AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOKS OF THE APOCRYPHA. By W O E Oesterley D D Litt D. © W O E Oesterley 1935. First published S.P.C.K. 1935. - This edition prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram 2003.


HOME | Title | Contents of the Book | The Historical Background, and Date | Composition of the Book | Dates of the Component Parts of the Book | The Original Language of the Book | Manuscripts and Versions | Literature.


In the Septuagint the title is simply "Baruch," and this is followed in the Syro-Hexaplar.
But in the ordinary Syriac Version it is: "In addition the Second Epistle of Baruch the Scribe," or in another MS more simply "The Second Epistle," the "second" referring "by implication to the earlier preceding Epistle in the Syriac addressed by Baruch to the nine and a half tribes beyond the Euphrates." [Whitehouse, in Charles, op. cit., i.583.]
Both Latin Versions (see below, § VII) have: "Prophecy of Baruch" as title.
The Coptic Version has: "Baruch the Prophet."
And the Armenian has: "Epistle of Baruch."
The title in the RV thus follows the Septuagint.

In some lists of the Church Fathers, as well as in references to it in their writings, it is cited, together with the Epistle of Jeremy and Lamentations, as "Jeremiah the three" form a kind of trilogy supplementary to the prophecy."
[Swete, Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, p.274 (1900); see also Thackeray, The Septuagint and Jewish Worship, p.80 (1921).]

In the Apostolic Constitutions v.20 (but not in the Syriac Didascalia) [Connolly, Didascalia Apostolorum, p.191 (1929).]
the book is referred to simply as "Baruch." [For other books bearing the name of Baruch, see Charles, The Apocalypse of Baruch, pp.xvi-x (1896).]



Our book consists of two distinct parts, each of which contains two main subdivisions;

Part I: chap.i.1-iii.8;
Part II: chap. iii.9-v.9.
The former of these is in prose; the latter is poetry, which, unfortunately, is not indicated in the RV.



An historical introduction, according to which Baruch wrote the book in Babylon, "in the fifth year, and in the seventh day of the month," clearly a mistake for "the fifth month" at the time when the Chaldaeans took Jerusalem, i.e. in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar (586BC). Baruch i.1-14. Cp?

II Kgs.xxv.8.

It was read in the hearing of Jeconias (Jehoiachim) and the rest of the exiles in Babylon v.i.1-4.  
The people wept, and fasted, and prayed.
Then a collection of money was made, which was sent to Jerusalem, in order that offerings might continue to be made on "the altar of the Lord our God".
The altar is thus thought of as still standing
  cp. Jer.xli.5, Lam.i.4.
The people in Jerusalem are enjoined to pray for Nebuchadrezzar and for his son Belshazzar (!), in order that the exiles may dwell in peace.
Prayers are also asked for these latter, whose punishment for their sinfulness is recognized
The writer continues: "And ye shall read this book which we have sent unto you, to make confession in the house of the Lord, upon the day of the feast and on the days of the solemn assembly" (on this see below, ? VI). v.i.14.  
The long confession which follows falls into three subdivisions: i.15-iii.8:  
the confession proper i.15-ii.10;  
a prayer that, in spite of the sins of the people, God will have mercy on them; the Almighty is reminded of His promise to the patriarchs, and of the new covenant of later days: "And I will make an everlasting covenant with them to be their God, and they shall be my people; and I will no more remove my people of Israel out of the land that I have given them" ii.11-35.  
These last words are clearly based on   Jer. xxxi.31-34.
A final prayer, with further confession of sin, concludes this part iii.1-8.  


The poetical portion begins here with a homily on Wisdom, largely influenced by the Wisdom literature, and more especially by Proverbs and Job. Baruch iii.9-iv.4:
Israel is bidden to hearken unto Wisdom, for it is only because of her having forsaken "the fountain of Wisdom" that she is in exile; had she not done this she would have dwelt in peace for ever iii.9-13.
All those who have not sought Wisdom, the rich, the worldly wise, and the mighty, vanish and go down to the grave and perish iii.14-28.
Wisdom is the possession of the Almighty alone, but He has given it to Jacob His servant and to Israel His beloved iii.29-37.
The identification of Wisdom with the Law, which endures forever; Israel, is happy, for the things that are pleasing to God are made known to her iv.1-4.
This consists of four sections, each beginning with, "Be of good cheer," followed by three others addressed particularly to Jerusalem.  iv.5-v.9. 
"These seven subdivisions may be classified again," as Thackeray points out, "according to the speaker; in two groups.
Mother Zion addresses to her exiled children the first three cantos, part penitence, part hope.
The last four, all consolation, are God's response, through the seer's mouth, to the bereft mother, - promises of retaliation on her foes with glorious visions of a return to Palestine under his leadership."
[Op. cit., p.101.
On the liturgical use of our book see Thackeray, op. cit., pp.91 ff.]
The subdivisions are: iv.5-20; 21-26; 27-29; 30-35; 36-37; v.1-4; 5-9.



We have seen that the historical background is represented as being the early period of the Exile.
Jerusalem has been burned, and the exiles are settled in Babylon.
Baruch, the faithful friend and follower of Jeremiah, is among the deported exiles.
The epistle which he writes is read first to Jehoiachin, the dethroned Judaean king, and his fellow exiles, and is then sent to those of his countrymen who had been left in Jerusalem, together with some money to enable them to offer sacrifices.
They are also bidden to pray for the life of Nebuchadrezzar and his son Belshazzar in order that the exiles might live in peace under their rule.

There is a mixture here of statements which are partly historical, partly doubtfully so, but partly quite unhistorical.
Thus, we know from II Kgs.xxv.9 that Jerusalem and the Temple were burned.
But the destruction was not so complete as to make the city uninhabitable, or as to preclude the possibility of worship in the Temple.
For we read in Jer.xli.5 that eighty pilgrims from Shechem, Shilo, and Samaria came as mourners for the destruction of Jerusalem, and brought oblations and frankincense to the house of the Lord.
And further, from what is said in Lam.i.4 it is evident that in spite of the desolation of the city priests were dwelling in it.
In these particulars, therefore, the book records historical facts.
On the other hand, however, it may be questioned whether the dethroned king would have been permitted to dwell among the exiles.
There is no mention of his presence among the elders who assembled in the house of Ezekiel (Ezek.viii.1), which might well have been the case had he been at large.
Moreover, in Jer.lii.31 it is definitely said that not until the thirty-seventh year of his captivity did Evil-Merodach bring him forth out of prison.

Again, there is no evidence that Baruch was ever among the exiles in Babylon.
At the time in question, at any rate, he was in Palestine (cp.Jer.xliii.3).
And according to Jer.xliii.6 f. both Jeremiah and Baruch were carried off to Egypt by Johanan the son of Kareah.
Baruch was not likely to have forsaken Jeremiah.
Had he ever been among the Babylonian exiles it is reasonable to expect that either Jeremiah or Ezekiel would have mentioned the fact.
It is also worth mentioning that in the Syriac Version it is said that Baruch sent his letter to Babylon. [Rothstein, in Kautzsch, op. cit., i.213]

Quite unhistorical, finally, is the statement that Belshazzar was the son of Nebuchadrezzar, and that they were contemporaries.

The same mistake is made in Dan.v.2, 11, 13, 18, 22. Belshazzar was the son of Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon, and was never king himself. [In the "Nabonidus Chronicle" No. 2 he is always called Crown Prince.]

This dependence of our book on Daniel is important, for, since the date of Daniel is 166-165BC, it is obvious that the purported historical background of our book is merely a literary device adopted for the purpose of disguising the actual historical background.
[This is by no means the only instance of its dependence on Daniel (see § V); the idea that Daniel may have been dependent on Baruch will be seen by what is said in § IV to be out of the question.]

The reason for the disguise being to avoid offending the powers that be, while those for whom the book was written would have no difficulty in seeing through the disguise.
But further, throughout our book the purported background is, as we have seen, the destruction of Jerusalem and the leading away of the captives into exile.
Since our book is later than Daniel, its earliest possible date is the Maccabaean period.
This does not, however, help us much in fixing the date of our book, for the disguised historical background must offer parallels with some actual historical background, otherwise the whole proceeding is pointless.

There are three episodes, which have been pointed to as offering, in some sort, parallels to the events of 586BC.
The first is the occasion on which the Jews joined a Phoenician revolt, in 351BC, against their suzerain, Artaxerxes III Ochus.
They were severely punished by the Persian king, and many Jews were carried away captive to Hyrcania, on the shores of the Caspian sea.
But the episode is not a real parallel, since, while Jericho was burned, Jerusalem did not suffer.

The second is when Pompey captured Jerusalem in 63BC.
But this is still less a parallel, for neither was Jerusalem burned, nor was there any carrying away into captivity.

Far more likely is the third, namely, the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70, for on this occasion Jerusalem did suffer from conflagration, [Josephus, Bell., 230, 232-235.] and masses of Jews were carried captive in the train of Titus, while many thousands were sold as slaves in different parts of the world. [Ibid., vii.24.]

In this case Vespasian would be identified with Nebuchadrezzar, and his son Titus with Belshazzar.
With this as the actual historical background of our book, the date assigned to it would be some time soon after AD70.

But while this may apply to the book in its final form, there are strong reasons for believing that it cannot apply to all the individual parts of which the book is made up.

To this we must direct our attention next.


That our book is not a unity becomes evident as soon as the sections into which the book is divided (see § II) are examined and compared.
We have seen that, to begin with, a difference in literary structure divides the book into two parts, i.1-iii.8 (of which i.1-14 is introductory), being in prose, and iii.9-v.9 in poetry.
The latter, however, treats of two such different subjects in iii.9-iv.4 and iv.5-v.9, respectively, that they must be regarded as independent pieces.
There are, thus, three different, self-contained sections of which our book is made up; and we must now point to reasons that will show that all three are of different authorship.

The first thing that must strike us is the different point of view between the sections i.1-iii.8 and iii.9-iv.4.
In the former, which is largely a confession of sin, it is recognized that, in spite of divine mercies, Israel sinned against God, and that therefore all the evils which befel the nation in the past, as well as the present state of captivity, are the result of disobedience to God, and of refusing to walk in the way of His commandments.
Yet it is just through punishment that the people have been brought to repentance:

"For, for this cause thou hast put thy fear in our hearts, to the intent that we should call upon thy name; and we will praise thee in our captivity, for we have put away from our heart all the iniquity of our fathers that sinned before thee " (iii.7).

In the other piece (iii.9-iv.4) the question is asked why it is that Israel is suffering in exile, and the reason given is: "Thou hast forsaken the fountain of wisdom" (iii.12).
But by taking hold of wisdom happiness and prosperity become the lot of Israel.
And God in His mercy has granted divine wisdom to Israel. It is then declared that wisdom appeared upon earth, and was conversant with men (i.e. Israel); and it continues:

"This is the book of the commandments of God,
and the law that endureth for ever;
all they that hold it fast
(are appointed) to life;
but such as leave it shall die.
Turn thee, O Jacob, and take hold of it;
walk towards her shining in the presence of the light thereof
O Israel, happy are we,
for the things that are pleasing to God are made known unto us.
(iii.3 7-iv.4)

Two such utterly different points of view cannot possibly have come from the same mind.
In the former it is the mind of the prophet that is revealed, in the latter that of the Wisdom-writer.
And this receives strong emphasis when it is seen how in the former, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the book of Deuteronomy influence the writer.
The latter mainly by Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiasticus, though here and there he is indebted to Deutero-Isaiah.

Further, in comparing the first section (i.1-iii.8) with the third (iv.5-v.9) a striking contrast is again observable, though of a different nature.

In i.11-13 the people are bidden to pray for Nebuchadrezzar and Belshazzar

"that their days may be as the days of heaven above the earth;
and the Lord will give us strength and lighten our eyes
and we shall serve them many days, and find favour in their sight.

In ii.20 ff. also it is said: "Bow your shoulders to serve the king of Babylon..." in accordance with the word of the Lord as spoken by the prophets.
The rulers to whom Israel is subject are looked upon as benefactors, and Israel lives in peace under them.
But a very different picture is presented in the third section (iv.5-v.9),

where the rulers are represented as tyrannous and cruel, and whose destruction is foretold:

"My children, suffer patiently the wrath that is come upon you from God;
for thine enemy hath persecuted thee;
but shortly thou shalt see his destruction, and shalt tread upon their necks.
My delicate ones have gone rough ways;
they were taken away as a flock carried off by the enemies ...
Miserable are they that afflicted thee, and rejoiced at thy fall.
Miserable are the cities that thy children served;
miserable is she that received thy sons.
For as she rejoiced at thy fall, and was glad of thy ruin,
so shall she be grieved for her own desolation ...

[The Greek δείλαιοι means rather being in a state of terror.]

How could one and the same writer have presented two such entirely opposite attitudes?

We find, moreover, that the influence of Old Testament books as seen in the two sections, respectively, is different.
We have seen that in i.1-iii.8 pre-exilic prophetism is that which influenced the writer; in iv.5-v.9 it is the exilic prophet Deutero-Isaiah, to whom the writer is mainly indebted.

The conclusion may, therefore, be legitimately drawn that the three literary pieces of which our book is composed are of different authorship.
The question of their respective dates must be our next enquiry.


It has been pointed out above that the book in its final form as we now have it must be assigned to a date at any rate subsequent to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70.
But this does not necessarily apply to the three independent literary pieces of which the book is made up.
At the same time, whatever the date or dates of these latter, it is not unreasonable to assume that the final redactor may have added some words of his own here and there in each of them.

It must, however, be confessed that it is exceedingly difficult to come to definite conclusions regarding the dates of these different pieces, and, in any case, they can only be approximate and tentative.

As to the first section (i.1-iii.8), the disguised historical background portrayed in i.1-4 is, as we have seen, the critical period that culminated in AD70.
But this is meant to apply to the whole book, and must, in its present form, be assigned to the final redactor; though this is not to say that an earlier form of an introduction did not exist.

That the section as a whole is not earlier than the second half of the second century BC may be regarded as highly probable on account of its dependence on Daniel for its unhistorical statements referred to above, and also on account of the use made of Dan.ix.4-19. [Almost every verse in Bar.i.15-ii.29 is based on Dan.ix.4-19.]

This part of Daniel was interpolated, according to Charles, about the year 145BC. [A Critical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, pp.222, 226 f. (1929).]

To put it as late as the end of the first century AD may be thought improbable in view of the doctrine of immortality expressed in ii.17, 18:

"...For the dead that are in the grave,
whose breath is taken from their bodies,
will give unto the Lord neither glory nor righteousness.

By the end of the first century AD it may be urged, a more developed doctrine of immortality had become general among the Jews.
Nevertheless, it must be conceded that this date is, at the least, a possible one.
The undeveloped belief in immortality is not conclusive against this date as the New Testament contains sufficient indication that not all Jews shared the belief in the resurrection of the body in the first century AD.
While the great difference of tone and outlook in the different sections of our book makes it evident that they cannot have come from a single author, it is, nevertheless, quite possible that they were written, more or less, within the same period.
There is, moreover, much in this section that is particularly appropriate to the time soon after AD70.
The advice to be submissive to Babylon (Rome) was the known point of view of a school of thought among the Jews at this time.
The attitude of gloomy prostration that pervades the whole, and the references to the sufferings of the siege, and even to cannibalism, are understandable, as are the references to the scattered captives.
We suggest, therefore, that this section belongs to a time soon after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70.

The approximate date of the second piece (iii.9-iv.4) is suggested by the following considerations: Its indebtedness to Ecclus.xxiv would make it, at any rate, later than circa 180BC.
But it may, of course, be much later than this.
The doctrine of immortality in iii.10, I I ("... thou that art defiled with the dead, thou art counted with them that go down to the grave") would accord with this date, more or less.
So, too, the indication in iii.10 of Israelites having dwelt in the Dispersion for a considerable time:

"How happeneth it, O Israel,
that thou art in thine enemies' land,
that thou art waxen old in a strange country?

This might, it is true, refer to the time of widespread Roman dominion.
But it could equally apply to the time before this when Israelite communities existed in Babylonia, Egypt, and Asia Minor.
The former is however, more likely.
And the end of the first century AD would again be quite possible.

A date during the Maccabaean period is unlikely, as in this case some definite allusions to the conditions of that time would rightly be looked for.

The third section (iv. 5-v. 9) contains several allusions, which point to some time after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD.

In iv.8-10 we read:

"... ye grieved also Jerusalem that nursed you ...
for God hath brought upon me great mourning;
for I have seen the captivity of my sons and daughters.

The first part of this passage may well refer to the internecine strife among the Jewish parties during the siege of Jerusalem, and the second part to the immense numbers of Jews who were sold into slavery (see above ? III).

In iv.15, 16 it seems certain that Rome is alluded to:

"For he hath brought a nation upon them from far,
a shameless nation, and of a strange language,
they neither reverenced old man, nor pitied child.
And they have carried away the dear beloved sons of the widow,
and left her that was alone desolate of her daughters

Rome must also be meant in iv.31-35, quoted above, where calamity and destruction, it is declared, shall be her lot.
On the other hand, the repeated phrase, "Be of good cheer," and the words of encouragement in v.1 ff. show that some time must have elapsed since the catastrophe occurred, and that new hope had arisen.
This is in accord with what we know of the history of the time, for Hegesippus records that during the reigns of Vespasian, Domitian, and Trajan, hopes of the advent of the Messianic king were entertained.
In v.1-9 the Messianic kingdom is quite obviously heralded.

When it was that these three pieces were joined together, and our book received its present form, it is not possible to say.


While, according to the opinions of many, though not all, of the older critics, Greek was the original language of our book, later scholars are convinced that part of it, at least, was written in Hebrew.
[In the Syro-Hexaplar the note "this is not in the Hebrew" occurs three times (Schurer, op. cit.) iii.464).]

Most authorities are agreed that the first section (i.1-iii.8 in its original form) was originally in Hebrew.
Others hold that this applies also to the second piece (iii.9-iv.4), but that the last one (iv.5-v.9) was Greek.
Whitehouse makes out a strong case for this, based largely on the close parallels between the Greek of the Psalms of Solomon xi and Bar.iv.36-v.9.[In Charles, op. cit., i.572 ff.; though Charles, in an editorial note, disagrees.)
contention that the two last sections presents a Greek too elegant to be a translation, [Einleitung in das Alte Testament, p. 273 (1896).] is answered by Rothstein to the effect that this shows the skill of the translator, but does not militate against the two pieces being translations.
He has his doubts, moreover, as to the Greek being really so elegant. [In Kautzsch, op. cit., i. 215.]

The strongest advocate for a Hebrew original of all three pieces is Kneucker, [Das Buch Baruch (1879).]and his retranslation of them into Hebrew gives great weight to his opinion, in which he has many followers.
If, as Thackeray's investigations seem to prove [Op. cit., pp. 91 ff.] the book in its final form - or part of it previously - was used for liturgical purposes, then it must have been in Hebrew; that its place of origin was Palestine is generally acknowledged.

There are, thus, differences of opinion on this subject.
We believe, however, that, upon the whole, the balance of probability favours a Hebrew original for the whole book.
That nothing of the book has survived in a Hebrew form need not cause surprise.
Changes in the Liturgy that have taken place from time to time would fully account for its disappearance.

With the case of Ecclesiasticus before us there is always the possibility that fragments may yet come to light.


Our book is contained in the uncials B, A, Q, V and in a number of cursives; it does not appear in Cod. Sinaiticus, nor in Cod. C.

The Syriac Version exists in two forms: the Peshitta and the Syro-Hexaplar. [See Whitehouse's valuable notes on this, op. cit., i.577 ff.]
The former "was based on the Hebrew original as well as on the Septuagint Version," [Whitehouse, op. cit., i.578.]so far as the first two pieces are concerned, but not so with regard to the third, which, according to Whitehouse, is based on the Greek original.

The Latin Version also exists in two forms.
Both are translations of the Greek, which is also the case with the other Versions, Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, and Arabic.


Fritzsche, op. cit., i.167 ff. (1851).
Reusch, Erklarung des Buches Baruch (1853).
Kneucker, Das Buch Baruch, Geschichte und Kritik, Uebersetzung und Erklarung (1879).
Herbst, Das apokryphische Buch Baruch aus dem Griechischen im Hebraische ubertragen (1886).
Gratz, "Abfassungszeit und Bedeutung des Buches Baruch," in Monatsschrift fur Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judenthums, iii.5 ff.
Gifford, in Wace, op. cit., ii. (1888).
Knabenbauer, Commentarius in Danielem prophetam, Lamentationes, et Baruch (1905).
Rothstein, in Kautzsch, Q. Cit., i.213 ff.
Andre, Op. Cit., pp.245 ff.
Schneedorfer, Das Buch Jeremias, des Propheten Klagelieder, und das Buch Baruch erklart (1903).
Whitehouse, in Charles, op. cit., i.569 ff. (1913).
Harwell, The Principal Versions of Baruch (1915).
Thackeray, The Septuagint and Jewish Worship, Lecture III (1921).