In order to be prepared for this coming Anointed One and the judgment he brings, people ought to not despise God’s law and “mingle” with the nations. Here we have a reflection of the problem between Jews who sought to keep the Law, probably the Palestinian Jew, and those who made some modifications to the Law so that they could live outside the Land (the Diaspora). Those Jews who lived outside Israel had several “boundary markers” (food laws, circumcision, Sabbath and synagogue worship), but in many other ways they lived and worked alongside Gentiles. It is possible some of these activities were considered to be compromises by those who lived in the Land, compromises which ran the risk of judgment when Messiah comes. The primary example of this sort of belief is Rabbi Saul prior to the Damascus Road experience.
Paul does not merely claim to be a Pharisee – he modifies this claim with the words “according to zeal, a persecutor of the church.” Paul was “zealous” to keep the law to the point that he was willing to persecute those that did not conform to the Law. For a Pharisee to say he was a zealous keeper of the Law, the Jewish listener in the first century may have thought of Judas Maccabees, the forefather of the Pharisees himself, and his zealous defense of things Jewish in the Revolt against Antiochus IV Epiphanes. In 1 Maccabees 2:24-29, for example, when Mattahias sees the other Jews breaking the Law “he burned with zeal and his heart was stirred . . . he burned with zeal for the law.”
This zealousness took the form of an armed rebellion against the Seleucids and any who supported Hellinization in Israel. Zeal in the first century was, in the words of N. T. Wright, “something that you did with a knife” (What Saint Paul Really Said, 27). Along with Judas Maccabees, Phineas (Num 25:1-18) and Elijah (1 Kings 19) are examples of Old Testament characters that burned with a zealous commitment to the Lord that expressed itself in a willingness to challenge the evil head-on, killing those that practiced idolatry themselves if need be. If the Jews were to be ready when the Anointed One comes, then the Law needs to be kept now. Zeal might very well express itself in a violent reaction against those on the fringes who were “mingling.”
This zeal for the law reflected in Baruch may play into the background of the book of Galatians and the controversy of Gentiles keeping the Law. As Paul began to move the church into fully Gentile regions (Galatia, in Acts 13, the “first” missionary journey), he taught that Gentiles did not have to keep the Law. We read in Acts 15 and Gal. 1-2 that some believers from the Pharisees disagreed with Paul and went to some of the churches Paul had founded, allegedly under the authority of James, and taught that Gentiles had to be circumcised. The issue is whether Gentiles who believe Jesus is the Messiah are converting to Judaism – if so, they must be circumcised and, as Paul fully recognizes, keep the whole Law. Why would Pharisees care what was happening in synagogues in Galatia?
It may have been the belief that those who “mingle with the nations” will be judged when the Messiah comes, as found in Baruch 42-43. After A.D. 70 this belief could have become even more dramatic since it appears God has in fact judged the Jews for unbelief. Separation from the growing Christian movement would have been critical.
In summary, Baruch represents a Judaism which believes God will send a Messiah at some time to overcome the Romans (the oppressive last kingdom) and establish a time of peace and prosperity in the Land. This Anointed One will judge on Mount Zion and punish all those who have persecuted, but also those who have not kept the Law and “mingled with the nations.”
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