Glossary of Terms

The Letter of Jeremiah


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

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 Jeremiah’s advice to the exiles concerning idolatry—‘Thus 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.


Topical index of terms
Edited for by Robert Nguyen Cramer
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