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One of the questions in the debate regarding the yeṣer is the point in time at which one can speak of a fully developed rabbinic notion of an Evil Inclination in opposition to a Good Inclination. The answer is in part dependent on identifying its forerunners. While there is a concept of a yeṣer in the Hebrew Bible, it is not an internal disposition or entity in the way it is in later rabbinic tradition. The noun yeṣer, as a derivative of the verb y-ṣ-r, denotes in the Hebrew Bible something that is created, and in some passages refers to what is created by the mind or heart, which might simply be interpreted as a thought.
One of the central concepts in rabbinic Judaism is the notion of the Evil Inclination, which appears to be related to similar concepts in ancient Christianity and the wider late antique world. The precise origins and understanding of the idea, however, are unknown. This volume traces the development of this concept historically in Judaism and assesses its impact on emerging Christian thought concerning the origins of sin. The chapters, which cover a wide range of sources including the Bible, the Ancient Versions, Qumran, Pseudepigrapha and Apocrypha, the Targums, and rabbinic and patristic literature, advance our understanding of the intellectual exchange between Jews and Christians in classical Antiquity, as well as the intercultural exchange between these communities and the societies in which they were situated.