2 Baruch (Pseudepigrapha)

1 Enoch, 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch are three significant psuedepigrapha documents written around the time of Jesus Christ. I previously wrote about the famous Book of Enoch but 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch are significant as well. It's hard to tell which was written first, because 2 Baruch seems to be quoting 4 Ezra often.  I've read both documents, and enjoyed 4 Ezra the most, but decided to read 2 Baruch today. 2 Baruch is available online, but my source is Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments Vol. 1 by James H. Charlesworth. It also contains 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra and many other apocalyptic works.

Pseudepigrapha means "false inscription." Many apocalyptic letters were written after the destruction of the second temple, and in order to gain readers, authors would lie about their identity and claim to be famous people. Baruch was famous but still obscure enough that the author of 2 Baruch wrote on his behalf. The author wrote 2 Baruch to answer questions about how God would allow the destruction of the second temple by writing about the analogous 1st temple destruction. The author knows what has happened over the past 700 years, so write fake prophecies based on the actual events under the guise that Baruch had predicted the restoration of the temple. This would give the people hope that the second temple would be rebuilt in the same fashion.

Baruch was famous for being the prophet Jeremiah's amanuensis. Baruch lived during the destruction of the first temple in Jerusalem (circa 586 BC) and subsequent Jewish exile into Babylon. Eventually the Jews returned to Israel and rebuilt the second temple. The second temple was destroyed in a similar way in 70AD by Roman Emperor Titus.

There are obviously no real prophecies in 2 Baruch because pseudepigrapha is basically a lie. This is the same for 4 Ezra and 1 Enoch. 2 Baruch never admits it is falsely inscribed. 4 Ezra talk about events that are obviously outside of Ezra's life by hundreds of years, so in that sense he is admitting that Ezra wasn't the real author. 4 Ezra still is trying to fool people into believing that the real Ezra around 500 BC was the author. Bait and Switch. This is why none of the pseudepigrapha are considered scripture, because they are no inspired.

Why read the pseudepigrapha at all? The value is that the authors had to write in a way to convince people that they are authentic documents. So reading these articles is a reflection of what the first century jews believed. The Jews operated much differently in 300 AD because the temple had been destroyed. Charlesworth poignantly said "apocalyptic literature arises to answer questions of hard times. (my paraphrase)"

2 Baruch was written after the second temple was destroyed in 70 AD and contains an advanced understand of the history of Israel at the time of the Babylonian Exile. The author knows the kings of Assyria and the nine and a half tribes, and details surrounding the first temple era. Apparently Baruch stays behind in destroyed Israel while Jeremiah goes off into captivity in Babylon to help the people cope, in the same way as the false author is helping the Jews cope with the second temples destruction. There are many prophecies and dialogs between God and Baruch concerning the Apocalypse. Most of which revolve around the number twelve, rooted in the twelve tribes, and all of history and the future are divided into increments of twelves. It talks briefly about the "Son of Man" from Daniel 7 and the "weeks" prophecy from Daniel 9. It seems that the book of Daniel is what inspired 2 Baruch's genesis. Of course, memorable creatures like Leviathan and Behemoth appear in the 88 chapters. It's only 30 pages and readable in one sitting.

2 Baruch is particularly interesting because much of the content seems to reflect Romans and 1st Corinthians.  There is a high level of election, as it talks about angels sentenced to destruction without mercy in the same way as people who do not obey the law will be eternal punished. The idea that none are righteous, etc are all directly lifted from Romans. All of the end times teaching about the world being shaken, new bodies, people recognizing each other in heaven, and even a millennium appears. This seems lifted from 1 Corinthians 15. Jesus is never mentioned, so the author must have been sympathetic to Christians but not a Christian himself.

It's curious why the letter was written. Christianity was thriving and the temple laid in ruins, and many people were turning to Jesus. The author must be encouraging Jews to remain faithful to the Mosaic Law by maintaining syncretism with the Hellenized world. This is usually the hallmark of the Diaspora synagogues.

There are other significant pseudepigrapha. I was most interested in 1 Enoch because Jude quotes it. Jude also quotes the lost "Assumption of Moses" which may be linked to the "Testimony of Moses." I doubt Jude believed that either 1 Enoch or the Assumption of Moses were inspired, but those pseudopigrapha may have aped off actual truth. Many documents have been lost that were available in the first century. Either way, the documents are interesting and I highly recommend them (if you've already read the whole bible first.)

By: Wyatt Houtz

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