3 (Greek Apocalypse of) Baruch


by David Alun Arnold

[David Arnold is a third-year undergraduate in the M.Theol. program at the University of St. Andrews.–JRD]

This study on 3 Baruch will attempt to identify an original text, working back from the 15th and 16th century manuscripts which we have available today. The study will inevitably centre around the question of whether the text was a Christian or Jewish work, and will follow Kraft’s hypothesis that we need to assume that it is a Christian work unless proven otherwise. Some detailed study of the ending of 3 Baruch will be necessary, as the majority of scholars believe the work to be lacking some original ending which would put it more in line with other Judaeo-Christian works of around the same time.

Only two Greek manuscripts are available to us – both dating from the 15th and 16th centuries, but there are some extant Slavonic manuscripts which fall into two categories: those of Russian origin; and those of Southern origin. A comparison of these manuscripts with those in Greek leads to a conclusion that the text of 3 Baruch was originally Jewish, but has since fallen into Christian hands to be interpolated. This is derived from the fact that Christian interpolations are DIFFERENT in the Greek and Slavonic, and the fact that the prologue is of distinctly Jewish origin: why would Christian transmitters keep Jewish material in the prologue, but remove it from other places?

There is disagreement between scholars on the originality of the number of heavens, and on the integrity of the rather abrupt ending. The text itself, unlike other comparable apocalyptic literature, only has five heavens to which Baruch travels. Some argue that this is due to some of the original ending having been lost since the original writing; but others argue that the ending is perfectly coherent, in that 3 Baruch is intended as a form of protest against the recognised apocalyptic cosmology of the Second Temple Period. For various reasons the former of these views seems more convincing – mainly because of precedents set in other comparable literature.

More study needs to be devoted to this book, and one hopes that another, earlier manuscript might be discovered, which may well answer some of the unsolvable questions which this paper raises.

(c) 1999
Reproduction beyond fair use only on permission of the author.

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