Miryam Brand – Evil Within and Without

Episode: What causes our sin? At some point, a first century Jewish teacher stumbles out of the Galilee saying things like, “If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire” (Matthew 18:9). Unbeknownst to many modern Christians, the New Testament’s teaching on sin’s causes and solutions enters the fray of a lively literary and sectarian discussion. Jewish communities had lots of ideas about how demons influence us to sin, how the Torah can heal us from sin, and the role of closed communities in solving sin. How can we understand this raucous panoply of evil-talk in Second Temple Judaism? Dru Johnson talks with Dr. Miryam Brand about her research on sin and evil in Second Temple Judaism texts (that is: Jewish texts from 400 BCE–100 CE), which is also featured in her highly accessible podcast and blog.

Guest: Dr. Brand holds a Ph.D. in Bible and Late Antiquity (specialty in Dead Sea Scrolls) from New York University and an Associate Fellowship at the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research. She also has an M.B.A. in Marketing and Finance from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She currently works in both fields: teaching and research in Second Temple literature while working as a marketing manager for a hi-tech company. She has written scholarly articles for collected writings (“1 Enoch: Introduction and Commentary” in Outside the Bible: Ancient Jewish Writings Related to Scripture, ed. Louis Feldman, James Kugel, and Lawrence Schiffman) and her monograph Evil Within and Without: The Source of Sin and Its Nature as Portrayed in Second Temple Literature (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013).

Most importantly, she runs a podcast and website: understandingsin.com where you can find her writing and speaking on the topic of this interview and well beyond. In those podcasts, which I highly recommend, she teaches winsomely and invites normal people outside academia into the world of Second Temple Judaism.

Book (from the publisher): “Miryam T. Brand explores how texts of the Second Temple period address the theological problem of the existence of sin and describe the source of human sin. . . . The analysis is divided into two parts; the first explores texts that reflect a conviction that the source of sin is an innate human inclination, and the second analyzes texts that depict sin as caused by demons. The author demonstrates that the genre or purpose of a text is frequently a determining factor in its representation of sin, particularly influencing the text’s portrayal of sin as the result of human inclination versus demonic influence and sin as a free choice or as predetermined fact.”

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