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, where that is the source of ideas about evil, the evil inclination, even though what the evil inclination becomes by the time we get to rabbinical literature is different from the way evil inclination is portrayed in the Bible, and also to a certain extent, from the way it is portrayed in Second Temple Literature, in the Dead Sea Scrolls and other works. But we will be talking about that in more detail. 

Besides these central podcasts I’m recording, as podcasts, I’m also going to be including recordings of lectures that I do on way, which aren’t necessarily going to be about Sin and Evil, they will usually concentrate on either Dead Sea Scrolls or works written during that period, so for example I have a couple of lectures coming up on the books of the Maccabees. That’ll be included in this podcast in case you want to listen to it. But I’m really happy that you’re joining me. If you have any question on this podcast, please feel free to post in my blog: UnderstandingSin.com. And that’s also where you can find any source sheets that I might use on my podcast. So, I’m going to direct you to those when necessary, though on the most part you will not need a source sheet to follow the podcast. The source sheet will really be for your information. 

So, let’s start our first episode with the story of Adam and Eve. Now, I call this episode The Origin of Sin That Wasn’t. And that is because the story of Adam and Eve is so frequently thought to encapsulate the reason that people sin. Everyone thinks that this is the biblical explanation of why people sin. 

Now, if we go back and read the biblical story with what we call the plain meaning of the text, or in Hebrew the peshat. I’m going to try and read the story without the many layers of interpretation that have been added to it over the years. Now I do admit I will every now and then mention some interpretation because some of the especially early interpretation are just too good and can kind of give us an insight into how the story was interpreted later. But as we learn the story from the beginning, I would like you to keep in mind: What is the story really explaining, what is the story really about? So let’s try and distance ourselves from what we think the story is about and really read the plain text.

Now I’m going to begin the story, actually before the sin because it is important for the story itself. These biblical stories are frequently built on parallelism. We can’t take them completely out of context. Because in order to understand what they are trying to teach us, we have to see what the parallels are. 

Let’s begin by reading from chapter 2, from right before the making of woman, the creation of Eve. So, the question is of course what is the impetus for the creation of Eve? It says, and I’m reading from chapter 2, verse 15.

The LORD God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden, to till it and tend it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you are free to eat; but as for the tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, you must not eat of it; for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die.”

Ok, he can eat every single fruit, he simply cannot eat the fruit of this one tree, the Knowledge of Good and Evil, ok?

The LORD God said, “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make a fitting helper for him.” And the LORD God formed out of the earth all the wild beasts and all the birds of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that would be its name.

Now, just a second…what was the last thing we heard? The last thing we heard was that God was going to find a helpmeet for man. And now God has made all the animals and all the birds. And he says let’s see what man calls them.  So, what exactly is going on here? We have to remember what knowledge is. What is knowledge in the ancient world, one basic factor, one basic aspect of knowledge in the ancient world was knowing the names of things. There are lists and lists and lists of names in ancient texts in Akkadian. For example, here is a list of all the bird names, here’s a list of all the different types of wooden objects. There’s an idea that knowledge, naming something, means knowing it. So, let’s actually introduce man to these animals, let’s have him get to know the animals, and let’s find a fitting helpmeet for him. And we already know how the story is going to end. But the story is creating this kind of “mmm… let’s see what man does” and the answer is, he does know them.

“And the man gave names to all the cattle and to the birds of the sky and to all the wild beasts; but for Adam no fitting helper was found.”

So he names all the animals and yet none of them are quite his mate. So, he knows what they are, but they are not for him. 

“So, the LORD God cast a deep sleep upon the man; and, while he slept, He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that spot. And the LORD God fashioned the rib that He had taken from the man into a woman; and He brought her to the man. Then the man said”, this is a poem actually, I’ll say it in Hebrew first and then I’ll give you the translation: “zot hapa’am etsem me’atsamay uvasar mibesari lezot yikare ishah ki me’ish lukacha-zot.” “This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This one shall be called Woman (Isha), for from man (Ish) was she taken.”

So, like with all the animals, Adam is now naming her Woman, he’s naming her as his species and he’s saying why is she Woman, because she is related to me, Ish. We are related, we are the same species, it’s the first time I’m meeting someone like this. It is a recognition that she is Woman, but we are the same, we are the same thing, we are of the same material. 

Al-ken ya’azov-ish et-aviv ve’et imo vedavak be’ishto vehayu levasar echad. 

 “Therefore, a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, so that they become one flesh.” And what is that “Therefore”? “Therefore” is because she was taken out of him. So, he is missing her. And then it is natural that he should leave his family and everything he knows, just in order to kind of get his missing piece back. That’s a natural explanation, this is an explanation of… kind of why men and woman belong together. But we’re going to come back to this later on in this story, there’s a reason why I read this first. 

And then, what is the next verse? How does the chapter end? This is actually the beginning of the next story. 

Vayihyu shneyhem arumim ha’adam ve’ishto velo yitboshashu.

 “The two of them were naked, and yet they were not ashamed.”

So they are naked, but they have no feeling that they need to be clothed. They are essentially like all the other animals. None of the animals need clothing. They don’t feel they need clothing either. And then we get into the instigator of the story.

Vehanachash hayah arum mikol chayat hasadeh asher… I’ll read it in English: “Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild beasts that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say: You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?” The woman replied to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the other trees of the garden. It is only about fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said: ‘You shall not eat of it or touch it, lest you die.’”  Of course, God didn’t say you can’t touch it and our rabbinic commentators make a lot of that information, but here there is not much that is done with that. 

“And the serpent said to the woman, “You are not going to die, but God knows that as soon as you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like divine beings who know good and bad.”

So there is a lot actually to unpack in this verse. First of all, I’d like to say that… and here I’m going to give you a little bit of interesting early interpretation, what the snake actually says to the woman is you shall surely not die. And the way to say surely is kind of in Hebrew is this doubling of the language: it’s “a dying you shall not die,” lo mot temutun.

Now, not everyone realizes this but of course the Hebrew in the Bible does not have any vocalization, there are no vowels in the Bible. Everyone simply knew how it was read and how it was pronounced. This continued as an oral tradition until we got to the people who we call the Masoretes.  The Masoretes were rabbis who created, who defined what the Masorah, the Masoretic Bible, the Bible according to tradition will be. This is the correct Bible, this is the Bible that is correct according to Jewish tradition and this is how it is pronounced. They actually created a method of writing the vowels and they also created what we call the trop, the cantillation marks. How the Bible is sung and how to punctuate it. That is not written into a Torah scroll, but when you learn to read the Bible you learn it with the vocalization marks and when you learn to sing the Bible in the synagogue, you learn it with the cantillation marks, the trop. And those come from the Masoretes, rabbis who lived in the 6th to 10th centuries of the Common Era, they lived in the land of Israel, they lived mainly in Jerusalem and Tiberias, there were some in Babylonia, which is modern day Iraq, but for the most part we really follow the Tiberian traditions, traditions coming out of Tiberias and that area. 

Why did I say this whole story? Because the system of punctuation that the Masoretes used was very interesting. Every single word has a punctuation mark that either connects it to the next word, like a hyphen would do, or that separates it like a comma would do. And what’s interesting is that when the snake says “no, you shall surely not die” the way it is punctuated is “lo mot, temutun”. “Not-dying being, you shall die”. So, the Masoretes actually have the snake in a typical forked tongue way hinting to Eve what is going to happen. You (Eve), now you are a non-dying being, but you will die because of what I’m tricking you to do. Of course, the plain meaning of the text is lo mot temutun, “you shall surely not die” or “a dying you shall not die”. That is a little extra I wanted to give you in the first part of the snake statement. 

And the second part is — what does it mean that you’re going to be like divine beings who know good and bad or who know good and evil? And this is the whole question of what does tov va-ra, good and evil, what does knowledge of good and evil mean in this whole story? And that’s key to try to understand. What is going on? They can’t eat from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And then they do eat from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and then they are going to know good and evil. So there’s an explanation given by Umberto Cassuto, or Moshe David Cassuto, depending on what you want to call him, he was an Italian rabbi who later became a Ugaritic scholar and a Bible scholar, who lived from 1883 to 1951. I highly recommend his commentary on the beginning of Genesis, From Adam to Noah, you can get it in English, and what he does is he says let’s look at what does knowing good and evil mean. 

Well, let’s look at this phrase in general in the Bible, what does knowing good and evil mean? Let’s look in Deuteronomy for example, Devarim, chapter 1, verse 39. And it says: “And your children, who you said would be wasted, would be shamed, those children who do not know today good or evil, they will come there” – they are the ones who essentially will come to the land of Israel.” This is talking about when the spies go into Israel and come back with a bad report and now none of the Israelites want to go into the land of Israel. Their punishment is that they will die out in the desert and their children who today do not know good and evil, in other words, today they are very young, they’re infants now, they do not know anything. They are the ones who will grow up and enter into the Land of Israel.

So, the meaning of the closest parallel to “not knowing good and evil” in the Bible is just not knowing anything. What does it mean to know good and evil? It means to know what’s going on. Right now, Adam and Eve are in a state where they are not quite animals, but they are close to animals in terms of the way they are looking at the world. They don’t realize they are naked; they are little children. And for some reason they are not supposed to get to this next level of knowledge. They are supposed to stay in this kind of state of in between animals and people, or maybe a childlike state, where they don’t know that level of what is called knowing good and evil; knowing what is good and what is bad. 

Now, of course, I like this explanation because it gives me an answer. I can say “Oh, I know what knowing good and evil means now, it means knowing something, being in a state beyond the infant stage, understanding things”. So, I like it for that reason. But of course, you can still say wait a second. In this context here it really does sound like there is a distinction. So, we come to the distinction of… say virtue and vice. Because there is this idea of morality. The truth is we don’t know and the story doesn’t make it clear. So, I really like Cassuto’s explanation. I’m going to leave it up to you, to agree or disagree with me. But let’s continue. 

And the serpent’s claim is, again, that if they eat the fruit they are going to gain this extra level of knowledge, they are going to be like divine beings. And that’s why God doesn’t want them to do it. So, moving on to verse 6, “when the woman saw that the tree was good for eating and a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable as a source of wisdom, she took of its fruit and ate”. Excuse me, I was reading a translation there. It’s not quite clear that it means that the tree was desirable as a source of wisdom. A translation closer to the plain meaning of the text would be: and the tree was pleasant to contemplate. Ve’nechmad ha-etz le’haskil. “The tree was nice to contemplate”. “And she took of its fruit. And she ate, and she gave it to her husband with her and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened. And they perceived that they were naked. And they sewed together fig leaves and made themselves loincloths”. 

So, what is the very first response to eating the fruit? What has it done right away? Right away there is some distinction that says Ok, we have parts that we need to cover. And it is important that these are loincloths, they specifically make loincloths that are simply made to cover their private parts. They are not cold; they are not distressed by the weather. All they want… they realize now that they have private parts and that those private parts should be covered.

So, ok, again, we can say this is a move beyond being childlike or being animal like. They are now at least somewhat adult human beings who recognize what nakedness means. 

“They heard the sound of the LORD God moving about in the garden at the breezy time of day. And man, and his wife hid form the LORD God among the trees of the garden. The LORD God called out to the man and said to him: where are you? He replied I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.”

Ok, so here we have a question that everyone asks: what does God means when He says, “where are you?” And we can see from the answer of man, of Adam. God says, “where are you?” and he doesn’t say “well, I’m here behind the bushes. He says: “I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid”. 

In other words, the “where are you?” is “why are you not out here with me?” In other words, if I were supposed to pick up my brother, let’s say, at his house. And I’m there and I’m waiting, and I call him up and I say: “Where are you?” His answer is not going to be “in my house”. Because then he knows I’m going to get really, really angry. His answer is going to be: “Oh, I’ll be out in just five minutes, I got caught up in something.” When I ask, “where are you?”, I’m like “why are you not here?” And God’s saying “where are you?” means “why are you hiding?” “Why are you not here?” And Adam’s answer is I was hiding because… I’m going to read it now in the Hebrew.

Vayomer et-kolecha shamati bagan va’ira ki eyrom anochi va’echave.

“I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was scared because I’m naked. And so, I hid. Then He asks (namely God) who told that you were naked? Did you eat of the tree from which I had forbidden you to eat? Then the man said the woman you put at my side, she gave me of the tree and I ate.”

So, this is typical, he is acting like a human now. And so, he says, well you gave me that woman. And she gave me the fruit and I ate it. 

And LORD God said to the woman: What is this you have done? The woman replied, the serpent tricked me, and I ate. Then the LORD God said to the serpent 

the snake doesn’t have a lot to say for himself. So God says to him: Because you did this, more cursed shall you be than all cattle and all the wild beasts. On your belly shall you crawl, and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life. 

Of course, there is a classic Jewish interpretation, which asks why is this a curse? He’s going to eat dirt, there is always dirt, he’ll never be hungry ever. And the answer is, of course, that he will never have to look up. And that’s terrible. That you should never have to look up for your sustenance — to look up is what it means to be a creature made by God, ideally. 

I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers. They shall strike at your head and you shall strike at their heel. 

There’s an important message here. What is the snake’s punishment? The snake’s punishment is he’s going to be so far removed from people, he’s going to crawl around and he will be the enemy of woman. Why the enemy of woman? Because his speaking to her was what started this whole thing off. In other words, this kind of alliance that he made with her is what began this whole thing. So, an appropriate punishment is to create complete enmity between the snake and the woman. 

And to the woman He said: I will make most severe your pass in childbearing. In pain shall you bear children. Yet your urge shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you. 

There is a lot to unpack here. What is the woman’s punishment? The woman’s punishment is pain in childbirth. What what we are going to see with her and with Adam (the man) is that her punishment also related to her being a human being. In general, animals don’t suffer severe pain, unless there is something going wrong. The standard is that animals are not in severe pain when they bear children. The veterinarians among you can correct me, but from what I understand the reason that human women have so much pain in childbirth is for two reasons. One is that we walk upright and the second is that we have large heads. Because we walk upright, in order to stay balanced we need a relatively small pelvic area and then you have to get a huge head through it, and that’s what makes childbirth for women so difficult. That is not something that an animal on all fours, or sometimes on all fours has to worry about. And so, for humans, childbearing pain is severe. 

But again, this separates human women from animals. 

And one of the most important parts of the whole series of punishments that the perpetrators get here is when God says to woman: Your urge (or your passion or your longing) shall be to your husband and he shall rule over you. I’m going to read this in Hebrew also. 

Ve’el ishech teshukatech vehu yimshol bach.

First there are two things that are important to know here. One is that the fact that she desires her husband means he is going to rule over her. That is the way the mechanism seems to work. Because she desires him or she longs for him, he will rule over her.  This is a very important verse because we are going to hear an almost complete repetition of it in a very different context in the Cain and Abel story in our next podcast. And that is very, very significant. And the other thing is… so you might say what is the desire she’s supposed to have, how do we know what the meaning of the word “teshuka” is? 

Now, unfortunately it really shows up only in one other place in the Bible (besides the Cain story), which is the Song of Songs. “I am my beloved’s and to me is his “teshuka”,” his longing. And so, all we can say is that it seems to be longing or desire, and it’s used that way later in rabbinic Hebrew as well. And of course we’re going to have the word “teshuka” in the Cain and Abel story, and we will discuss it in detail there. 

So that part of Eve’s punishment is that she is going to depend on her husband, she is going to long for her husband and that means she will rule over her. The meaning of that is up for debate. If you want to hear a medieval commentator’s take on it, Nahmanides, who was the Ramban, who was a very well-known Jewish medieval commentator said well, you know, slaves usually don’t want to be slaves and people don’t want to risk their lives, they don’t want to put their lives in jeopardy and yet women want to get married and they want to bear children. Which is kind of a sad commentary of what a woman’s life was like in the middle ages, but trust Ramban to call it like he sees it. 

So, moving right along. What is Adam’s punishment? To Adam He said: Because you did as your wife said and ate of the tree about which I commanded you: ‘you shall not eat of it.’ Cursed will be the ground because of you. By toil shall you eat of it all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles shall it sprout for you. But your food shall be the grasses of the field. By the sweat of your brow shall you get bread to eat until you return to the ground, for from it you were taken. Because of course Adam was made from dirt. For dust you are and to dust you shall return. 

Here again we see a difference from animals. When Adam is placed in the garden, it seems that what he’s supposed to eat was fruit. You can eat from all the trees of the garden. And he’s going to eat fruit. Why is that important? Because it’s all just growing, he just picks it and eats it. He doesn’t have to do anything. He’s not growing grain. But from now on that is exactly what he’s going to have to do. He’s going to have to work for his food. Unlike any animal ever. He’s going to have to grow his own food. 

And then we come to something interesting and this kind of ties us back to the beginning of the story that we read just a little while ago. Vayikra ha’adam shem ishto Chavah. The man named his wife Eve. Because she was the mother of everything living. And the LORD God made garments of skins for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 

Now this is interesting, these are two immediate consequences of that whole story. There were the curses, those were punishments. And for Adam and Eve in particular those punishments make them more human. I mean it may be the worst side of being human, the more painful side of being human, but it separates them even further from animals, now that they know good and evil. (Whatever that means!) 

But the other consequence is that Adam has given Eve a name. Now wait a second. Adam already named her; what did he name her? He named her Woman. He said the name of this shall be woman because it was just like he named all the animals. He said this is a cat, this is a cow. This is a woman. I am a man, this is a woman. Now I know what this is. But that’s not enough for people. People have names. And they’ve gotten to that recognition now. Now Adam names her Eve. Names her Chavah. And why does he name her that? Because she is the mother of everything living. Is she the mother of everything living? Of course she is not the mother of everything living. But she’s going to be the mother of every living human being. There is a distinction now, a huge distinction between people and animals. People get proper names. But everything living, all of a sudden, to Adam everything living is people. 

And what is the other consequence? Well, God makes them clothes. What’s interesting is that God makes them clothes from leather. He makes them clothes from leather, from animals. We’re not quite at the point yet — and we’re going to talk about this in a while when we get Noah – we’re not quite at the point where people are allowed to kill animals, just as if it’s nothing. But there’s already this distinction, they are wearing animal skins. 

Then we have the peculiar end of the story. And the LORD GOD said: now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and bad, what if he should stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever. So, the LORD God vanished him from the garden of Eden to till the soil from which he was taken. He drove the man out and stationed east of the garden of Eden the cherubim and the fiery ever-turning sword to guard the way to the Tree of Life. 

Ok, so why did Adam and Eve got thrown out of the Garden of Eden? Why are they thrown out? They’re thrown out so they won’t eat of the Tree of Life. This is very peculiar. One of the peculiar things is that that was not forbidden to them since the beginning. The one tree they could not eat from was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They could eat from the Tree of Life, though they may not have known which tree it was. So, what’s interesting here is why are they suddenly going to know, why are they suddenly going to eat from the Tree of Life? Well, there are several possible explanations. One is that now they will know which is the Tree of Life, because now they know something. So, they’ll figure out which is the Tree of Life and then they’ll get immortal life and they are not supposed to get immortal life. Because they would be too much like a divine being. That’s one explanation. 

Another explanation is maybe what they are not allowed to have is the combination. Maybe they can’t have the knowledge of good and evil and also immortal life. Because if they have both they are too much like a divine being. 

But whichever is true, they are sent out of the garden of Eden not as a punishment but so that they won’t eat from the Tree of Life, because they can no longer have immortal life. God doesn’t allow it. Now of course there’s a question of what does it mean “He will be like one of us”, but then we have the same question when God says, “let US make man”. Is it a royal we? Is God talking to divine beings? Is God talking to angels? What’s a more troubling question here of course is, was the snake right? Because the snake was saying oh no, God is just scared that you guys are going to be too divine. It’s not going to kill you. But then of course in the final analysis, perhaps they would have been allowed to eat of the Tree of Life if they had not eaten of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. So that’s a question that we’re left with. 

Let’s go back to what does this story actually tell us? Does this story actually tell us where sin comes from? Notice that there is nothing here about how in the future they will sin.  There isn’t even really an explanation of why they don’t listen to God’s commandment. And I mean, you have a snake, and the snake is a tempter. Now, again the snake is described as a snake. He is not Satan, he’s not a demon. He’s not a divine being, in fact it makes it very clear that he is not a divine being. He’s an animal, we don’t know what exactly his agenda is. But God just comes in and punishes him and says, hey, you’re going to slither on the ground from now on, and that is what he does. So, he’s not a demonic figure. This isn’t explaining sin. This isn’t telling us from where sin comes from. It doesn’t really even say what sin is. 

We are in fact in the next podcast, when we look at the Cain and Abel story, we’re going to get a much better explanation of what sin is. An explanation actually said by God himself. Where God explains to Cain or you can even say maybe tries to explain to Cain, because Cain doesn’t seem to get it, what sin is and what sin does. However what’s interesting in general is that, and by the way, as I’ve said, my expertise is in particular Second Temple Literature, literature written in the Dead Sea Scrolls, literature written around that time when the Second Temple was standing and when we have very interesting Jewish works, and in general they don’t really care all that much about the Cain and Abel story. They don’t look at the statement there about sin. They don’t look at it as their source of knowledge about where sin comes from. Another interesting point that I’d like to make before we finish is that the Bible, and most biblical books, they do, some of them, do address the problem of bad things happening to good people, as in of course Job. But in general, why do bad things happen to good people. That’s a problem that biblical books, some of them ask and address. 

A question that most books in the Hebrew Bible do not ask is if — and this is something that really bothered people during the Second Temple Period — is if God created me and God does not want me to sin then why in the world do I want to sin. When I used to teach undergraduates, they’d always say “because it’s fun.” And I’d say well, why is it fun? If God made me then why should I find this fun? Shouldn’t I find it repulsive? And this was a problem that didn’t really bother people in the time of Moses, if we talk about the prophets. It doesn’t seem to really bother people during that period. 

It really starts to bother people when we’re getting to after most of the books of the Hebrew Bible are written. After that, in the Second Temple period, say from 300 B.C.E. on, that’s when Jews start really being bothered by this question. Why do I want to sin? They are struggling with this desire and they are saying why do I have it. That’s when they start talking about where does sin come from? A little bit about the Adam and Eve story, much less than you would think, actually. And much more about other stories we’re going to talk about later on, about the evil inclination, about the Watchers, that is in genesis 6 as I’ve said. And try to figure out why do I want to sin, is it a demon, is it something inside of me and how do I deal with it?

So, we are going to continue to talk about this, but first I’d really like to read the Cain and Abel story with you. And I’m going to do that in our next podcast. So please return then and I’m looking forward to your comments. You can put them in on my blog at UnderstandingSin.com. Thanks, and I’ll speak to you again soon.

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