Showing posts with label Biblical Interpretation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Biblical Interpretation. Show all posts

Friday, April 3, 2020

Matthew's Final Narrative (Matthew 26-28): Part One







The final section of Matthew’s Gospel begins at 26:1 and ends at 28:20. In 26:1 we are told for the fifth and final time that Jesus “finished all these sayings”, which is a literary marker indicating to the reader that we are about to begin another narrative section. I have shown elsewhere how Matthew has structured his entire Gospel, punctuated with five discourses by Jesus that are sandwiched between a variety of historical narratives. Below is what the structure of this final narrative structure looks like from a birds-eye view:


A)  26:1—35  (Preparation for Death & Burial)

B)  26:36—56  (Jesus on Trial)

C)  26:57—75  (Derision & appointment of King Jesus)

B’)  27:1—37  (Jesus on Trial)

C’)  27:38—56  (Installation & Derision of King Jesus)

A’)  27:57—28:20  (Preparation for Burial & Resurrection)




Below is a breakdown of each section with its shared concepts, words, phrases, and themes. As each section is combed through carefully, be sure to remember the literary parallels between each matching section (A & A’, B & B’, C & C’). They will become important for part two of this post (among future posts in this series) where I will break down this larger governing literary structure into smaller pericopes and comment upon each section’s unity:



A)  26:1—35
> Assembly of Chief Priests: They plot together (26:3)
> Judas receives bribe money (26:14-16)
> Jesus speaks to disciples: My sheep will be scattered (26:31)
> The “Twelve” disciples are mentioned, among whom Judas is one (26:14)
> The first day of the feast is mentioned (26:17)
> “When evening had come” is mentioned (26:20)
> Jesus is to drink καινός (“new”) fruit of the vine (26:29)
> Jesus will “go before” his disciples “to Galilee”: προάξω ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν  (26:32)
> Jesus’ body is prepared for burial (26:6-13)


A’)  27:57—28:20
> Assembly of Chief Priests: They plot together (27:11-15)
> Guards receive bribe money (27:12)
> Jesus speaks to disciples: Go and make disciples of all nations (28:18-20)
> The “Eleven” disciples are mentioned, without Judas being numbered among them (28:16)
> The first day of the week (after the Sabbath feast) is mentioned (28:1)
> “When evening had come” is mentioned again (27:57)
> Jesus is laid in a καινός (“new”) tomb (27:60)
> Jesus is “going ahead of” his disciples “into Galilee”: προάγει ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν (28:7)
> Jesus’ body is prepared for burial (27:59-61)



B)  26:36—56
Jesus goes into a place called (ἔρχεται … εἰς χωρίον λεγόμενον) Gethsemane: meaning ‘oil press’ (26:36)
> Jesus is seized by guards & Judas betrays Jesus


B’) 27:1—37
Jesus goes into a place called (ἐλθόντες εἰς τόπον λεγόμενον) Golgotha: meaning “a skull”  (27:33)
> Jesus is delivered to Pilate the Governor & is not betrayed by Pilate



C)  26:57—75
> “Scribes” are mentioned along with the Chief Priests and Elders  (26:57)
> Jesus is accused of speaking βλασφημέω (“blasphemy”) by High Priest  (26:65)
> Peter “follows” Jesus “from a distance” to the Courtyard of the Sanhedrin:  ἠκολούθει αὐτῷ ἀπὸ μακρόθεν  (26:58)
> Jesus is accused of saying, “I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days”  (26:61)


C’)  27:38—56
> “Scribes” are mentioned along with the Chief Priests and Elders  (27:41)
> Jesus has βλασφημέω (“insults”) spoken to him by those who pass by  (27:39)
> Many women “followed” Jesus from Galilee and gathered together, observing his crucifixion “from a distance”: ἀπὸ μακρόθεν θεωροῦσαι, αἵτινες ἠκολούθησαν  (27:55)
> Those who passed by Jesus were saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, if you are the Son of God…”  (27:40)










Sunday, February 16, 2020

Ponderings of 4 Ezra (part one?)





In the apocalyptic message of 4 Ezra 7:26-36, an angelic messenger of YHWH tells Ezra the scribe that there will come a future day when Israel’s Messiah will manifest himself to Israel for the first time and bring final judgment upon Israel. Michael E. Stone’s translation1 reads:

For behold, the time will come, when the signs which I have foretold to you will come, that the city which now is not seen shall appear, and the land which now is hidden shall be disclosed. 

And everyone who has been delivered from the evils that I have foretold shall see my wonders. 
For my Messiah shall be revealed with those who are with him, and he shall make rejoice those who remain for four hundred2 years. 
And after these years my son the Messiah shall die, and all who draw human breath.
And the world shall be turned back to primeval silence for seven days, as it was at the first beginnings; so that no one shall be left.
And after seven days the world, which is not yet awake, shall be roused, and that which is corruptible shall perish. 
And the earth shall give back those who are asleep in it, and the dust those who rest in it; and the treasuries shall give up the souls which have been committed to them. 
And the Most High shall be revealed upon the seat of judgment, and compassion shall pass away, mercy shall be made distant, and patience shall be withdrawn; but only judgment shall remain, truth shall stand, and faithfulness shall grow strong. And recompense shall follow, and the reward shall be manifested; righteous deeds shall awake, and unrighteous deeds shall not sleep. 
Then the pit of torment shall appear, and opposite it shall be the place of rest; and the furnace of Gehenna shall be disclosed, and opposite it the paradise of delight. 
Modern scholars like Michael Stone typically assign 4 Ezra to a late first century composition or redaction. That means it's another example of vaticinium ex eventu. My purpose in sharing this is plain and simple: It illustrates a clear expectation of first century fulfillment, and in doing so it illustrates that the late first century author/redactor thought of such events as already being fulfilled in the first century. Below is a summary of the text above. 

The author begins with a statement about signs of events that "will come." That, in and of itself, indicates that by the time the audience is reading this work of vaticinium ex eventu, they could safely conclude that such signs had already come to pass as promised.

The author continues:

>The city (of God) which now is not seen (because of Babylonian captivity) is promised to finally appear (Rev 21: 1-2)
>Evils have been foretold, and those of Israel who live through such evils will see God's wonders
>The Messiah of God shall be revealed to that generation of survivors
>Those who remain with God's Messiah will rejoice
>After those years, God's Messiah (and son) will die alongside mortal human beings
>For seven days the cosmos will turn back to primeval silence, as in the Genesis one creation narrative
>After that type of new creation silence, those who had died in the cosmos will awake from their sleep, and shall face judgment
>Treasuries of souls shall rise up to face God, where the Most High God (the Messiah of God) will be revealed upon God's seat of judgment
>The final judgment of God will ensue; rewards and punishments will finally be delivered.

When will that dreaded "day of judgment" be? The answer is obvious in context (i.e. within that generation of the Messiah's death), but just to be doubly-clear, Ezra asks at the end of the same chapter, and receives this answer: 

...the day of judgment will be the end of this age, and the beginning of the immortal age to come, in which corruption has passed away...3

Some ambiguity still remains. Does the reference to "this age" refer to Ezra's  immediate generation, or to the age of exile in which the vision takes place, or to the age in which the Messiah was promised to come? The text doesn't explicitly say, but I think it's safe to consider that the only option that doesn't make sense is if it referred to Ezra's immediate generation. 

With all of this in mind, here are some thoughts I had while studying passages like these: 

1) Why do modern scholars and Christians think that such passages are describing a resurrection and "final judgment" in our future? 

2)  Assume this prophecy is "real" (whatever that means to you): Why would Ezra the scribe reveal future cataclysmic events that would certainly take place in a single generation of the Messiah, and yet actually mean those events would take place thousands of years afterward, at some alleged "end of time," as Christians today presume?

3)  Assume this prophecy is not "real," but was (as scholars insist) composed in line with a scribal tradition of thought about "the end" of the world, shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70: Why would a scribe write about such topics as the resurrection of departed souls and the final judgment of the dead as coinciding with the generation of the Messiah? 



I have been studying the literature of second temple Judaism for a very long time, and although I am by no means a certified expert in the field, I have enough experience to know that these kinds of questions in our generation are not entertained and are not popular. Indeed, the last hundred years of Christian scholarship has either bypassed serious consideration of first century fulfillment  altogether or has deflected attention of the resurrection and final judgment away from the first century and punted that topic into our future, to be fulfilled thousands of years after such literature was written!

I think all of that is a shame. That is why, in a future post (or series of posts) I will be writing about many scholars (mostly German) who worked on the "apocalyptic" texts of the New Testament (especially the Olivet Discourse) and yet bypassed or deflected their first century fulfillment as I described a moment ago. Most Christians over the last hundred years read New Testament statements about resurrection and "final judgment" and assume that they must have been describing events in our future, thousands of years after the historical context in which they were written. So here I am, pointing out the obvious: why assume that? 

I have shown very clearly, and in numerous places (here, here, here, and here), that such is not what the New Testament describes at all. Moreover, if Christians are to treat the New Covenant witness of Old Covenant fulfillment seriously, the popular "already-but-not-yet" paradigm doesn't end up holding water. That paradigm fails miserably in light of linguistic and typological consistency. What doesn't fail at all is complete first century fulfillment. The problem with believing that is that such concepts appear to be too radical, and people are so damn lazy in the way they research claims that alarms of "heterodoxy" and "heresy" immediately start sounding off in people's minds once they take a cursory glance at it's content, and quickly the noise becomes too much of a sensory overload for them to seriously entertain. They soon go back to normal life, believing whatever they are told, and studying those resources that justify their prejudices. 

That is why I have begun this series. I don't personally think that the creedal Christian traditions about "resurrection" and "final judgment" actually conflict with complete first century fulfillment of "biblical" prophecy. I also don't think that creedal Christian traditions are as monolithic and unanimous in their interpretations as tribalists today (whether Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant) imagine them to be. I'm also highly suspicious of confessional protestants who insist on adhering to "orthodox" creeds, as though somehow they're retrieving, prescribing, and maintaining a "catholic" tradition that's essential to Christian faith, without having to subscribe to the canons of that very same tradition out of which such creeds emanate. (All such debates seem to be a complete waste of everybody's time; but I digress.)

The topic at hand is about the complete prophetic fulfillment of "biblical" promises. The resurrection of the dead and final judgment upon mankind is sensitive to discuss. But it needs to be discussed if the "New Testament" Scriptures are to be taken seriously as being historically reliable and rhetorically credible.










1. Michael E. Stone & Matthias Henze, 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch: Translations, Introductions, and Notes (2013). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, pp. 42-3

2. It is worth noting that although all of the textual witnesses to 4 Ezra seem to derive from a presumed Hebrew original source (or sources), among the secondary textual witnesses which are in Arabic and Armenian, one Arabic text tradition says “a thousand” instead of “four hundred." That echoes the language of Revelation 20:1-6, in which we find the “first resurrection” of old covenant saints raised up to the heavens with Christ, at his resurrection after death, to reign with him for a thousand years. In John’s apocalypse, the reference to “a thousand years” is likely symbolic for an aion, an age or generation of God’s people, who are idealized like the first generation of mankind, who lived roughly a thousand years from the time of Adam to the time of God’s first judgment upon the world, in the flood. It is also worth noting that in one of the primary textual witnesses in Syriac, the textual variant says “thirty” instead of “four hundred. That clearly implies a tradition of a thirty year life-span for Jesus’ earthly ministry before his death, as described here in this text. Oddly, the most reliable textual witnesses of this passage say “four hundred,” yet that statement only makes sense if the Canonical account of Ezra the scribe is taken seriously, which places this historical figure around 470 BC, almost one hundred years after this apocalypse is alleged to have revealed (i.e. around 550 BC; cf. 4 Ezra 3:1). In my estimation, the Syriac witnesses of this passage are the clearest in design among scribal redaction, which, if correct, implies that the Syriac is either closest to the original Hebrew tradition by correcting an erroneous reading of “four hundred,” or it is original and the “four hundred” is a later scribal emendation of “thirty.”

3. 4 Ezra: 7:113









Sunday, January 26, 2020

Trialogus








Alithia.  Why does that sound crazy?

Phronesis.  What sounds crazy is believing in billions and millions of years of ancestral existence, or, roughly, only six thousand years of existence before the historical figure of Jesus arrived on the shoreline of Galilee, prior to which everything banged bigly into existence by some Trinitarian voice.

Pseustis.  I'm not sure what you mean.

Phronesis.  Here's an idea, a picture that's worth a thousand words. (It's a big picture, so brace yourself.). Everything we need to know about history past cannot be contained in a singular book, cannot be traced between biological father to biological father through all genealogies of all history past. That's also not the point of the "Biblical" genealogies. Also, origins cannot be explained by Darwinian evolutionary theories of millions or billions of years. We actually know very little about history long ago because history books and historical standards are mythological. Even contemporary history is thoroughly mythologized. There is so much guesswork and entertainment built into the reports and standards utilized around the clock that they are surely only right twice a day. The "Science" of history isn't as scientific as we are catechized to trust. The certainty is not as epistemologically sure as it is subjectively confident and manipulative. The story of mankind's genesis need not be knowable according to contemporary priests of culture who pontificate back and forth between science and the Adam/Eve narratives.

Pseustis.  Don't you believe in Adam and Eve?

Alithia.  You know that's a loaded question, right? Why would you ask that, as if a simple and concise answer would satisfy your concerns. Can you please ask a more helpful question?

Pseustis.  It is a simple question. Do you believe Adam and Eve were real?

Phronesis.  I believe Jesus was real.

Alithia.  How is that helpful, or relevant?

Phronesis.  I find it difficult to imagine what you mean by Adam and Eve being "real", like Jesus was real. I mean "real" like historical people, exactly as the "Bible" narrates it. I believe human life began with God's creation of one man and one woman, yes. Does that satisfy your concern?

Pseustis.  Did they live in a garden?

Phronesis.  That's like asking me, based on the oldest record of that narrative being preserved in paleo-Hebrew script (which is not true, by the way), if I believe Adam and Eve spoke Hebrew.  I realize that the Old Testament is contained in Hebrew manuscripts, but I do not personally believe that the first human beings spoke Hebrew (although I suppose it's possible). They could have also, theoretically, spoken English.

Pseustis.  So you don't believe the Bible is true?

Phronesis.  That escalated quickly.

Pseustis.  What do you mean?

Phronesis.  I mean, I thought I was very clear. I guess I was not. That's probably entirely my fault. It might be best to just speak translucently from now on.

Pseustis.  Huh?

Alithia.  Yes, what did you mean by that?

Phronesis.  That was partly a joke.

Alithia.  Ahhh...

Phronesis.  Could you please ask that last question again?

Pseustis.  Sure. Do you or do you not believe the Bible is true?

Phronesis.  Yes, absolutely, without any doubt, I believe the Bible is true.

Pseustis.  Now I'm confused.

Phronesis.  Philosophy, in general, is confusing; but that doesn't excuse me completely. I'm not trying to confuse; I'm trying to speak precisely, knowing that you can't read my mind and I can't read yours, and yet we each carry a lot of unspoken assumptions and pre-commitments of what we believe and why we believe them. I'm just trying to remain faithful to God with what I know and what I don't know, and to communicate to you the best of what I know in spite of all the frustrations that occur because of what is unspoken or misunderstood. I'm attempting to be precise for the sake of clarity.

Pseustis.  Now you're really confusing me.

Phronesis.  I believe you.

Pseustis.  And I don't even know how to believe what you're saying. It sounds illogical.

Alithia.  What do you think he's saying?

Pseustis.  You're saying that you believe the Bible is completely, infallibly, unerringly true, and plenarily-verbally inspired of God, and that the Biblical history of Adam and Even and the Garden and Creation-account is untrue, untrustworthy, and useless -- just like Darwinian evolution.

Phronesis.  No, I'm not saying that.

Pseustis.  Yes, you did say that; and you denied the pre-incarnate existence of Christ.

Phronesis.  No, I didn't.

Pseustis.  Yes, you did say that.; and you're crazy for thinking that anything you're saying makes any sense at all.

Alithia.  Why does that sound crazy?


















Sunday, January 12, 2020

The cause of their condemnation: That firmly rooted Tree of life








As I noted in a previous series of posts, most scholars nowadays presume that the clear eschatological promises and expectations woven throughout the New Testament "Scriptures" have not yet been fulfilled, even though they also clearly read as though they were meant to be interpreted as to-be-fulfilled in that first century generation. In this post I want to continue that sporadic series I started late last year. 

For those who follow this blog, it should already be abundantly clear that I have thought about this academically hot topic in lengthy detail for over a decade (see here and here and here and here and here and here), so this isn't some kind of stream-of-consciousness eisegesis or exegesis on my part. I have researched this topic extensively, and I have reached a point in life when I am willing to share how I feel about it all. I am seriously bothered by both the hubris of many contemporary biblical scholars and the apathetic torpor of brilliant academicians who specialize in the field of Second-Temple Judaism and early Christianity. Even though most of them admit that the New Testament corpus of literature clearly refers to first century cataclysmic events about "the end of the world" in direct relation to first century historical events surrounding the Roman/Jewish wars, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the fall of Herod's Temple in AD 70 (the axis mundi of first century Rabbinic Judaism), they all nevertheless invent farcically esoteric theories and inane paradigms for interpreting first century Judean eschatological language to justify their presumption that such "prophecy" and historical allusions to first century events were not really divinely revelatory prior to the events they describe, and also did not actually become fulfilled in the first century. All "prophecy" supposedly must be recorded to look like they're referring to past events. But it wasn't all true prophecy anyway, because we know that the end of the world has not literally occurred yet, according to Gospel prophecy. At best, the parousia of Christ has been delayed thousands of years, and no one knows the day nor the hour. 

I have hundreds of pages of notes among scholarly publications that I own, highlighting such professional opinions. After all these years of trying to become convinced along with them, I now think that such presumptions are based entirely upon official yet questionable dogmas that developed organically through various politically and ecclesiologically philosophical concerns which arose centuries after the Second-Temple early Christian period. Only those scholars who are not beholden to questionable tribalistic dogmas are brave enough to challenge the status quo, reading the texts with literary, historical, and rhetorical integrity.

Although today's post is only topically related to the subject of New Testament eschatological fulfillment in the first century, I consider this post to be a unique and important shift in perspective. I have never commented publicly at length about Christian "scriptures" that are clearly pseudepigraphic and vaticinium ex eventu. In the past I have insisted that the New Testament Scriptures are historically reliable and rhetorically coherent, or else they are false and unreliable witnesses to first century expectations and events. In this post, I'm not going to stop insisting as much. Instead, I will be upping the ante to such positions. Despite the many and disjointed scholarly conjectures about New Testament eschatological promises being unfulfilled and delayed, even delayed beyond our own future (in the present time), I will be insisting in future posts that a huge amount of writings outside of the New Testament literary corpus actually bear witness to the New Testament eschatological expectations, and thereby testify literarily to first century historical events being their actual fulfillment. I will be upping the ante today by using pseudepigraphic, ex eventu "scriptures" to illustrate that first century fulfillment was the primary reason for composing such "scriptures."

In this post, I want to show how one, small, and highly relevant piece of pseudepigraphic Jewish-Christian literature that has clearly been written after the events of AD 70 (and thereby vaticinium ex eventu by design), can be an extremely valuable and helpful specimen for understanding and appreciating the New Testament eschatological message of first century fulfillment. The specimen of which I am speaking is known as 4 Baruch (the Paraleipomena Jeremiou, also known in the Ethiopic tradition as "The rest of the words of Baruch," the scribe of Israel's prophet, Jeremiah).

Below is an excerpt taken from Dale C. Allison's translation of 4 Baruch 9:7-21.
...After saying these things, and while standing in the area of the altar with Baruch and Abimelech, he became like one of those handing over his soul. And Baruch and Abimelech remained weeping and crying with a great voice, "Woe to us because our father Jeremiah, the priest of God, has left us and gone away." All the people heard their weeping, and they all ran to them, and they saw Jeremiah lying on the ground as though dead. And they tore their garments and put dust on their heads and wept most bitterly. And after these things, they prepared themselves to bury him. And behold! a voice came, saying "Do not bury one who yet lives, because his soul is returning to his body again." And when they heard the voice, they did not bury him, but for three days they remained in a circle around his body, talking (with each other) and being perplexed as to what time he was going to stand up. After three days, his soul re-entered his body, and he raised his voice in the midst of all and said, 
"Glorify God with one voice, all (of you) glorify God and the Son of God who awakens us, Jesus Christ the light of all the ages, the unquenchable light, the life of faith. And it will happen after these times that there will be another 477 years, and he will come to earth.1 And the tree of life, which is planted in the middle of paradise, will make all the unfruitful trees bear fruit, and grow, and send forth shoots. And it will make the trees that had (sprouted) and grown great and said, 'We have sent our top to the sky,' together with their high branches, to shrivel up; and that firmly rooted tree will cause them to be condemned. And it will make that which is scarlet to become white as wool. The snow will be turned black, the sweet waters will become salty, and the salty will become sweet in the great light of the joy of God. And he will bless the islands so that they produce fruit by the word from the mouth of his Christ. For he will come, and he will go out, and he will choose for himself twelve apostles, so that they might preach the good news among the nations. He whom I have seen has been adorned by his Father, and he is coming into the world upon the Mount of Olives; and he will fill the hungry souls." 
While Jeremiah was saying these things concerning the Son of God, that he is coming into the world, the people became furious and said, "These are once again the words spoken by Isaiah the son of Amos when he said, 'I saw God and the Son of God.' Come then, and let us not kill him by the death (with which we killed) that one, but let us stone him with stones."....2




In this story, the prophet Jeremiah is miraculously revived for the purpose of sharing an eschatological vision of Jesus Christ coming hundreds of years later, to the land of Israel. At that special eschatological time, "the tree of life" which is planted in the protological Garden of Eden --the "middle of paradise"-- will bring about miraculous change among the nations surrounding Israel: unfruitful trees will bear fruit and send out shoots for future Garden expansion. The apostate leadership of Israel, described throughout the literature of Second-Temple Judaism and early Christianity, are the trees who would be judged by God severely, for they would sprout and grow greatly, boasting like one who ascends to heaven, up to the plane of ruling stars. The surrounding trees of Israel would become shriveled up and condemned by "that firmly rooted tree" of life in the midst of Paradise. 

At that time, that Tree in paradise will also reverse the fortunes of the surrounding trees of Israel's land in order to expand the Garden's fruitfulness. A tiny portion of this fortune-reversal pericope is structured chiastically, for poetic emphasis: 

A) that which is scarlet will become white as wool  (i.e. the "unclean" will become "clean")
  B) the snow will be turned black  (i.e. the "clean" will become "unclean")
  B') the sweet waters will become salty  (i.e. the "fresh" will become "repugnant")
A') the salty will become sweet  (i.e. the "repugnant" will become "fresh")


Finally and wondrously, all of this would take place "in the great light of the joy of God." That Son of God, "Jesus Christ," whom Jeremiah had seen while lying on the ground in virtual death for three days, would come into the world upon the Mount of Olives, and fill the hungry souls. As Dale C. Allison, Jr. has highlighted:
A reader of the NT may think of stories in which Jesus is on the Mount of Olives... One might also recall the many texts in which the risen Jesus discourses on the Mount of Olives. It is more likely, however, that the second coming is in view. 4 Baruch takes up the language of Zech 14:4-5, an eschatological text which Jewish readers often connected with the resurrection of the dead and which some early Christian texts associated with the parousia. If so, 4 Baruch likely assumes, in line with a host of other ancient sources, that Jerusalem, the axis mundi, will be the center of the end-time events.3


Notice carefully that Allison presumes that Jesus' discourses on the Mount of Olives can be separated conceptually from the "second coming," the "parousia," and "the resurrection of the dead." According to Allison, the author of 4 Baruch imagines along with "a host of other ancient sources" that Jerusalem was the center of the end-time events, but Allison's own personal eschatological convictions about the parousia and the resurrection of the dead preclude the possibility of the "end times" actually being fulfilled in the destruction of first century Jerusalem. But why must we assume this, too? 

Here's an honest question of mine: Why not consider all of those events taking place in that first century generation, as Jesus said it would


Allison associates all of those things with a "second coming," a phrase that isn't even mentioned in the New Testament! The closest remark to a "second" coming of the Lord Jesus is found in Hebrews 9:28, which, in its very close context alongside verses 24-27 (compare with Heb. 9:8-9), clearly refers to Christ's appearance at the end of the ages, in that generation. The author of Hebrews is the one who defines the terms for us, and sets the time-frame in which the end of the ages takes place. He says that Christ "appeared" once "at the end of the ages" to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. It is in that immediate context that he also mentions that Jesus would "appear a second time" (which, if you were a recipient of this authentic letter among a first century audience, such an "appearance" would obviously be in that generation because the first "appearance" was at the end of the ages, not the beginning of the ages). That second appearance would not be to put away sin (which, in context, means to suffer repeatedly, to sacrifice himself again, etc.), but instead to save all those who eagerly waited for him. Such an eager expectation happens to comport very well with preterist hermeneutic, because most (!!) eschatological expectations of Second-Temple Judaism hoped for ancestors to be raised from the dead-ones in Hades/Sheol at the coming of Israel's Messiah. 

Let's now rewind a bit, and get our focus back onto 4 Baruch

Let's not forget that 4 Baruch is clearly vaticinium ex eventu and pseudepigraphic. Baruch, the servant of Jeremiah, did not prophesy about Jesus Christ by name, or his disciples by number. We should now be asking why anyone after the fulfillment of such extraordinary first century events would write as though they actually were old testament prophets of Israel, foreseeing motifs of eschatological renewal and resurrection hundreds of years in advance.

Let's now ask an obvious question: Why would an author (or redactor) of "scriptural" history such as 4 Baruch compose such a story?

Isn't it obvious that 4 Baruch was designed to persuade readers after the events of AD 70 that they had already been clearly fulfilled in that generation of Jesus and his apostles, within the first century

For most Christians this is a large pill to swallow because it appears heterodox. I'm not bothered by such suspicions. I think there are numerous ways in which to fit such paradigms into orthodoxy; but sorting that out is not a concern of mine at the moment. For now, I'm just thinking out loud about what I have studied and how I think it can be interpreted; and I think there are only two ways to interpret 4 Baruch 9:7-21. Either the New Testament promises and expectations of imminent eschatological fulfillment were historically reliable and rhetorically coherent, or else they were false and unreliable witnesses to first century expectations and events. 4 Baruch was composed long after such first century fulfillment, to tell a story about the destruction of Jerusalem in Jeremiah's day. That story concludes with Jeremiah being martyred like Jesus Christ for telling Israel about a vision he had while lying as a dead man for three days. That vision was about the trees of Israel (i.e. the leaders) being condemned by God's chief and chosen tree, the Tree of life. That vision promised the definitive beginning of God's proctological Garden-expansion project finally getting underway; but that necessitated purging all the rotten trees around the Tree of life, in order to spread seeds of life upon the surrounding nations. At that time, the unclean would become clean, and the fresh waters of Israel would become repugnant. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would come into the world upon the Mount of Olives and fill hungry souls. All of that, notably, referred to the appearing of Christ a second time in that generation, at the end of the ages, to save all those who eagerly waited for him. It alluded to the "end time events" of Zechariah 14, an eschatological text which ancient Jewish literature and iconography connected with the resurrection of the dead-ones from Sheol/Hades who had been awaiting eternal life with their promised Messiah's exaltation to the right hand of his Heavenly Father.

With all of this in mind, I still contend that if Christians continue to presume that the clear eschatological promises and expectations woven throughout the New Testament Scriptures have not yet been fulfilled, even though they also clearly read as though they were meant to be interpreted that way, the integrity of New Testament scriptures as historically reliable and rhetorically credible witnesses to Jesus Christ will never be taken seriously by the surrounding world.

4 Baruch is not an exception to that rule either. 4 Baruch 9:7-21 was meant to be interpreted as to-be-fulfilled in that first century generation in which Jesus, Israel's Messiah, had lived and died, was raised from the dead-ones, and was vindicated in the promised destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, like YHWH's word was vindicated in his prophet Jeremiah's life and message about the destruction of Jerusalem and Israel's first temple (Jer. 52:12-16; cf. 2 Kings 25:8-12; 2 Chron. 36:17-21; Psa. 137). 














1.  The Greek manuscripts actually read ες τν γν, "into the land." The translation of γν as "earth" is often misleading because it is easily interpreted anachronistically. Ancient eastern cultures thought in terms of territories, tribes, and land.
2. Dale C. Allison, Jr., 4 Baruch [Commentaries on Early Jewish Literature], (Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter GmbH, 2019), pp. 393-4
3. Ibid. p. 443