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3 Baruch

3 Baruch

3 Baruch or the Greek Apocalypse of Baruch is a visionary, Jewish pseudopedigraphical text thought to have been written after 130 AD, perhaps as late as the early 3rd century CE, after the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans in 70 CE. It is one of the Pseudepigrapha and not part of the canon of either the Jewish or most Christian Bibles. It survives in certain Greek manuscripts, and also in a few Old Church Slavonic ones.

Like 2 Baruch, the Greek Apocalypse of Baruch describes the state of Jerusalem after the sack by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BC and discusses how Judaism can survive when the temple is no longer in existence. It frames this discussion as a mystical vision granted to Baruch. Also like 2 Baruch, the Greek Apocalypse argues that the Temple has been preserved in heaven and is presented as fully functional and attended by angels; thus there is no need for the temple to be rebuilt on earth. Third Baruch addresses the question of why God permits good people to suffer, and answering with a vision of the afterlife in which sinners and the righteous get their just rewards.

During the vision, Baruch is portrayed as being shown various heavens, there witnessing the punishment of the builders of the "tower of strife against God" (perhaps the Tower of Babel); a serpent named Hades who drinks from the sea; and other such marvels, until he is finally stopped by a locked gate at the fifth heaven, which only the archangel Michael has the ability to open.

The text has been thought by some scholars to show the influence of Babylonian mythology. The builders of the "tower of strife" are described in terms that could be regarded as demonic – the faces of cattle, horns of sheep, and feet of goats; while those who commanded them to build it are punished eternally in a separate heaven where they are reincarnated in the forms of dogs, bears or apes. Baruch also witnesses a phoenix, which the text portrays as a singular bird that protects the earth from the rays of the sun.

It is significant that the Old Church Slavonic versions do not contain the Christian overtones of the Greek text, which suggests that the Greek text represents a rewriting in the Christian age.


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