Sheinfeld, Shayna. Crises of Leadership in the Post-Destruction Apocalypses 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch. Ph.D. Dissertation. McGill University, 2015.
This project examines the implications of 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch in understanding Jewish leadership in the period following the destruction of the second temple in 70 C.E. Through a literary analysis of each apocalypse, I argue that the ways in which Ezra and Baruch are portrayed as leaders, their interactions with the inscribed communities, and the function of the texts suggest that both texts have specific guidelines about the type of leader the intended audience should follow. 4 Ezra establishes scriptural interpretation as the dominant attribute in the leader it promotes, as well as a leader who will encourage expectations of the impending end times, while 2 Baruch anticipates that the eschaton is nearly here and awaits the leadership of the messiah, while encouraging its audience to remain non-militaristic. Both texts are intended to reach a broad audience. I conclude that these different portrayals of the type of leader to be looked for by the community follows a larger crises of leadership found in other texts and material evidence from around the same period. This analysis of 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch offers not just a description of what types of leadership options were available after the destruction of the temple in 70 C.E.: I provide evidence that in Judaea in the period following the destruction of the temple, there were competing ideals of leadership which posed problems to which Jewish communities felt compelled to respond in texts such as 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch.
What follows is a brief summary of the project:
In the introduction I establish that while 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch promulgate Torah observance and belief in imminent eschatology in the face of the crisis caused by the destruction of the temple, both texts also inadvertently include issues of leadership. These slippages can be found in the narrative frames of both apocalypses, where interactions between Ezra and his community, and Baruch and his community, take place. I propose that this inscribed anxiety about leadership and about the impending loss of leaders is reflective of the historical situation in Judaea in the period following the destruction of the second temple, suggesting a concern that the current leadership was either insufficient or non-existent.
Part One (Chapters 1 and 2) establishes the theoretical and historical frameworks essential for the argument. In the first chapter I discuss how genre theory functions to contribute to a reconstruction of the socio-historical world. This chapter also examines the function of pseudepigraphy; both texts utilize a pseudepigraphic setting and pseudonyms, which serve to re-establish and re-assign authority through the use of leadership figures from the past who were already known and respected figures, that is, Ezra and Baruch, in addition to building on the traditions associated with other precursors, such as Moses. Chapter two shifts from the theoretical framework to historical concerns, establishing the crises of leadership and authority in the socio-historical environment in which 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch were written. First, using Josephus’ historiographical accounts as a base, I show how the structure of authority leading up to and at the time of the destruction of the second temple was a fragile arrangement that collapsed during the first revolt against Rome. Second, I consider the material evidence from the Bar Kokhba revolt, which highlights Shimon Bar Kosiba as a leader who attempted to control all aspects of life during his military campaign, including religious life. These two events serve as the socio-historical frame in which I analyze 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch.
In part two (chapters 3 and 4) I undertake an examination of 4 Ezra. In chapter three, I conduct a literary analysis of leadership in the text with emphasis on the figure of Ezra. Ezra serves as a leader of the inscribed community throughout 4 Ezra, especially in 5:16–20a, 12:40–50, and the entirety of chapter 14. While Ezra serves as the interlocutor between the community and God, the community fears Ezra’s impending absence because they do not know how to continue their observance without his guidance. Ezra’s translation to heaven takes place only after he has left them with these written guidelines, as well as with encouragement to follow the wise who are able to understand the secret books. Chapter five takes the literary conclusions drawn from chapter four and applies them to the socio-historical world in which 4 Ezra was written. I show first how 4 Ezra was not written in a sectarian environment nor was it written for a sectarian audience, and therefore its emphasis on leadership is meant to reach a broader Jewish audience. This argument suggests that the more popular understanding of “the wise” (4 Ezra 14:45–46) as a sectarian group who serves as the intended audience is an incorrect reading. Instead, the use of the terminology of “the wise” is meant to lend legitimacy to the pseudepigraphic text of 4 Ezra. Thus, with its emphasis on imminent eschatology and Torah observance, 4 Ezra promotes a leader type who supports these ideas and thus one who maintains the correct interpretation of scripture.
Part three (chapters 5 and 6) examines 2 Baruch. In chapter five, a literary analysis of 2 Baruch shows that Baruch acts as the leader for the inscribed community, with each interaction widening Baruch’s audience, beginning with a select group of elders and ending with all Jews, everywhere. Baruch’s leadership skills are stressed not only by his interaction with the inscribed community, but also within one of the sub-sections of the narrative which contains an apocalypse and interpretation in the guise of the review of the history of Israel. Here, good and bad leaders from Israel’s past are discussed, highlighting attributes that are both found in Baruch himself and emphasized as the ideal attributes of any subsequent leader. These attributes are: observance of commandments, piety, belief in the imminence of the eschaton, and inquiry into the law. Chapter six considers the intended audience of 2 Baruch, arguing that the movement of Baruch’s audience from a select few elders to the entire Diaspora in the epistle of Baruch suggests that the author of 2 Baruch intended to reach a broad audience of Jews, not limited by location. The message in the narrative indicates that the leadership attributes which 2 Baruch promotes are not to be found in any current leader besides Baruch. Instead, the intended audience should look toward the impending eschaton for the leadership of the messiah. This focus on the messiah is tied up with what I argue is 2 Baruch’s non-militaristic agenda, encouraging its readers to await the messiah for the punishment of those who have destroyed Zion, rather than taking violent action against the enemies of Israel. Thus, with the broad intended audience and the focus on the messiah and the eschaton, 2 Baruch attempts to persuade its reader to avoid armed conflict with the Romans and look to the leadership of the messiah, who will arrive soon, to punish the wicked; any human leader who promoted physical violence against the Roman would thus not be a good leader, according to 2 Baruch.
These findings represent important developments in scholarly understanding of the socio-historical world of Judaism between the destruction of the second temple and the emergence of rabbinic Judaism, a time period for which we have very limited evidence. I show through this analysis that there was no standard measure of authority in Judaea after the destruction; instead competing types of leaders can be found represented through the extant literary and material evidence, reflecting societal instability. This conclusion speaks directly against the idea that there was an easy segue between pharisaic Jewish leadership before the destruction and rabbinic leadership after the destruction. My project pushes forward this continued discussion by offering a careful reading of two texts that have been primarily ignored in the reconstruction of Judaean society following the destruction of the temple. I thus contribute to the our understanding of the larger socio-historical world of Judaea during this period in order to shed light on leadership in post-destruction Judaism and thus to help better understand the social histories of emergent communities and their leaders
Shayna Sheinfeld, Centre College
Photo From the Dura-Europos Synagogue, Damascus, Syria -- 3rd Century -- National Museum of Damascus, Syria