The Letter of Jeremiah
Harper’s Bible Dictionary
edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)
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Letter of Jeremiah, the, a writing attributed to Jeremiah (late seventh-early sixth centuries b.c.) but composed most likely in the fourth century b.c. in order to provide Jews with arguments to counter their gentile neighbors belief in the reality of idols. It is more of a homily than a letter, arising from Jeremiahs advice to the exiles concerning idolatryThus shall you say to them: The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens (Jer. 10:11)as well as from his correspondence with them in Jeremiah 29. The work defies organization or outline. It is punctuated with the refrain, Since you know by these things that they are not gods, do not fear them (see vv. 16, 23, 29, 40, 44, 52, 56, 65, and 69), and includes all of the stock polemics that Jews directed against idols (see Jer. 10:2-16; Pss. 115:4-8; 135:15-18; Isa. 40:18-20; 41:6-7; 46:1-7; Bel and the Dragon). They are helpless, fabricated by human beings out of wood, stone, and metal, subject to decay, rust, and rot, powerless to deliver anyone from danger, and served by impure and dishonest priests and priestesses who engage in immoral activities like cultic prostitution and theft of offerings.
The Letter was probably composed in Hebrew but has been preserved only in Greek. Its place of composition may have been Babylonia, since it is well informed concerning Mesopotamian religious practices. Some manuscripts of the Septuagint (lxx) treat it as a separate book following Lamentations, while others, along with the Vulgate, include it at the end of Baruch. For Protestants, it is part of the Apocrypha, while Catholics number it among the deuterocanonical books as a part of Baruch.
Edited for BibleTexts.com by Robert Nguyen Cramer