The Letter of Jeremiah – What is it?
The Letter of Jeremiah (sometimes referred to as the Epistle of Jeremy) is found in the collection of writings called the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical Books. These writings are accepted in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches but are rejected by Protestants since they were not part of the accepted writings of the Jewish Old Testament or the New Testament writings.
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The Letter of Jeremiah is often listed as chapter six of the Book of Baruch (or 1 Baruch). The earliest known versions of this writing are found in Greek, including copies found among the texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Scholars believe the Letter of Jeremiah was originally composed in Aramaic or Hebrew around 300 BC.
The church father Jerome had already rejected the writing in about the year 400, noting that it was not connected with the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah. Clearly, Jeremiah was not its author, and the true author remains unknown.
The content of the letter speaks against idol worship. Specifically, it speaks against worshiping the gods of the Babylonians rather than the Lord God. Parts of the letter reflect information from other biblical books about the kingdom of Babylon. For example, verse 3 notes, "Now shall ye see in Babylon gods of silver, and of gold, and of wood, borne upon shoulders, which cause the nations to fear." This closely resembles what is found in Daniel 5:4: "They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone."
Many of the commands found in the Letter of Jeremiah resemble the teaching of Jeremiah 10:11, "The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens." For example, verse 11 of the Letter of Jeremiah states, "Yet cannot these gods save themselves from rust and moth, though they be covered with purple raiment." Verse 14 sarcastically says of the idols, "He hath also in his right hand a dagger and an ax: but cannot deliver himself from war and thieves."
Though the teachings of the Letter of Jeremiah are on target with the Bible's teachings regarding the rejection of idolatry, the letter is not to be considered authoritative in the same regard as the Old and New Testament writings. Written long after the death of Jeremiah and unaccepted as Scripture by the Jewish people, it is clear this book was not intended to serve as part of the Jewish Scriptures. Instead, its words help us better understand the perspective of the Jews who lived under the controlling influences of outside powers who worshiped other gods, yet were commanded to remain faithful to the Lord God who promised to one day send Messiah.
What are the Catholic Apocrypha / Deuterocanonical books?
The Book of Baruch – What is it?
What is the canon of the Bible and how did we get it?
The Book of Tobit – What is it?
The books of 1 and 2 Maccabees – What are they?
Truth about the Bible