Showing posts with label Eschatology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eschatology. Show all posts

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Chiasmic Supplications





Last week a friend of mine, who converted from Christianity (Lutheran) to Islam, asked me directly if I pray to Mary. I looked him straight in the eye and said "Yes, absolutely." He looked shocked by the content of my answer, yet somewhat refreshed by my clear and concise confidence in the appropriateness of such supplications.  He knew that my answer to his question was sincere and thoughtful. I didn't mince words. But I also was not interested in explaining what I meant by what I said, any more than he was interested in explaining what he meant by what he asked. He asked a simple question and I offered a simple answer. 

Praying to Mary means a lot of things to lots of different people. To me, it means something very specific, and very practical, because I believe Mary has been raised from death to eternal life, bodily. Mary may be an idol to one person, a imaginary goddess to another, or a celestial vending machine of favors to someone else. But she is not any of those to me. Moreover, I do not obsess over her willingness or ability to intercede for me. Nevertheless, awareness of her intercessions has become profoundly sensible to me. 

Her existence as both fully alive and fully human this very moment, I am persuaded that her eternal share in the Divine Life with our risen Lord changes everything. Being one whose continuous free will and faithful fiat provided for the definitive salvation of mankind, to be raised up to God for eternity, to rule and reign and intercede with God, it is not difficult to wonder at the great change God has brought to the world through her intercessions. (I also consider the many great Christians whom I know have been raised with Christ; but those are not the point of this post, so I will only focus on Mary for now.) Those who do not meditate on the reality of Mary, her virgin birth, her motherhood of one who now remains both fully human and God for eternity, her death, resurrection, and ascension, often do not appreciate prayers to Mary. Many cannot even imagine what prayer to Mary could or should look like, any more than they can imagine what death, resurrection, and ascension to eternal life really looks like right now. There are far too many cartoonish, futuristic, eschatological imaginations of intermediate existence interfering with interpretations of Holy Scriptures and their surrounding histories.

In this post, I want to sample one illustration from the life and liturgy of the Byzantine Church, to challenge contemporary cartoonish fears about prayers to the saints who are ruling and reigning with God. Below is a poem of Theodore the Studite, translated by Maximos Constas, and found in Mother of the Light: Prayers to the Theotokos. In this translation, three things are worthy of notice:

1) There are three people with free will who are invested in this sinner's prayer, and those who are raised with Christ have also become aids to those who are not yet raised, and are still working out their salvation with fear and trembling.

2) The pattern of prayer is one of ascent and return: the child of God petitions Mary, who in turn Petitions her Son, Who in turn advises and delegates to his mother, who in turn advises and directs the child of God. The pattern of each ode is also laid out as a chiasm: A, B, B', A' 

3) The salvation of the sinner depends upon the participation of the Theotokos in the life of God. Without Jesus's ascension to the right hand of the Father, Mary can do nothing. Jesus could theoretically do all without Mary, but He chooses not to, because he has raised up his mother to his side, to rule and reign with him among the Divine Council.2 The sinner could go directly to Jesus, and even should go directly to Jesus. But the mortal sinner of this poem is also free to express his faith in a Savior who has been raised up from the dead-ones in Hades, and has also raised up fallen Adam all the righteous saints with him, who were formerly held captive in Hades. He is therefore free to petition the risen, glorified saints --like Mary-- to intercede with Jesus that He grant this sinner great mercy. This is what I imagine occurs when supplications and petitions of the like (for mercy, forgiveness, favor, etc.) are offered to God and received through the intercessions of those whom He has already raised from the dead. 

Below is a poem expressing the possibilities surrounding such truths. My purpose in sharing this is simple: I hope this helps others recognize that prayer to (or with) Mary, the "God-Birther" (i.e. Theotokos), are not how Protestants imagine them to be. Protestants still might not be comfortable with this, but I am still confident that not many of them imagine prayer to (or with) Mary to be like the poem below. 





First Ode

O Container of the Uncontainable, entreat Christ to deliver me from the dreaded fire devoid of light, and show me forth as a sharer of His kingdom. 

Receive my entreaty, O Son and Word, and deliver from punishment your servant, who is crying out to me from the depth of his soul, and make him worthy of your kingdom. 

You, Mother, know that I am a font of mercies, for even at this very moment I am showing mercy to sinners who transgress my commandments. But this man severely provokes me by his shameful and evil deeds. 

By many disgraceful and shameful misdeeds you have provoked my Son. Thus, being greatly vexed by you, His compassion has been turned to wrath. 


Third Ode1

Truly I have squandered my whole life in evil deeds, and therefore I cry out to you: O pure Virgin, entreat your Son to call me back from sin and save me, just as He called back and saved the prodigal.

O Lord of all, who was ineffably born from my womb, take pity on your servant as on the prodigal long ago, and place him, O All-Good One, at your right hand on the Day of Judgment.

Hear me, O Mother, as I discerningly respond to you. The one who long ago spent his life in prodigality, returned in ardent repentance and cried: "I have sinned." But this man, even though he now cries out to you like this, will subsequently prove to be a liar. 

I told my Son the things you said, entreating Him to make you worthy of His kingdom. But He opposed me saying: He has not drawn near to me with ardent faith, and therefore I shall send him out from before my face."


Fourth Ode

Understanding your strength, O Virgin, I cry out to you in my hour of need, even if my repentance is not completely ardent. But by your supplications to the Master, grant me the complete amendment of my life. 

O Master, who by nature is God that loves mankind, hearken to your Mother who earnestly cries out to you, and deliver your servant from condemnation. And if he does not possess perfect faith, I beg you, as God, to give it to him. 

O Mother, I have given him every opportunity to be saved, but he does not cease sinning and now draws near to death. And this is why no man can be saved unless he passes through the fire. 

I now know you to be, as my Son said, the cause of your own perdition, because you have completely surrendered to sin, and have entirely given yourself over to slothfulness. Who shall now raise you from the place to which you have fallen?


Fifth Ode

O Virgin, I long to walk always on the path of repentance leading me to eternal life, but immediately the grim ranks of demons drag me down and seek to cast me headlong into an abyss of sin, and into the harrowing pit of perdition. 

O Savior, you first put death to death, and then freed Adam from his bonds. Therefore, I implore you, my Son: pluck this man from the hands of the demons who afflict him, because they have never let him repent. 

O Mother who is praised by all, I too cry aloud to you: It is by prayer and fasting that the multitude of wicked demons will be driven out of him. But he has not cleansed his body by abstinence, prayer, and chastity, and thus, alas, has become a cave of devils. 

Listen well to the words of my Son, and understand what needs to be done. When the disciples had not the strength to drive out the evil spirits, He cried to them saying: "This kind of devil is driven out by prayer and fasting."


Sixth Ode

I am not rich with words, and am poor in virtues. I love neither to pray nor undertake fasts, O Bride of God. Therefore I seek refuge in you. 

Attend to me, my compassionate Son, for it is your Mother who implores you. The man running to me is devoid of good works and cries out to me: "I have no other hope but you, O Lady."

O Mother, who pleads so ardently, cease speaking on behalf of this man! For while he says that I am compassionate, he continues to defile himself, failing to see my wrath. 

On your behalf, I entreated my Son and God that you might obtain mercy. But he cried out to me to cease interceding for you to be saved. 


Seventh Ode

All my hope I place in you, O Lady, cast me not, the wretched one, into the pit of perdition. But return to your Son and cry out to Him: "Do not destroy the work of your hands."

O Master, since you are a sea of mercies without measure, I implore you to receive me yet again, for you alone are quick to reconcile, and so take pity on the work of your hands, O You who of old took pity on the woman of Canaan. 

I show mercy and save everyone who comes to me filled with longing, and I never want any of my creations to be destroyed. Indeed I was born from you in order to save them. But this man is very far from my works. 

My Son, eternal pre-existing as the Wisdom of the Most High God, became perfect man through me, in order to save those who, with ardent faith, preserve their divine baptism. But in this you have utterly failed. 


Eighth Ode

Taking courage I approach you, O Virgin, for I have seen your Son saving the harlot and the thief. They had done no good works under the law, and performed no good deeds in life, yet they both obtained forgiveness. 

Look down from the heights and hearken to your Mother, for I entreat you to deliver your servant from the fire, just as you formerly delivered the harlot, and on your Cross redeemed the thief. 

The thief who long ago hung upon the Cross cried out in faith: "Remember me." And, again, the harlot poured forth streams of tears. But this man is not like them. 

Christ saved the weeping harlot, likewise the thief on the Cross, who showed faith in Him. If you desire to attain the Bread of Life, then run to the Lord with tears and faith. 


Ninth Ode

O Maiden, I have shown myself a greater sinner than all other men, therefore I am ashamed to approach your Son. But I beg you to implore Him to take pity on me, and to receive me drawing near to Him with ardent faith and longing.

O Word, deliver your servant, who draws near to you, from punishment. I implore you: Remember not his transgressions. For though he sinned, O Savior, he turned to me for refuge and I entreat you. Through me receive this man, for you fulfill the petitions of all. 

O Mother, he is not worthy to take refuge in your mercy, for no man has provoked my wrath as much as he. But by your precious prayers, I will not punish him on the Day of Judgment if he brings me fruits of repentance. 

Though you were in the depth of Hades, through my prayer and intercessions you have been raised up to the heights to my Son. See that you do not fall back into your former grievous sins. Depart, and stay on the path of repentance, lest you be cast down into gehenna. 













1. There is no second ode in this canon.
2. For those interested in learning more about the Biblical view of the Divine Council, see this post








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









Thursday, February 13, 2020

A Harmony of the Olivet Discourse




Below is a parallel layout of Jesus' Olivet Discourse. I must apologize in advance for it being in the format of successive photos pasted to the wall, and not the most clear quality either. For now it is the best I can do. The source of these parallels is from Burton's English edition of Gospel parallels (as footnoted at the bottom of this post). Unfortunately, the English looks like it uses the KJV, which provides a notoriously misleading translation of Matt. 24:3, which reads: "What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?"

For those who have access to the Greek text underlying that translation, it is obvious that the word translated as "world" is actually "age." Jesus is asked what would be the sign of his coming (parousia) and the sign of the end of the age (not the "world", which is an entirely different Greek word).

For those interested in viewing the parallels, a pdf of Burton's greek parallels can be found here. As far as the formatting is concerned, that is my own; it was the only way I knew how to share it publicly with very little time at my disposal this evening.

The reasons why I am sharing this parallel layout of Jesus' Olivet Discourse are very straightforward:

1) The average Christian in the pews nowadays has little patience to map out the parallels between each verse of Jesus' Olivet Discourse. So here it is. I have copied and pasted it all for you. 

2) The average Christian who takes Jesus' teaching seriously, and has been taught in Church (or by reading Christian books) that the so-called "end of the world" is clearly taught in the Olivet Discourse, now has the means by which each version can be carefully traced in context, to see if that is actually so. As I have already noted (here), dozens of very important Church Fathers viewed Matthew 24:4-35 as references to the historical destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 and the historical signs of persecutions and turmoils leading up that cataclysmic event. Most New Testament historical scholars over the last one hundred years concur with that assessment. But then a shift takes place, where virtually all scholars nowadays think that the comments made in Matthew 24:36 and afterward either refer to cataclysmic events in our future, or they are inauthentic and "fanatic" vaticinium ex eventu redactions by later scribes after AD70. 

3) I am convinced that there is a third alternative: Jesus was describing the parousia and the "end of the age" as to-be-fulfilled in that generation (cf. Matt. 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32). 

4) When you have finally studied all of these parallels, matching phrase upon phrase, and following the descriptions of each Gospel author, feel free to study the chapters and verses surrounding the passages in Mark outside of chapter 13, and the passages in Luke outside of chapter 21, as contained in bold-typed brackets below.

I believe that there is absolutely no way to take any portion of this Olivet Discourse of Matthew's Gospel seriously as authentic teachings of Jesus without also seriously studying its parallels in Mark and Luke. That means that there are not two cataclysmic events about "the end" in this Discourse. There is no fulfillment of "the end" that has "already" happened in Matthew 24:4-35 and also a future fulfillment of Christ's parousia in judgment that has "not yet" happened, and still awaiting fulfillment in our future. The "already-not-yet" paradigm advocated by too many Christian tribalists simply cannot be taken seriously when the exact same historical discourse is mapped out in parallel between all three synoptic Gospels. 

Take the time. Don't be lazy. See for yourself. Think for yourself. 

I have shared other thoughts of mine here and here and here. The thoughts of Church Fathers can be found here.






















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