Understanding Sin and Evil
Understanding Sin and Evil
Miryam Brand
Dr. Miryam Brand on Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Ancient World
Understanding Sin and Evil #2 - Cain and Abel: An Oracle of Sin
Thank you to the wonderful Mariana Gil Hammer for the transcript of this episode.  Hello, and welcome to another episode of Understanding Sin and Evil, Episode 2: Cain and Abel, an Oracle of Sin. Now, if you haven’t listened to the first episode, which was a story of Adam and Eve called The Origin of Sin That Wasn’t, I highly recommend that you go back and listen to that episode before listening to this one. You can understand this episode on its own, but you’re going to miss a lot if you don’t listen to the first one beforehand.  So let me talk a little bit about how this podcast series will continue. In the last episode, you heard an explanation of the Adam and Eve story in the Bible before the layers of interpretation that we get to later, and what the plain text meaning of that story is in its biblical context. This episode, we’re going to be talking about the story of Cain and Abel again, in its biblical context, even though I will sometimes bring in some later interpretation when it is relevant or when it’s just too interesting to ignore. Then in the next episode, we will be talking about later interpretations of both these stories.  The Cain and Abel story includes the first explicit mention of sin that we get in the Hebrew Bible.  But for some reason, and we’re going to talk about that later as well, this story did not resonate particularly in the Second Temple Period. It resonated later, but not in the Second Temple Period, not much. After the next episode — when we talk about how the Adam and Eve story was interpreted in the Second Temple Period and immediately after the Destruction — after that episode we’re going to be going back to the biblical text and we’re going to be talking about Genesis 6 (Bereshit vav), verses one to four, what becomes the Watchers myth in the Second Temple Period. And then we’re going to be spending quite some time talking about how the Watchers myth plays out in different Second Temple interpretations.  But now let’s turn to our text. I will mainly be using the NJPS translation, but I’m going to be changing it liberally when it’s not that close to the plain meaning of the text. And I will also be talking about certain cases where you might see a very different translation in your Bible. So, let’s turn to our texts. And luckily enough, this picks up right where we left off last time: right after the expulsion from Eden, we have the conception of Cain and Abel, or as I will call them Kayin and Hevel. So I’m starting with chapter four.  Now Adam knew his wife Eve and she conceived and bore Cain saying, I have acquired a man with the Lord. (Gen 4:1) So, the word that she’s using for acquired is kaniti, hence Kayin. I have acquired a man with the Lord. Now this wording sounds peculiar to us, but it expresses two different things. First of all, we have to have the name Kayin in there somehow. So we need the word kaniti, acquired. But besides that, what is this expressing? This is expressing the first human birth. How does a woman feel? She’s given birth. There has been no birth before, she has made a man with God, right? She’s made a person. Wow. At the same time, it’s kind of hubristic, it’s kind of prideful for her to say that. And that’s a little bit of a foreshadowing of what’s going to happen to Kayin later, it is a kind of pride. And then she has another child and she continued to give birth. She bore his brother Hevel and here we have no explanation of the name Hevel. Frankly, we, who know the end of the story, don’t need an explanation of the name Hevel because Hevel means a breath or vanity — something that is gone in an instant. So if you are familiar with Koheleth (Ecclesiastes) that “vanity of vanities all is vanity.” The phrase there is hevel havalim, vanity of vanities.
Jun 25, 2021
33 min
Understanding Sin and Evil #1: The Origin of Sin that Wasn’t
I am re-posting this episode with a FULL transcript, thanks to the efforts of the wonderful Mariana Gil Hammer. Welcome to my new podcast series: Understanding Sin and Evil. In this series, I will be discussing ideas of sin and evil in the Bible and in the ancient world, in particular Jewish texts of the Second Temple period. For each idea, I will begin with the biblical source texts and then move on to the interpretation of these biblical texts of the Second Temple period (for the purposes of this series, about 400 BCE to 100 CE shortly after the destruction). In my first podcast, I introduce the series and then discuss the story of Adam and Eve in its biblical context, and explain why it explains something quite different from we remember. What is this story actually telling us? If you would like to follow along, all you need is a Bible opened to Bereishit / Genesis 2:15-3:24. The translation I read in this podcast is the NJPS version. — TRANSCRIPT, COURTESY OF MARIANA GIL HAMMER — You’re listening to Understanding Sin and Evil, Dr. Miryam Brand on the Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Ancient World. Learn more at UnderstandingSin.com. Hi! This is Dr. Miryam Brand, and I’d like to introduce my new podcast series. In this podcast series I’m going to be talking about ideas of sin and evil in the Bible, Dead Sea Scrolls and the Ancient World. This is really my expertise; I once wrote a book about how the source of sin was perceived in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in the ancient world in general, really the Jewish ancient world. That is my book called Evil Within and Without. It was what my dissertation was about.  A little bit about myself. I did my PhD at New York University, I have taught courses at Brown University, New York University and Stern College. I have spoken at Cambridge University, Kiel University, and Hebrew University among others. But the important thing is that this is a topic that I’m really interested in and I would love to share with you.  A little bit about this podcast, just as an introduction. In this podcast, what I’ll be doing is, I want to take ideas starting with the biblical passages, that are kind of the key texts for these ideas, and then trace them through early interpretation. By early interpretation, I mean interpretation during the Second Temple period, when the Second Temple was standing, and really concentrating on the years of about 300 BCE, or BC, to about 100 CE, or AD. The temple was destroyed around 70 of the Common Era. However, there are a couple of very important books that react to that destruction that I will also be discussing.  So, our first part of this series is going to start with simply looking at the Adam and Eve story in the Bible, looking at the plain meaning of the text, saying what is this actually telling us. Then I’m going to go to the next podcast that will be the Cain and Abel story, after doing a review of those stories in terms of the plain text of the Bible, keeping later interpretation to a minimum, then I’m going to start looking at how these texts are interpreted in terms of talking about sin during the Second Temple period and the Dead Sea Scrolls, and some later works, even some earlier works, and then each time we can go back to the Bible text that started all.  So, after we talk about Adam and Eve and how that story becomes an approved text about sin and evil, we’re going to be talking about texts that were actually considered much more important in the Second Temple period, if you can believe that, which are the stories of the Watchers, that is Genesis 6, so we’re going to be talking about that story in detail, and that is going to explain some of the demonic explanations of sin, where sin comes as somehow caused by demons or demonic entities. And we’re going to be looking at the Noah story,
Mar 21, 2021
36 min
Enoch: Book of the Watchers (Dead Sea Scrolls and Second Temple Literature #3)
Join our lively discussion on Enoch and the Book of the Watchers! What biblical texts lie behind the Book of the Watchers? What was the sin of the Watchers? (Hint: it's more complicated than you think.) How did Jews of the Second Temple period use this story to explain the Flood and the origin of all evil? What does the Book of the Watchers say about the origin of evil and the consequences of sin! Bonus question: What does all this have to do with Camille Pissaro?
Jul 23, 2020
56 min
Dead Sea Scrolls & 2nd Temple Literature #2: The Book of Jubilees
Join us for a discussion of the Book of Jubilees, a prime example of “Rewritten Bible.” * Why would an author in antiquity want to believe in demons roaming with God’s permission?* How did writers in the Second Temple period attempt to “fix” the biblical text?* What biblical topics became a theological problem for Jews of this period? Listen and find out! You can download the source sheets here.
Mar 29, 2019
1 hr 1 min
Minor Prophets #1: Introduction to Minor Prophets – Trei Asar
Welcome to yet another new series! This class in Hebrew Bible will alternate with the Second Temple literature series. This introductory class will give you a quick overview of what makes the Twelve Minor Prophets — also known as Trei Asar — special. * What is exceptional about the “span” of these prophets?* Why are they grouped together?* What are their unique ideas?* Why are they so central for biblical prophecy? As the class continues, we will learn each of these books in turn. Please note: the sound quality in this talk is not the best. It will improve in future lectures. Download the source sheets here: * Order of the Minor Prophets* Timeline of the Prophetic Books * Chazal on Trei Asar – Minor Prophets
Mar 21, 2019
49 min
Dead Sea Scrolls and Second Temple Literature #1: Introduction
Welcome to the beginning of a new lecture series: an overview of Jewish texts of the Second Temple period and the Dead Sea Scrolls. In this first, introductory class, we explore what makes these texts special and why we should learn them. Join us as we discuss the different collections of Jewish works from this period and touch on a wide range of important books, including Judith, Tobit, the books of the Maccabees, 1 Enoch, Jubilees and 4 Ezra. I hope that this talk whets your appetite for the series to come! Download the class handout here.
Mar 14, 2019
53 min
#31: The Concubine of Gibeah – Pilegesh BaGive’ah
In this class, we discuss the ultimate example of collective punishment gone horribly, horribly wrong: the Concubine of Gibeah, known in Hebrew as Pilegesh BaGive’ah. This story closes the book of Judges (chapters 19-21), and for good reason. Join us as we discover its “Twilight Zone”-style reality and explore the downward spiral begun by legitimate outrage. We will look at the story’s inherent contradictions, its puzzling portrayal of its “protagonists,” contrasts with the Saul story, and more!
Mar 7, 2019
1 hr 30 min
#30: Collective and Intergenerational Punishment in the Bible – Review
We’re back! Join us as we engage in a high-level discussion on the different views of collective and intergenerational punishment in the Bible. * What does God and Abraham’s conversation on Sodom tell us about justice?* How is the problematic nature of collective punishment portrayed in the Hebrew Bible?* What problems does the concept of intergenerational punishment “solve” for its ancient audience?* How do Ezekiel and Jeremiah differ in their attitude to the idea that punishment lasts over generations?* What are the basic differences in the biblical attitude(s) toward collective and intergenerational punishment? I’m glad to be back with you! Please leave your questions or comments below.
Feb 21, 2019
47 min
#29: Ezekiel, Intergenerational Punishment & Individual Responsibility - Understanding Sin and Evil
This podcast is a continuation of the previous discussion on the shift of the biblical view and representation of intergenerational punishment. In this podcast, we delve into Ezekiel and his presentation of the “way things work”: there is no intergenerational punishment, and each individual is responsible for him or herself at every moment. Ezekiel is prophesying at the same time as Jeremiah, who presents the same negative attitude towards intergenerational punishment while still considering it a fact of everyday life. According to Jeremiah, it is only in the future age of redemption when intergenerational punishment will no longer exist. Why is there this shift towards individual responsibility, and why is it so important for Ezekiel’s audience? Listen to find out!
Jul 5, 2018
35 min
Intergenerational Punishment - Changing Worldviews in the Bible
In this episode we discuss the approach to divine intergenerational punishment (the punishment of a future generation for the sins of a past generation) in the Bible, such as in the “Divine Attributes” enumerated in Exodus, and how we can see a distinctive shift in the attitude toward intergenerational punishment in Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Why did such a shift occur? What “problems” does the belief in intergenerational punishment solve, and why does the attitude toward this punishment change so drastically at the end of the First Temple period? Listen and post your questions and comments here!  
Jul 5, 2018
32 min
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