In addition to the Book of Baruch, a translation of which is contained in the Apocrypha of our English Bibles, there had from old time been known to exist a certain document in the Syrian language, called |The Epistle of Baruch the scribe to the nine-and-a-half tribes beyond the Euphrates.| This had been published in the London and Paris Polyglots in Syriac and Latin, in Latin alone by Fabricius in his Codex Pseudepigr. Vet. Test., and in English by G. Whiston in his Authentic Records. Later, a French rendering was given by Migne in the Dictionnaire des Apocryphes, and Lagarde put forth again the Syriac version in his Syriac edition of the Old Testament Apocrypha. Many questions resulted from the publication of this document. Was it a complete work or a fragment of some larger treatise? What was its connection, if any, with the usually-received apocryphal work of Baruch? What was its original language? Who and of what country was its author? Jew or Christian? And when was the letter written? These inquiries greatly exercised the minds of scholars abroad, and the theories evoked by the discussion show a wide divergence of opinion. But many of these questions were answered by the discovery in 1866 of a Syriac version of the Apocalypse of Baruch, of which this Epistle formed the concluding portion. This interesting work was brought to light by the industry of A. N. Ceriani, the learned librarian at Milan, to whom we are indebted for the disinterment of that long-lost book, the Assumption of Moses. In a MS. of the sixth century, Ceriani found a complete copy of the Apocalypse, which he published first in a Latin translation, and then in the original Syriac, both in ordinary type, and later (1883) in a photo-lithographed facsimile. This Latin version has been reprinted by Fritzsche, with a few emendations, and is commonly regarded as equivalent to the genuine copy.
Before discussing the contents of the book, a few words must be prefixed on the subject of the author and matters connected therewith.
The earliest quotation of the book occurs in a lost work of Papias, the disciple of St. John, cited by Irenaeus (Adv. Hæres. v.33.3). Herein it is asserted that in Messiah's days the vine shall have a thousand branches, and each branch shall produce a thousand bunches, and each bunch shall have a thousand grapes, and each grape shall make a cor of wine. Before it was known whence this legend was derived, neologian critics, assuming it to have Christ as its author, found in it a subject of ridicule and offence. It is now shown to occur in the Apocalypse of Baruch, chap. xxix. That the saying was attributed to Christ is easily accounted for. Papias wrote his lost work between 120 and 130 A.D., by which time our book must have become well known among Christians. The mention of Messiah occurs just before the legend; and doubtless persons remembered the story of the vine in connection with the Messiah, and at last quoted it as spoken by Christ Himself. Whether the Apocalypse is referred to in any of the catalogues of sacred books may reasonably be doubted. The term |Baruch,| in Pseudo-Athanasius' Synopsis, and in the Stichometria of Nicephorus, belongs probably to the book so called in the Septuagint version. There are also other apocryphal books bearing this name, some of Gnostic, some of Christian origin, and it is possible that they were known to the writers of the catalogues. But a portion of the work from early times formed an integral part of the Syriac Bible, and to this day is used among the Jacobites in their funeral service. Its real date, however, can only approximately be determined. Of course, the writer merely assumes the person of Baruch, the son of Neriah, for literary purposes, not with any idea of imposing upon the credulity of his hearers. He announces at the commencement that the word of the Lord came to him in the twenty-fifth year of Jechoniah, king of Judah. This at once places the revelation in an unhistorical region; for Jechoniah lived eleven years before the destruction of Jerusalem, reigned only three months, and then was carried captive to Babylon. And the departure from historical fact is continued in chap. vi., where it is said that on the next day after this revelation was made the city was taken by the Chaldaeans. The clue to this apparent mistake is to be found in the nature of the treatise. It is an Apocalypse, and in it real events are introduced with the special purpose of foreshadowing or delineating other circumstances. Now this first destruction of Jerusalem adumbrated its final destruction under Titus, and we cannot doubt that the seer is referring to this latter calamity under the figure of the first. If he means that the vision came to him twenty-five years after the Chaldaean invasion, he intends to affirm that he received the revelation so long after the ruin of the holy city, that is, about 95 A.D. Or the twenty-five years may be dated from the captivity of Jechoniah, which was some eleven years earlier, a mode of reckoning used by Ezekiel (e.g. chap. xxix.17, xxx.20, xxxi.1) and the exiles in Chaldeea. This would make the date of our book to be about 84 A.D. That it was composed in early Christian times may be gathered from certain passages which bear evident marks of being no late interpolations, but portions of the original work. Omitting for the present those which contain Messianic teaching, we will quote a few which betray a Christian spirit or some acquaintance with the literature of the New Testament. Chap. x.13, 14: |Ye bridegrooms, enter not into your chambers; ye women, pray not that ye array bear children; for the barren shall rejoice, and they that have not sons shall be glad, and they that have sons shall be sorrowful| (comp. Matt. xxiv.19; Luke xxiii.29). Chap. xxi.13: |If this were the only life which men have, nothing could be more miserable| (1 Cor. xv.19). Chap. xxiv.1: |Lo the days come, and the books shall be opened, in which are written the sins of those who have sinned, and the treasure-houses shall be disclosed in which is gathered the righteousness of those who were justified on earth| (Rev. xx.12). Chap. xlviii.34: |There shall be rumours many and messengers not a few; and mighty works shall be shown, and promises made of which some shall be vain and some shall be confirmed| (Matt. xxiv.24-26). Chap. xx.1, 2: |The days shall come when the times shall hasten more than of old, and the hours shall speed on quicker than before, and the years shall pass away more rapidly than now. For this I have sustained Zion, that I might rather hasten and visit the world in her time| (|For the elect's sake those days shall be shortened,| Matt. xxiv.22). Chap. liv.10: |Blessed is my mother among them that bear children, praised shall she be among women| (Luke i.42, xi.27). |For what gain have men lost their life, and what have they who were once on earth given in exchange for their soul| (chap.1.). This is remarkably similar to Matt. xvi.25, 26, especially as in both passages the pleasures of this life are contrasted with the joys of heaven. The many parallelisms between our book and the Revelation of St. John make it almost. a certainty that the seer was acquainted with the latter work. Thus it is said, chaps. xx., xlviii., that the end of the times draws near (Rev. i.1, 3, xxii.7); chaps. xxi., lix., that spirits stand before the throne of God like burning lamps (Rev. i.4, iv.5); chaps. ii., xiv., that the righteous intercede for sinners before God (Rev. v.8, viii.3); chap. xlviii., evil spirits and those who are inspired by them shall work miracles (Rev. xiii.13, xvi.14); chap. xxix., the hidden manna shall be given as a reward to the righteous (Rev. ii.17). Chaps. lxxvii., lxxxvii., an eagle is sent to make a solemn announcement (Rev. viii.13 aetou); chap. xxviii., the number three and a half is used in mystic computation of time (Rev. iii.9, etc.); chap. iv., the sacred city Jerusalem is taken up to heaven, which St. John sees descending (Rev. iii.12, xxi.2). Then there are many expressions which have a Christian sound, as Faith, Faithful, Those who believe, The written law, Future judgment, Promise of the life to come, The new world, The mouth of hell, The place of hope, Saved in his works (Jas. ii.14). These and suchlike terms do not necessarily imply that the writer was a Christian, which notion his views concerning the Messiah decidedly nullify; but they show that he was conversant with Christian ideas, and had some acquaintance with the new literature which had sprung up under the gospel. It is supposed that the book was written before the Second Book of Esdras (as it is called in our Bibles). That in many points the two works have a remarkable affinity cannot be disputed. The only doubt is, which of the two is prior to the other. Many critics have decided that Baruch borrowed from Ezra; but their arguments are very weak, and Schiirer has given reasons for deciding the other way, and assigning priority, of composition to our book. According to him, Esdras is of a much more finished character, and shows greater maturity of thought and more lucidity of style -- points which intimate a later origin. But the point must be left undecided.
Why the writer has assumed the name of Baruch is not difficult to imagine. The fame of one so well known, and associated with the great prophet Jeremiah, would add an authority to a work which no other personality would have offered. Since, too, as must be allowed, the book has a close and remarkable analogy with what we call the Second Book of Esdras, another reason may be found for the appropriation of the name Baruch. We need not, with Ewald, hold that the two works are the production of the same author (as indeed there are some facts which militate against this view); or that the Book of Baruch was intended to correct some erroneous opinions of Esdras concerning original sin; but let us suppose that the Second Esdras was well known to our writer. Not wishing to repeat the personification of his predecessor, and yet desirous of giving his composition an authorization not inferior, he fixed on the follower of Jeremiah as the recipient of the Revelation which he purposed to publish. Whether in this he was consciously treading in the steps of the composer of the apocryphal Book of Baruch is a matter of doubt. Kneucker identifies the two. His view is, that, whereas in chap. lxxvii. the seer was to write two letters, one to the nine-and-a-half tribes to be conveyed by an eagle, and one to the brethren in Babylon to be taken thither by three men, and only the former of these is forthcoming in the Apocalypse, the other is the |Baruch| of the Septuagint. This is described in the Syriac MS. as |the Second Epistle of Baruch the Scribe,| the first being that to the nine-and-a-half tribes. Opposed to this conjecture is the fact, that the Book or Epistle of Baruch, according to the Received text, is sent from Babylon to Jerusalem, not from Jerusalem to Babylon, and is generally allowed to be of a much earlier date than the Apocalypse, and of Hebrew origin. The Syriac inscription is probably an unauthorised interpolation intended to show a connection between the two treatises, but warranted neither by internal nor external evidence. That the work was written originally in Greek is evident from an examination of the Syriac version, wherein are found actual Greek words transliterated, as well as what were evidently paronomasias in the original, but which have lost their force in translation. Besides this, the superscription in the Syriac MS. expressly notifies that the work is a translation from the Greek; and there is some evidence of the use of the Septuagint in the references to the Old Testament, as where Baruch is said to have received a revelation under the oak near Hebron (chaps. vi., xlvii.; lxxvii.), which idea is probably derived from Gen. xiii.18: para ten drun ten Mambre, he hen en Chebrom. It is certain, too, that the author's locality is Jerusalem. |Your brethren,| he says, chap. lxxx., |are carried captive to Babylon, we, a poor remnant, are left here.| Only in Palestine or Alexandria could such a book have been composed in the Greek language. But there is no trace of Judo-Alexandrian philosophy (such as meets us in Philo's writings and the Book of Wisdom) to be found in the Apocalypse. Like Ecclesiasticus, it takes its stand on the plain dogmatic teaching of the Scriptures and the traditions concerning Messiah then extant. To none but Palestinian Jews, who had seen their holy city destroyed, could this prophecy, which promised restoration and prosperity to their ruined capital, have been addressed. This point being settled, we may fix the date at about A.D.90. We have noticed above an argument for this date from the author's own statement concerning the time that the revelation was made unto him. Another may be drawn from Papias' reference to the book. The lost work of this Father was written about A.D.120-130. Now he quotes this Apocalypse as well known to his readers. Such an acquaintance could hardly have been obtained under thirty years or more. This lands us again at the same period. So does. the inference (if legitimate) that it was written after St. Matthew's Gospel and the Revelation of St. John. Nor could it have been composed after the total overthrow of Jerusalem by Adrian (A.D.135). The destruction of the city by Nebuchadnezzar and by Titus is mentioned, but no hint of a third and more effectual demolition is given. On the contrary, restoration is promised after the second ruin, and the people, groaning under this calamity, are comforted with the thought of speedy and most complete re-establishment. This will place the writing between A.D.70 and A.D.135, and help to confirm our previous conclusion.
The book is divided into two unequal parts, the first (chaps. i.-lxxvii.) containing the historical points and the revelation of past and future, the second being the letter to the nine-and-a-half tribes. The former is sent to Babylon, which we. must consider to mean Rome; the latter, to the Jews dispersed in the Parthian kingdom; |across the river,| as it is expressed, the Euphrates being the boundary line dividing the Eastern empire of the Parthians from the Western empire of the Romans. This distinction between the two great members of the dispersion is found in many other documents of this time, most of which, however, were written with reference to Rome. The entire demolition of ancient Jerusalem, with all its calamitous consequences, under Adrian led to the loss of much of the literature of the period, the preservation of any portion being probably due to the care of Christians. These carried with them in their wanderings the books which have come down to us or were known to the early Fathers. The letter at the end of the Apocalypse, as being addressed to the Eastern Jews, was soon separated from the other part, and translated into Syriac and widely circulated; while the other section, comprising three-fourths of the whole, was so completely lost that it soon existed only in a Syriac version, which, as has been mentioned, itself remained unknown until quite recently.
In these and such like apocalyptic writings there is a certain similarity which greatly conduces to their correct interpretation. Under the general design of comforting his countrymen in times of trouble and defeat with the hope of the speedy appearance of the Messiah, the seer composes a prophecy which shall embrace the past, the present, and the future. He represents himself as receiving direct communication from God, and enjoined to make known the revelation to men. Placing himself in the distant past, he gives a summary of the history of his people up to the present time, touches lightly on the events that pass before his own eyes, and then in figure and type shadows forth a glorious future which shall abundantly compensate the distress and humiliation now prevalent. This is very nearly an outline of the Apocalypse of Baruch. The first portion, comprising chaps. i.-lxxvii., is divided into seven sections, the close of each section being usually marked by a fast of seven days. First Section: In the twenty-fifth year of Jechoniah, king of Judah, it was revealed to Baruch that Jerusalem and her people should be destroyed, and the inhabitants of the land should be carried away captive. Upon his asking whether the end of the world should come then, he is told that the prophecies which spoke of the everlasting covenant referred to a new world and a new Jerusalem which should be eternal. On the next day the Chaldaeans took the city; but first, that the enemy might not be able to vaunt their power, the angels destroy the walls, and hide in the earth the precious things of the temple. Zedekiah, the king, is taken captive to Babylon, while Baruch and Jeremiah are left in Jerusalem, and weep and fast seven days (i.-ix.). Then Jeremiah, by Divine command, is sent to Babylon; but Baruch stays amid the ruins of the city to receive a revelation, which comes to him after another seven days' fast (x.-xii.). Second Section: As he stands on Mount Zion, a voice falls from heaven, telling him that his people are chastised in mercy in order to lead them to repentance: he complains that good men are no better off than sinners and the heathen, though this world was made for God's people; and the Lord answers, that this life is short and full of trouble, but the life to come shall set right all present anomalies. And he bids Baruch prepare himself for a new revelation (xiii.-xx.). Third Section: At the end of seven days the seer comes to the appointed place, and asks impatiently to know the meaning and the issue of God's dealings with men. He is told that he is ignorant, but is comforted with the hope that the end is near, when good and evil shall meet their reward; and the signs that shall precede this final time are enumerated under twelve divisions, concluding with the days of Messiah and His two advents -- the first to establish an earthly kingdom; the second to manifest His eternal reign, when He shall raise up those who have slept in hope, and reward them with heavenly glory. To the question as to the extent of the tribulation which shall precede this time, the seer is told that it will affect the whole earth. Then Baruch summons a meeting of the elders, and announces to them that Zion shall be destroyed, but shall be rebuilt again; yet again it shall be ruined, and for the last tine restored gloriously so as to last for ever (xxi.-xxxiv.). Fourth Section: Then the prophet, as he sleeps amid the ruins of the Holy Place, sees in a vision on one side a mighty forest girt by mountains, and on the other a vine, from whose roots issued a placid streamlet. Anon this streamlet became a great river, and it overthrew the mountain, and tore up the forest, leaving of it nothing but one cedar, which also at length it destroyed. And the vine and the stream exulted over the fallen cedar, and the vine grew more and more, and all the plain was filled with flowers that fade not. The seer is, told that hereby is signified the fate of four kingdoms which have afflicted Zion, the last of which, the most powerful and most evil of them all, is to perish before the arms of Messiah. |Then shall be revealed the chieftainship of my Messiah, who is like a spring and a vine, and He on His appearing will annihilate that congregation. And that cedar which thou rawest is the last prince (dux ultimus) who is left alive. He shall be brought in chains before Messiah on Mount Zion, and there be put to death| (xxxv.-xlvi.). Fifth Section: After another seven days' fast Baruch tells the people of his approaching departure, and urges them to continue faithful to the law, explaining to them the retribution of the world to come. Another seven days' fast intervenes, and then Baruch, in answer to his prayer, is told of the tribulations that are to come upon the earth, and of the manner of the resurrection both of the evil and the good, and their punishment and reward (xlvii.-lii.). Sixth Section: After this, he sees a vision of alternate dark and bright waters, which is explained as a record of Israel's history from Adam to Messiah (xlviii.-lxxi.). The glories of Messiah's eternal kingdom are then unfolded. Baruch is informed. that shortly he will be taken from earth, though not by death (liii.-lxxvi.). Seventh Section: He again announces his departure to his friends, prays for their welfare, and on the twenty-first day of the eighth month writes two letters, one to the exiles in Babylon, which he sends by the hands of men, and one to the nine-and-a-half tribes beyond the river, which he entrusts to an eagle. The latter Epistle is given in full, and concludes the book. In it he comforts his distant brethren under their trials with the remembrance that God has not cast off His love for them, but is only temporarily chastening them for their disobedience. Nebuchadnezzar indeed has been permitted to afflict them grievously, but it was the Lord who destroyed the forts and walls; and He also hid the sacred vessels that the heathen should not rejoice over them. All shall be changed ere long; the day is soon coming when the Gentiles shall be punished for their iniquity, and Israel shall be rewarded; only let them prepare for the life to come by virtue and obedience, and all shall be well with them (lxxvii.-lxxxvii.). The other Epistle is not given, and some, as I mentioned above, have considered the Septuagintal |Baruch| to be the missing document. But as this theory is inadmissible; we must deem either that the writing is wholly lost, or that the two Epistles were identical. There is nothing improbable in the latter supposition. Their tenor would naturally be similar, and it is difficult to see what more the seer could have said than he had already expressed in the extant letter. The conclusion of the book may have told how Baruch was taken from the earth, after he had seen in a vision all the regions of the world, as it had been promised him.
Such being a general view of the contents of the Apocalypse, we can now enter more particularly into some of the matters contained in it. And first, there are some puzzles connected with numbers which must be mentioned. Two such riddles confront us, a shorter and a longer. The former concerns the end of the present world. This is to happen at the conclusion of |two parts weeks of seven weeks.| The seven weeks, which are probably derived from Dan. ix.25, imply an interval of 49 years, which must be reckoned from the destruction of Jerusalem, A.D.70. The expression |two parts| means two-thirds, as in Hebrew and Latin. Two-thirds of this period, say 33 years, would land us in the reign of Trajan (A.D.98-117). In the chapter preceding this prophecy the seer foretells a course of twelve calamities, each more crushing than its predecessor, which should happen before the end. These may be well understood of events up to the death of Domitian (A.D.96). But all this is pure speculation, and calculations founded hereon cannot be trusted. The longer riddle is on safer ground, being a history of past events in the form of prophecy (chaps. liii.-lxxiv.). The seer beholds a vast cloud rising from the sea, and discharging black and clear water alternately twelve times in succession. Under this image of dark and bright waters following each other in succession, the writer represents the history of man from Adam to the first destruction of Jerusalem. The alternation of light and shade, prosperity and adversity, reward and punishment, in human records, is compressed into twelve great periods, the character of which is marked by the changed appearance of the waters in the vision. |And it came to pass,| says the seer, |that the cloud began to rain down upon the earth the waters with which it was charged. And I saw that the aspect of the waters was not one; for first they were black for a time, and then they became bright, but these were scanty; and afterwards I saw black waters a second time and then again bright; and this was done twelve times; but the black were always more abundant than the bright. Last of all, the cloud poured forth waters blacker than ever, and fire mingled with them. This fire was lightning, which gave shine to the whole earth, and healed the regions on which the dark waters had fallen. Then twelve streams arose from the sea, and subjected themselves to this lightning.| Upon the seer praying for the interpretation of this mystery; the angel Ramiel is sent to explain it thus: |Whereas thou sawest first black waters descend upon the earth, this is the sin which Adam, the first man, sinned. For since by his transgression came into the world death, which was not in his time, and sorrow and pain, and labour, what could there be blacker than these things? Adam endangered his own soul and the souls of other men, so that all who lived on earth perished in the Flood. These are the first black waters. And whereas after these thou didst see bright waters, this denotes the advent of Abraham and his son and his sons' sons and those who are like unto them; because at that time, though there was no written law among them, yet the commandments were duly observed, and faith in the judgment to come arose, and the hope of a new world was then built up, and the promise of the life hereafter was planted in men's hearts. These are the first bright waters which thou sawest.| And thus the angel expounds the signification of the vision unto the first destruction of Jerusalem and onwards to Messiah's time. Then we have the doings of subsequent sinful generations, especially the Egyptians, contrasted with Moses, Joshua, and the Sinaitic revelations; the works of the Amorites and magicians contrasted with the times of David and Solomon; the revolt of Jeroboam and the sins and punishments of his successors set against the piety of Hezekiah and his defeat of Sennacherib; the ungodliness of Manasseh against the integrity of Josiah. The eleventh downpour represents the tribulation in Baruch's own time; and the twelfth bright water adumbrates the restoration of Israel. The last dark water represents the tumult and tribulation which will come upon the earth before the final advent of Messiah. In this interpretation some points are noteworthy. There is a strange opinion about Manasses, king of Judah (chap. lxiv.). It is said that his impiety was so heinous that he was condemned to the penal fire. Ignoring the old tradition of his repentance and consequent acceptance with God (2 Chron. xxxiii.12, 13, 19), of a belief in which the apocryphal |Prayer of Manasses| is an evidence, Pseudo-Baruch testifies that though his prayer was heard, he himself was lost. |When he was placed in the brazen horse,| probably an image connected with the worship of Moloch, |the figure was melted with the ardent heat, and he perished therein, a sign of the end that awaited him. For he had not lived a perfect life, nor was he worthy; but by this sign he learned by whom he was to be tormented hereafter. For He who can reward is also able to punish.| The legend found in the Apostolical Constitutions and elsewhere gives a very different result. According to these authorities, at his prayer, the image fell to pieces, and he escaped unharmed, returned to Jerusalem, and lived afterwards piously and prosperously. The opinion of Manasses' damnation in spite of his prayer is, as far as we know, peculiar to Pseudo-Baruch. Concerning the angels who |kept not their first estate,| our seer holds the notion that they fell by their commerce with the daughters of men. |Adam,| he says, |imperilled not only his own soul but the angels also. For at the time when he was created they had full liberty, and some of them descended and had intercourse with women; and then they who thus offended were tormented in chains. But the rest of the host of angels, an innumerable company, kept themselves pure.| This interpretation of Gen. vi.4 is, in the main, one that is common enough in Jewish, and indeed in Christian, commentaries. But it has a special feature which differentiates it from other glosses. The writer seems to teach that, as the tree of knowledge was the trial of Adam's faith and constancy, so the beauty of mortal women was appointed to be the probation of angels; and that the difference between good and bad angels consisted in the continence of the one and the unchastity of the other. The |tormenting in chains| reminds us of 2 Pet. ii.4 and Jude 6, and is confirmed by many expressions in the Book of Enoch.
There are some other peculiarities in this book which are interesting. The seer claims to have revelations made to him in two ways, by an angel, and by the voice of God. The angel he names Ramiel, |who presides over the visions of truth| (chap. lv.), and who tells him (chap. lxiii.) that he was the agent in the destruction of the host of Sennacherib in Hezekiah's reign. The name of this angel is not found elsewhere except in the Syriac version of 4 Esdr. iv.36, v.20, where the Latin has Jeremiel in most MSS., but in one (Turicensis) Huriel. Probably the name Ramiel is a corruption of Jeremiel, which word was formed from Jeremiah, who might well be called the prophet of truth, and give his name to the angel of the vision. The close connection between Baruch and Jeremiah makes this supposition very probable. In other passages of Esdras (iv.1, v.20; x.28), Uriel is the heavenly messenger, which is in accordance with statements in the Book of Enoch (e.g. chaps. ix., xx., lxxiv.), where an angel of this name is often introduced. But it is very possible that the three names refer to the same heavenly being. Revelation by the direct voice of God seems to be an unusual claim on the part of Jewish apocalyptic writers. Inspiration by Bathkol, the daughter of the voice, indeed is asserted by the Rabbis up to the time of the composition of the Mishna; but this was never considered to be the voice of God Himself, but that of an angel, His agent or minister. Thus when the voice from heaven came to our Lord (John xii.28), some of the people supposed that an angel spoke to Him; when God called to Moses from the bush, it was an angel who addressed him; and when the Law was uttered from Sinai, it was given |by the disposition of angels.| But Pseudo-Baruch especially distinguishes the heavenly voice from the revelation by the angel. |It came to pass after this,| he says (chap. xxii.), |the heavens were opened, and I saw, and power was given unto me, and a voice from the highest was heard, and He said unto me.| It is not till some time afterwards that Ramiel is said to interpret the vision of the waters. Langen supposes that the seer, being acquainted with St. Matthew's Gospel, took the hint of the narrative in chap. iii., and thus made the voice come immediately from God. I should think rather that the writer used the ambiguity of expression in the Old Testament to enhance the dignity of the revelation he was making. To do this he had no need to imitate St. Matthew's account.
On the subject of original sin our seer is thought to oppose the more orthodox doctrine enunciated by Esdras. Both writers speak of the evil introduced into the world by Adam's sin, but they diverge when treating of its effects on his descendants. While Esdras teaches that Adam communicated an infected nature to his posterity, Pseudo-Baruch sometimes affirms that the sin of Adam is transferred to others by imitation alone. |If,| he says (chap. liv.), |Adam first sinned, and brought untimely death upon all men; yet also they who are born from him, each one of them hath prepared future torment for his own soul; and again, each one hath chosen future glory for himself. Adam was the cause of guilt to his own soul only; but we, each of us, are the Adam to our own souls.| It is curious to trace here indications of that doctrine which, developed into Pelagianism, became the cause of serious controversy in the Christian Church. The received maxim among the Jews was that the whole world was comprised in Adam and sinned in his sin. The expression in Job xiv.4 (|Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one|), whether we take it interrogatively or optatively, comes to the same thing, and intimates that the old belief obtained: |Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me| (Ps. li.5).
Let us turn now to the doctrine of the Messiah contained in our book. As we know that the apostles and early believers expected the second coming of Christ to happen shortly, so Pseudo-Baruch looks for the appearance of Messiah in the course of a few years. In their utter dejection and distress, seated amid the ruins of their beloved Jerusalem, the sorrowing Jews could find comfort in nothing but the hope of a speedy restoration under the leadership of Messiah. The actual time of this Parousia is concealed under a veil of symbolical words; but it is to be preceded by exceeding heavy calamities, confirming the saying |that man's extremity is God's opportunity.| In his vision the seer beholds a kingdom (Rome), the power of which shall be greater and more evil than any before it; and it shall rule supreme for many ages and be highly exalted; in it truth shall not dwell, but all who are stained with crime shall find refuge therein, as evil beasts hide themselves in the forest. |And it shall come to pass when the time of its fall shall approach, then the dominion of Messiah shall be revealed, and He shall root up the multitude of that kingdom| (chap. xxxix.). But before that event, |the harvest of the good seed and the bad shall come, and the Almighty will bring upon the earth and its inhabitants and upon its rulers confusion of spirit and stupor of heart. And they shall hate one another and provoke one another to battle, and the base-born shall lord over those of high degree, and the mean shall be exalted above men of renown, and the many shall be delivered to the few, and those who were nothing shall rule the mighty, and the poor shall be more than the rich, and the wicked shall be raised above the heroic, and wise men shall hold their peace and fools shall speak: the thought of men shall then not be confirmed, nor the counsel of the Almighty, nor the hope of those that hope. And when what has been foretold shall come to pass, on all men shall come confusion, and some of them shall fall by the sword in battle, and some shall perish in great tribulation, and some shall be ensnared by their own friends. But the Most High shall reveal it to those nations whom He prepared before, and they shall come and fight with the leaders who shall then remain. And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall escape from the war shall die in the earthquake, and whosoever shall escape from the earthquake shall be consumed in the fire, and whosoever shall escape from the fire shall perish in the famine. And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall escape from all these evils, of the conquerors and of the conquered, shall be delivered into the hands of my servant Messiah. For the earth shall devour the inhabitants thereof| (chap. lxx.). Other signs are mentioned (chap. xlviii.), some of which, as we have seen above, have a striking similarity to those which our Lord foretold should usher in the last day. No safety shall anywhere be found except in the Holy Land, which |shall have pity on its own children and protect them in that day| (chap. lxxi.). And then shall Messiah begin to be revealed.
In his idea of the reign of Messiah, Pseudo-Baruch takes a different line from Esdras and other apocalyptical writers. The common notion of a great Leader, who by a course of uninterrupted triumph should restore and enhance the glory of the depressed Israelites, does not satisfy his hopes. This is only one and a partial view of the effects of this Divine interference. The Messiah has a twofold kingdom, an earthly one which passes away; and a heavenly one which is everlasting. Such a question as that of the apostles (Acts i.6): |Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?| spoke only of temporal restitution and sovereignty, and would not have intimated the full hope that we see to have been conceived by our seer. Of a suffering Messiah he has no notion; nor does he give any trace of the later belief in two Messiahs, a Messiah ben David of whom were predicted glory and triumph, and a Messiah ben Joseph to whose lot fell all the foretold sufferings and woe. His Messiah is one only person viewed at different times and under a different aspect. First He comes as the great earthly conqueror, who was to emancipate the people from the dominion of Rome, punish their enemies, and restore the Jews to more than pristine glory. In this earthly kingdom all the Israelites who are then alive shall have their part; and while those who have oppressed them shall perish, they who have never known them or had connection with them, and they who have joined themselves unto their God as proselytes, shall be saved, being in subjection to the ancient people. This dominion shall be established in the Holy Land, when the last leader of the enemy is brought in chains to Zion, and is there condemned and executed by Messiah. The glories of this kingdom, in accordance more or less with ancient prophecy, are thus described (chap. lxxiii.): |It shall come to pass when He shall have humbled whatsoever is in the world, and sat down in peace for ever upon the throne of His kingdom, then shall He be revealed in happiness, and a great calm shall ensue. Health shall descend like dew, and sickness shall pass away, and care and distress and groaning shall no more be found among men; and joy shall pace through all the earth. No one shall die before he hath filled his days, no sudden calamity shall happen to any. Trials, accusations, contentions, revenge, bloodshed, avarice, envy, hatred, and all such things shall be utterly abolished. For these are the things which have filled this world with evil and vexed the life of men. Then the wild beasts shall come forth from the forests and minister unto men; and asps and snakes shall issue from their holes to become a little one's plaything. Women shall be delivered without pain. The reaper shall not be wearied, the builder shall feel no fatigue, for all works shall co-operate with the labourers in that time of peace.| Like other apocalyptic writers, Pseudo-Baruch represents the happiness of Messiah's kingdom under the figure of a splendid banquet, in which mighty animals shall be served up as the food of the righteous guests. The Lord says to him, chap. xxix.: |Behemoth shall be brought to light from his place, and Leviathan shall ascend from the sea, two great creatures which I made on the fifth day of the creation, and have reserved unto this time; and then they shall be for food for them that are left. The earth also shall give her fruits, ten thousand for one.| Then comes the passage about the vine (quoted by Papias) given above. He proceeds: |Those who have hungered shall be gladdened, and they shall again see prodigies daily. For spirits shall go forth from my presence every morning to bring the odour of aromatic fruits, and at the close of day clouds dropping the dew of health. And then shall fall a second time the treasure of manna, and they shall eat thereof in those years, since these are they which have come to the end of the time.|
Such is our seer's description of the earthly reign of Messiah. But we may note that in two points he differs from many of the writers of Apocalypses. First he takes a more liberal view of the Gentile world than his contemporaries. While others were content to believe that salvation was of the Jews, and belonged to them exclusively, Pseudo-Baruch admits certain of the Gentiles to share the glories of Messiah's kingdom. Proselytes from the heathen, and any that had taken no active part in oppressing Israel, or from their remoteness of position knew nothing of God's people, would be allowed to participate in the blessings of the Messianic reign, provided that they came in humbly as subjects of the heavenly Prince. It is interesting to observe an abatement of that jealousy which so frequently meets us in the Gospels, where an extension of God's favour to the Gentiles is reprobated by the Jews as an opinion profane and detestable. Our seer has lighted upon a great truth, though he knew not its full import, how that the Christ should be not only the glory of Israel, but, as the aged Simeon believed, a light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.
The other point in which our seer differs from many Hebrew writers is this: he allows a participation in Messiah's earthly kingdom to those Jews only who are alive at His appearing. The common opinion among the Jews was that the righteous dead should rise from the brave to inherit His glory: this was to be their privilege; they were to obtain part in the first resurrection which was quite distinct from the general resurrection at the day of judgment. Of this opinion Pseudo-Baruch makes no mention. |Messiah,| he says, |shall protect the people who are found in the appointed place,| i.e. Zion.
How long this earthly kingdom is supposed to last is nowhere distinctly stated. The seer speaks of the time of Messiah's appearance being fulfilled (chap. xxx.), before He returns again in glory, but he does not assign any definite period to His earthly sojourn. The notion of a reign of a thousand years, which is generally supposed to have originated in Judaism and to have passed from thence to Christianity, does not appear in our book. There is a passage in Esdras which reckons the duration at four hundred years. This, is probably derived from the consideration that the period of affliction in Egypt was to be compensated by a similar period of refreshment and rest. But Pseudo-Baruch gives no confirmation to this opinion. Nor does he assert with Esdras that Messiah shall die. He passes over this event in silence, and proceeds to picture His return in glory in the fulness of time. At His coming all men shall arise again, not Jews only, but all men; and not the righteous only, but sinners also. |To the dust it shall be said, Restore that which is not thine, and place thou here all that thou hast kept safe till now| (chap. xlii.). |And the storehouses shall be opened wherein have been kept the souls of the righteous, and they shall come forth, and the multitude of souls shall appear in one concordant assembly, and the first shall rejoice and the last shall not be sad, for they shall know that the end of all the times has come. But the souls of sinners, when they shall see all things, shall pine away the more; for they know that their punishment has come and the hour of their damnation| (chap. xxx.). |The earth shall restore the dead which it had to keep, changing nothing in their form; but as it received them so it shall restore them, and as I [the Lord] have committed them unto it, thus shall it place them before me. And they shall recognise each other| (chap.1.). Here again Pseudo-Baruch is not in agreement with the usual opinion of his contemporaries. Josephus asserts that the Pharisees believed that the souls of the righteous alone would rise again, while the wicked would remain in prison everlastingly, suffering there eternal punishment. This dogma probably could not be truly predicated of all Pharisees, but it was undoubtedly held by a large majority of Jews. The Book of Enoch, which represents the current belief, teaches that the souls of sinners shall suffer vengeance without being united again to their bodies, but the righteous shall be raised, body and soul, to participate in the blessings of Messiah's reign. And such, with certain modifications, was the opinion that generally obtained in these and later times; while Pseudo-Baruch teaches that synchronally with Messiah's return shall be the general resurrection, the judgment, and the eternal reign. Whether the period between the first and second advent of Messiah corresponds with the millennium of St. John in Rev. xx. is a question which we cannot now discuss. That no mention of the first resurrection is made in our book is a fact which separates it from Jewish and Christian speculations. One thing is plain, that what others call the second or general resurrection is the great event which Pseudo-Baruch foresees as appertaining to Messiah's second appearance in glory.
In presenting the details of this resurrection, the seer says, as St. Paul, that all will be changed, the aspect of the evil becoming more horrible, and that of the righteous more glorious; the one being transformed to the splendour of the angels, the other terror-stricken by fearful sights and visions; the one made bright and beautiful to receive the blessings of the eternal world, the other tantalised with the sight of the blessed and sent away to punishment. On the subject of the happiness of the saved he enlarges in many passages. |They shall see the world which is now invisible to them; they shall see the time which is now hidden from them. And time shall never more grow old to them; for they shall dwell in the high places of that world, and shall be like unto the angels and equal to the stars, and shall be transformed into all the beauty that they can desire, and changed from light unto the radiance of glory. In their sight shall be unfolded the breadths of Paradise, and there shall be displayed before them the comeliness of the majesty of the living creatures which are beneath the throne, and all the hosts of angels who now are holden by my word from being seen, and holden by my command that they should stay in their own places till the time of their appearance is come. Thus the excellency of the righteous shall surpass that of the angels. For the first shall succeed the last, those for whom they waited, and the last those whom they heard to have passed by; and they have been delivered from this world of sorrow, and have laid down the weight of care.| If it might semi an extravagant belief in the mouth of a Jew that, admitted to the life beyond the grave, he should be more excellent than the angels, yet his hope is far inferior to that of the Christian. We are told that we shall see God, behold |the King in His beauty.| The Jewish prophet holds out no hope of this blessed vision. The righteous shall see highest orders of angels, and all the hosts of heaven, yea, the glory of God, the light in which He dwells; but Himself no eye of man, however holy and blessed, shall behold.
The scene of this happiness is the new world which God shall create especially for His true servants. And that the prophecies of the glory of Jerusalem may be rightly understood, the seer is taught that the earthly city may be destroyed once and again, but it shall be renewed in glory, and receive an everlasting crown (chap. xxxii.). |Dost thou remember,| says the Lord, |what that city is of which I said, I have graven thee upon the palm of my hands'?| No earthly city this, but a heavenly, mystic one, prepared before the world was made, shown to Adam before he fell in Paradise, but withdrawn, as Eden itself, after he had sinned. Abraham, too, beheld it when he kept watch between his victims slain; and to Moses it was revealed on Mount Sinai, when he received the communication touching the Tabernacle and its appurtenances. Since then it has been kept in the secret place of God till the time for its disclosure should arrive. This glorious city shall be the abode of the righteous. But the seer, unlike St. John, attempts not to describe its splendours; no revelation of these particulars is made unto him, and he leaves it in its beauty a wonder and a mystery. The Paradise, in which he locates both the throne of God and the home of the blessed, is not the place in the other world where the souls of the just await the day of judgment, which was its usual signification among the Jews, but heaven itself, and, as one would suppose, the so-called third heaven. St. Paul, in the account of his own rapture (2 Cor. xii.), seems to make a distinction between Paradise and the third heaven, speaking of being on one occasion |caught up even to the third heaven,| and on another, |being caught up into Paradise.| But in this, as in some other points before noticed, Pseudo-Baruch does not adhere closely to the received opinion, but follows another tradition, or takes an original view.
With regard to the punishment of the wicked, the seer holds this opinion. They shall first see the glory of the righteous, and then shall be led away to punishment, -- their home shall be in the eternal fire (chap. xliv.). Of the annihilation of the condemned other writers have spoken; but nothing of the kind is found in our book. Sinners are said, indeed, to waste away (|tabescere|), but this is only an expression to characterise their torment, which they are transfigured to endure.
Such are the chief points of interest in this book; and they are useful in many ways, but chiefly as conveying instruction on the tenets and expectations of the Jews about the period of the first Christian century, and exhibiting the contrast between real and spurious revelations.