It has been quite a while since I’ve had the time to do a Septuagintal Saturday. However, I have been working on a paper which has included a very interesting study of 3 Baruch 1:1-2. In my study of the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mk. 12:1-9/Matt. 21:33-46/Lk. 20:9-19) and Second Temple Jewish interpretations of Isa. 5:1-7 I have found 3 Baruch 1:1-2 to be an interesting and helpful text. I have also found that pseudepigraphal writings are very little studied.

The prologue to 3 Baruch, a second century CE Jewish text [1], includes several biblical allusions. The most interesting to me is the allusion to Isa. 5:1-7, the Song of the Vineyard. The text and translation are as follows:

Κύριε, ἵνα τί ἐξέκαυσας τὸν ἀμπελῶνά σου καὶ ἠρήμωσας αὐτόν; τί ἐποίησας τοῦτο; καὶ ἵνα τί, Κύριε, οὐκ ἀπέδωκας ἡμᾶς ἐν ἄλλῃ παιδείᾳ, ἀλλὰ παρέδωκας ἡμᾶς εἰς ἔθνη τοιαῦτα, ὅπως ὀνειδίζοντες λέγουσιν· Ποῦ ἐστιν ὁ θεὸς αὐτῶν;[2]

“Lord, why have you set fire to your vineyard and laid it waste? Why have you done this? And why, Lord, did you not requite us with another punishment, but rather handed us over to such heathen so that they reproach us saying, ‘Where is their God?'”[3]

The following elements allude to Isa. 5:1-7:

  1. The reference to Lord’s vineyard (τὸν ἀμπελῶνά σου)
  2. The question ‘Why have you done this?’ (τί ἐποίησας τοῦτο;), echoes the wordplay in Isa. 5:1-7 in the LXX of τί ποιήσω ἔτι (‘what more might I do’) and τί ποιήσω (‘what I will do’) to my vineyard
  3. The reference to God laying waste (ἠρήμωσας) to his vineyard parallels the MT’s making it a waste (ואשיתהו בתה) and the LXX’s making it unto a wasteland (ὡς εἰς χέρσον)
  4. The Lord’s setting fire (ἐξέκαυσας) to his vineyard in 3 Bar. 1:2 is parallel to the companion passage to Isa. 5:1-7, Isa. 27:2-5, which speaks of God burning (אציתנה) his vineyard in the MT and burning up (κατακαίω) in the LXX

Having established an allusion to Isa. 5:1-7 in 3 Bar. 1:1-2, what can we say about how Baruch interprets this text? And what light, if any, does this shed on the Parable of the Wicked Tenants?

  1. 3 Baruch associates the destruction of the vineyard with being ‘handed over’ (παρέδωκας) to gentiles (εἰς ἔθνη τοιαῦτα) just as the Parable of the Wicked Tenants begins with the vineyard being handed over (ἐξέδετο) to tenants. If the Parable and 3 Baruch have similar things in mind, the setting of the Parable is in exile under ‘foreign’ occupation.
  2. 3 Baruch uses the story of the Vineyard from Isa. 5:1-7 as a way to speak about his present circumstances in the light of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.[4] Jesus uses the story of the Vineyard from Isa. 5:1-7 to interpret his present circumstances in light of his judgment upon the temple leadership and his own mission.

In light of the preceding discussion, it is my opinion that 3 Baruch 1:1-2 is further evidence to a growing body of literature[5] that contributes to our understanding of the Parable of the Wicked Tenants as a typical Jewish interpretation of the Song of the Vineyard. I believe this sheds light on the Parable, especially helping to establish its context wherein the people are in exile under the rule of ‘tenants.’ It also adds weight to the argument that it is entirely likely that the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, as it is recorded in the Gospels, goes back to the historical Jesus, because it is a typical Jewish interpretation of Isa. 5:1-7

Notes

[1] See Daniel C. Harlow, “The Christianization of Early Jewish Pseudepigrapha: The Case of 3 Baruch,JSJ 32/4 (2001): 423.

[2] The Greek text is from J.-C. Picard, ed., “Apocalypsis Baruchi Graece,” in Testamentum Iobi, Apocalypsis Baruchi Graece (Leiden: Brill, 1967), 81-96, as reproduced by The Online Critical Pseudepigrapha (http://ocp.acadiau.ca/index.html).

[3] Translation from H.E. Gaylord, Jr., “3 (Greek Apocalypse of) Baruch: A New Translation and Introduction,” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments, ed., James H. Charlesworth (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1983), 662-79.

[4] Harlow, “The Case of 3 Baruch,’ 420.

[5] See for example Craig A. Evans, Jesus and His Contemporaries: Comparative Studies (Bostan, MA: Brill Academic Publishers, 2001); George J. Brooke, “4Q500 1 and the Use of Scripture in the Parable of the Vineyard,” in idem., The Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2005, 235-60; and Johannes C. De Moor, “The Targumic Background of Mark 12:1-12: The Parable of the Wicked Tenants,” JSJ 29/1, (1998): 63-80.

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