Table of Contents of Latest Issue
Index of All Issues
Index of Book Reviews
Instructions for Contributors
Subscribe to
Australian Biblical Review


ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 62, 2014

MIRYAM T. BRAND, Evil Within and Without: The Source of Sin and Its Nature as Portrayed in Second Temple Literature (Journal of Ancient Ju-daism Supplements, 9; Gottingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, 2013). Pp. 331. Hardcover. ISBN 9783525354070. €90.00 RRP.

Miryam T. Brand has rightly identified the source of sin, or moral evil, as a central question for Second Temple Judaism (400 BCE–70 CE). Brand’s investigation comes at a point where the academic discussion of these Second Temple texts has matured since the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls. One of the most helpful aspects of her discussion is her determination to avoid the anachronistic assumptions of modern theological concerns in an attempt to reveal, at least in raw form, those of the original authors.

Brand sorts her texts according to their treatment of the source of sin as either human and internal or demonic and external. She draws her distinction from ‘the philosophy of action.’ Texts which depict the source of sin as internal and human are treated according to the three genres of prayer, covenantal or wisdom literature. Using genre in this way doesn’t work for texts that develop the tradition of a demonic figure. She traces this tradition back to the books of Enoch, Jubilees and then to the Qumran texts. Wisely she excludes the NT documents from her discussion given its complexity and extensive coverage in modern scholarship.

Chapters 2–6 focus on the source of sin as an inherent human inclination. Among the various approaches Brand reviews passages which assert the inclination to sin as something God removes with his election of the sinner to righteous status; a condition tied to one’s physical nature that must be countered by rigorous discipline and divine help even after the affirmation of elect status; the role of Torah as antidote for the desire to sin; and the need for additional revelation of ‘hidden’ commandments available only to the elect.

Chapters 7–12 cover texts which see the source of sin as the product of demonic influence. This survey traces the influence of the early Enoch literature, noting the core understanding of sin as deviation from the divine order of creation. This deviation is exemplified in the sin of Shemikhazah’s cohort of angels who mated with women to produce half-breed giants, who in turn became demon spirits. Brand also notes the function of the fallen angels under the leadership of “Asa’el in revealing forbidden secrets that lead humanity astray. The characters of Belial and Mastema are well analysed noting the complexities of the Enochic tradition as it developed.

Missing here is an analysis of the way these texts integrate the narrative and function of physical and moral evil within their various frameworks. The Hellenistic philosophical treatments of physical and moral evil have been extensively studied. The Enochic tradition integrates the two within a narrative of angelic and human deviation effecting physical, social and spiritual corruption at every level from cosmic to personal and internal evil. By isolating moral from physical evil, Brand’s analysis suffers a distortion that calls for further investigation and review of the whole.

Brand notes the way these texts deal with issues of theodicy (engaging with the Book of Job), predestination and free will, the problem of evil and God’s rule over the creation, and the various portrayals of the solution or antidote for sin. While these issues are familiar to modern theologians, one of the strengths of Brand’s work is that she does not try to synthesise or harmonise the various models or ideas presented within a particular text or body of associated texts. Whereas scholars such as Sacchi and Boccaccini have sought to identify differing communities and formulate historical reconstructions based on theological distinctions within these texts, Brand notes that ideas such as predestination and free will appear to be held without tension. She therefore raises the challenge for the modern reader to attempt to understand how such ideas and formulations were held together within a text’s framework or model of reality.

In allowing the texts surveyed to speak for themselves, Brand helpfully opens up a body of data that has had a profound influence on two millennia of human thought and culture, even though lost for many centuries. She helpfully brings us back to the integrity of these ancient texts and the challenge of engaging with thoughts and ideas that don’t fit the paradigms of other cultures or scholarship. She provokes a refreshing and stimulating frustration that should be productive of further discovery.

Review by
William Carey Christian School