Kass Chapter 4
1. What are we to make of Kass’s discussion of farming versus shepherding?
What are we to make of Kass' discussion regarding Cain and Abel's chosen professions? Is he right when he claims "the shepherd may be more open to the edifying and elevating call of the Lord" (p. 132)? Or that "there is a direct line from the plowshare to the sword"?
2. If we view Cain as a human prototype, what does the story teach us about human nature? Is this view congruent with Girard’s?
How does reading Cain as the "truly human prototype" (Kass p. 126) affect how we read this chapter?
Does Girard's theory of mimetic desire make sense to you as the foundational aspect of what it is to be human? Why or why not? Does his discussion of the origins of humanity's violence bring something new to your understanding of violence?
Does Kass’s discussion of the nature of “knowledge of good and evil” in the previous chapters--that it represents human free will and a desire to live by one’s own lights--help to make sense of Cain’s first conversation with God and his committing a premeditated murder?
3. What are motivations for human beings to offer sacrifice? Is sacrifice good, or is it problematic, as Kass suggests?
How do we as Christians view sacrifice? A practice fraught with potential for abuse (Kass 134-5)? The origin of religion and basic response to troublesome things about humans (Girard)? The height of external works-righteousness? Part of an old dispensation? Having some fundamental connection to the work of Christ?
Is sacrifice ultimately an expression of human pride, as Kass suggests? (p. 134-5)
4. What relation does the Cain and Abel story have to Christ’s Passion? What relation does sacrifice in general have to Christ’s Passion?
Does Girard's placement of the Crucifixion in a series of murdered victims starting with Abel bring something new to your understanding of Christ's sacrifice or does it diminish it?
Is Girard right that the Passion of Christ is an example of (or response to also?) this pattern of sacrifice and then adoration of the victim? If so, what does this viewpoint help us understand about the work of Christ? In particular, if Christ's death is an outgrowth of (or response to?) the way civilization works, and deals with a problem (mimetic desire) that is inherently social, does Christ die for individuals or for civilizations?
5. What is the significance of the fact that a murderer founded the first city? What is the relation between human nature and civilization?
Do you agree that the city is originally founded on fear of death, violence, and a desire to dominate?
What does the fact that a murderer founded the first city tell us about the nature of human civilization? See Kass 145–147.
Kass sees Ch 4 as revealing basic patterns of how humans live without moral instruction (p. 124). Girard sees here a story of the institution of religion via ritualized murder. Compare and contrast their approaches. What can Gen 4 tell us about the relation between human nature and human culture?
6. What theological information can we get from passage?
Kass again reads (mostly) anthropologically (the text tells us about ourselves). Girard wants to uncover religion as the root of culture, but is still focused on human religious practices. What can we get theologically (about God) from Gen Ch 4? If Girard is right that the story encodes the founding of civilization by the institution of ritual murder, how do we get theological info from this chapter?
Compare God’s conversation with Cain with His conversation with Adam and Eve in the garden. Do parallels in their structure provide information on His character and the nature of sin?