Thursday, November 19, 2020

Covert religious innovation in 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch?

Religious Innovation and Sacred Scriptures in 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch

How did ancient Judaism resolve the conflict between the notion of divinely authored scriptures that are fixed in writing, on the one hand, and the inevitable need to adapt to new circumstances of the community, on the other? A good case study of religious revision in ancient Israel is afforded by the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 CE. Both 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch were written as the Jewish response to a national and religious crisis. Using pseudonyms of Israel’s past heroes from the destruction of the First Temple, both authors promulgated an eschatological vision as the solution, yet called for a return to the Mosaic Torah. In both apocalypses, religious innovation is carried out covertly rather than explicitly. The “new” is presented as a discovery of and return to the “old.”. There are, however, also differences: whereas in 2 Baruch innovation is through eschatological exegesis of the Deuteronomic tradition, in 4 Ezra it has to be through an expansion of divinely revealed scriptures.

See also: When Judaism Lost the Temple: Crisis and Response in 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch. Studia Antiqua Australiensia 10 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2020).

By Lydia Gore-Jones
St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Theological College
Sydney College of Divinity, Australia
November 2020

Cross-file under New Book.

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