Hebrew Voices #2 – The Origin of Sin (Rebroadcast)

In this episode of Hebrew Voices, The Origin of Sin, Nehemia Gordon discusses with Dr. Miryam Brand the origin of sin and her book, Evil Within and Without: The Source of Sin and Its Nature as Portrayed in Second Temple Literature. Gordon keeps the gems accessible to non-scholars as they track revelations about the origin of sin through the centuries.

Gordon and Brand focus on pertinent passages in the Tanakh, the book of Romans, the Damascus Document, and other historical literature. We learn how a face-value acceptance of our bad selves evolved into two issues to grapple with—outside demonic influences versus a personal evil inclination. The scholars also explore theodicy, the deterministic prayers of the second Temple period, the “sins of the father,” the three traps of Belial, a “nefesh”(soul) that can’t be completely separated from the body, and demonic possession. Lastly, but certainly not least, with a promise of more discussions to follow, the erudite comrades bottom-line at the divinely-gifted free will to choose.

Dr. Miryam Brand holds a Ph.D. in Bible and Second Temple Literature from New York University and an M.A. in Bible and Biblical Interpretation from Matan and Haifa University. Her book on the portrayal of sin in the Second Temple period (Evil Within and Without: The Source of Sin and Its Nature as Portrayed in Second Temple Literature) was published in 2013 and her commentary on the Book of Enoch was published as part of Outside the Bible in 2013. She has taught at Brown University, New York University, and Stern College and has spoken at Hebrew University, Cambridge University, and the University of Kiel. She is currently an Associate Fellow at the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research.

"Sin crouches at the door... yet you can be its master." Genesis 4:7

I look forward to reading your comments!

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Nehemia: Shalom this is Nehemia Gordon with Hebrew Voices. I am here in Southern Jerusalem with Dr. Miryam Brand, the author of a book which talks about the source of sin. Actually the title is “Evil Within and Without: The Source of Sin and Its Nature as Portrayed in Second Temple Literature”. This is going to be exciting. Shalom, Dr. Brand.

Miryam: Shalom. I’m happy to be here. It’s nice to hear such an excited introduction.

Nehemia: I am excited, but I want to read your little bio. I called it a little bio, but it’s very impressive. Miryam Brand holds a PhD in Bible and Second Temple literature from New York University and a MA in Bible from Haifa University. She has written a book on the portrayal of sin the Second Temple period, that’s the book I’m holing in my hand, a beautiful book that you can get on Amazon.com and other places, Evil Within and Without. As well as a commentary on the book of Encoch, we are going to have to have you back at some point to talk about the book of Enoch, maybe even the Enoch calendar, that’s a separate topic. She has taught at New York University, Stern College, Brown University, and has spoken at Hebrew University, Matan, Bar Ilan Cambridge University and the University of Kiel in Germany. She is currently an Associate Fellow at the Albright Institute of Archeological Research. All I can say is wow. Let’s dive into it. Let’s talk about sin. What is the source of sin?

Miryam: Really what I worked on was how people were explaining the source of sin in Second Temple literature. This is after the Hebrew Bible, from the traditional point of view was closed. Even though, how closed it is for people living during the Second Temple period is of course a question.

Nehemia: Let me just point out that you’re an Orthodox Jew, but today you are speaking as a scholar.

Miryam: Right.

Nehemia: Meaning whatever your personal beliefs are, today you‘re speaking as an academic. Is that right?

Miryam: Yes, actually, it’s pretty easy, I think, for an Orthodox Jew to be a scholar without a bias in Second Temple literature, because it’s after the closing of the Hebrew Bible.

Nehemia: Whereas, if we were talking about the authorship of the Torah, then we may get into theological landmines?

Miryam: That’s right, there you have issues that you either have to deal with or you need to ignore.

Nehemia: But here there’s not much of an issue?

Miryam: At least for me there isn’t, it depends on how you see Orthodoxy, I guess. What’s interesting in Second Temple literature, this is when people start trying to explain the side of theodicy…

Nehemia: Whoa! Big word alert! What is a theodicy? I know what a theodicy is. Actually, I’m not even sure after talking to you, I know what it is. Tell us what theodicy is.

Miryam: Theodicy literally, simply means, the justification of God. The question of theodicy is usually set up as, if there is a God that is all powerful, all-knowing and benevolent, usually the second part that we think of, is then why do bad things happen to good people.

Nehemia: I think that’s the laymen’s definition of theodicy, isn’t it? Why do good things happen to bad people?

Miryam: Of course other things bother people, like why to good things happen to bad people. Is sometimes something people are distressed about.

Nehemia: And that is also part of a theodicy.

Miryam: Yeah, it kind of actually is, even though it’s a little less troubling.

Nehemia: You may not know the word, but this is something people struggle with throughout their lives. I heard an interesting lecture by Bart Ehrman, who is an agonistic. He actually says the reason he is an agnostic is because bad things happen to good people. So, whether you know this term or you don’t, people throughout the world and throughout history have been struggling with this.

Miryam: We have through the Middle Ages to the early Modern Period, this is something major that concerns people, up to today. Another aspect of theodicy that starts bothering people during the Second Temple Period is, if God created me and God doesn’t want me to sin, then why do I want to sin? When I’m teaching undergrads, they say because sin is fun. I said, yes, but why is sin so fun? It’s bothering people. If God doesn’t want me to sin and God created me, then why is sin so much fun? Essentially why do I want to sin? I’m not saying you can’t find perhaps answers to in the Hebrew Bible, but it’s not a question that bothering anyone. If you look for an answer, you have kind of this (5:21) oracular pronouncement to Cain that sin is crouching at the door. It desires you, but you can still have the upper hand.

Nehemia: That’s in Genesis 4 where God says לַפֶּתַח חַטָּאת רֹבֵץ, sin is crouching at the door. Basically, you can overcome it, you don’t have to sin, the choice is in your hands. But what you’re saying is, it doesn’t explain why sin is lusting after Cain and wanting to cause him to sin.

Miryam: Right. And it doesn’t seem to bother anyone, until the Second Temple Period. Where all the sudden, people are saying so why do I want to sin at all? They come up with some explanations, which are not necessarily completely satisfying, but in whatever manner it satisfies them.

Nehemia: I’m also thinking of the verse in the Geneses, where it talks about the thoughts or the plans of man are sinful, evil from their youth. But you are saying that is being stated as a fact, it doesn’t ask the question why is that so.

Miryam: Right. We have numerous things that have to do with sin in the Bible. They are kind of just put out there without an issue. If I can just go off topic for a second, in the Bible it talks about how God punishes future generations for sin. Now that’s been interpreted numerous ways and probably what it originally meant is that God doesn’t wipe someone out because of his sin, He kind of meets out the punishment over several generations. That’s an explanation of things in Kings and it’s a problem in Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

Nehemia: Ezekiel 18 talks about that, and he basically qualifies it, as I understand it, that yes, you bare your father’s sin, if you continue in his sin. But if you repent then…

Miryam: Essentially, Ezekiel’s set up is, you are punished for your sin and for your present sin. In other words, if you were righteous yesterday and you’re a sinner today, you’re in trouble today and that’s Ezekiel’s thing. Whereas in Jeremiah, very interestingly says, yeah that’s the way things work now, but in the Messianic age, in the future, it’s not going to be that way anymore. Everyone will be punished for their own sin, which is interesting.

Nehemia: Because I do want to get to sin in the Second Temple period.

Miryam: It’s fascinating, because they use the same quote also to talk about this. So, in Kings, it’s used as an explanation for why do bad things happen to good people, because his grandfather sinned. For Jeremiah and Ezekiel this is a theological problem. It’s interesting to me when something becomes a theological problem. The source of sin is a theological problem really in Second Temple texts. I kind of divided my book this way and that does already set the stage when you already say this is how I’m going to categorize my texts, you already getting to a certain answer, unfortunately. But I had to have a way to categorize this huge number of texts I was looking at. Just to give you an example I was looking at the Dead Sea Scrolls and I was looking at Philo.

Nehemia: Wow. Each one of those could be a doctorate.

Miryam: Yes. When I did my doctorate, my advisor was a person with big ideas and I like having big ideas and he did not reign me in. There came a point where I said, I’m dealing with a lot of Judean texts, should I really be dealing with Philo, who is a Jewish philosopher in Alexandria, towards the end of the Second Temple period and he is really coming with neo-platonic ideas? And he’s like, no, you have to do Philo, because if you don’t do Philo, how can your book be a reference for anyone who wants to look up sin in the Second Temple period?

Nehemia: So the objective was for it to be THE definitive work on sin in the Second Temple period.

Miryam: Well, I guess for my advisor it was.

Nehemia: So now, as the definitive answer, what is the source of sin? And I think when we talked, you had mentioned there’s really basically two approaches. One there is the whole question of demons and then there’s the yetzer hara (the evil inclination). Or are there other ones as well?

Miryam: Those are the really the main things, because we are talking about is it a human and internal cause or is it a demonic, sort of, external cause, because the demon can sometimes go into you. Now what’s interesting is that a demon, almost never, in a Jewish text, extant text in this period…

Nehemia: Extant in plain English means it still exists.

Miryam: Yeah, in other words, because we don’t know how much was lost.

Nehemia: We don’t know, what we don’t have.

Miryam: But the demons don’t completely possess a person.

Nehemia: Let’s back up, do we have any references to demons in the Tanach (Old Testament, Hebrew Bible)?

Miryam: Yeah, we do. We have references by name to Lilith and Reshef?

Nehemia: But as far as demons and demonic possession.

Miryam: I would say no.

Nehemia: So when you’re talking about demonic possession, that’s really outside of the Tanach.

Miryam: It’s certainly outside of the Tanach and it’ also outside of Jewish Second Temple literature, but we have it in the Gospels. That’s what’s interesting.

Nehemia: You’re saying the New Testament is the first time we have demonic possession in any Jewish literature?

Miryam: I don’t like to say only and I’m sure someone can l say “No, I’ve found” and we do have texts that talk against demons.

Nehemia: So what is the function of the demons in those other Jewish sources?

Miryam: In other Jewish sources, demons cause disease, demons can cause you to sin.

Nehemia: What is an example of one of those sources?

Miryam: Where the demons causes sin?

Nehemia: Yeah.

Miryam: Why don’t I give you a range?

Nehemia: Sure.

Miryam: Prayers during this period, tend to be more deterministic. What I mean, in this case is when you pray you’re more likely to say, “Oh God, help me not sin, I can’t do it on my own”. You are giving the power to God and part of that language a lot of the time makes it sound like I have no control over what I do.

Nehemia: So that is what you mean by deterministic?

Miryam: In this case, yes, that’s what I mean.

Nehemia: Where do we find that? In that Dead Sea Scrolls?

Miryam: So for example in the Dead Seas Scrolls. We have a lot of prayers from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some of those prayers actually talk about demons, they talk about, the demons inside me are fighting with the laws that you put inside of me. They are clearly expressing this psychological conflict. We would say today it’s a psychological conflict and they’re saying there are demons inside me that are fighting against the laws that you’ve put inside me and I need you God to help me overpower them or you God have given me the power to overpower them.

Nehemia: So you have that in the Dead Sea Scrolls, how is that different than demonic possession, let’s say in the Gospels, in the New Testament?

Miryam: You can’t say a demon took over my limbs and made me do this thing, which is exactly what we see in the Gospels. The demons can go into pigs and make them all run into the water, which is clearly against their self-interest.

Nehemia: Interesting.

Miryam: And I’m not saying that, that belief didn’t exist, because we have all sorts of incantations against demons. So I’m not saying that no one believed that, but what we have in terms of prayers or descriptions of what demons do, they don’t describe. So when we do have, for example, the demon Beliel who is a very popular demon for the Qumran community…

Nehemia: Popular, meaning they are concerned?

Miryam: Yeah, they don’t like him.

Nehemia: They hate him.

Miryam: They hate him. They talk about him a lot. You can call him a kind of Satan character and they divide humanity, as it were, into the lot of God and the lot of Beliel, at least they do that in the Community Rule. And of course they’re the lot of God the people who oppose them are the lot of Beliel. In the introduction to the Community Rule they talk about Beliel. They don’t actually talk about Beliel himself, that much. They curse the people who follow Beliel. They curse the people who are of the lot of Beliel, even though we have an independent text, which is very similar, also a curse/blessing text where they curse Beliel and his demons.

Nehemia: Now Beliel is mentioned even in the book of Deuteronomy, but there it’s not referring to a demon, it’s usually translated as either worthless or those without yoke. Those are the two explanations.

Miryam: Yes. Those are two explanations. Probably worthless is probably closer, just in terms of the linguistics.
Nehemia: But later on it actually takes on the understanding of this sentient being, a demon that’s messing with people.

Miryam: That’s in the Second Temple period, so we see the word a lot in the Bible. What leads to this interpretation is that we have the phrase anshe Beliel (people of Beliel). Really what it means is worthless people. People who are not acting appropriately, is what it means and what it’s read as later is the people of Beliel, the people who follow this demon, Beliel. So when a have Qumran community member say anshe Baliel (people of Beliel), he means the people that follow the demon of Bilel.

Nehemia: So basically we have this demon in the Dead Sea Scrolls…

Miryam: Let me just add one more thing, in the introduction to the Damascus document, which is another Rule book of the community…

Nehemia: Of the Dead Sea Scroll community, or Essenes, or whomever you identify them as, let’s not get into that.

Miryam: Right, there is a whole discussion and my teacher actually said weren’t Essenes.

Nehemia: The people who read or kept or wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Miryam: Right and let’s keep in mind there were books that were maintained in the Dead Sea Scrolls that had a wider providence. In other words, the same way they read Genesis, they read Jubilees and Jubilees seems to have applied not as widely obviously as Genesis, but Jubilees was read by a larger group, then just this community.

Nehemia: So it wasn’t a book they created, it was a book they used?

Miryam: That’s right. Going back to the Damascus Document, which was one of their Rule books, it talks about Beliel misleading people. Beliel has traps for people leading them to believe that the wrong law is the correct law.

Nehemia: Wow.

Miryam: This is a way they can explain why does everyone not understand that we are keeping the right law.

Nehemia: That’s really an important concept. In other words, you have this idea in some of the prayers of the Dead Sea community that there is a demon inside me and he’s causing me to sin or he’s tempting me to sin, maybe. Would you say that? There’s a demon inside me and he’s causing me to sin somehow, but then here’s a concept which is different.

Miryam: Right, exactly.

Nehemia: He’s not saying “eat pork”, because pork is delicious. He’s saying, and maybe he doesn’t say this exactly, but it’s as if he said, “eat pork, because God didn’t command you not to eat pork”. Would that be fair?

Miryam: That’s what they’re saying.

Nehemia: He’s deceiving people.

Miryam: Yes, that’s what they’re saying.

Nehemia: Wow.

Miryam: Essentially, he is deceiving them about what the law is.

Nehemia: And the example of pork, I just made that up. It’s probably things that are a lot more subtle than that.

Miryam: They are a lot more subtle, because they’re going to be specific to the community or to others. The calendar, for example.

Nehemia: Ooh, can we talk about that?

Miryam: We do have the one place that is closest to seeming to hint to something like demonic possession, but which still isn’t demonic possession. Is saying there is a rule in the Damascus Document where if someone keeps… it’s hard for me to say it by heart, I hope I have a reference to it in here. I hope I cite it.

Nehemia: She’s opening up her book… And I was looking at this book before, and there is an index there that I think is 28 pages long just of ancient references, everything from Aristotle, to the Dead Sea Scrolls, to the Tanach. She has a whole chapter of Roman Chapter 7 in the book. Her index is longer than many books. This is really an interesting concept. So they had a calendar, and tell me if this differs you’re your understanding, I’m familiar with the 364 day calendar, where every year began on a Wednesday and it’s divisible by 7. Is that the calendar you are talking about?

Miryam: Yeah, pretty much.

Nehemia: So if someone didn’t follow that calendar according to their theology, the reason that I follow the sighting of a new moon calendar is because I have been deceived by Beliel?

Miryam: I think we can make that assumption. That’s not one of the things that they site as the three traps of Beliel. The three traps of Beliel that they actually talk about are…

Nehemia: But hypothetically that could be an application of this?

Miryam: Yes, absolutely.

Nehemia: Wow. What are the three traps of Beliel according to the Dead Sea Scrolls?

Miryam: The three traps of Beliel are the first unchasity, the second wealth, and the defilement of the sanctuary. He who escapes from this is caught by that and he who escapes from that is caught by this. There are different explains. They explain to a certain extent themselves what they mean. For example, the author explains that chasity refers to taking more than one wife and defilement of the sanctuary is connected not separating “according to the Torah”, having relations with a woman during her menstrual period and marriage between a man and his niece.

Nehemia: So basically they have a certain interpretation of the Torah and they say all the other people that don’t follow our interpretation, they think they are living a righteous lifestyle, but they’ve been deceived by Beliel.

Miryam: Right.

Nehemia: Wow.

Miryam: And what that is explaining to them is can everyone not see that our laws are the correct laws.

Nehemia: That we are so obviously right.

Miryam: Yeah, that we are so obviously right.

Nehemia: So it must be the work of Beliel.

Miryam: It’s got to be the work of a demon. Yeah.

Nehemia: Wow. So you know what this reminds me of? There is a specific example that this reminds me of. Over at the Diaspora Museum there is a section on Jewish–Christian debates and it shows a Medieval Christian manuscript and in the manuscript is shows the Jew sitting there and the demon comes and binds a veil, a blindfold, over the Jew’s eyes and this is the way the Medieval Christians understood why is it that the Jews don’t see what is so obvious, that Christianity, Catholicism is correct.

Miryam: Yes, it’s just like that. It’s the same sort of concept.

Nehemia: Wow, so this is the source of that or at least an early iteration of that concept. Wow.

Miryam: I taught a course on Angels and Demons and what I liked to ask is why do we have an angel here, why do we have a demon here. What are they answering? What function are they fulfilling for us as readers or as people praying?

Nehemia: Wow.

Miryam: This is the quote I wanted to read in the Damascus Document 12-226, there is a law that says each man whom the spirts of Beliel rule and speaks of posticy in accordance to the judgement of one who communicates with a ghost or a familiar spirit shall he shall be judged. In other words he should be killed. And each man who errs and profanes the Sabbath or the holy days shall not be put to death for he is to be guarded by the sons of man and if he is healed of it…

Nehemia: Of the demon.

Miryam: Right, that’s the idea. That's what people think is, why is he not killed for profaning the Sabbath or the holy days and it’s possible the reason they are saying it’s because the spirit of Beliel ruled him is maybe the reason he “profaned” the Sabbath or the holy days was because he was keeping a different calendar. The question is what about the Sabbath? How is that different?

Nehemia: Well, that had all kind of specific rules in the community.

Miryam: It wouldn’t just be specific rules of the community. The question is, if it were a specifically calendrical rule then perhaps he tried to bring the sacrifice on the Sabbath for one of the holy days, because according to their calendar, a holy day doesn’t fall on the Sabbath, so you never have to bring an extra sacrifice on Sabbath.

Nehemia: Wow. So next time I encounter somebody who has a different understanding of the Creator’s calendar, can I say that they are possessed by Beliel? Is that like a catch all? I’m being facetious (giggles).

Miryam: Whenever there is a question, I never say the answer is to be like a member of the Qumran community (giggles).

Nehemia: No, I’m being facetious. But I think this is an amazing conversation, an amazing concept here that these things that we are seeing later in medieval Christian text and maybe in other places in the New Testament, that the Jews are deceived or blinded, that actually goes back to these ideas in the Qumran community.

Miryam: Well, actually the idea of being blinded specifically, is a classic Hellenistic way of talking about someone sinning.

Nehemia: And even in Isaiah you have things about the people having eyes, but they don’t see, but it doesn’t say anything about demons. So here they are being specifically mislead or blinded by demons. Wow.

Miryam: Here they are not blinded. In the Damascus Document, they are not blinded, but they are certainly being misled.

Nehemia: Right, I introduced that. They are being mislead by some demon, by Beliel.

Miryam: Yeah.

Nehemia: Wow. Alright, so that’s one explanation of sin. What’s another?

Miryam: Another explanation of sin is that people are created with an inclination to sin, now that’s an explanation, it’s not a great reason. Right?

Nehemia: And that’s what we call in Judaism the yetzer hara. Is that right?

Miryam: Yes and no. A lot of times in Orthodox Judaism, they say, “that’s the yetzer hara”.

Nehemia: And that’s translated as the evil inclination.

Miryam: Right. When the Rabbis are talking about it, the yetzer hara it’s depicted as an explanation of your internal inclination, but in demonic terms. So it will talk about how the evil inclination wants to kill you. You have to drag him down to the Beit Midrash and learn Torah.

Nehemia: (giggles) That’s how you defeat it. But he wants you to sin?

Miryam: He wants you to sin, right. There are people who have done studies where they only look at where it says “evil inclination” specifically. Sometimes they even made mistakes because there are places where it uses the word “inclination”, for example in the prayer collection, called the Hodayot, where it uses the word yetzer and what it means simply is a “creation”. So call a person a yetzer basar, a creation of flesh.

Nehemia: So, for example the verse in Genesis where it says the nature of man’s thoughts are evil from his youth, the word there is yetzer, but there it is actually probably equivalent to the word “nature” or something like that. The way he was created. It’s from yatzar, to form, but here in later literature it has a different meaning all together you’re saying.

Miryam: That’s right in the later literature it becomes inclination, but not always, sometimes it still means a creation, so you have to be careful. I’ve looked at texts that were talking about something that was an internal inclination, but didn’t use necessarily the word yetzer. They say “he went according to shichrut libo”, which is the…

Nehemia: Rebellioness of his heart.

Miryam: Right. Or they talk about his heart. 4 Ezra talks about his evil heart. These are really talking about evil inclination in different terms, but when we talk about the Rabbinic evil inclination it’s closer to a demon, it’s kind of a mix.

Nehemia: And isn’t there a concept, as I recall from many years ago, that the evil inclination was blinded and that caused people to be less inclined for people to commit idolatry, for example? Or is that just a much later concept?

Miryam: Yeah, that’s a much later idea. You have this idea in the Second Temple Period about an evil inclination which is just a part of the person, a part of the person wants to sin. And the question is how do you characterize that? For example, Ben Sira talks about having an evil inclination. The Dead Sea Scrolls when they talk about an evil inclination, talks about it in a couple of ways. One is that I am physical and therefore I am sinful, which I need to point out here, because anyone who is familiar with Christian thought is automatically going to go to the spirit-flesh dichotomy. That does not exist in the Dead Sea Scrolls. It exists in Paul, of course. It’s very prominent in Paul and Romans, etc.

Nehemia: Does that exist in the Tanach?

Miryam: That’s a good question. I would say not in terms of sin, necessarily. In the Dead Sea Scrolls a person is flesh, they can’t just be spirit. They are a fleshy spirit, they would say. A ruach besar (fleshly spirit), is a term that they sometimes use. They are a fleshly spirit and because of that, they have this lowly nature which is connected to the physical, but you can’t separate between the physical and the spirit. It’s all baked in the mix.

Nehemia: In the Tanach, I know, it uses the term nefesh (soul) and it’s talking about a person and there doesn’t seem to be a this idea that my nefesh (soul) can be completely disconnected from my physical body. Even the whole idea of resurrection, and maybe that’s a big concept to talk about. But, it seems you are a soul and you have a body, not that your body is inhabited by this separate entity, the soul. So how does that play into the Christian idea in Paul, specifically, of a source of sin? Explain that.

Miryam: It gets very complicated, because…

Nehemia: Paul gets complicated? I’m shocked.

Miryam: Yes, Paul is kind of complicated. There a couple of different ideas that don’t show up so much in Second Temple literature and are very prominent in Paul. For example this separation between spirit and flesh, where the idea is the sin is connected to the flesh, the sin is not connected to the spirit.

Nehemia: If I can focus on the spirit, I won’t have sin.

Miryam: I don’t want to start interpreting Paul, because there are so many interpretations to Paul. There is I sin and that I am flesh, but not the same kind of dichotomy between spirit and flesh. In the speaker, the Hodayot being a spirit of flesh and the lowliness of being a fleshly mortal being. In Psalms we have more mortal and in Hodayot, for example, in the Dead Sea Scrolls we have more talking about being sinful because you are flesh and being lowly and how can I even speak to God.

Nehemia: This has been absolutely fascinating! Just to summarize, the big idea we talked about is that in Second Temple literature there’s two sources of sin. You can blame it on the devil. You can say the devil made me do it or you can attribute it to some internal nature, internal characteristic of human beings.

Miryam: Right and I’d like to say that even when demons are brought in, you not necessarily let off the hook by saying a demon made me do it. Just because a Beliel might have misled you, doesn’t mean that you’re not responsible. And realize that by saying “Beliel misled me” is different than Beliel coming in and affecting me.

Nehemia: And you’re saying in the Gospels the idea is they completely control you. You have no control. Nothing you can do about it. Is that your understanding of your Gospels description of demons?

Miryam: Again the Gospels are also complicated. They have different demons and different ways that they’re interacting with demons. I’m just saying that the passages of the Gospels, where there is a demon that actually possessing a person, completely physically, that’s very unusual. That’s very different than what we see in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in general in Jewish Second Temple literature. I’m not the only person to notice this, by the way.

Nehemia:Anything last things about on this topic?

Miryam: Very quickly. The idea of whether you can say something else made me do it or whether I have complete free will. A lot of times in the Second Temple literature that’s determined by the type of text. For example, when you’re praying it’s much more likely to sound deterministic, that someone made me do it or there are these demons inside me and I need God’s help to resist them. Whereas, in the introduction to Rules books, even in the Dead Sea Scrolls, I want to emphasize this, even in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which we think of them as a deterministic group, and in many ways they were, when they introduced the Rules... In the Damascus Documents it keeps saying choose. You need to choose God’s will and reject your own will. You have to reject your own will and choose God’s commandments. It says choose. It says the word choose several times. So choice is emphasized, when we are talking about Rules, even when it’s a relatively deterministic group. Even when they are talking about demons, by the way.

Nehemia: So when we’re praying, we say I’m powerless. I need your help. I can’t do it. But when I’m standing in front of that bacon, lettuce and tomato burger, that’s my choice. Is that the way it’s described in the literature?

Miryam: Yes.

Nehemia: Thank you so much Miryam. This has been an amazing discussion Dr. Brand. Remember you go get the book on Amazon.com, it’s called “Evil Within and Without: The Source of Sin and Its Nature as Portrayed in Second Temple Literature” by Miryam T Brand.

Miryam: Or you can take it out from your local library.

Nehemia: Buy the book. Shalom.

Related Posts:
Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)
The Yom Kippur Jazz Singer
Hope from Despair on Yom Kippur
Original Sin and The Tree of Life
Sukkot (Feast of Booths)
Hebrew Gospel Pearls
Hebrew Voices Episodes
Support Team Studies
Nehemia Gordon's Teachings on the Name of God

Verses Mentioned:
Genesis 6:1-4
Genesis 4:7
Genesis 8:21
Galatians 5:16-23
2 Peter 3:16

Dr. Miryam Brand

Hebrew Voices, Origin of Sin, sin, hebrew, evil, temple, belial, Damascus document, dead sea scrolls, demonic posession, demons, evil inclination, Evil within and without, free choice, free will, miryam brand, miryam t brand, nehemia gordon, Satan, second temple period, sins of the father, source of sin, three traps of belial

  • UKJ says:

    What is the purpose of a Messiah ?

    Hmm, as we all die and death is the wages of sin, no-one can free themselves from it! And is the tree of life not the goal we human’s aim at ?

    Who wants to die?

    Thanks be to Yeshua, who made and accomplished a way of escape, by being tempted by the devil, and overcoming/rejecting him three times in the ‘Temptation in the Wilderness!’
    Glory to Yehovah, who has send his Son for just this purpose!

    Yes, there is a way of escape, but unless the wages of sin, speak death, has been done away with, we all, speak humanity, die and will die in our sins!

    And as we know, everything physical dies, so has Abraham and all the people mentioned in the Tanakh !

    Conclusion: We all are the prisoners of sin, for we all die! But, as mentioned, there’s a way of escape …. just as much as there is a “High Priest,” and (as an example/ foreshadow) there’s been one n the Temple in the history of Israel!

    Shalom and wishing you a serene Atonement! …

  • Kristen Harvey says:

    The reason we don’t see Adam ‘dying on the day he ate of the fruit’, is because Jehovah stated in the day….his days are 1000 years according to psalms 90:4. And again at 2 Peter 3:8 it is reconfirmed that a days with Jehovah is as a thousand years and a thousand yeard as one day….so Adam began dying and did not complete a day….only 930 earth years.

  • Miryam mentioned when she teaches about angels and demons their purpose etc. does she have any books or articles on that? I would be interested in that teaching.

  • Jeremy Tinnin says:

    $102 for the book?!?!?!?

  • betty weir says:

    This was captivating for me. Thank You both for this glimpse of Hebrew vs. Christian views on the same subject. I was brought up with this teaching.. to resist the devil and he will flee from you. Some who know better still eat pork saying that it was shown in a dream that these unclean creatures were presented to be eaten. If they read on, it says .. now I understand.. do not call any man common or unclean as this was the view of the gentiles. Still people will find a way to make it say what they want it to say. Same with Christmas, Eastor, Sunday worship, etc. Here is what I think applies here.. “None are so blind as they who will not see.”

  • Sylvia says:

    Shalom, Nehemia. Regarding demonic spirits taking hold of people in Scripture, don’t forget about King Saul. Scripture seems to be saying that a spirit got ahold of him, and only young David’s music would calm Saul down.

  • Doreen says:

    Hi my name is Doreen and I live in the western cape, South Africa. I was busy doing reasurch on God’s name Yehovah when I came across a vidio of yours about three days ago.
    Eversince then I’ve been hooked to your and Keith’s work, which IA mind blowingly amazing.
    I myself also have quite a life story on my search for the truth… The whole truth
    It’s hard but again, amazing how our Father has protected, led and guided me.
    As I’ve mentioned I’ve been searching from a very young age, and I’ve been protected from most lies the devil spreads but in the recent months I’ve been searching to find millions that only give you part of the truth and I’ve been loosing hope till I came across your vidios.
    I believe I’ve been led to you and Keith, and I can imagine you guys must be very busy but I so desperately want the truth, not only for me but my children and anyone who truely is seeking the truth about our creator.
    I myself still have so many unanswered questions and my biggest desire is to truthfully serve Yehovah with all I am.
    If there is any way you can help me grow in my knowledge of the whole truth….

    Please and thank you
    And may Yehovah bless you and Keith in the awesome work you doing to give people the truth

    • daniel says:

      Welcome, Doreen! I get a lot of great things from Nehemia, and believe we are living a prophecy from Zechariah – to paraphrase chapter 8; ‘ … in those days ten gentiles will grab the hem of one Jew and say, ‘we have inherited lies from our forefathers. Teach us for we have heard that YHVH is with you.’.” Baruch YeHoVaH!

  • jehovajah says:

    As a former Christian under churches of god seventh day , under the Armstrong’s I was made to feel a sinner. However YHWH showed me by a book by William Sargent that this was akin to brainwashing. In reality it was not compatible with Torah or loving oneself. . It was an attempt to break the human spirit. By the time of the death of Herbert Armstrong it had been shown that the nephesh had a spirit enmeshed within it, not a soul or a duality but the nephesh is an animate entity animated by a complex spirit interaction with mater forming as a product biological materiality. . The successful operation of this complex required YHWH and his Dabar or word. Thus without YHWH, his Torah we would fall short , miss the mark, not fulfill our purpose , bring a curse rather than a blessing. .
    Rejecting YHWH left a position open to other entities , but did not remove our free will, or choice. However once one decides to give up then one is powerless.
    The notion of demonic possession is a foreign one that was common among those rejecting YHWH and brought in by the early church fathers misinterpreting Tanakh and Yeshua by Talmudic takenoth.
    Saul quotes Torah in his parallels with the ruach and the besar.
    Tsuvah Torah!❤️

  • Angela Knape says:

    Excellent discussion!

  • Elizabeth says:

    Shalom, what I understand is that we were created in the likeness of Yehovah ,meaning we have freedom to choose rather than just follow instinct. When Yehovah told us not to consider anything good or bad, but trust Him and His Word because He had already chosen between good and bad, we began to do the opposite. We began to question and doubt Yehovah’s goodness. Then we tempted others, looked for someone to blame, going from one wrong to another and encouraging worse decisions.looking for more and more things to blame and creating victims and falsehoods. The only way back ? Is to listen to Yehovah’s Word who is truth and live in His Ruach Hakodesh

  • L Perez says:

    Hello Nehemia, I really enjoy listening to these enlightening discussions. I would like to offer some insight on one of the points in this discussion with Dr. Miryam Brand that was touched on; specifically the idea of the soul and the flesh. While it is true that, in the NT the idea of some humans becoming spirit beings after their death in the flesh, this must be understood in the greater context of the NT. There are Scriptures which indicate that this transformation is limited to the ones referred to as the chosen, or elect. The idea that all good people die and go to Heaven does not officially come into Christianity until the time in the 4th century when Roman empire takes control of church operations. To be sure, the concept of the soul leaving the body is a Pagan idea which slowly crept into the congregations in the period prophesied by the apostles in the NT at 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Timothy 2:18 and 1 John 2:18. The resurrection of the dead is a future event that still has yet to occur but Roman doctrine teaches otherwise. The ver small number of chosen ones who will be resurrected as angelic spirit beings are clearly defined at Matthew 19:28; Revelation 1:6; Revelation 20:4; Revelation 14:3; Revelation 5:9, 10 and Revelation 3:12. It is very important to delineate between the Roman empire’s hybrid, Christo-Pagan doctrines and the actual Scriptures recorded by the apostles. The actual truth is in the Scriptures even though the traditions of the Roman apostasy have influenced thousands of spinoff sects of Protestantism. YeHo-shua said “seek and you will find”. Sadly, the vast majority prefer the broad and spacious road of following tradition over the cramped and narrow road of seeking the truth.

  • Veronica Martinez says:

    Question. In the book of 1 Samuel 18:10 we read in the Hebrew, ויהי ממחרת ותצלח רוח אלהים רעה אל־שׁאול ויתנבא בתוך־הבית ודוד מנגן בידו כיום ביום והחנית ביד־שׁאול

    “The next day, an evil spirit from God took control of Saul and he went wild in his house. David played the harp to calm him as he usually did,…” (ERV)

    The Hebrew seems to agree with the above English translation looking at the Hebrew word נָבָא. Could this be a form of possession?


  • Jeffrey Man says:

    Could have listened for hours. Very interesting. But let me say this – surrender to the will of Yehovah He is righteous.

  • Raelene says:

    For those of you who found it going too fast, just click on the transcript button under the recording and you will be able to read it all.

    • Kyla says:

      There is no “Transcript download” button beneath the short typed intro on this but only “Download the Origin of Sin” which is the MP3 format download.

      • Devorah says:

        Hi Kyla,
        Below the Yellow Donate button it has the word “Transcript” in blue. If you click that, it opens up the transcript.

  • Yvonne says:

    Nehemia: My take on this is: I’m not an academic. I have been reading/studying daily the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation for 6
    years. I asked the Almighty for that desire. And I got it! I have read commentaries and other explanatory documents that have been
    helpful. I’ve listened to many, worldly “teachers/preachers” who have copious religious theories and there aren’t two persons that
    have the same understanding of Scripture. I’ve even gotten into studying the corrupt and numerous translation issues of the Scriptures. I have gained tremendous insight as a result. But I have learned to know when to stop the research. I’m not complete but expect to be a continual work in progress. I’m a different person from what I was b4 those 6 years of study. That is something I cannot explain but it is real. The Scripture is so rich in depth that I have learned to take a bite at a time. Not swallow the whole loaf at once. Not going to the buffet table and take more than my body can withstand. It seems to me that these academics want an explanation for every thought of the heart and mind and if they don’t get a “satisfactory” explanation then they look to still more documents to find still more ideas. And it becomes circular reasoning leading to just that circular logic. To me, this jumble leads to distraction ending with no understanding of purpose at all but only more fanciful vexation. I don’t wonder that their students are atheists or agnostics. I know these academics have to justify their position by getting caught up in their own “well-researched”
    theories. But Almighty God, whom I really believe in, becomes lost in all the bewilderment when they try to zero in and figure out these myopic points. If mortal man must know everything, what is the point of faith then? If this woman has not had an experience with the Almighty, I can see why she wants to constantly defend and justify her academic points. Knowing the Almighty is something that no academic or teacher or priesthood can explain. I used to listen to these “brilliant people” and take them seriously and try to understand them. But when it became overwhelming, it tells me I don’t need to know that much as it only leads to a heap pile more of
    a whirl. Nehemia, as your ole Uncle Solomon, the wisest man of all time and who should know has said, The conclusion of the matter is to love God and keep his commandments. Enough said. Hope this explains my position.

    • I can see your point to a degree, and believe that God’s word is the ultimate source of truth. However I find it extremely informative to listen to people who know about the historical, linguistic and cultural surroundings in which the Bible took shape as it gives me greater insight into scripture and helps me grow in my walk with God. In this day and age I find there is far too much “dumbing down” of everything to the lowest common denominator with very little to engage the mind. I’m personally sick and tired of bubblegum religion and bumper sticker theology.

  • Laurie Metz Laine says:

    Very good to listen to a discussion on this topic. My son and I had this conversation of why is there no mention in the Torah on demon possession, but in the gospel’s it’s mentioned many times. I have wondered if there was something about the translation or did something happen in that time that we are unaware of. I don’t know. But I have been exposed to many teaching in Churches that are so horrendous on this very topic. Thank you for sharing your discussion and your passion for learning. It’s so good to hear. And love for our Father! Shalom Shalom!

  • Yes! I do agree with a previous post that “it ended before it began”! I think to say, this conversation put the cart before the horse though interesting still. The “origin” must be examined in order to put the horse up front or in other words, we must build the foundations BEFORE the building proper. Also, I think you’ll agree that not much specifically is said outright concerning the origins of demons yet much can be known specifically because of the saying, “the hidden things of God are clearly seen by the things that are made”. Having said that, comprehending those things which we can see evidently by the things that are made, are and will be where wisdom resides. The things I say may sound like riddles but discovering a few basic foundational items will cause comprehension of these matters to leap forward. To sum up; this is a foundational topic and as such, cannot be comprehended without the foundation pieces, PERIOD! Thank you for the effort and I’ll be waiting with bated breath for the “1st interview” now that we have heard the 2nd. Blessings to all!

  • Janice says:

    Wow! Such an amazing session. Thank you both for sharing.

  • LuciL. says:

    Ok, you did a teaser with her, my appetite is whetted. Please have heras a guest again soon!! The topics you promised us are too juicy to be put off any more, Nehemia!

  • Rick says:

    The Library called. They got a copy of “Evil Within and Without: The Source of Sin and Its Nature As Portrayed in Second Temple Literature” by Miryam T. Brand. I checked it out. If buying this book is not an option you can ask your public library to get one for you. The worse they can do is say no.

  • Irene says:

    Thank you both; this was good indeed. However, in all due respect, it would help to slow down for us “elderly” and/or younger than elderly folks who have short term memory issues. When one talks over the other it is difficult to process. Needless-to-say, could you maybe increase the time frame and slow it down a bit, pretty please!

  • Reyes Nava says:

    Some translations end Genesis 4:7 with “can be its master”
    The english translation of the JPS uses “may rule over it”.

    When free will is the underlining issue the word “may”
    makes sense because it gives us freedom of choice.

  • Jennifer says:

    That was awesome! I could listen to you two for hours!

  • cecille12 says:

    I would love it if Dr Miryam Brand would convert her book to Kindle. How about? Amazon.com is sold out of the text book.

  • Linda Sprague says:

    This spoke to so many aspects of what we were taught as Christians. As an ex-Christian it makes so much sense. “The devil made me do it.” Taking no responsibility for our actions. Thank you for slowing Dr. Brand down so that we could fully (or not so fully, LOL) gain more understanding of the topic. There are at least 10 more audios needed to explore this topic in more detail. Thanks Nehemia and Dr. Brand. Very engaging conversation.

  • This program was not long enough! 😉 I cannot wait until you two get together again. Thank you so much.

  • Abraham Thornton says:

    It ended before it began. This was so nice, having an mind as big Nehemia’s to talk to brings such a crazy awesome element to the conversation, please make a part two happen, please make a 1+ hour show. I know having a guest like this on the show must be difficult with scheduling, but it was so good. I am listening to it a second time as the two of you were talking so fast trying to pack in the Information in such a small time period. Just Great!

  • Benyahmeen says:

    Shalom and thanks for your programs!

    I am a little concerned that concerning the very beginning of the recording about the so called controversial doctrine of sin falling upon the third and fourth generation.. it says in both Exodus 22:5 and Deuteronomy 5:9 that; God speaking “to those that hate me”. To me it is obvious the curse of generational sin stops when a person loves God. read closely below:
    1) Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
    2) Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,

    I am concerned that people and scholars struggle with this idea of transference of sin and forgiveness thereof. Sin does many times picked up by the children! The simple solution is to break the curse and love God… is it not?

    Thanks for the idea of the demon that Jews considered by title as meaning “worthless” Reminds me of Yshua’s words not to refer to people with this demonic name of “Belial/Worthless”
    Mat 5:22
    But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool (Belial), shall be in danger of hell fire.

    Demon activity in Tanakh:2Ch 18:21
    And he said, I will go out, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the LORD said, Thou shalt entice him, and thou shalt also prevail: go out, and do even so.
    Tools specific to 2Ch 18:22
    2Ch 18:22
    Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil against thee.

    Theodicy? Why bad things happen to good people? That is an arrogant statement and also question especially since we as people can not determine ultimately what is good or evil.

  • home43garays says:

    Very interesting, thank you! Just request Nehemiah that you pick a different “go to” name besides “Bill” – my husbands name!?

  • Mary says:

    Loved this one-but I agree with some others-we need-want more.

    Thank you

  • Jacques Smit says:

    Would love it Nehemia if you could comment on the Book of Jasher. This Hebrew voice has so much insight into questions raised throughout Torah Pearls, that were left unanswered. It is referred to in the Tanak – so why not once throughtout Torah and Prophet pearls. Eg The Torah says a donkey and the serpent spoke, but Jasher says that all the tongued animals were created with speech.

  • Rocky says:

    Well I am going to listen to this for the 5th time…Very interesting indeed!

  • Pat Skewes says:

    Excellent…. Really enjoyed this…

  • kaylened says:

    Thank you for this teaching! No more victim mentality can remain when we know we all have a choice, James 1:13,14 confirms it.

  • Wanda says:

    Thank you again Nehemia for posting this, and thank you Miryam for taking the time to share with us. I sure do hope we will hear more from you two:) great stuff:)


  • Pogotrucci says:

    Lovely! As an academic studying exegesis and has a big interest in the Second Temple Period, I am completely sold when you have scholars on. My favourite Nehemiah-moments are when Nehemia the Scholar shines through. 🙂 Oh if only you were a woman, then I would marry you straight away (no pun intended).

  • David says:

    Once again I learned something new! Thank you Dr. Brand.

  • Mandy says:

    Just on the part where it is stated that there are no references to ‘demons’ entering people. …
    I m wondering if you have ever covered the scripture where an evil spirit from YHVH troubles…or is upon King Saul? 1 Sam 18:10 in particular….if he is prophecying…..
    Also 1 Kings 22:23. etc.
    Familiar spirits is another one where generational spirits hand down causing actions??
    Judge 9 speaks specifically about one being between them causing treachery.
    Why word it thus instead of speaking about evil men?
    I’m interested in finding out about this idea from Tanakh.
    I’ve done plenty of research, but my Hebrew is still poor to say the least.

  • Derrick says:

    “Original Sin”! I don’t think I have it in me to wait long for that one.

  • Erin Hunter says:

    I am glad to learn from all the history and cultural facts, we have no history taught here.
    I personally believe research reveals a lot of things and Scripture is alive today as was and will be by YHWH power.
    Thanks and keep it up!

  • Rick says:

    WOW! Please, sir, I want some more.

  • Vicki says:

    Are you kidding? The entire program was a “teaser.” Nehemia, this is what you do best showing us the history, culture and language of the scripture. I call it “peeling back the onion” . Thank you.

    • Jean says:

      Vicki is spot on! How about 2 or maybe 3 hours next time? I’m looking forward to more from Nehemia and Miryam. Thank you both for an exciting and informative program. Shalom