There is an interesting story-like account of the life of Abel in the January 1, 2013 Watchtower. Many fine points are made. However, marring the article is yet another example of a growing tendency to turn conjecture into fact. Consider please the following statements:
(w13 01/01 p. 13 par. 1, 2)
“Yet, when their first child was born, they named him Cain, or “Something Produced,” and Eve proclaimed: “I have produced a man with the aid of Jehovah.” Her words suggest that she may have had in mind the promise Jehovah made in the garden, foretelling that a certain woman would produce a “seed” that would one day destroy the wicked one who had led Adam and Eve astray. (Genesis 3:15; 4:1) Did Eve imagine that she was the woman in the prophecy and that Cain was the promised “seed”?
If so, she was sadly mistaken. What is more, if she and Adam fed Cain such ideas as he grew up, they surely did his imperfect human pride no good. In time, Eve bore a second son, but we find no such high-flown statements about him. They named him Abel, which may mean “Exhalation,” or “Vanity.” (Genesis 4:2) Did the choice of that name reflect lower expectations, as if they put less hope in Abel than in Cain? We can only guess.”
This is all conjecture, of course. It is full of conditionals and we end the whole thing with “we can only guess”.
Yet in the very next paragraph we are turning this guesswork into an object lesson for parents today.
(w13 01/01 p. 13 par. 3)
“In any case, parents today may learn much from those first parents. By your words and actions, will you feed your children’s pride, ambition, and selfish tendencies?”
How can parents learn anything from the parenting example of Adam and Eve when there are no details in the Bible to go from? All we have is the conjecture of men.
Perhaps we are guessing correctly. Or perhaps Eve, after having gone through the ordeal of childbirth for the first time ever, recognized that it was only through Jehovah’s mercy that she was able to do it. Perhaps her statement was a simple acknowledgement of fact. To label this a “high-flown statement” is to pass judgement on the first woman without evidence. As for Abel’s name, there are any number of imagined scenarios that could account for the name.
The fact is we admit that all this is guesswork, yet in the next breath, we are using this ‘guesswork’ as an scriptural example to guide Christian parents on rearing their own children. Having been presented this way in the magazine, it is likely only a matter of time before it appears in public talks as a Bible example of what not to do in child rearing. Speculation will again have become fact.