Apocalypse of Baruch

BARUCH, APOCALYPSE OF. The title of a pseudep. work of Jewish origin known only from a 7th cent. Syr. MS. A fragment of a Gr. VS also is known although its date is only speculative.

Contents.

The work comprises eighty seven chs. in its present Syr. form although the Gr. original was possibly longer. The text contains a number of anachronistic and contradictory passages, but the literary and source criticism to which it has been subjected have not elucidated its origins. The systems of sources proposed by scholars have not disproven the unity of the work. It is apocalyptic and reiterative. Like similar works from other sources it is impossible to construct a chronological outline of the prophetic expectations. The original language may have been Heb. but no fragment of such a VS has yet been identified. The Syr. was most certainly tr. from the Gr. as there are a number of renderings explicable in no other way. The book states that it is written by Baruch, the servant and amanuensis of the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 32:12, et al.). Because of his part in the period before Israel’s final destruction by Babylon a rich tradition arose around his name and deeds. A number of apoc. and pseudep. works were circulated under his name; e.g., “Book of Baruch” (q.v.); “Rest of the Words of Baruch”; “Gnostic Book of Baruch” and an obscure “Greek Apocalypse of Baruch.” The text is a mixture of prose and poetic passages, but they may be separated for consideration.

Prose.

The book is divided into seven sections, each of which is marked by a fast usually of seven days’ duration. The author speaks throughout in the first person sing. and gives a declarative message of the events which are to occur. Here and there the narrative is interspersed with sermonic exhortations. The passages parallel in expression to various NT passages are most frequent in the prose sections. However, it is the poetic passages which are quoted by the later rabbinical writings. The symbolic language is drawn from the common notions of Jewish apocalyptic with the sing. exception that some of the prophecies such as the conquest and destruction of Jerusalem take place during the author’s discussion. The prose sections mark out a long statement of the history of Israel from Adam to the time of the Gentiles and then offer hope and consolation in the promise of a consummation and rebuilding of the kingdom of the Messiah. However, the actual figure of the Messiah is not clearly drawn and the emphasis seems to be rather on the corporate blessing of Israel.

Poetry.

The parallel poetry which follows most of the prose sections is obviously of Hebraic origin and may have been older than the text. In many cases it is used to support the text and usually states the same idea. Often the poetic segments are actually redundant. The determination of the manifold sources of the poetry is a difficult question as some are clearly Biblical while most have been derived from sectarian hymns of the time. Of special interest are the chs. 21 through 34 wherein a twelvefold vision forsees the coming of various catastrophes, precluded by an “opening of the books” and culminating in the coming of the Messiah. The Messiah however appears only to go away again—a notion possibly represented in 4 Ezra 7:29, 30. The final coming of the Messiah is the occasion of the resurrection of the dead. The righteous join the congregation of Israel and the wicked shrivel and suffer in torment. The scene of the death of Baruch contains a full length hymn, “The Prayer of Baruch,” which has affinities in grandeur of style to some parts of the Minor Prophets. The thought is completely Jewish and contains some points at odds with the early Christian Church in its conception of Judaism.

Origin and date.

Since there are at least twenty statements similar to phrases in the NT it is assumed that this work is post-Christian. It does seem to be an apologetic for later Judaism and its emphasis on the resurrection and culmination of history may have supplied a large lack in Jewish theology of the time. The date must be some time during or immediately after the Apostolic Age (a.d. 50-150). The fact that it was preserved by the Gr. and later Syrian Church demonstrates its Asiatic origin. The writer indicates a superficial knowledge of Palestinian geography and some reliance upon the legendary material about Baruch. The mention of the Romans, under the pseudonym “Babylonians,” and the narration of their destruction of Jerusalem undoubtedly places the book more closely in time as after a.d. 70. This later date would account for its absence from any of the 1st cent. collections yet unearthed.

Relationship to the NT and the DSS.

Although the text has allusions to the NT they are applied in all cases to Jewish ideas, e.g. Acts 15:10; 41:3. The ordo salutis of the Apocalypse is autosoteristic and urges the keeping of the details of the Mosaic law. Each will be justified by God for his acts and piety in regard to the law. In this way the text is wholly at variance with NT teaching on the subject. There is an implicit denial of predestination but a resignation to a sort of fatalism. This strange mixture was drawn possibly from late Rom. stoicism. The ethical tone is nearer that of the OT wisdom lit. than that of the major prophets. There is almost nothing about either the Temple or the sacrifices which are such a central part of the DSS. There is no criticism of the priests, Levites or Temple administration. Ostensibly this could be because they already had been destroyed. The Judaism of the Apocalypse is a symbolic and legal structure in which the form remains but the substance has passed away. The last section of the work is an appended piece, “The Epistle of Baruch to the Nine and a Half Tribes.” It is similar to the dirges quoted in the DSS. It is said to have been sent to the scattered congregations by means of an eagle. This prob. means to the Jews of the diaspora. See Pseudepigrapha.

Bibliography

A. M. Ceriani, Monumenta sacra et profana, Opera collegii doctorum Bibliothecae Ambrosianae, tom. V, fasc. I/II (1868-71); R. Kabisch, “Die Quellen der Apokalypse Baruchs,” Jahrbücher für protest. Theologie xviii (1892), 66-107; R. H. Charles, The Apocalypse of Baruch (1896); C. Clemen, “Die Zusammensetzung des Buches Henoch, der Apokalypse des Baruch und des vierten Buches Esra,” Theologische Studien lxxi (1898), 211-246; V. Ryssel, “Die syrische Baruchapokalypse” in E. Kautzsch, Die Apokryphen und Pseudepigraphen des Alten Testaments II (1900), 406-446; I. Parisot, F. Nau & M. Kmosko, Patrologia Syriaca (1907); R. H. Charles and W. O. E. Oesterly, The Apocalypse of Baruch (1929); J. W. Bailey, “The Temporary Messianic Reign in the Literature of Early Judaism,” JBL LIII (1934), 170-187; L. Gry, “La date de la fin des temps, selon les révélations ou les calculs du pseudo-Philon et de Baruch,” Revue Biblique, n.s. xlviii (1939), 337-356; F. Zimmermann, “Textual Observations on the Apocalypse of Baruch,” JTS XL (1939), 151-156; “Translation and Mistranslation in the Apocalypse of Baruch” in Studies and Essays in honor of A. N. Neuman (1962), 580-587; W. Baars, “Neue Textzeugen der syrischen Baruchapokalypse,” VT XIII (1963), 476-478; W. Harnisch, Verhängnis und Verheissung der Geschichte, Untersuchungen zum Zeit-Geschichts-verständnis im 4. Buch Esra und der syr. Baruchapokalypse (1969).

See also

  • Apocalyptic Literature