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4 Baruch

First to Second Centuries A.D.

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J. Riaud writes: "Harris named his edition after the Ethiopic version: The Rest of the Words of Baruch (4Bar). Nowadays, what is commonly being used is the title of the Greek version (Paraleipomena Jeremiou, i.e., 'The Things Omitted from Jeremiah'); and with good reason: Jeremiah is of foremost importance in this captivating work. His name is mentioned repeatedly—eighty times in all—and the titles bestowed upon him are among the most prestigious: 'chosen of God' (1:4; 2:4, 5; 7:15), 'servant' (pais) (6:22), 'father' (2:2, 4, 6, 8; 5:5; 9:8), 'priest' (5:18). But Jeremiah himself merely lays claim to being a 'servant' (doulos) (1:4; 3:9). He comes forth as the priveleged intermediary between man and God (1:3; 8:1-3), with whom he unceasingly intercedes for the benefit of his people (cp. 1; 3; 9:3-6). By God's command (3:11) he accompanies his compatriots into exile, after having committed the sacred vessels 'to the earth and to the alter' (3:8, 14), and after having cast away the keys of the temple in the direction of the sun (4:3-4). When in Babylon, following God's commands, he announces to his wretched companions the consolation that lies in the prophecies and teaches them the word (3:11; 5:21); and, like Moses with Pharaoh, he negotiates with Nebuchadnezzar (7:14). When the moment of the return to Jerusalem draws near, God commands him to organize this (8:1-3), as in former days he had instructed Moses to lead the exodus from Egypt. But, and this is something Moses had not done, he makes the exiles cross the Jordan (8:3-4; cp. Josh. 3), and allows those who have listened to him to enter Jerusalem, where together they offer sacrifices for nine days. On the tenth day Jeremiah is the only one to make a sacrifice—probably that of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), exclusive prerogative of the High Priest—and he pronounces a procedure of liturgical thanksgiving. At its conclusion, Jeremiah 'becomes like one of those who have expired' (9:1-7). Incontestably, the author of the Paraleipomena made Jeremiah the focal point of his work: in his eyes Jeremiah was 'the prophet', the 'super-Moses', whose coming had been predicted by Deuteronomy (18:15)." (Outside the Old Testament, p. 214)

James Charlesworth writes (The Pseudepigrapha and Modern Research, pp. 88-89):

The original composition dates from the first half of the second century A.D., perhaps after the destruction of Jerusalem following the Simeon bar Kosiba (Kochba) revolt . . . 4 Baruch is dependent upon 2 Baruch and may be influenced by 4 Ezra. . . .

Related to 4 Baruch and indicating the extent of the Jeremiah (Baruch) cycle are three dissimilar Jeremiah apocrypha. A later modification of 4 Baruch is found in 'A Jeremiah Apocryphon,' that was edited and translated from two Karshuni manuscripts by A. Mingana and discussed by J. R. Harris (Woodbrooke Studies. Cambridge: Heffer, 1927. Vol. 1, pp. 125-38, 148-233; see the facsimiles on pp. 192-233; cf. L. Leroy and P. Dib, 'Un apocryphe carchouni sur la captivité de Babylone,' Revue de l'orient chrétien 15 [1910] 255-74, 398-409; 16 [1911] 128-54). Second, also influenced by, but more independent of, 4 Baruch is the Coptic text recently edited and translated by K. H. Kuhn (no. 671).

Third, W. Leslau draws attention to a work which he calls 5 Baruch or the Ethiopic Apocalypse of Baruch (Falasha Anthology, p. 58). This writing is extant only in Ethiopic, was edited by J. Halévy (Te'ezaza Sanbat. Paris: [Leroux], 1902), and translated into English by Leslau (pp. 64-76). The pseudepigraphon appears to be a medieval reworking of 4 Baruch with significant influence from the Hebrew Apocalypse of Elijah (2 Elijah), and the Apocalypse of the Virgin. The composition has two divisions: the angel Sutu'el takes Baruch to the heavenly Jerusalem from which he sees rewards and punishments (64:1-75:8); the future is revealed with the times of the Messiah, the false Messiah (Antichrist), and the resurrection of the righteous (75:9-76:31).

For additional information on the Jeremiah (Baruch) cycle, see M. R. James' LAOT (pp. 62-64); L. Ginzberg's Legends (see esp. vol. 4, pp. 294-326 and vol. 6, pp. 384-413); and the works cited in A.-M. Denis' Introduction (no. 24, esp. pp. 74-76).

To be distinguished from these jewish and Jewish-Christian compositions is the so-called Book of Baruch written by the gnostic Justin near the end of the second century A.D. It is preserved only in quotations by Hippolytus (Refutation of All Heresies 5.24-27; see the bibliography and English translations in R. M. Grant's Gnosticism (New York: Harper, 1961; pp. 93-100]). In this gnostic text Baruch is not the scribe of Jeremiah but one of the paternal angels and the tree of life.

Raymond F. Surburg writes: "In the first part (chapters 1-4) Jeremiah is told by Jehovah that the Chaldeans will destroy Jerusalem and that he should bury the sacred vessels from the temple. After that he is to go into the Babylonian captivity. Before the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah sends Abimelech, a eunuch, to obtain figs from the orchard of Agrippa. The eunuch falls asleep in the orchard and awakes 66 years later. It is an old man who informs him what has transpired (ch. 5). Jeremiah receives a letter from Baruch, who was instructed by God to tell Jeremiah that the Jews in Babylonia were to remove all foreigners from the midst of God's people, otherwise Jehovah would not bring His people back to Jerusalem. Baruch's letter, together with figs that were fresh though plucked 66 years before, was conveyed to Babylonia by an eagle (ch. 6). The eagle then did some remarkable things in raising a dead man to life and in persuading Jeremiah to bring the children of Judah back. Those Jews, however, who would not permanently separate from their heathen wives, were not allowed to return to Zion, but instead they founded the city of Samaria and the sect of the Samaritans (ch. 7-8). The last part of the Paralipomena of Jeremiah records that Jeremiah fainted while offering sacrifices in Jerusalem but after three days became alive again, proceeding to praise God for the redemption made possible through Jesus Christ. It was only after Jeremiah had given the Jewish populace permission, that they were able to stone the prophet to death (ch. 9)." (Introduction to the Intertestamental Period, p. 134)

J. Riaud writes: "The author of this consolatory writing, which was probably drawn up in Hebrew, was very probably a Jew from Jerusalem; he was well acquainted with the topography of this city, and his Judaism is notably manifest in the prohibition of marriages to foreign women (8:5-8). It is far from easy to determine the date of its composition. The one proposed by Harris, viz. AD 136 (that is to say: the year 70, plus the 66 years of Abimelech's sleep), is, perhaps, too precise. It is, moreover, one of the arguments for his hypothesis on the composition: namely that, after Hadrian's edict expelling the Jews from Jerusalem (AD 132), a Jewish-Christian would have wanted to make the banned Jews elude the edict by becoming Christians. Yet Harris' explanation should not be rejected entirely: it would seem that the Paraleipomena were written during the period of that generation which lived in the expectation of a speedy reconstruction of the temple, destroyed in 70, and which could reasonably hope that the second exile would not outlast the first, because the span of sixty-six years was approaching (cp. J. Licht, art. cit., p. 70)." (Outside the Old Testament, pp. 215-216)

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