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In Hebrew, "B" and "V" are the same letter (ב), so without the "Tu", Tubalcain (תּוּבַל קַיִן) and Vulcan are very similar names. The French spelling is "Vulcain", which is even closer than the English.

Both are famous for being metal-workers.

Tubalcain, an instructer of every artificer in brass and iron — Genesis 4:22

Is there any support for identifying the mythological Vulcan as based on the historical Tubalcain?

  • Scientific or folkloric ? – Lucian Jul 18 at 20:01
  • @Lucian, I originally asked this question in Mi Yodea, where Tubalcain would be mostly considered a literal historical character, and so have made a few updates since it was moved to this site. The "scientific" records don't even mention what to me seems like a very obvious connection. Originally I was specifically interested in the Jewish perspective on this, but now that it's been moved (comparative religion is off-topic), information of any kind is welcome. – Ray Butterworth Jul 18 at 22:31
  • The reason they don't mention it is because it does not exist. Just like there's no “obvious connection” between butt and butter either. – Lucian Jul 18 at 23:38
  • I'd say there are more plausible explanations within the Indo-European family of languages. The common vernacular use most likely stems from the Latin name for the Greek god Hephaistos, which the Romans called Vulcanus. Roman tradition maintained that it was related to Latin words connected to lightning (fulgur, fulgere, fulmen). Another possible etymology is from the Cretan god Velchanos, a god of nature and the nether world. In the earliest Indo-European roots, we find that Volca could be a cognate of Sanskrit ulkā ("darting flame") or várcas- ("brilliance, glare"). – Codosaur Jul 19 at 13:11
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Googling Vulcan and Tubalcain has revealed a wealth of information:

The McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia writes:

"The derivation of the name is extremely obscure. Hasse (Entdeckungen, 2, 37, quoted by Knobel on Ge 4:22) identifies Tubal-cain with Vulcan; and Buttmann (Mythol. 1, 164) not only compares these names, but adds to the comparison the Τελχῖνες of Rhodes, the first workers in copper and iron (Strabo, 14:654), and Dwalinn, the daemon smith of the Scandinavian mythology. Gesenius proposed to consider it a hybrid word, compounded of the Pers. tupal, iron slag, or scoria, and the Arab. kain, a smith; but this etymology is more than doubtful. The Scythian race Tubal, who were coppersmiths (Eze 27:13), naturally suggest themselves in connection with Tubal-cain."

Swedenborgstudy writes:

"Vulcan, on the other hand, has been compared to the Sanscrit ulka, a firebrand, but we would suggest, instead, a comparison with the Assyrian Vul, the god of the thunderbolt, and also with the Hebrew Tubal-cain. The name Tubal, like his ancestors Jabal and Jubal (Gen. 4:20-22), is a form of the verb Jabhal, to sound, to make a loud noise, and, since b and v are radically one, we have here also the origin of Vul. The name "Cain" means simply "a smith," and we would be obdurate, indeed, were we to refuse recognizing a connection between Vul-can and Tubal-cain, "the instructor of every artificer of brass and iron.""

Clarke's commentary on the Bible:

"M. De Lavaur, in his Conference de la Fable avec l'Histoire Sainte, supposes that the Greeks and Romans took their smith-god Vulcan from Tubal-cain, the son of Lamech. The probability of this will appear,

  1. From the name, which, by the omission of the Tu and turning the b into v, a change frequently made among the Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans, makes Vulcain or Vulcan.
  1. From his occupation he was an artificer, a master smith in brass and iron.
  1. He thinks this farther probable from the names and sounds in this verse. The melting metals in the fire, and hammering them, bears a near resemblance to the hissing sound of צלה tsillah, the mother of Tubal-cain; and צלל tsalal signifies to tinkle or make a sound like a bell, 1 Samuel 3:11 2 Kings 21:12.
  1. Vulcan is said to have been lame; M. De Lavaur thinks that this notion was taken from the noun צלא tsela, which signifies a halting or lameness.
  1. Vulcan had to wife Venus, the goddess of beauty; Naamah, the sister of Tubal-cain, he thinks, may have given rise to this part of the fable, as her name in Hebrew signifies beautiful or gracious.
  1. Vulcan is reported to have been jealous of his wife, and to have forged nets in which he took Mars and her, and exposed them to the view of the whole celestial court: this idea he thinks was derived from the literal import of the name Tubal-cain; תבל tebel signifies an incestuous mixture of relatives, Leviticus 20:12; and קנא kana, to burn with jealousy; from these and concomitant circumstances the case of the detected adultery of Mars and Venus might be easily deduced. He is of opinion that a tradition of this kind might have readily found its way from the Egyptians to the Greeks, as the former had frequent intercourse with the Hebrews.

Of Naamah nothing more is spoken in the Scriptures; but the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel makes her the inventress of funeral songs and lamentations. R. S. Jarchi says she was the wife of Noah, and quotes Bereshith Rabba in support of the opinion. Some of the Jewish doctors say her name is recorded in Scripture because she was an upright and chaste woman; but others affirm that the whole world wandered after her, and that of her evil spirits were born into the world. This latter opinion gives some countenance to that of M. De Lavaur."

Legends of Old Testament Characters, ch. 12:

"Some Jewish writers adopt a tradition that Tubal-cain was not slain, but was severely injured by his father; according to some, he was lamed. Connecting this tradition with his name, a striking analogy springs up between him and the Vulcan of classic antiquity, and the Völundr of Norse mythology. Both were lame, both were forgers of iron, and the names Vulcan and Volundr bear some affinity to Tubal-cain; for, cutting off Tu, we have Balcain or Vulcan. A very learned and exhaustive monograph on Völundr has been written by MM. Depping and Michel."

Gnostic Warrior:

"Masonic Historian, Albert Gallatin Mackey had said that Tubal Cain is the Vulcan of the Pagans, and is thought to have been closely connected with ancient Freemasonry. Here is a quote on Tubal Cain from Mackey’s book, A lexicon of freemasonry;

He was the inventor of edge-tools, and introduced many arts into society which tended towards its improvement and civilization. Tubal Cain is the Vulcan of the Pagans, and is thought to have been closely connected with ancient Freemasonry. Faber says that “all the most remarkable ancient buildings of Greece, Egypt, and Asia Minor, were ascribed to Cabirean or Cyclopean Masons,” the descendants of Vulcan, Dhu Balcan, the god Balcan, or Tubal Cain. Oliver says, “In after times Tubal Cain, under the name of Vulcan and his Cyclops, figured as workers in metals and inventors of the mysteries; and hence it is probable that he was the hierophant of a similar institution in his day, copied from the previous system of Seth, and applied to the improvement of schemes more adapted to the physical pursuits of the race to which he belonged.”*

For these reasons Tubal Cain has been consecrated among Masons of the present day as an ancient brother. His introduction of the arts of civilization having given the first value to property. Tubal Cain has been considered among Masons as a symbol of worldly possessions."

Sir Walter Ralegh:

"...and as there is a likelihood of name between Tubalcain and Vulcan; so doth Augustine expound the name of Noema, or Naamah, the sister of Tubalcain, to signify venusta, or beautiful, voluptus, or pleasure; as the wife of Vulcan is said to be Venus, the lady of pleasure and beauty."

From a Jewish perspective, Malbim on Genesis 4:22 writes:

[My translation] "And Tzilah, she too...I will not deny that in my opinion this story came, as many stories in the Torah that were brought to uproot false beliefs and foolish stories that became widespread in ancient times among the nations and were invented by priests of idols in the days of darkness, and there is still today remains from their mythology, that they would attribute to any person who invented a craft godly power, and they would say that deity x invented sitting in tents and flocks, and deity y invented the wisdom of making music, and deity z invented the strategies of war and the art of iron and weapon-making...know that...the inventors of the art of shepherding and trade and music and the craft of iron and metals were the sons of Lemech from the descendants of Cain, and the woman that was spoken of her greatness in their mythology and his named attained greatness, she was Naamah sister of Tubal Cain, they were all humans..."

Shadal says this directly:

[My translation] "Tubal Cain: It appears that he is Vulcanus, and know that Kinia in Syrian and Arabic tongue means smith of gold and silver and also a crafter of iron. And Tubal (tu pal) in Persian tongue means a piece of gold and silver and copper...and without a doubt, many follies were told in ancient times about these people, and the Torah purified these stories from their sicknesses...Naamah: she too appears to have been worked, and perhaps she is Venus and her name bears witness on her."

R' Immanuel Francis writes:

[My translation] "...Lemech was very wise in all designer's crafts and taught his sons...and to the third the craft of the smiths, to sharpen iron and copper...and it is possible that Lemech and his sons were accepted by the people of their generation into divinity, for that was their way of foolish people to accept upon themselves as deities all inventors of a craft, and they would call him the god of the craft that he invented. And in the books of ancient idolatry they wrote that the god of flocks is called Pan and the name of the god of music is Apollo and the god of smiths Vulkano and they were all children of Jupiter and their sister was Venus wife of Vulkano and was the deity of immorality for she was the first to act promiscuously. And perhaps Lemech and his two sons were deities to the people of their generation, for Vulkano is close to the name of Tubal-Cain and the names of the others were distorted over time and the mixing of the tongues, and the name Naamah comes from the word nei'mut [pleasure] because of the immorality..."

In other words, yes, there is support for the suggestion.


For the figure in a historical context, see Universal Jewish History by Rabbi Philip Biberfeld. For example:

"The climax came with the rise of metallurgy, which is connected with the name Tubal-cain, the first smith of copper and iron. This new art was soon misused to produce the weapons of war...another city obviously connected with the descendants of Cain is mentioned in the earliest Babylonian king-list. Its name, Badgurgurru, means 'fortress of workers in bronze'; and it seems very probable that it was one of those founded by Tubal-cain, the originator of metallurgy. According to this list, the sovereignty or supremacy was, at the beginning, at Eridu. its rule was overthrown by the kings of Badgurgurru. From there it seems to have passed by conquest to Larak, Sippar, and finally to Shurippak, which was wiped out at the time of the Flood. This would indicate that the descendants of Cain, after the discovery of metallurgy, conquered the land with their superior weapons and founded new cities (Larak, Sippar, Shurippak) among which a constant fight for supremacy raged until they were destroyed by the Flood. Tubal-cain, the inventor of metallurgy, became the Vulcan of the Greeks and Romans, the god of smiths. Etc"

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  • @IsaacMoses in light of Shadal and Malbim, thoughts on bringing this back to MY? – Harel13 Jul 19 at 8:19

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