Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

“At the Entrance Sin is Crouching”: The Source of Sin and Its Nature as Portrayed in Second Temple Literature
by Brand, Miryam T., Ph.D., New York University, 2011, 634; 3482858
Abstract (Summary)

This study addresses the problem of the existence of sin and the determination of its source as reflected in texts of the Second Temple period. The study surveys the relevant Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, and Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as the works of Philo and (where relevant) Josephus, in order to determine the extent to which texts' presentation of sin is influenced by genre and sectarian identification and to identify central worldviews regarding sin in the Second Temple period. The analysis is divided into two parts; the first explores texts that reflect a conviction that sin's source is an innate human inclination, and the second analyzes texts that depict sin as caused by demons. This study finds that the genre or purpose of a text is frequently a determining factor in its representation of sin, particularly influencing the text's portrayal of sin as the result of human inclination versus demonic influence and sin as a free choice or as predetermined fact. Second Temple authors and redactors chose representations of sin in accordance with their aims. Thus prayers, reflecting the experience of helplessness when encountering God, present the desire to sin as impossible to overcome without divine assistance. The need for God's help in preventing sin is central to prayer texts regardless of whether the source is a human inclination or a demon and whether the text is sectarian or nonsectarian. In contrast, covenantal texts (sectarian texts explaining the nature of the covenant) emphasize freedom of choice and the human ability to turn away from the desire to sin. The emphasis on free will in these texts makes it clear to the member that there is no excuse for not keeping the community's laws. Even demonic influence as described in these texts does not impinge upon the member's free will. Genre, however, is not the only determining factor regarding how sin is presented in these texts. Approaches to sin in sectarian texts frequently built upon already accepted ideas reflected in nonsectarian literature, adding aspects such as predestination, the periodization of evil, and a division of humanity into righteous members and evil nonmembers.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Schiffman, Lawrence H.
Commitee: Peters, Francis E., Schiffman, Lawrence H., Smith, Mark S.
School: New York University
Department: Hebrew and Judaic Studies
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 73/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religious history, Biblical studies, Ancient history
Keywords: Apocrypha, Dead sea scrolls, Late antiquity, Pseudepigrapha, Second temple, Sin
Publication Number: 3482858
ISBN: 978-1-267-04863-9
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