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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Baruch, Apocalypse of

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The subject of this article is a Jewish work composed not long after the Destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70, and now preserved only in Syriac, This Syriac is a translation from the Greek, of which only a tiny fragment is extant; the Greek itself seems to have been a translation from an Aramaic or Hebrew original.

The Apocalypse of Baruch was first published as a whole by Ceriani from the Ambrosian manuscript of the Peshitta OT (6th cent.). The Latin translation appeared in 1866, and the Syriac text in 1871. An English translation with full critical and explanatory commentary by R. H. Charles appeared in 1896. In Patrologia Syriaca, vol. ii. [1907] 1055-1306, M. Kmosko gives the Syriac, together with an amended test of Ceriani’s translation. The Greek fragment appeared in 1903 in Oxyrhynchus Papyri, vol. iii. pp. 3-7. By some oversight Kmosko does not notice this important discovery.

1. Contents.-The work professes to be written by Baruch, the scribe of Jeremiah, immediately after the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadrezzar. It does not readily fall into sections, but may be analyzed as follows:

i-xx. The capture of Jerusalem, and the vindication of God’s power and justice in respect to it.

Baruch is miraculously shown the destruction of the wall of Jerusalem by angels and the hiding of the holy vessels* [Note: Note that the seven-branched candlestick is not included: that was actually carried in triumph by Titus.] (vi, vii.), after which the Chaldaeans enter. Baruch laments over Zion (x. 6-xii. 4); after seven days God reveals to him that justice will be done on the heathen (xiii. 5-12); the Fall of Jerusalem is a step towards the final judgment (xx. 2).

xxi-xxxiv. Prayer of Baruch, and first Messianic revelation to him.

The world will last until all the predestined sons of Adam have been born (xxiii. 4, 5). At the end will come the Messiah, the Manna will descend again, and Behemoth and Leviathan will be there for the saints to eat (xxix.). After that comes the resurrection of the dead (xxx.).

Baruch assembles the people and warns them that Zion will be rebuilt and then again destroyed; the tribulation at the end of time is the worse (xxxii. 2, 6).

xxxv-xlvi. Vision of the cedar and the vine.

The cedar is the Roman Empire, the vine is Messiah (xxxix. 5, 7); in the end the last great heathen ruler will be destroyed by Messiah (xl.).

Baruch again warns the people to keep the Law (xliv. 3, xlvi. 5).

xlvii.-lxxvii. Second prayer of Baruch, followed by a revelation to him about the resurrection of the good and the bad, and the vision of the black and the bright waters.

The dead will rise unaltered, but the righteous will then become glorious while the wicked waste away (l, li.). All history is divided into 12 parts: the black waters are the six bad periods, beginning with the Fall (‘O Adam, what hast thou done to all those who are born from thee?’ xlviii. 42); the bright waters are the short alternating gleams of righteousness, beginning with Abraham (lvi.-lxxii.). At the end the saints will have a glorious time (lxxiii f.).

Baruch again warns the people to keep the Law: if they do so, those left in the Holy Land will never be removed (lxxvii. 5, 6). To the captive Jews in Babylon he sends a letter by hand (lxxvii. 17), while to the lost Nine-and-a-half Tribes he sends a letter by an eagle (lxxvii. 19ff.).

lxxviii-lxxxvii. Baruch’s letter to the Lost Tribes.

Baruch tells them of the destruction of Jerusalem, announces the approaching end of all things, and exhorts them to keep the law. ‘If we set our hearts straight we shall receive everything that we have lost and more’ (lxxxv. 4).

2. Problems raised by the book.-The chief problems connected with the Apocalypse of Baruch are (1) its place in Jewish thought, especially in connexion with 4 Ezra (i.e. ‘2 Esdras’ in the English Apocrypha, which it much resembles); and (2) its literary history in Syriac and the relation of the Syriac text to the underlying Greek. It will be convenient to take this second group first.

(1) Literary history, etc,-The Ambrosian manuscript is the only one that contains the whole work, but the Epistle of Baruch (chs. lxxviii-lxxxvii., see above) is extant in several Syriac Manuscripts and found a place in the Paris and London Polyglots. This extract must be of exclusively Jacobite origin: it appears as a sort of Appendix to Jeremiah and is included in the Jacobite Massora. Its readings are inferior to that of the full text preserved in the Ambrosian Codex,* [Note: Here and there the extract is better, e.g. lxxxii. 4, where all the editors rightly prefer ‘drop’ (= σταγών, Isaiah 40:15) to ‘pollution.’] where it is dissociated from Jeremiah and immediately precedes 4 Ezra.

The Syriac style indicates a very early date for the translation. It is idiomatic and flowing, like the Syriac translation of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History. So full, indeed, is it of genuine Semitic idiom that various perfectly good Syriac phrases have actually been regarded by R. H. Charles as the survival of original Hebrew idioms, persisting through the lost Greek intermediary. Especially is this the case with regard to the use of the infinitive absolute for emphasis, which is quite good Syriac and occurs in the Ev. da-Mepharrěshe, though the construction is usually avoided in later forms of the Syriac NT.† [Note: A good instance is Eus. HE iv. 15. 29, where ταῦτα οὗν μετὰ τοσούτου τάχους ἐγένετο θᾶττον ἢ ἐλέγετο in rendered in Syriac, ‘And these things quicker than they were said were indeed done (mest‘âru est‘ar).’ It is obvious that such a rendering, white perfectly adequate, does not enable us to reconstruct the wording of the original.] And this general impression has been signally confirmed by the discovery of the Oxyrhynchus Fragment. Short as the fragment is, it gives us enough of the Greek text of chs. xii, xiii. and xiv. to tell us in what manner the Syrian translator has gone to work. Especially important is xiii. 12, where the Greek has [ὑμεῖς γὰρ εὐερ]γετούμενοι ἀεὶ ἠχα[ριστεῖτε (ἀεί)],* [Note: The reconstruction is practically certain, except the last ἀεί.] but the Syriac is ‘For always I have been benefiting you, and ye have been denying benefit always.’ This sentence sufficiently shows how difficult it would be to reconstruct the Greek from the Syriac of Baruch, and how impossible to argue back to the wording of a hypothetical Hebrew or Aramaic original. At the same time ‘denying benefit’ (kâphar beṭaibûthâ) is actually used for ἀχάριστος in 2 Timothy 3:2 and in Luke 6:35 syr.-sin. (not Pesh.): in a word, the Syriac of Baruch is akin in style to the earliest Syriac translations of the NT.

The Apocalypse of Baruch contains no formal quotations from canonical Scripture, but several sentences are obviously moulded upon the OT. As Charles has founded an argument on these for a Hebrew original, it is necessary to point out that the evidence is really indecisive. ‘The quotations from the OT agree in all cases but one with the Massoretic Hebrew against the Septuagint,’ says Charles. In support of this he adduces eight passages. In four of these, however (iv. 2, vi. 8, li. 4, lviii. 1), Baruch agrees with the Peshiṭta, as we might expect in a work which pays so much attention to Syriac idiom and is so little of a word-for-word rendering of the Greek, In two others (‘Thy wisdom is correctness,’ xxxviii. 2; and ‘fled under Thy wings,’ xli. 4) the Syriac does not agree with any biblical text.† [Note: In xli. 4, Charles translates ‘fled for refuge …’ But ’ěraq means ‘fled’; the ‘taking refuge’ which is inherent in the Heb. çñä (Ruth 2:12 etc.) is not expressed in the Syriac.] The allusion in xxxv. 2 is admitted by Charles to be merely a paraphrase. The remaining passage is lxxxii. 4, 5, where the heathen are said to be ‘like a drop’ and ‘counted as spittle’: this agrees with the Septuagint of Isaiah 40:15 (ὡς σταγώνὡς σἱελος), but not with the Hebrew or the Syriac.‡ [Note: The same comparisons are used in 4 Ezra 6:56, which must similarly also be considered to show the influence of the Greek Bible.] Thus the biblical allusions in Baruch do not prove that the author was acquainted with the Massoretic text: they merely show that the Syriac translator was familiar with the Peshiṭta. It is possible, of course, if the Greek be a translation from Hebrew or Aramaic, that the Greek translator changed the wording of lxxxii. 5 to agree with the Greek Bible; but there is no actual evidence which points in that direction. The ‘sirens,’ the ‘Lilith,’ the ‘devils,’ and the ‘jackals’ of x. 8 are all found in the Peshiṭta of Isaiah 13:21-22; Isaiah 34:13-14. It should be added that there is nothing to suggest that the Syriac translator of the Apocalypse was a Christian rather than a Jew.

(2) Relation to 4 Ezra.-It is obvious that the Apocalypse of Baruch and that of Salathiel, commonly known as 4 Ezra, have a great deal in common, both in ideas and in language.§ [Note: A good account of these resemblances is to be found in H. St. J. Thackeray’s art. ‘Esdras, Second Book of,’ in HDB i. 763 f. See also G. H. Box in Charles’ Apoc. and Pseudepigr. ii. 553 ff.] They must have issued from the same circle, if they are not actually the work of the same author. And, further, it is almost certain that they must have been originally composed in the same language, either both in Greek, or both in Hebrew or Aramaic. As has been indicated in the preceding paragraphs, most of the arguments for a Semitic origin of Baruch founded upon the Syriac text are inconclusive; but if the Latin text of 4 Ezra (which is undoubtedly a literal translation of the lost Greek) creates the impression that this Greek was itself a translation, then after all we must regard the Greek of Baruch also as a translation.

From the linguistic side the chief arguments concern the names used for God and the occurrence of the infinitive absolute. Beside words which imply Κύριος (as in the Septuagint ), we find Altissimus and Fortis (e.g. 4 Ezra 9:45) in both works; these must correspond to Ὕψιστος and Ἰσχυρός in the Greek.* [Note: The Greek fragment of Apoc. Baruch actually contains the word ἰσχυ[ροῦ].] Ὕψιστος in a Jewish writing corresponds to עליון (Aram. עלאה); but as it was also a name of God in Greek its occurrence proves nothing as to the original language of our book. Ἰσχυρός, on the other hand, is only found as a name of God in translations, and implies אל (El); it is characteristic of the later Jewish translators Aquila and Theodotion, to a leas degree of Symmachus, and not at all of the genuine Septuagint , which only uses ἰσχυρός as an adjective in the ordinary sense of ‘strong’ (Psalms 7:12; Psalms 41:3). Thus a reader of the Greek Bible would not be likely to use it by itself as a proper name for ‘the Almighty.’ Its presence in Apoc. Baruch , 4 Ezra must therefore be held to suggest that the Greek texts of these works are translations.

The use of the infinitive absolute points in the same direction. If it were merely attested in Syriac, it might be explained away as an idiom introduced by the translator, But its frequent occurrence in the Latin text of 4 Ezra (e.g. excedens excessit, 4:2) cannot thus be disposed of, and at present no real example of this idiom is known in works composed originally in Greek, though it is common in translations such as the Septuagint . The linguistic evidence, therefore, though not quite conclusively, points to a Semitic, and consequently to a Palestinian, origin for both 4 Ezra and the Apocalypse of Baruch. But, as explained above, we are very far from being able to reconstruct the text of this hypothetical Hebrew or Aramaic original (lxiv. 7, 8).

Not only the language, but also the contents, of Baruch favour a Hebrew or Aramaic original. The circle of thought and tradition is throughout Palestinian, und uninfluenced by Greek speculation and culture. The legends incidentally referred to are specifically Jewish, and can be illustrated from the Talmud, such as that of Behemoth and Leviathan created to be the food of the saints (xxix. 4); or the story of Manasseh, who was cast into the brazen ‘horse’ (i.e. mule), and who, though he prayed from it to God and was delivered, yet was finally tormented.† [Note: Another instance, important from the incidental manner of its occurrence, is in lxxvii. 25, where we read: ‘Solomon also … whithersoever he wished to send or seek for anything, commanded a bird and it obeyed him’ This is a manifest allusion to the story of the wildfowl by which Solomon sent a Letter to the Queen of sheba at Kiṭṭor (2nd Targum to Esther 1:2), a legend familiar in Arabic, but not current in Greek]

3. Integrity.-In what has been said above, the Apocalypse of Barueh has been treated as an organic whole. This has been controverted by Charles, who splits the book up into no fewer than six (or seven) separate fragments, on the assumption that an apocalyptist’s anticipations of the future will be clear-cut and self-consistent. But this is hardly to be expected in a work which reflects the mind of an orthodox Jew just after the Destruction of Jerusalem. The Temple with its priests and sacrifices, nay, the very national existence, had been brought utterly to an end by the heathen. The individual Jews that remained were left with nothing but the Law and a tumult of impossible hopes. The author is swayed by his subject. He may believe that the captured city was not the true, the heavenly Jerusalem (iv. 2-6), and that it had been destroyed by the angels of God before the enemy were allowed to capture it (vi-viii.). Yet the catastrophe is too recent to allow him calmly to contemplate the Fall of Zion, and his lament over the ruins (x. 6-xii. 4) is uninterrupted by any gleam of hope. Surely this is what might be expected in a work of literature, apart from the fact that it is not till later in the book that revelations about the future are given to Baruch.

While, however, absolute consistency is not to be expected, it is necessary to show that the Fall of Jerusalem is assumed all through the book. A Jewish apocalyptist may vary in his anticipations of the future, but after a.d. 70 he would never write as if the Temple were still standing. No great weight, indeed, can be laid on passages like ch. xxvii., where neither the building nor the destruction of the Herodian Temple is mentioned; for the historical situation implied throughout is that of Baruch lamenting over the ruins of the recently destroyed Solomonic Temple, it being obvious that the author often practically identifies himself with Baruch, and his own recently destroyed Temple with the Solomonic. But besides these passages it has been asserted that the present existence of a Temple at Jerusalem is assumed in xxxii. 2ff., lix. 4, and lxviii. 5. On closer examination, however, this is seen not to be the case. Ch. xxxii. is an address by Baruch to the Jews left in the land after the Fall of Jerusalem. He tells them that Zion will be built again (v. 2); but that building will not last; it will be thrown down and remain desolate, and only afterwards will it be renewed in glory (vv. 3, 4). The whole context shows that it is a prophecy of there-building of the Temple of Zerubbabel and its subsequent destruction, and we must interpret, or if necessary amend, the wording of v. 2 in accordance with that context. It is literally, ‘Because after a little time the building of Zion will be shaken that it may be built again.’ Either, therefore, this is an adaptation of Haggai 2:6, Ezekiel 37:7, or the word for ‘shaken’ is a mistranslation for some word like set in motion.’ In lix. 4 it is said that God showed Moses ‘the likeness of Zion and its measurements, made in the likeness of the present Sanctuary.’ But this phrase, corresponding to τὰ νῦν ἅγια, does not necessarily mean ‘the Sanctuary which is now in good repair’; it need mean no more than ‘the modern Temple,’ as contrasted with the heavenly Pattern (Exodus 25:40). In lxviii. 5, Baruch is told that Zion will be built again, but in the later predictions of the final troubles before the advent of Messiah no mention is made of its subsequent destruction. But this is not conclusive, as no detailed historical Predictions are made in lxix.-lxxiv. ‘The Most High … alone knows what will befall’ (lxix. 2).

In all this it must be borne in mind that Apoc. Baruch is known to us only from a single manuscript of a not very literal translation into Syriac of a Greek translation of a Hebrew or Aramaic original. It is, therefore, only likely that some minor incoherencies may be due to accidents of transmission. But they are, after all, very few.

4. General point of view.-The Apocalypse of Baruch, then, is here regarded as a unity, and as the work of a Palestinian Jew writing soon after a.d. 70. 4 Ezr. 3-14 may be described in similar terms. We have noticed some of the linguistic connexions between these works.* [Note: Among single phrases, the political situation is reflected in habitatio Hierusalem (4 Ezr. 10:47) and ‘the habitation or Zion’ (Bar. lxxx. 7), i.e. ‘the fact that Jerusalem, or Zion, was inhabited.’] They coincide also in much of their teaching, in the division of history into 12 parts, in the importance attached to Adam’s sin, in the legend of Behemoth and Leviathan, in the interest taken in the Lost Tribes,† [Note: It is possible that to this interest the books owed their preservation in Syriac. Edessa Itself is situated on ‘the other side’ of the Euphrates, and those Edessenes who read the Epistle may have fancied that the Epistle of Baruch was addressed to their own ancestors.] in the stress laid on the permanence of the Law.

The chief difference between them lies in the psychology of the writers. The fate they anticipate for Israel is similar, but it affects them differently. The author of 4 Ezra is not really a pessimist in the sense of believing that evil is ultimately victorious in this world. The eagle, i.e. Rome, is destroyed in the end; the last act in the world-drama is the glorious 400 years’ reign of Messiah. Then comes the other world of full retribution. The scheme satisfies the Most High, who says, ‘Let the multitude perish, which was born in vain’ (9:22). The really interesting thing is that it does not satisfy Ezra. ‘This is my first and last saying,’ says he, ‘that it had been better that the earth had not given Adam, or else when it had given him to have restrained him from sinning’ (7:6 [116]). ‘We are tormented, because we perish and know it. Let the race of men lament and the beasts of the field be glad, for it is better with them than with us; for they look not for judgment, neither do they know of torments or of salvation promised unto them after death’s (7:64ff.).

There is nothing of this arraignment of Providence in the Apocalypse of Baruch. When the author thinks for a moment about the fate of apostate Israelites, he falls into intentional obscurity (xlii. 4, 5). In general, he is quite content to nerve himself to believe that the Mighty One will ultimately make the Israelites triumph in this world, and that, after that, in the world to come, the righteous will be abundantly rewarded and the sinners tormented. His main interests are immediate and practical. He has a definite message for his countrymen. Let those who are left in the Holy Land stay there (lxxvii. 6), and let one and all, especially the exiles, hold fast by the Law, though the Temple be destroyed. ‘Zion hath been taken from us, and we have nothing now save the Mighty One and His Law’ (lxxxv. 3); but ‘if ye have respect to the Law and are intent upon wisdom, the lamp will not fail, and the shepherd will not depart, and the fountain will not run dry’ (lxxvii. 16). This is the message of the last of the great series of Jewish Apocalypses. As Daniel shows us what was the spirit that nerved the Ḥasîdîm to resist Antiochus, so Baruch lets us see in what frame of mind it was possible for the Rabbis under Johanan ben Zakkai and his successors to sit down and adapt the religion and the hopes of Israel to the times of the long dominion of the Gentiles.

Cf. also article Esdras (second).

Literature.-This is sufficiently indicated in the first paragraph of this article. In addition, since, this article was written, the Apocalypse of Baruch has been re-edited by R. H. Charles in The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the OT, Oxford, 1913, ii. 470-526; but the positions adopted in that edition only differ in unimportant details from the separate edition or 1896, to which Charles frequently refers bock for the discussion of details.

F. C. Burkitt.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Baruch, Apocalypse of'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/b/baruch-apocalypse-of.html. 1906-1918.

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