What is the Letter of Jeremiah?

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Question: "What is the Letter of Jeremiah?"

The Letter of Jeremiah, also called the Epistle of Jeremy, is one of the books of the Apocrypha. It is often included as chapter 6 of the book of Baruch, although it does occasionally stand alone in some versions. Apocryphal books are those that are not generally considered inspired. The word apocrypha means “things hidden away.” These books were never included in the Hebrew canon, were never accepted as canonical by Jesus or the apostles, and were never accepted as Scripture by early Jewish writers. Many of these books also contain historical, geographical, or chronological errors. They are classified as “deuterocanonical,” or part of the “secondary” canon by some denominations.

The earliest manuscripts of the Letter of Jeremiah are in Greek, including one found among the scrolls of Qumran. However, most scholars believe the original may have been composed in Hebrew or Aramaic. It is generally thought to have been written between 307 and 317 B.C. The fact that much of the material appears to be dependent on some biblical passages in Isaiah lends support to the later date.

Although the document is called the Letter of Jeremiah, it is neither a letter, nor is it from Jeremiah. The date of writing places it nearly 300 years after Jeremiah’s call to prophesy. The text is largely made up of denouncements of idolatry. It begins with a warning to the exiles of the idolatry they would see in Babylon, which is followed by a series of colorful descriptions about how ineffectual and helpless idols are. It concludes with a final warning and exhortation to avoid idolatry. Like all apocryphal books, this one cannot be considered the inspired Word of God. However, this does not mean that it is a bad book; much of the material in the book is both true and helpful. It may have good advice, even godly advice, but it cannot be considered inerrant.

Recommended Resource: The Canon of Scripture by F.F. Bruce

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