Pseudepigrapha Saturday: 2 Baruch

Introduction to the Text:

2 Baruch was written from the perspective of the scribe of Jeremiah, Baruch. The text, though, was composed during the 1st century CE in Judea [1]. Essentially, the text contains Baruch’s observations and discussion with God by imagining Baruch at the destruction of the first temple (586 BCE). While the text was not actually written by Baruch, hence its designation as Pseudepigrapha, it is a perfect example of how the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, came into existence.

2 Baruch and the Hebrew Bible:

Many scholars argue that the Hebrew Bible is not, in fact, a historical book. While it is rooted in history, the Torah was not written by Moses, many of the prophetic books were not entirely composed by the named prophet, and many supposed “historical” elements are actually mythological [2]. Even as myths of origin, they still contain nuggets of information valuable for reconstructing history. 2 Baruch is an excellent example. It utilized traditions present and active in the 1st century CE and illustrates an imagined past that is influenced by its context. In this case, the context is the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. So, rather than writing a poem about how terrible the destruction of the Temple was in 70 CE, the author of 2 Baruch retrojected his/her political and social situation into a historical tradition in order to express the truth which he/she needed to express.

Simply put, much of biblical literature is an imagined past. This imagined past, though, was a reality for the people who chose to establish the literature as normative.

[1] Gurtner, Daniel M., with David M. Miller and Ian W. Scott, eds. “2 Baruch.” Edition 2.0. No pages. In The Online Critical Pseudepigrapha. Edited by Ken M. Penner, David M. Miller, and Ian W. Scott. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2007. Online: http://www.purl.org/net/ocp/2Bar.html.

[2] By “mythological”, I do not mean not historical; rather, in historiographical terms, the Hebrew Bible evolved through a many traditions, social and theological developments, and additions.

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