings of Abel, but he did not accept the votive offerings of Cain. Afterward, Cain pursued and killed his brother Abel.
“Where is Abel your brother?” Samael asked Cain.
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain answered.
“Listen!” Samael said to Cain. “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me. You have sinned by lying to me. Your sin will return to you. Anyone who kills you will let unleash seven vengeances upon himself, and you will exist forever, groaning and trembling upon the earth.”
Adam slept with his partner Eve, and she became pregnant and bore Seth to Adam.
“I have borne another man through god, in place of Abel,” she said.
Again Eve became pregnant, and she bore Norea.
“He has produced for me a virgin who will help many generations of human beings,” she said.
She is the virgin whom the forces of darkness did not defile. Then humankind began to multiply and improve.
* Throughout this chapter, the author uses the word God where he would usually use the phrase “ruler of the archons”, to which he returns in the next chapter. I’ve replaced God with Samael throughout. Alternately, the author might have been referring to Samael’s son Sabaoth, who introduced later in the text as the ruler of the archons appointed by Sophia after her daughter Zoe casts Samael into hell.
This chapter follows Genesis much more closely than those before it. Here are some unusual things about it:
- In all the earlier chapters, God the father is a remote figure who never takes an active role, and the role of Yahweh is taken by Samael, the leader of the archons, godlike rulers of the earth. The god who curses Cain for the death of Abel is probably Samael.
- When Eve tells Adam she has born him a son to replace Abel “through god”, is she referring to Samael? Or is she somehow aware of God the father?
- Seth has a sister, Norea.
Image By Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld