Video: Was Cain Supposed to be His Brother’s Keeper?

Today’s question:

You referred in a recent lectionary talk with Peter Leithart to “being our brother’s keeper.” What is your understanding of the ethical meaning of a “keeper” biblically speaking?

It is sometimes a point of controversy in liberal/conservative Christian political arguments as to the relevance of Cain’s refusal of the role of “keeper” (when in fact, Cain has not just failed to aid Abel but murdered him actively) to our understanding of our call to love and serve our neighbor, using the phrase as an expansive claim that justifies almost any kind of political action desired, casting the one who is skeptical of the action as a Cain-like person who dismisses a call to be his brother’s keeper.

To me “keeper” has connotations of a guardian with charge of a dependent inferior or one who is weak. Like ‘zookeeper’ or a tale of a overprotective father who “keeps” his daughter safe locked in a tower. Do we find being a “keeper” of another as a model of Christian regard elsewhere in scripture, and if not, should we found an ethic by simply negating the dismissive words of a murderer?

If you have any questions for me, please leave them on my Curious Cat account. If you have found these videos helpful, please tell your friends. If you would like to support my continued production of them, you can do so on my Patreon account. You can also get the audio of these videos on Soundcloud or iTunes.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Audio, Bible, Genesis, OT, OT Theology, Podcasts, Questions and Answers, Theological, Video. Bookmark the permalink.

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