The Glossary of Terms



Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

You are strongly recommended to add to your library the excellent revised edition of Harper's Bible Dictionary titled, The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition [book review], edited by Paul J. Achtemeier, with the Society of Biblical Literature (NY: Harper Collins, 1996). It is currently the best one-volume Bible dictionary in English, and it is available at Border's Books, Christian Science Reading Rooms,, or

Baruch, the Book of, a short collection of prayers and poems from diverse sources, attributed to Baruch, Jeremiah’s scribe (Jer. 36:4), and found in the Septuagint (lxx). It is sometimes termed 1 Baruch to distinguish it from two pseudepigraphical writings, The Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch (2 Baruch), and The Greek Apocalypse of Baruch (3 Baruch). While difficult to date, Baruch seems to have been composed in Hebrew, possibly early in the second century b.c. The occasional affinities to the language of Jeremiah and Deuteronomy are more likely an indication that the authors have steeped themselves in Scripture than evidence for composition by the historical Baruch. The book has not survived in Hebrew and seems to have been largely ignored by early Christians. The Latin Vulgate and some manuscripts of the lxx include with it the Letter of Jeremiah, although elsewhere the latter appears as a separate work. Protestants treat Baruch as part of the Apocrypha, while Catholics classify it as deuterocanonical. It is composed of four distinct parts.

The narrative introduction (1:1-14) sets the writing in Babylonia during the Exile. Baruch returns the Temple vessels to Jehoiakim, the high priest in Jerusalem, along with funds for burnt and sin offerings and a request that the accompanying prayer of confession be read in the Temple on feast days. The introduction also reflects an attitude of accommodation to gentile authorities in that it requests prayers on behalf of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, his son. Baruch agrees with 2 Baruch 6 in associating Jeremiah’s scribe with traditions concerning the preservation of the Temple vessels (contrast Ezra 1:7-11).

A prayer of confession (1:15-3:8) is the second part of Baruch. It is a penitential prose prayer on behalf of the inhabitants of Judah as well as the exiles. It addresses God as ‘Lord’ (probably Heb. Yahweh) and reflects the point of view of Deuteronomy 28-32 as well as the phraseology of the prayer in Dan. 9:4-19.

A hymn to Wisdom personified (3:9-4:4) is a poem echoing both Job 28, in speaking of a search for Wisdom, and Ecclesiasticus 24, in identifying her as the Torah, the law of God. The personification of Wisdom and the identification with the Torah point to a period late in the development of the wisdom tradition when concern had shifted from practical instruction to revelation as the primary mode of knowledge. This section and the next use the generic term ‘God’ (probably Heb. Elohim) rather than ‘Lord.’
A psalm of comfort (4:5-5:9) is the concluding section of Baruch. It is composed primarily of the lament of Zion over her lost children (cf. Lamentations). The tone is one of comfort and hope for the return of the exiles, and in achieving it the psalm frequently echoes Isaiah 40-66.

Since the precise date of Baruch is unknown, it is not clear why its writers, who lived long after the sixth century b.c., chose to appropriate the memory of the Exile. Either the book is intended to express a hope for the end of the Diaspora, or it is related in some way to the desecration of the Temple by the Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes. While it is not highly regarded as Scripture, it provides a valuable look into the development of Jewish traditions during what is essentially a dark age.


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Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer
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