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Letter of Jeremiah

About the Letter of Jeremiah.

books The Book:

The Epistle of Jeremiah is a deuterocanonical (or apocryphal) book of the Old Testament; this letter purports to have been written by Jeremiah to the exiles who were to be taken captive into Babylon.

Some scholars have asserted that the author was not Jeremiah, but a Hellenistic Jew who lived in Alexandria. Whoever the author, the work was written with a serious practical purpose: to instruct the Jews not to worship the gods of the Babylonians, but to worship only Yahweh. It is interesting to note that 2 Maccabees may be referring to this letter in chapter 2 verses 1-3.

The author warned the exiles that they were to remain in captivity for 7 generations; that they would there see the worship paid to idols, and that they were strictly to hold aloof from all participation; for the idols were nothing save the work of men's hands, without the powers of speech, hearing or self-preservation. They could not bless their worshippers, even in the smallest concerns of life; they were indifferent to moral qualities, and were of less value than the commonest household objects, and finally, with rare irony, the author compared an idol to a scarecrow (v. 70), impotent to protect, but deluding to the imagination. The most striking thing about this work is that Babylon really is meant, because modern historians admit that no other people are known to have carried their gods around on their shoulders; some scholars point to this description as evidence that Jeremiah may have actually written this work.

The date of this work is uncertain, but the reference in 2 Maccabees is disputed by Fritzsche, Gifford, Shrer, and others. The epistle is included in the Greek canon; there was no question of its canonicity until the time of Jerome, who termed it a pseudepigraph simply because there was no existing Hebrew original. In the Ethiopian Orthodox canon, it forms part of the "Rest of Jeremiah", along with IV Baruch or the Paraleipomena of Jeremiah.

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