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  • The Greek Apocalypse of Baruch (3 Baruch) in Hellenistic Judaism and Early Christianity
  • John R. Spencer
Daniel C. Harlow. The Greek Apocalypse of Baruch (3 Baruch) in Hellenistic Judaism and Early Christianity. Studia in Veteris Testamenti Pseudepigrapha 12 Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996 Pp. xvii + 273. $104.50.

This volume is a “slightly revised” (ix) doctoral dissertation, done under Drs. J. Collins and J. VanderKam at the University of Notre Dame. As such, it reflects the strengths and weaknesses typical of that genre. However, on balance, this volume is a positive and interesting contribution to the scholarly discussion of pseudepigraphical literature.

Chapter 1, “3 Baruch in Retrospect and Prospect” (1–33), is a Forschüngsbericht, with some added materials. H., constantly rehearsing the work of previous scholars, retells the story in the apocalypse, reviews the discovery and character of the two major versions (Slavonic and Greek), discusses the “genre, setting and function” of the book, lays out the major critical issues (the integrity of the ending, the original authorship, and the relation of the visionary tour to the prologue), and sets forth his approach in the remainder of the book. In the midst of this chapter is an excursus on “3 Baruch, Pseudonymity, and Visionary Experience,” which is only marginally relevant to the purpose of the book.

Chapter 2, “The Integrity of the Ending” (34–76), confronts the problem raised by the vision of Baruch ending in the fifth heaven rather than the seventh, as would be usual. H. argues that the writer believed there were seven heavens but intentionally had Baruch stop in the fifth. The claim that this premature end to the tour is an “innovation on the part of this apocalypse’s author” is not convincing. Of greater persuasiveness is H.’s argument that the cessation of the journey is a rejection of the exclusive association of God with the temple in Jerusalem, and of the importance of the temple itself, and an assertion that God is available apart from the temple. H. shows that this makes eminent sense in the period after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 c.e. and in places other than Judea. Hence, H. argues, there was no loss of an ending to the text.

In the third chapter, “A Jewish or Christian Composition?” (77–108), H. asserts that 3 Baruch was basically a Jewish composition to which Christians later added materials, which agrees with scholarly consensus. While he presents evidence to show the Jewish elements in the book and to support his conclusion, he unnecessarily equivocates at the end of the chapter, trying to keep open the possibility of Christian authorship.

Chapter 4, “3 Baruch as a Jewish Text” (109–162) walks the reader through the entire book, pointing out the characteristics which reveal the text as something which could (and did) arise from a Jewish context. H. presses this consideration further by suggesting that the positions advocated by the Jewish author pushed the text beyond the consideration and acceptance by the normative Jewish community. This is seen mainly by the “universalism” present in 3 Baruch, where the author places the fall of Jerusalem (in 70 c.e.) in the larger light of the sins of all humanity, emphasizes individual eschatology, and [End Page 318] thus minimizes the role of Jerusalem in the ongoing life of the Jewish community. These are positions that were not acceptable in all corners of Judaism in the first and second century c.e.

The fifth chapter, “3 Baruch as a Christian Text” (163–205) focuses on the later Christian elements that were added to the text. H. argues that the text “underwent Christian redaction” both to make the materials more palatable to a Christian audience and to turn the “non-traditional” Jewish elements into “anti-traditional” Jewish elements. The key elements here are the diminution of the importance of Jerusalem, the emphasis of the Christian elements of the phoenix imagery, and the anti-Jewish, super-sessionist tone that is added to the text.

The final chapter, “Conclusions” (206–212), is more a collection of earlier conclusions than a conclusion in itself. Nevertheless, it provides a good summary of the positions argued earlier in...

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