|APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE, 1 |
I. Apocalypses Proper.
As above indicated, all these take the Book of Daniel as their model, and imitate it more or less closely. One peculiarity in this connection must be referred to. While we have already said these later Apocalypses were practically unknown by the Jews of a couple of centuries after the Christian era, the Book of Daniel was universally regarded as authoritative alike by Jews and Christians. In considering these works, we shall restrict ourselves to those Apocalypses that, whether Jewish or Christian by religion, are the production of those who were Jews by nation.
1. Enoch Books:
The most important of these is the Book, or rather, Books of Enoch. After having been quoted in Jude and noticed by several of the Fathers, this work disappeared from the knowledge of the Christian church.
(1) History of the Books.
Fairly copious extracts from this collection of books had been made by George Syncellus, the 8th century chronographer. With the exception of those fragments, all the writings attributed to Enoch had disappeared from the ken of European scholars. In the last quarter of the 18th century. Bruce, the Abyssinian traveler, brought to Europe three copies of the Book of Enoch in Ethiopic, which had been regarded as canonical by the Abyssinian church, and had consequently been preserved by them. Of these three copies, one he retained in Kinnaird House, another he presented to the Bodleian Library In Oxford, the third he gave to the Royal Library in Paris. For more than a quarter of a century these manuscripts remained as unknown as if they had still been in Abyssinia. In the year 1800 Sylvestre de Sacy published an article on Enoch in which he gave a translation of the first sixteen chapters. This was drawn from the Parisian copy.
Twenty-one years after Archbishop Laurence published a translation of the whole work from the manuscript in the Bodleian. Seventeen years after he published the text from the same MS. The expedition to Magdala under Lord Napier brought a number of fresh manuscripts to Europe; the German missionaries, for whose release the advance had been undertaken, brought a number to Germany, while a number came to the British Museum. Some other travelers had brought from the East manuscripts of this precious book. Flemming, the latest editor of the text, claims to have used 26 manuscripts. It needs but a cursory study of the Ethiopic text to see that it is a translation from a Greek original. The quotations in George Syncellus confirmed this, with the exception of a small fragment published by Mai.
Until the last decade of last century. Syncellus' fragments formed the only remains of the Greek text known. In 1892 M. Bouriant published from manuscripts found in Gizeh, Cairo, the Greek of the first 32 chapters. More of the Greek may be discovered in Egypt. Meantime, we have the Greek of chapters 1--32, and from the Vatican fragment a portion of chapter 89. A study of the Greek shows it also to have been a translation from a Hebrew original. Of this Hebrew original, however, no part has come down to us. As we have it, it is very much a conglomeration of fragments of various authorship. It is impossible to say whether the Greek translator was the collector of these fragments or whether, when the mass of material came into his hands, the interpolations had already taken place. However, the probability, judging from the usual practice of translators, is that as he got the book, so he translated it.
The first chapter gives an account of the purpose of the book, Enoch 2-5 an account of his survey of the heavens. With Enoch 6 begins the book proper. Chapters 6-19 give an account of the fallen angels and Enoch's relation to them. Chapters 20-36 narrate Enoch's wanderings through the universe, and give an account of the place of punishment, and the secrets of the West and of the center of the earth. This may be regarded as the First Book of Enoch, the Book of the Angels. With chapter 37 begins the Book of Similitudes.
The first Similitude (chapters 37-44) represents the future kingdom of God, the dwelling of the righteous and of the angels; and finally all the secrets of the heavens. This last portion is interesting as revealing the succession of the parts of this conglomeration--the more elaborate the astronomy, the later; the simpler, the earlier. The second Similitude (chapters 46-57) brings in the Son of Man as a superhuman if not also superangelic being, who is to come to earth as the Messiah. The third Similitude occupies chapters 58-71, and gives an account of the glory of the Messiah and of the subjugation of the kings of the earth under Him. There is interpolated a long account of Leviathan and Behemoth. There are also Noachian fragments inserted.
The Book of the Courses of the Luminaries occupies the next eleven chapters, and subjoined to these are two visions (chapters 83-90), in the latter of which is an account of the history of the world to the Maccabean Struggle. Fourteen chapters which follow may be called "The Exhortations of Enoch." The exhortations are emphasized by an exposition of the history of the world in 10 successive weeks. It may be noted here that there is a dislocation. The passage Enoch 91:12 contains the 8, 9, and 10 weeks, while chapter 93 gives an account of the previous 7. After chapter 104 there are series of sections of varying origin which may be regarded as appendices. There are throughout these books many interpolations. The most observable of these are what are known as "Noachian Fragments," portions in which Noah and not Enoch is the hero and spokesman. There are, besides, a number of universally acknowledged interpolations, and some that are held by some to be interpolated, are regarded by others as intimately related to the immediate context. The literary merit of the different portions is various:
of none of them can it be called high. The Book of Similitudes, with its revelations of heaven and hell, is probably the finest.
We have the complete books only in Ethiopic. The Ethiopic, however, is not, as already observed, the original language of the writings. The numerous portions of it which still survive in Greek, prove that at all events our Ethiopic is a translation from the Greek. The question of how far it is the original is easily settled. The angels assemble on Mt. Hermon, we are told (En 6), and bind themselves by an oath or curse:
"and they called it Mount Hermon because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecation upon it." This has a meaning only in Hebrew or Aramaic, not in Greek. A very interesting piece of evidence of the original language is obtained from a blunder. In Enoch 90:38 we are told that "they all became white bullocks, and the first was the Word" (nagara). As for the appearance of this term, from its connection it is obvious that some sort of bullocks is intended. In Hebrew the wild ox is called re'em (Aramaic rima). The Greek translators, having no Greek equivalent available, transliterated as rem or rema. This the translators confused with Tema, "a word." It is impossible to decide with anything like certainty which of the two languages, Hebrew or Aramaic, was the original, though from the sacred character ascribed to Enoch the probability is in favor of its being Hebrew.
The question of date is twofold. Since Enoch is really made up of a collection of books and fragments of books, the question of the temporal relation of these to each other is the primary one. The common view is that chapters 1-36 and 72-91 are by the same author, and form the nucleus of the whole. Although the weighty authority of Dr. Charles is against assigning these portions to one author, the resemblances are numerous and seem to us by no means so superficial as he would regard them. He, with most critics, would regard the Book of Similitudes as later.
Nevertheless, we venture to differ from this view, for reasons which we shall assign.
(5) Internal Chronology:
The Book of Noah.
The fragments of the Book of Noah above alluded to present an intrusive element in the Book of Enoch. These, though fairly numerous, are not so numerous as Dr. Charles would claim. Those that show clear traces not only of being interpolations, but also of being interpolations from this Book of Noah, are found only in those portions of the Book that appear to be written by the author of Enoch 37-71. In them and in the Noachian fragments there are astronomical portions, as there are also in the portion that seems to proceed from another hand, chapters 1-36; 72- 91. When these are compared, the simplest account of the phenomena of the heavens is found in the non-Noachian portions, the first noted chapters 37-71; 92-107; the next in complexity is that found in the Noachian interpolations; the most complex is that contained in chapters 72-91.
This would seem to indicate that the earliest written portion was chapters 37-71; 92-107. Our view of the date of this middle portion of En, the Book of Similitudes, is opposed by Dr. Stanton (Jewish and Christian Messiah, 60-63; 241-44), who maintains that it is post-Christian. For this decision he rests mainly on the use of the title "Son of Man." This title, he says, as applied to the Messiah, is unknown in rabbinic literature. Rabbinic literature is all so late as to be of no value. The Mishna has few traces of Messianic belief, and was not committed to writing till the end of the 2nd century, when the difference between church and synagogue was accentuated. He further states that it was not understood by the Jews who heard our Lord, and brings as proof John 12:34, "The Son of Man must be lifted up. Who is this--the Son of Man?" Dr. Stanton (Jewish and Christian Messiah, 241) so translates the passage. To us, the last clause is a mistranslation.
The Greek usage in regard to houtos ho would lead us to translate:
"Who is this peculiar kind of Son of Man?" This is the meaning which suits the context. our Lord had not in all the preceding speech used the title "Son of Man" of Himself. This sentence really proves that the multitude regarded the title as equivalent to Messiah or Christ. It might be paraphrased, "The Christ abideth ever; how sayest thou then, the Christ must be lifted up? Who is this Christ?" In fact, our Lord's adoption of the title is unintelligible unless it were understood by His audience as a claim to being Messiah. It had the advantage that it could not be reported to the Romans as treasonable. There are supplementary portions of Enoch which may be neglected. At first sight 10:1-3 appear to declare themselves as Noacinan, but close inspection shows this to be a misapprehension. If we take the Greek text of Syncellus, Uriel the angel sent to Noah.
The Ethiopic and Gizeh Greek are at this point clearly corrupt. Then the introduction of Raphael implies that the first portion of this chapter and this Raphael section are by the same author. But the Raphael section has to do with the binding of Azazel, a person intimately connected with the earlier history of the Jews. Should it be objected that according to the Massoretic reckoning, as according to that of the Septuagint, Noah and Enoch were not living together, it may be answered that according to the Samaritan they were for 180 years contemporaries. In chapter 68 Noah speaks of Enoch as his grandfather, and assumes him to be a contemporary of himself. Moreover, we must not expect precise accuracy from Apocalyptists.
(6) External chronology.
When the internal chronology of the book is fixed, the way is open for considering the relation of external chronology. Dr. Charles has proved that the Book of Jubilees implies the Noachian portion in the Enoch Books. There are notices of the existence of a Book of Noah (Jub 10:13). There is reference also to a Book of Enoch (Jub 21:10). Dr Charles would date the Book of Jubilees between 135 and 105 BC. If, then, the Book of Noah was already known, and, as we have seen, the Book of Enoch was yet older, it would be impossible to date Enoch earlier than 160 BC. Personally we are not quite convinced of the correctness of Dr. Charles' reasonings as to the date of the Book of Jubilees, as will be shown at more length later.
There appears to us a reference in Enoch 66:5 to the campaign of Antiochus the Great against the Parthians and the Medes. Early in his reign (220 BC) he had made an expedition to the East against the revolted provinces of Media and Persia, which he subdued. This was followed (217 BC) by a campaign in Palestine, which at first successful, ended in the defeat of Raphia. In the year 212 BC he made a second expedition to the East, in which he invaded India, and subdued into alliance the formidable Parthian and Bactrian kingdoms. The expectation was natural that now, having gained such an access of power and reputation, Antiochus would desire to wipe out the dishonor of Raphia. It was to be anticipated that along with the nationalities from which ordinarily the Syriac armies were recruited, the Parthians would be found, and the earlier subdued Medes.
The description of the treading down of the land of the Elect is too mild for a description of the desecration wrought by Epiphanes. If we are right, we may fix on 205 BC, as the probable date of the nucleus. The Book of the Lummaries of the Heavens which we feel inclined to attribute to the same hand as Enoch 1-36 contains a history of Israel that terminates with the Maccabean Struggle still proceeding. Dr. Charles would date this portion at 161 BC. Personally, we should be inclined to place it a few years earlier. He would place chapters 1-36 before the Maccabean Struggle. According to our thinking the genuine Noachian fragments fall between these. The Book of Noah seems to have existed as a separate book in the time when the Book of Jubilees was written. It is dependent on Enoch, and therefore after it. The use of portions taken from it to interpolate in the Enoch Books must have taken place before the Maccabean Struggle. There are other passages that have every appearance of being interpolations, the date of which it is impossible to fix with any definiteness.
(7) Slavonic Enoch.
In the year 1892 the attention of Dr. Charles was directed to the fact that a Book of Enoch was extant in Slavonic. Perusal proved it not to be a version of the book before us, but another and later pseudepigraphic book, taking, as the earlier had done, the name of Enoch. It is totally independent of the Ethiopic Enoch Book, as is seen by the most cursory consideration. It begins by giving an account of Enoch's instruction to his descendants how he had been taken up to the seventh heaven. Another manuscript adds other three heavens. In the third (?) heaven Enoch is shown the place of the punishment of the wicked. In the description of the fourth heaven there is an account of the physical conditions of the universe, in which the year is said to be 365 1/4 days; but the course of the sun is stated as a course of 227 days; which appears to be all that is accounted for. Here the independence of the Slavonic Enoch is clear, as the Ethiopic Enoch makes the year 364 days.
There are many points of resemblance which show that the writer of the Slavonic Enoch had before him the book which has come down to us in Ethiopic, but the relationship is not by any means so close as to be called dependence. The definite numbering of the heavens into seven or ten is a proof of its later date. It is related to the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, and also to the Ascension of Isaiah. We cannot quite acknowledge the cogency of the proofs that any portion of this Book has been composed in Greek:
hence, we cannot agree with Dr. Charles that it was composed in Alexandria. The resemblances to Philo are too few and slight to be convincing. That some of it was originally Hebrew Dr. Charles admits. The date Dr. Charles assigns to it--1-50 AD--seems reasonable, with this qualification, that it seems nearer the later than the earlier of these dates. A double translation, with the certainty of some interpolations and the probability of many more, makes any decided Judgment as to date hazardous, so much has to depend on resemblances between books in cases where it is impossible to decide which is dependent on which. It is at once an interesting and a valuable addition to our knowledge of the mind of the age preceding the publication of the gospel.
(8) Secrets of Enoch.
In imitation of this Book and in some sense in dependence on it was written a rabbinic Book of the Secrets of Enoch. It is attributed to Rabbi Ishmael, who was a prominent figure in the rebellion of Barcochba. Enoch is there noted as Metatron. It follows to some extent the course of the Slavonic Book of Enoch. It is this book that is referred to in the Talmud, not the more important book quoted by Jude.
2. Apocalypse of Baruch:
Though not without its value in estimating the trend of pre-Christian speculation, the Apocalypse of Baruch did not influence thought in the way that the Books of Enoch have done. It is neither quoted nor referred to by any of the Christian Fathers. Irenaeus (V, 33) quotes a saying which he attributes to our Lord on the authority of Papias, who claims to have in this attribution the authority of John behind him. This saying we find in the Apocalypse before us, though considerably expanded. In regard to this, in the first place we have only the Latin version of Irenaeus, not the Greek original. In the next place, even though the Latin may be a faithful translation of the Greek, still it is only a quotation from a lost book, which itself records traditions. The fact that it is in the shortest form in the book before us would seem to indicate that it is the original. If that is so, we may regard it as having a certain vogue among the Essenian school and their sympathizers. In the Syriac Apocrypha published by Lagarde there is a small book entitled "The Epistle of Baruch the Scribe."
This occurs at the end of our Apocalypse of Baruch. In Cyprian's Test. contra Jud., III, 29 we have a passage of considerable length attributed to Bar, a few words of which agree with a passage in this Apocalypse. Hippolytus quotes an oath used by certain Gnostics which he says is found in the Book of Baruch. There are features in the passage thus quoted which seem to be echoes of the book before us. This was all that was known of the Apocalypse of Baruch until the last half-century, when Ceriani discovered a Syriac version of it in the Arabroaian Library in Milan, nearly complete.
It begins after the model of a prophecy:
"The word of the Lord came to Baruch, the son of Neriah, saying." In this he follows the phraseology of Jeremiah. He and Jeremiah are commanded to leave Jerusalem as God is about to pour forth His judgment upon it. Baruch entreats God for his city, and God shows him that the punishment will be temporary. Then the Chaldeans come to fulfill what God has threatened, but Baruch is shown the angel ministers of Divine vengeance saving the sacred vessels by calling upon the earth to swallow them up. Then the angels helped the Chaldeans to overthrow the walls of Jerusalem. Notwithstanding that in the canonical Book of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 43:6,7) and in 2 Kings the prophet goes down to Egypt, Baruch declares that Jeremiah is sent to comfort the captives in Babylon, while he, Baruch, is to remain in Judea. He mourns over Jerusalem and denounces woes in Babylon (chapters 1-12). While he is standing upon Mt. Zion he is called into colloquy with God as to the method of Divine dealing with Judah, and a revelation is promised him (chapters 13-20).
This revelation is introduced by a prayer of Baruch followed by a colloquy with the Almighty. Baruch asks, "Will that tribulation continue a long time?" He is answered that there will be twelve successive different forms of judgment which shall come. Then follows an enigmatic sentence, "Two parts weeks of seven weeks" are "the measure and reckoning of the time" which probably means that each of the parts is a jubilee or half a century. At the termination of this period the Messiah is to appear. Here a description is given of the glories of the Messianic kingdom in the course of which occurs the passage already referred to as quoted by Papias (chapters 21-30). The writer, forgetting what he has already said of the desolation of Jerusalem, makes Baruch assemble the Elders of Jerusalem and announce that he is going to retire into solitude. In his retirement he has a vision of a wooded hill, and at the foot of it is a vine growing and beside the vine a spring of water. This fountain swelled and became tempestuous, sweeping away all the forest on the hill but one great cedar. It, too, falls at length. The interpretation is given The forest is the fourth Empire of Daniel--the Roman--the many magistracies being symbolized by the numerous trees of the forest. The Messiah is the vine and the fountain. It is probable that Pompey is the leader referred to (Baruch 31-40). Then follows a colloquy of Baruch first with God, then with his son and the Elders of the people. A long prayer with God's answer which includes a description of the punishment of the wicked and the reward of the righteous--the latter is next given with greater fullness (Baruch 41-52). Mother vision is given to Baruch of twelve showers of rain alternately bright and dark and a final torrent blacker than anything else and closed by a bright light. The angel Runnel comes to Baruch to interpret the vision. It represents the history of Israel to the return to Judea under the decree of Cyrus. The last dark waters represent the Maccabean Struggle. It would seem as if the vision carried the conflict on to the fratricidal conflict between John Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus (Baruch 53-77). Then follows the epistle to the nine and a half tribes (Baruch 78-87).
Preliminary to anything further is the discussion of the state of the book--how far it is one, how far it is composite or interpolated. That it contains different portions is obvious on the slightest careful study. The first portion that the reader marks off is the "epistle to the nine tribes and a half." As has already been mentioned this portion appears independently and is preserved by Lagarde in his Libri Vet. Test. Apocryphi, in which collection it precedes the ordinary apocryphal Book of Baruch. The last section, which relates how this epistle was sent to the nine tribes and a half by an eagle, is omitted. The last section (chapter 79) has been added, and has been modified in order to introduce this epistle. It is not at all in the spirit of the rest of this Apocalypse that the tribes carried away captive by "Salmanasser, king of Assyria" have any share in the blessings revealed in the vision. The epistle itself merely narrates the capture of the city, and the help of the angels who hid the sacred vessels.
It is to be noted that in the earlier portion of this Apocalypse it is the earth that opens her mouth and swallows down the sacred vessels. Another division reveals itself on further scrutiny. From the beginning to the end of chapter 30 the course of the narrative is fairly continuous. A revelation is promised, and in the end we have a picture of the glory and plenty of the times of the Messiah. The next section begins with an exhortation which has little bearing on what has preceded. Then follows the vision of the forest and the surviving tree. The colloquy and the prayers that follow, to chapter 52, are all connected, though not closely. But close connection is not to be expected from an oriental and an Apocalyptist. Then follow the sections connected with the vision of the twelve showers of rain, and its interpretation. There are thus five independent sections exclusive of interpolations which may be due to different writers.
In the first place it is clear that the Syriac in which the work has come down to us is itself a translation from Greek. The manuscript of Ceriani states this in its title. This is confirmed by Graecisms filtering through, as ho Manasseh in Baruch 65:1, where ho represents the Greek article. In some cases the readings that are unintelligible can be explained by translation back into Greek, as shown by Dr. Charles. The most convincing is the use made of this book by the writer of the "Rest of the Words of Baruch," who wrote in Greek. Although not a few scholars have followed Langen in maintaining that Greek was the original tongue, careful investigation proves that behind the Greek was Hebrew. The strongest of these proofs is that the echoes of Scriptural texts are almost invariably from the Hebrew as against the Septuagint. Thus, in 6:8, Jeremiah three times addresses the earth and calls upon it to hear the word of the Lord. So it is in the Massoretic Text and in the Vulgate, but not in the Septuagint, where the word "earth" is only given twice. There are several other instances.
Dr. Charles has carefully compared the idiomatic phrases and sees proof that usages of the Massoretic Text have been preserved in the Greek, and thence conveyed to the Syriac. The most interesting of these is the peculiar Hebrew idiom of infinitive with finite verb to emphasize the action narrated. This is rendered in Septuagint sometimes by cognate noun and verb, and sometimes by participle and verb. The examples chosen by Dr. Charles have the disadvantage that none of them show the effect on this idiom of passing through the two languages, Greek and Syriac. In Paulus Tellensis there are examples--e.g. 2 Kings 18:33. He is scarcely accurate in saying that this idiom never occurs in the Peshitta unless it is in the Greek. See Luke 1:22; John 13:29, etc., as examples to the contrary. The proof seems conclusive that Hebrew was the original language of this Apocalypse, and that it was first translated into Greek, and from that into Syriac. From this it follows almost necessarily that its place of origin was Palestine. That it has had practically no effect on Jewish literature, and was potent enough among the Christians to lead a Christian about the middle of the 2nd Christian century to compose an addition to it, proves to our thinking its Essenian origin.
Although the writer assumes the destruction of Jerusalem by the army of the Chaldeans, he evidently has no conception of what such a catastrophe would really mean. He has no conception of the length of time occupied by a siege, the terrors of famine, or the desolation that follows the capture of a city. Josephus tells us (BJ, VII, i, 1) that save a portion of the west wall and three towers, the city was utterly razed to the ground--"there was nothing left to make those who came there believe that ever it had been inhabited." Yet, when endeavoring to realize the similar destruction which had befallen the city under Nebuchadnezzar, he speaks of himself sitting "before the gates of the temple" (Baruch 10:5), when the gates had wholly disappeared. Again, he assembles the people and their elders "after these things" "in the valley of the Kedron." The Apocalypse must be dated at all events considerably before 70 AD. On the other hand, it is subsequent to the first part of En; it assumes it as known (Baruch 56:10-13). But a closer discrimination may be reached. In the vision of the wood and the one tree that survives we have Pompey pointed out clearly. The multitude of trees points to the numerous magistracies of Rome. (Compare description of Senate of Rome in 1 Macc 8:15.)
The seer in his vision sees all these swept away and one remaining. It could not be an emperor, as that title was regarded as equivalent to "king," as Nero in the Ascension of Isaiah is called "the matricide king." The only other besides Pompey likely to be pointed to would be Julius Caesar. But the fall of the great desecrator of the temple, which the seer foresaw, would not have failed to be noted as succeeded by that of Caesar who had conquered him. It is difficult for us to realize the position Pompey occupied in the eyes especially of the eastern world before the outbreak of the civil war. Cicero's letters and his oration Pro lege Manilia show the way Pompey filled the horizon even in republican Rome, in a society most of the prominent members of which claimed a descent that would have enabled them to look down on Pompey. But in the East he had enjoyed dictatorial powers. His intervention in the contest between the brothers John Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus could not fail to impress the Jews, and his desecration of the temple would mark him off for a very special destruction. The date is so far before the death of Pompey (48 BC)--though after the desecration of the temple--that the possibility of anyone entering into conflict with him is not dreamed of. When we turn to the twelve showers, we are led to the time of this struggle also as that which shall immediately precede the coming of the Messiah.
Another note of time is to be found in Baruch 28--"The measure and reckoning of the time are two parts, weeks of seven weeks." This we regard as two jubilees--i.e. approximately a century. The point to be fixed is the time from which this century is to be reckoned. To our idea it must be from some event connected with the temple. Such an event was the dedication of the temple by Judas Maccabeus in the 148th year of the Seleucid era--that is, 163 BC. A century brings us exactly to the year of Pompey's capture of Jerusalem and desecration of the temple. Thus three different lines converge in pointing to 60 or 59 BC as the date at which this book was written.
(5) Relation to Other Books.
The strange mingling of knowledge of Scripture and ignorance of it is a phenomenon to be observed. The very first clause contains a gross anachronism, whatever explanation may be given of the statement. Taken with what follows, the statement is that Jerusalem was taken by Nebuchadnezzar, "in the 25th year of Jeconiah, king of Judah." This naturally ought to mean the 25th year of the reign of Jeconiah, but he only reigned three months. Whether the date is reckoned from his life or his captivity, it will not suit the date of the capture of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans. Another strange blunder appears in the subjoined "Epistle of Baruch"; the number of northern tribes who rebelled against Rehoboam is confused, with that of the tribes settled on the west of Jordan, and that of the tribes following the House of David with that of those on the east of Jordan. Yet the general course of Biblical history is quite understood. The author seems fairly well acquainted with Jer and Ps, as there are frequent echoes of these books. Most marked is the connection between this Apocalypse and the other books of the same class.
This connection is not so obvious in quotable sentences as in the general atmosphere. This is very marked in regard to the Enoch books, Ethiopic and Slavonic. In the case of the latter, of course, the resemblance is not imitation on the part of the writer of this Apocalypse. One marked distinction, one that precludes any thought of direct imitation, is the elaborate angelology of the Enoch books as compared with the one name which appears in the Apocalypse of Baruch. The book with which the present Apocalypse has closest relation is 2 (4) Esdras. Dr. Charles has given at the end of his translation of the work before us (Apoc of Baruch, 171) a long list of resemblances, not always of equal value. Sometimes the references are inaccurate.
The main thing to be observed is that while 2 Esdras as we have it has on the one hand a markedly Christian coloring, which it seems impossible to attribute to interpolation, and on the other, to have seen the desolation of Jerusalem under the Romans, there is no Christian element in the genuine Baruch, and the desolation is more sentimental as proved by the inability to realize the conditions consequent on the capture of the city by victorious enemies.
(6) The Rest of the Words of Baruch.
One of the evidences of the influence our Apocalypse had in the Christian community is the composition by a Christian of "The Rest of the Words of Baruch" (or Jer). This was found, like so many other treasures, by Ceriani in the Ambrosian Library, Milan. Jer is the principal spokesman in the book. It is revealed to him that Jerusalem is to be given into the hands of the Chaldeans, and he announces this to Baruch. He is desirous to save Abimelech (Ebedmelech), and prays God for him, and Abimelech is sent away out of the city while the angels are overturning it. He goes to the vineyard of Agrippa and falls asleep. His sleep continues sixty years. When, arising from sleep, he enters Jerusalem again he does not recognize it. An angel leads him to Baruch who had made his abode in a tank. Baruch writes to Jeremiah, who has departed to Babylon. His letter is conveyed by an eagle. Jeremiah on receipt of this epistle collects all the captives and leads them back to Jerusalem. Certain of them would not submit to the law in all its strictness, but, turning aside, founded Samaria. After some time Jeremiah dies, rises again on the third day and preaches Christ as the Son of God, and is stoned by the Jews. A noticeable thing is the relatively accurate account of the date of Christ's appearance after the return from the captivity, 477 years, only it must be calculated from the reign of Artaxerxes and to the resurrection. This, however, would make Jeremiah nearly two hundred years old. Such a thing, however, is not a matter that would disturb a Jewish chronologer. "The Rest of the Words of Baruch" seems to have been written by a Christian Jew in Palestine before the rebellion of Barcochba.
3. The Assumption of Moses:
In the Epistle of Jude is a reference to a conflict between the archangel Michael and Satan, when they "disputed about the body of Moses" Oregon (de Princip, iii.2) attributes this to a book he calls Ascensio Mosis. Clement Alexandrinus gives an account of the burial of Moses quoted from the same book. There are several references to the book up to the 6th century, but thereafter it disappeared till Ceriani found the fragment of it which is published in the Acta Sacra et Profana (Vol I). This fragment is in Latin. It is full of blunders, some due to transcription, proving that the last scribe had but an imperfect knowledge of the tongue in which he wrote. Some of the blunders go farther back and seem to have been due to the scribe who translated it from Greek. Even such a common word as thilpsis ("affliction") he did not know, but attempted, by no means with conspicuous success, to transliterate it as clipsis. So with allophuloi "foreigners," the common Septuagint equivalent of "Philistine," and yet commoner skene ("a tent") and several others. It probably was dictated, as some of the blunders of the copyist may be better explained as mistakes in hearing, as fynicis for Phoenices, and venient for veniet. Some, however, are due to blunders of sight on the part of the translator, as monses for moyses.
From this we may deduce that he read from a manuscript in cursive characters, in which "n" and "u" were alike. This Milan manuscript has been frequently edited. Dr Charles has suggested with great plausibility that there were two works, a Testament of Moses, and an Assumption, and that these have been combined; and, while Jude 1:9 is derived from the Assumption, as also the quotation in Clement of Alexandria, he thinks that Jude 1:16 is derived from separate clauses of the Testament. It may be observed that in the fragment which has been preserved to us, neither the passages in Clement nor that referred to in Jude 1:16 are to be found.
Moses, now in the plain of Moab, calls Joshua to him and gives him commands for the people. He had already blessed them tribe by tribe. Now he calls his successor to him and urges him to be of good courage. He tells him that the world has been created for Israel, and that he, Moses, had been ordained from before the foundation of the world to be the mediator of this covenant. These commands are to be written down and preserved in clay jars full of cedar oil. This sentence is added to explain the discovery and publication. A rapid summary of the history of Israel to the fall of the Northern Kingdom follows. The successive reigns are called years--eighteen years before the division of the kingdom, 15 Judges and Saul, David and Solomon, and nineteen after, the kings from Jeroboam to Hoshea. The Southern Kingdom has twenty years or reigns.
The Southern Kingdom was to fall before Nebuchadnezzar, the king from the East who would cover the land with his cavalry. When they are in captivity one prays for them. Here follows a prayer modeled on Daniel 9:4-19--almost a version of it. In this connection it may be noted that of the ten tribes it is asserted they will multiply among the Gentiles. There is a sudden leap forward to the time of the Greek domination. Singularly, the period of the Maccabees does not appear in this sketch of history. The times of Judas Maccabeus are not mentioned, but the kings of his house, the descendants of Simon, are referred to as "Kings ruling shall rise from them, who shall be called priests of the Most High God." To them follows Herod, rex petulans, "who will not be of the race of the priests." He will execute judgment on the people like those of Egypt. Herod is to leave children who will reign after him for a short period. The Roman emperor is to put an end to their rule and to burn up Jerusalem. Then comes a mutilated chapter, which, while following in the narrative, may yet be only another aspect of the oppression. The Roman officials figure duly as the source of this, and the Sadducean high-priestly party as their instruments. The resemblance to the terms in which our Lord denounces the Pharisees leads one to think that they, too, are meant by the Essene authors. We have noted above that the Maccabean period is completely omitted.
The persecution under Antiochus appears in Assumption of Moses 8 and 9. With Dr. Charles we are inclined to think they have been displaced. In chapter 9 occurs the reference to the mysterious Taxo with his seven sons. Dr. Charles is quite sure the reference is to the seven sons of the widow who suffered before Antiochus Epiphanes as related in 2 Macc 7 (4 Macc 8-17), but the "mother" is the prominent person in all the forms of the story, while in no form of it is their father mentioned. It is to be noted that if T of this mysterious name, represents taw (t) in the Hebrew (= 400), and xi represents the letter camek (c) (= 60) which occupies the same place in the Hebrew alphabet, and if the O represents waw (w) (= 6), adding those numbers together we have the number 466, which is the sum of the letters of Shimeon. But nothing in the history of the second son of Mattathias resembles the history of the mysterious Taxo. On this subject the reader is recommended to study Charles, Assumption of Moses, 32-34. Taxo recommends his sons, having fasted to retire into a cave, and rather to die than to transgress the commands of God. In this conduct there is a suggestion of the action of several of the pious in the beginning of the Antiochus persecutions. Taxo then breaks into a song of praise to God, in the course of which he describes the final discomfiture of the enemies of God and of His people.
The establishment of the Messianic kingdom is to be 250 times after the Assumption of Moses. The interpretation of this is one of the difficulties in regard to this Apocalypse. Langen takes the times as equivalent to decades, and Dr. Charles as year-weeks. The latter seems a more probable meaning of "time," as more in the line of Jewish thought. It should be noted that Dr. Charles thinks illius adventum refers not to the Messiah's coming, but to the last judgment. In answer to the declaration of Moses as to his approaching death, Joshua rends his garments and breaks forth into lamentations, wondering who will lead on the people when his master has departed. There is one phrase that seems to imply a tincture of classical culture. Joshua says of Moses, "All the world is thy Sepulchre," which seems to be a reminiscence of Pericles' funeral oration (Thucyd. ii.4), "The whole earth is the monument of men of renown." He then casts himself at the feet of Moses. His master encourages him and promises him success. At this point the fragment ends. It is to be expected that shortly after this would occur the passage quoted by Clement of Alexandria, and still later that quoted in Jude.
It seems to have been united with one, if not two other books, a "Testament of Moses" and our Book of Jubilees. It would seem that in the present work we have mostly the "Testament." The insertion of the word receptione after morte in Assumption of Moses 10:12 indicates that when this copy was made the two writings were united. As above remarked, there appears to have been a displacement of chapters 8 and 9; they ought to have been placed between chapters 4 and 5.
As already mentioned, the manuscript found by Ceriani in the Ambrosian Library is in Latin. No one, however, has maintained that this was the language in which it was originally written. It is evidently a translation from the Greek. A number of Greek words are transliterated, some of them common enough. So clearly does the Greek shine through, that Hilgenfeld has reproduced what he imagines the Greek text to have been. That having been settled, a further question rises, Is the Greek the original tongue, or was it, too, a translation from a Sere original? The first alternative is that adopted by Hilgenfeld. His arguments from the alleged impossibility of certain grammatical constructions being found in Hebrew are due to mistake. The presence of such words as Allofile and Deuteronomion simply prove that in translating a book which claimed to be written about Moses, the writer followed the diction used by the Septuagint, just as Archbishop Laurence in translating Enoch used the diction of the King James Version of the Bible These questions have been ably investigated by Dr. Charles in his edition of the Assumption of Moses (42-45). He shows a number of Semitic idioms which have persisted through the Greek-- some cases in which the meaning can only be got by reconstructing the Hebrew text.
Again, corruption can only be explained by means of a Semitic text. It might be suggested that a falsarius writing in Greek would naturally employ the diction of the Septuagint as has been done frequently in English; the diction of the King James Version is used to cover the imitation of a sacred book. The fact that style was so little regarded as a means of settling dates and authorship renders this unlikely. The more delicate question of which of the two Sere tongues--Aramaic or Hebrew--is employed, is more difficult to settle. There are, however, one or two cases in which we seem to see traces of the waw conversive--a construction peculiar to Hebrew--e.g. 8:2, "Those who conceal (their circumcision) he will torture and has delivered up to be led to prison." The ignorance of the scribe may, however, be revoked to explain this. On the other hand the change of tense is so violent that even an ignorant scribe would not be likely to make it by mistake. Over and above, a narrative attributed to Joshua and asserted to be written down by him at the dictation of Moses, would necessarily be in Hebrew. From this we would deduce that Hebrew rather than Aramaic has been the Semitic original.
The identification of the rex petulans with Herod and the statement that he should be succeeded by his sons who should reign a short time, fix the date of the composition of the work before us within narrow limits. It must have been written after the death of Herod and also after the deposition of Archelaus, 6 AD, and before st was seen that Antipas and Philip were secure on their thrones. Thus we cannot date it later than 7 or 8 AD. The intense hatred of the Herodians was a characteristic of this time. Later they came to be admired by the patriotic party.
(5) Relation to Other Books.
The most striking phrase is the name given to Moses--arbiter testamenti, "the mediator of the covenant," which we find repeatedly used in the Epistle to the Hebrews:
mesites is the Greek translation of mokhiach in
Job 9:33, but in translating the Epistle to the Hebrews into Hebrew Delitzsch uses carcor, a purely rabbinic word. Another rendering is menatseach. There are several echoes in this book of passages in the Old Testament, as the address to Jos (1:1) is parallel with Deuteronomy 31:7 f. The prayer in Assumption of Moses 4, as before observed, is modeled on Daniel 9:4-19. There are traces of acquaintance with the Psalter of Solomon in Assumption of Moses 5 as compared with Ps 4. In these there appear to be echoes of the present work in our Lord's description of the Pharisees, when we compare Matthew 23 with Assumption of Moses 5.
There is a fragment published by Ceriani entitled "History and Life (diegesis kai politeia) of Adam, Which, Was Revealed by God to Moses, His Servant." It is an account of the life of our first parents after the death of Abel to their own death. It has been composed to all appearance in Greek, and really belongs not to Mosaic literature, but to that connected with Adam. It is to be noted that to Cain and Abel other names are given besides those so well known. They are called Adiaphotos and Amilabes, names of no assignable origin. There are no evidences of Christian influence; from this one would be led to regard it as a Jewish writing; as the middle of it has been lost, any decision is to be made with caution.
4. The Ascension of Isaiah:
The Ascension of Isaiah was often referred to by name in the works of early Christian Fathers, especially by Origen. It is called by him "The Apocryphon of Isaiah." Epiphanes gives it the title by which it is more commonly known. Now that we have the book, we find numerous echoes of it. Indeed, Origen claims that Hebrews 11:37 contains a reference to it in speaking of saints who were sawn asunder. Justin Martyr speaks of the death of Isaiah in terms that imply an acquaintance with this book. It had disappeared till Archbishop Laurence found a copy of it in Ethiopic on a London book-stall. The capture of Magdala brought home more manuscripts. A portion of it had been printed in Venice from a Latin version.
In the 26th year of his reign Hezekiah calls Isaiah before him to deliver certain writings into his hand. Isaiah informs him that the devil Sammael Malkira would take possession of his son Manasseh, and that he, Isaiah, will be sawn asunder by his hand. On hearing this, Hezekiah would order his son to be killed, but Isaiah tells him that the Chosen One will render his counsel vain. On the death of his father, Manasseh turned his hand to serve Berial Matanbukes. Isaiah retired to Bethlehem, and thence, with certain prophets--Micah, Joe and Habakkuk--and also Hananiah and his own son Joab, he removed to a desert mountain. Balkira, a Samaritan, discovered their hiding- place. They are brought before Manasseh, and Isaiah is accused of impiety because he has said that he has seen God, yet God had declared to Moses, "There shall no flesh see my face." He had also called Jerusalem, Sodom, and its rulers, those of Gomorrah. For Berial (Belial) had great wrath against Isaiah because he had revealed the coming of Christ and the mission of the apostles.
At this point there appears to be a confusion between the first coming of Christ and His second. Lawless elders and shepherds are referred to as appearing, and it is assumed the elders of the church and the pastors are intended, though this is not necessarily so. There certainly was much contention in the churches, as we know, concerning the question of circumcision. The reference, however, may be to the rulers and elders of Israel who crucified our Lord. Then follows the account of the incarnation of Beliar in Nero, "the matricide monarch," and the persecution of the twelve apostles, of whom one will be delivered into his hand--the reference here being probably to the martyrdom of Peter. If it is Paul, then It is a denial of Peter's martyrdom at Rome altogether; if it is Peter, it means the denial of Paul's apostleship. The reign of the Antichrist is to be "three years, seven months and twenty-seven days," that is, on the Roman reckoning, 1,335 days. This would seem to be calculated from Nero's persecution of the Christians. He makes a singular statement:
"The greater number of those who have been associated together in order to receive the Beloved he will turn aside after him"--a statement that implies a vastly greater apostasy under the stress of persecution than we have any record of from other sources.
A good deal is to be said for the insertion of 1,000 in the number 332 in 4:14, so as to make it read 1,332. At the end of this period "the Lord will come with His angels and will drag Beliar into Gehenna with his armies." Then follows a reference to the descent of the Beloved into Sheol. The following chapter gives an account of the martyrdom of Isaiah, how he was "sawn in sunder with a wooden saw," and how Balkira mocked him, and strove to get Isaiah to recant. With Ascension of Isaiah 6 begins the Ascension proper. This chapter, however, is merely the introduction. It is in chapter 7 that the account is given of how the prophet is carried up through the firmament and then through heaven after heaven to the seventh. A great angel leads him upward. In the firmament he found the angels of the devil envying one another. Above this is the first heaven where he found a throne in the midst, and angels on the right and the left, the former of whom were the more excellent. So it was in the second, third, fourth and fifth heavens. Each heaven was more glorious than that beneath. In the sixth heaven there was no throne in the midst nor was there any distraction between angels on the right and left; all were equal. Be is then raised to the seventh heaven--the most glorious of all--where he sees not only God the Father, but also the Son and the Holy Spirit. As to the Son we are told that he should descend, and having assumed human form should be crucified through the influence of the Prince of this World. Baring descended into Sheol, he spoiled it, and ascended up on high. In chapter 10 there is a more detailed account of the descent of the Son through the successive heavens, how in each He assumed the aspect of the angels that dwelt therein, so that they did not know Him. In the Firmament, the quarreling and envying appeared at first to hinder Him. In chapter 11 we have a semi-docetic account of the miraculous birth With the declaration that it was on account of these revelations that he, Isaiah, was sawn in sunder, the Apocalypse ends.
Dr. Charles has maintained that three works are incorporated--the Testament of Hezekiah, the Martyrdom of Isaiah and the Vision of Isaiah. The names have been taken from those given to this work in patristic literature, and are not strictly descriptive of the contents, at least of the first. The confused chronology of the work as we have it may to some extent be due to transcription and translation. From the opening paragraph, there appears to have been an Apocryphon attributed to Hezekiah. Manasseh is called into his father's presence in order that here may be delivered into words, of righteousness "which the king himself had seen" "of eternal judgment, the torments of Gehenna and the Prince of this World and his angels and of his principalities and powers"--a phrase which implies a knowledge of the Epistle to the Ephesians on the part of the writer. The contents given thus summarily are not further detailed. The Vision of Isaiah does not give any account of the powers and principalities of Satan's kingdom. It would seem better to regard the present work as composed of two--the Martyrdom of Isaiah and the Vision or Ascension proper. The references backward and forward seem to imply a similarity of authorship in both parts. This would seem to suggest that the editor and author were one and the same person. There is a knowledge of Roman affairs at the time of Nero's fall so much beyond what anyone living in Palestine could attain that Rome would seem to be the place of composition.
The immediate original from which the translation, Ethiopic, Latin and Sclavonic were made appears to have been Greek. It is clear in regard to the Ethiopic where the proper names which end in Hebrew in "h" and in the Greek transcription end in "s", as Bezekias, Isaias, the latter is followed, but Manasseh is Manassa. An interesting case is to be found in Ascension of Isaiah 2:12:
Mikayas is called "son of Amida," where "Amida" stands for Imlah. In the Ethiopic transliteration 'aleph is generally used for the initial yodh as a vowel, as it is in "Israel" (Ethiopic Asreal), hence "Imida" might as correctly represent the name. Then as delta (d) and lambda (l) are like each other the change is explained. Although certainly as said above, Greek has been the immediate original, it is possible if not even probable that behind the Greek there was Hebrew. The structure of the sentences suggests the same thing (see 2:5 Gr). The mysterious name given to Berial, Mattanbukus--which, unfortunately, we have not in Greek--seems to be intelligible only in the idea that it has a Hebrew etymology, mattan buqah, "the gift of emptiness," the latter word being equivalent to "the void," "the abyss." The title given to Sammael, Malkira, seems naturally to mean king of "the watchers"--`irim, the angels who, as related in Enoch 10:5, did not continue in their first estate, but defiled themselves with women. So Belkira is "Lord of the fort"--ba`al qir. There thus seems to be a probability that like so many others of this class, the "Ascension" was originally written in Hebrew.
No one reading the "Ascension" can fail to feel that he has to do with a Christian document, and one belonging to the very beginning of Christian history. There may have been an earlier Jewish Apocalypse behind, though to our thinking that does not seem necessary. It is made up of two documents, but the Christian element appears to be woven into the structure of both portions. That it is to be dated early in the history of the church may be seen from the expectation of Christ's speedy reappearance in the world in His parousia. The conflict in the church between elders and shepherds gives a picture of the struggle between Judaizers and the Pauline Christians on the other side. The emphasis laid on the twelve, the omission of all reference to Paul, indicates that it was Judaizing. The docetic account of the birth of Jesus, its independence of the canonical Gospels, all speak of an early date The date, however, it seems to us, can be fixed with great certainty.
The reign of Berial, who has come down upon Nero and incarnated himself in him is to be three years, seven months and twenty-seven days, in all 1,335 days (Asc Isaiah 41:2), the number in the end of Daniel (Daniel 12:12). This number, it may be noted, is reached by reckoning the years and months according to the Julian Calendar, proving this Apocalypse to have been written in Rome. But the number is singularly near the actual duration of Nero's reign after the persecution had begun. From the burning of Rome (July 19, 64) to the death of Nero (June 9, 68) was 1,421 days--that is, 86 days more. It was at least a month after the conflagration that the persecution began, and longer till the mad orgy of cruelty when Christians wrapt in pitch and set on fire illuminated Nero's gardens. If a Christian in Rome saw the persecution, he might hope for the end of this reign of terror, and fix on the number he found in Daniel. It would seem that already the 1,290 days had been overpassed, so he hopes that the 1,335 days will see the end of the tyrant.
There is a difficulty in the 332 days of Ascension of Isaiah 41:4. The temptation is great to hold with Lucke, Dillmann and Charles that 1,000 has dropped out, and that the last figure ought to be 5; then we have the same number. In that case, this Apocalypse must have been written after the news of the rebellion of Vindex had reached Rome, but before the death of Nero. If we may adopt this--though the fact that the shorter number is found in all three Ethiopic manuscripts makes this method of adding a figure necessary to an explanation one to be avoided-- this would point to the time immediately preceding Nero's death. The difficulty is, where dad the author get the number? If it is correct, it is probably the arithmogram of some name of Satan. Berial gives 322 by gematria. It would seem that another mark of time is given in the martyrdom of Peter, which may be dated 64 AD. Another negative note is the absence of any reference to the fall of Jerusalem. Had it happened, Jew though the writer was, his love for his crucified Master would have led him to see the vengeance of heaven on the city which had put Him to death, and exult in it. It must have been written in the course of the year 68.
5. The Fourth Book of Esdras:
Unlike the books we have been discussing hitherto, 4 Esdras has never disappeared from the knowledge of the church. It has, however, come down to us primarily in a Latin translation of a Greek original. Archbishop Laurence discovered an Ethiopic version of it. Later an Armenian version with Latin translation was published in Venice. An Arabic version is also in existence. It was received into the Apocrypha of the Anglican church, though excluded from that of Germany; by the Council of Trent, 1 Esdras and 2 Esdras of our Apocrypha were excluded from the Roman Catholic canon, and placed after Revelation, along with Pr Man.
The first two chapters contain a prophecy after the model of Isaiah. Not a few passages show the influence of the New Testament on it. Compare 2 (4) Esdras 1:30 with Matthew 23:37, and 2 (4) Esdras 2:45 with Revelation 7:13. With 2 (4) Esdras 3 there is a new beginning. This opens with a prayer which occupies the whole chapter. In answer, Uriel is sent from God and reveals to Ezra by various symbols the plan of God in regard to Israel. This goes on to the middle of 2 (4) Esdras 5, and forms the first vision. After fasting seven days, a new communication is made by Uriel to Ezra. It begins as the former did with a prayer. Then follows a series of questions intended to bring out the limited understanding of man. When these are finished, Uriel gives an account of the history of the world from the creation. This vision ends with 2 (4) Esdras 6:35. The third vision is very interesting, as a large section of 70 verses had been lost, and were recovered only comparatively recently. This vision contains an account of Creation as it is in Genesis, only rhetorical expansions occur, and a full description is given of Leviathan and Behemoth. Ezra is shown the heavenly Zion in vision as difficult of access.
The portion recently discovered contains an account of the place of punishment, and there is mention of Paradise. The end of this is a prayer of Ezra, which seems an independent composition (2 (4) Esdras 8:20). The fourth vision begins with 4 Esdras 9:26. In it Ezra is shown a woman weeping, who is interpreted to be Zion. She is transformed into a city (2 (4) Esdras 10:27). The fifth vision is the most important. It begins with an eagle appearing, which has three heads and twelve wings. This is interpreted as referring to the Roman empire. It would seem that this had been added to, as in addition to the twelve wings, eight other wings are spoken of. A lion appears who rebukes and destroys the eagle with the twelve wings. This lion is the Messiah and his kingdom. The sixth vision begins with chapter 13 and contains an account of the coming of Christ. In the seventh we have an account of the re-writing of the books at the dictation of Ezra, and the retention of the seventy secret sacred books. In what has preceded we have followed the scheme of Fritzsche. The last chapter proceeds from the same pen as do the opening chapters, and is combined with them by Fritzsche and called the Fifth Book of Esdras.
As has been indicated above, 4 Esdras is marked off into several distinct portions, preceded by Ezra fasting, and introduced by a prayer on the part of the prophet. Kabisch has a more elaborate scheme than Fritzsche. Like him, he recognizes seven visions, and like him he separates off the first chapter and the last 17, 15, 16, as by a different hand from the rest of the book. But in addition, he recognizes additions made by a R throughout the book. To us the scheme appears too elaborate.
As above mentioned, the immediate source of the Latin text appears to have been Greek. There is very little to enable us to settle the question whether Greek was the language in which this book was composed, or whether even the Greek is a translation from Hebrew or Aramaic. There are many echoes of the other Scriptures, but no direct quotations, so there is nothing to show whether the author used the Hebrew text or the Septuagint. The proper names do not supply any clue. Although there are so many versions of the Greek, they are all so paraphrastic that the Greek in most cases is not by any means certain. The few verses quoted in Greek by Clemens Alexandrinus do not afford space enough to discover through them if there is any other language behind. It possibly was written in Hebrew, as it seems to have been written in Palestine.
From the tone of the book there is no doubt that it was written after the capture of Jerusalem by Titus. Had it been due to the later cataclysm, when the rebellion of Barcochba was overthrown, a Christian Jew would not have manifested such sorrow. The break between the church and the synagogue was complete by that time. Further, had this book been written under Hadrian, the previous disaster would have been referred to. Over and above the distinctly and avowedly Christian passages, there are numerous echoes of the New Testament Scriptures. The fifth vision affords notes of time which would be more unambiguous if there had not been additions made. The eagle with the three heads and twelve wings is declared to be the fourth monarchy of Daniel, and by the context this is shown to be imperial Rome.
The question that has exercised critics is the portion of the Roman history referred to. Lucke regarded the reference to be to rulers prominent in the time of Sulla, and the three heads to be the first triumvirate. This view implies a knowledge of Roman politics not possessed by any Jew of the pre-Christian period. Further, the echoes of New Testament language which occur (compare 2 (4) Esdras 5:1 with Luke 18:8; 2 (4) Esdras 6:5 with Revelation 7:3, etc.) determine the decision against any idea that it was pre-Christian. The realization of the horrors of the overthrow of Jerusalem is too vivid to be the result merely of imagination. Another theory would see in the three heads the three Septimians, Severus and his sons Caracalla and Geta. This would find a place for the eight under- wings, as that is exactly the number of emperors between Domitian and Severus, if one neglects the short reign of Didius Julianus. The destruction of "the two under wings that thought to have reigned" (2 (4) Esdras 11:31) would be fulfilled in the defeat and death of pescennius Niger and Clodius Albinus.
The fact that it is the right-hand head that devours the head to the left fits the murder of Geta the younger son, by Caracalla, the elder. Against this view is the fact that the book is quoted by Clemens Alexandrinus. Further, the eight under-wings are said to be kings "whose times shall be small, and their years swift" (2 (4) Esdras 12:20). Though might be said of Nerva, it could not be affirmed of Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Plus or Marcus Aurelius. We are thus restricted to the view which maintains that the three heads are the three Flavians. The twelve wings are the first emperors, beginning with Julius Caesar. The reign of Augustus is longer than any of the monarchs that succeeded him, and it is noted that the second wing was to have that distinction (2 (4) Esdras 12:15). The date then may be placed between the death of Titus and that of Domitian--that is, from 81 to 96. The Lion who rebukes the Eagle for his unrighteousness is the Messiah--the Christ--in His second coming, when He shall come in the glory of His kingdom. The Christians had begun to doubt the speedy coming of the Master, hence He is spoken of as "kept unto the end of days" (2 Esdras 12:32). Such are the Apocalypses, strictly speaking.