The Letter of Jeremiah, also known as the
Epistle of Jeremiah, is a
deuterocanonical book of the Old Testament; this letter purports to
have been written by
Jeremiah to the Jews who were about to be carried
away as captives to
Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. It is included in
Catholic Bibles as the final chapter of the
Book of Baruch. It is also
included in Orthodox Bibles as a standalone book. Some scholars claim
that the title of this work is misleading, as they consider it to be
neither a letter nor written by the prophet Jeremiah.
6.1 Text editions
6.2 Translations with commentary
7 External links
According to the text of the letter, the author is the biblical
prophet Jeremiah. The biblical
Book of Jeremiah
Book of Jeremiah already contains the
words of a letter (Jer 29:1–23) sent by
Jeremiah "from Jerusalem" to
the "captives" in Babylon. The Letter of
Jeremiah portrays itself as a
similar piece of correspondence.
Jeremiah 1 (KJV)
Jeremiah 29:1 (KJV)
A copy of an epistle, which Jeremy sent unto them which were to be led
Babylon by the king of the Babylonians, to certify them,
as it was commanded by God.
Now these are the words of the letter that
Jeremiah the prophet sent
from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away
captives ... and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried
away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon.
As E. H. Gifford puts it, "The fact that
Jeremiah had written one such
letter to the captives seems to have suggested the idea of dignifying
by his name another letter not written in reality till many ages after
his death."[full citation needed] Against the traditional view,
most contemporary scholars agree that the author was not Jeremiah.
The chief arguments put forward are literary quality, as well as the
religious depth and sensitivity. J. T. Marshall adds that the use
of "seven generations" (v. 3) rather than "seventy years" (Jer 29:10)
for the duration of the exile "points away from
Jeremiah towards one
who deplored the long exile." The author may have been a
Jew who lived in Alexandria, but it is difficult to say
with certainty. The earliest manuscripts containing the
Jeremiah are all in Greek. The earliest Greek fragment (1st century
BC) was discovered in Qumran. Gifford reports that in his time "the
great majority of competent and impartial critics" considered Greek to
be the original language. As one of these critics O. F. Fritzsche
put it, "If any one of the Apocryphal books was composed in Greek,
this certainly was." The strongest dissenter from this majority
view was C. J. Ball, who marshalled the most compelling argument for a
Hebrew original. However,
Yale Semitic scholar C. C. Torrey was
not persuaded: "If the examination by a scholar of Ball's thoroughness
and wide learning can produce nothing better than this, it can be said
with little hesitation that the language was probably not Hebrew."
Torrey's own conclusion was that the work was originally composed in
Aramaic. In recent years the tide of opinion has shifted and now
the consensus is that the "letter" was originally composed in Hebrew
The date of this work is uncertain. Most scholars agree that it is
dependent on certain biblical passages, notably Isa 44:9–20,
46:5–7, and thus can be no earlier than 540 BC. Since a fragment
(7Q2) was identified among the scrolls in
Qumran Cave 7, it can be no
later than 100 BC. Further support for this terminus ad quem may be
found in a possible reference to the letter in 2 Maccabees
Jeremiah vv. 4–6 (NEB)
Babylon you will see carried on men's shoulder's gods made of
silver, gold, and wood, which fill the heathen with awe. Be careful,
then, never to imitate these Gentiles; do not be overawed by their
gods when you see them in the midst of a procession of worshippers.
But say in your hearts, "To thee alone, Lord, is worship due."
The records show that it was the prophet
Jeremiah who ordered the
exiles ... not to neglect the ordinances of the Lord, or be led astray
by the sight of images of gold and silver with all their finery.
As mentioned above, the use of "seven generations" rather than
"seventy years" points to a later period. Ball calculates the date to
be c. 307 – 317 BC. And Tededche notes: "It is well known that
many Jews were attracted to alien cults throughout the Greek period,
300 BC onward, so that the warning in the letter might have been
uttered any time during this period."
Although the "letter" is included as a discrete unit in the
Septuagint, there is no evidence of it ever having been canonical in
the Masoretic tradition.
The earliest evidence we have of the question of its canonicity
arising in Christian tradition is in the work of Origen of Alexandria,
as reported by Eusebius in his Church History. Origen listed
Lamentations and the Letter of
Jeremiah as one unit with the
Jeremiah proper, among "the canonical books as the Hebrews have handed
them down," though scholars agree that this was surely a slip.
Epiphanius of Salamis
Epiphanius of Salamis in his Panarion writes that Jews had in their
books the deuterocanonical
Jeremiah and Baruch, both
Jeremiah and Lamentations in only one book.
Alexandria mentions the same, he includes the
Jeremiah and Baruch as a part of the Old
Testament Canon, both combined with
Jeremiah and Lamentations in only
Cyril of Jerusalem
Cyril of Jerusalem states in his list of canonical books "of Jeremiah
one, including Baruch and Lamentations and the Epistle"
Synod of Laodicea (4th Century) wrote that Jeremiah, and Baruch,
the Lamentations, and the
Epistle are canonical in only one book.
Jerome provided the majority of the translation work for the vulgar
(popular) Latin translation of the Bible, called the
Vulgate Bible. In
view of the fact that no
Hebrew text was available,
Jerome refused to
Epistle of Jeremiah, as the other books he called
Despite Jerome's reservations, the epistle is included as chapter 6 of
Book of Baruch
Book of Baruch in the
Old Testament of the Vulgate. The King James
Version follows the same practice, while placing Baruch in the
Apocrypha section as does Luther's Bible. In the Ethiopian Orthodox
canon, it forms part of the "Rest of Jeremiah", along with 4 Baruch
(also known as the Paraleipomena of Jeremiah).
The epistle is one of four deuterocanonical books found among the Dead
Sea scrolls (see
Tanakh at Qumran). (The other three are Psalm 151,
Sirach, and Tobit.) The portion of the epistle discovered at Qumran
was written in Greek. This does not preclude the possibility of the
text being based on a prior
Aramaic text. However, the only
text available to us has dozens of linguistic features available in
Greek, but not in Hebrew; this shows that the Greek text is more than
a minimalist translation.
The "letter" is actually a satire, or harangue, against idols and
Bruce M. Metzger
Bruce M. Metzger suggests "one might perhaps
characterize it as an impassioned sermon which is based on a verse
from the canonical
Book of Jeremiah." That verse is Jer 10:11, the
only verse in the entire book written in Aramaic.
Tell them this: "These gods, who did not make the heavens and the
earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens."
Jeremiah 10:11 (NIV)
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
the Lord. As Gifford puts it, "the writer is evidently making an
earnest appeal to persons actually living in the midst of heathenism,
and needing to be warned and encouraged against temptations to
apostasy." The author warned the
Hebrew exiles that they were to
remain in captivity for seven generations, and that during that time
they would see the worship paid to idols. Readers were extolled not to
participate, because the idols were created by men, without the powers
of speech, hearing, or self-preservation. Then follows a satirical
denunciation of the idols. As Gifford explains, in this folly of
idolatry "there is no clear logical arrangement of the thought, but
the divisions are marked by the recurrence of a refrain, which is
apparently intended to give a sort of rhythmical air to the whole
composition." The conclusion reiterates the warning to avoid
^ Moore 1992, 3:703; Pfeiffer 1949, 427.
^ Gifford 1888, 287.
^ One exception is the Roman Catholic commentator F. H. Reusch,
Erklärung des Buchs Baruch (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 1853). For
a critique of his position as well as an English translation of
portions of his work, see Gifford 1888, 288.
^ Moore 1992, 704; cf. Marshall 1909, 578.
^ Marshall 1909, 579; cf. Gifford 1888, 302; Ball 1913, 596.
^ Charles 1911, 325; Westcott 1893, 361; Gifford 1888, 290.
^ Baillet 1962, 143.
^ Gifford 1888, 288; cf. Torrey 1945, 65.
^ Fritzsche 1851, 206 as translated by Gifford 1888, 288.
^ Ball 1913, 597–98, and throughout the commentary; cf. Gifford
^ Torrey 1945, 65; cf. Oesterley 1914, 508.
^ Torrey 1945, 66–67. Pfeiffer 1949, 430, supports Torrey's Aramaic
proposal, though noting that "its
Hellenistic Greek style is fairly
^ Metzger 1957, 96; Moore 1977, 327–27; Nickelsburg 1984, 148;
Schürer 1987, 744 (opinion of revisers, Schürer himself thought it
was "certainly of Greek origin" [Schürer 1896, 195]); Moore 1992,
704; Kaiser 2004, 62.
^ Moore 1992, 705; Schürer 1987, 744; Pfeiffer 1949, 429.
^ Moore 1992, 705; Nickelsburg, 1984, 148; Schürer 1987, 744.
Pfeiffer 1949, 429, rejects the reference and cites other rejectors.
^ Ball 1913, 596; cf. Moore 1977, 334–35.
^ Tededche 1962, 823.
^ Eusebius,Church History, vi.25.2"
^ Marshall 1909, 579; Schürer 1987, 744. H. J. Lawlor and J. E. L.
Oulton, Eusebius: The Ecclesiastical History, 2 vols. (London: SPCK,
1927), 2:216, write: "the text of the list which lay before Eusebius
was corrupt or was carelessly copied."
^ Williams, translated by Frank (1987). The Panarion of Epiphanius of
Salamis 8:6:1-3 (2. impression. ed.). Leiden: E.J. Brill.
ISBN 9004079262. Archived from the original on 6 September 2015.
Retrieved 11 October 2016.
^ of Alexandria, Athanasius. Letter 39. newadvent. Retrieved 11
^ of Jerusalem, Cyril. Catechetical Lecture 4 Chapter 35. newadvent.
Retrieved 12 October 2016.
^ of Laodicea, Synod.
Synod of Laodicea Canon 60. newadvent. Retrieved
12 October 2016.
^ Jerome, Comm. on Jeremiah, praef. Migne PL 24:706.
^ Benjamin G Wright, 'To the Reader of the
Epistle of Ieremeias', in
New English Translation of the Septuagint.
^ Moore 1992, 703; cf. Dancy 1972, 199.
^ Metzger 1957, 96. Also endorsing its sermonic character are Ball
1913, 596; Tededche 1962, 822; Vriezen 2005, 543.
^ Torrey 1945, 64; Metzger 1957, 96; Moore 1992, 704,
^ Gifford 1888, 290. Oesterley 1914, 507, says much the same thing:
"That the writer is seeking to check a real danger ... seems certain
from the obvious earnestness with which he writes."
^ Gifford 1888, 287. The refrain occurs first at v. 16 and then is
repeated at vv. 23, 29, 65, and 69.
Baars, W. (1961). "Two Palestinian Syriac Texts Identified as Parts of
Epistle of Jeremy,"
Vetus Testamentum 11:77–81.
Baillet, M., et al., eds. (1962). Les "Petites Grottes" de Qumran,
Discoveries in the Judean Desert III. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Otto Fridolin Fritzsche (1871). Libri Apocryphi Veteris Testamenti
Graece. F.A. Brockhaus. p. 102.
Rahlfs, Alfred, ed. (1935). Septuaginta, 2 vols., 2:766-70. Stuttgart:
Privilegierte Württembergische Bibelanstalt.
Henry Barclay Swete (1899). The
Old Testament in Greek According to
the Septuagint. University Press. p. 379.
Weber, Robert, ed. (1994). Biblia sacra: iuxta Vulgatam versionem,
1262–65. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.
Ziegler, Joseph, ed. (1957). Ieremias, Baruch, Threni, Epistula
Ieremiae, 494–504. Göttinger Septuaginta XV. Göttingen:
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
Translations with commentary
Ball, C. J. (1913). "
Epistle of Jeremy," in The Apocrypha and
Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, ed. R. H. Charles, 2 vols.,
1:596–611. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Cook, F. C., ed. (1888). The Holy
Bible according to the authorized
version (A.D. 1611).: With an explanatory and critical commentary and
a revision of the translation by elergy of the Anglican church.
Apocrypha. J. Murray. p. 287.
Dancy, J. C. (1972). The Shorter Books of the Apocrypha, 197–209.
Bible Commentary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Moore, Carey A. (1977). Daniel, Esther, and Jeremiah: The Additions.
Anchor Bible 44. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
Charles, R. H. (1911). "Jeremy,
Epistle Of," in 'Encyclopædia
Britannica, 11th ed. 15:325.
Thomas Kelly Cheyne; John Sutherland Black (1901). Encyclopædia
Biblica: A Critical Dictionary of the Literary, Political and
Religious History, the Archæology, Geography, and Natural History of
the Bible. Macmillan.
Otto Fridolin Fritzsche; Carl Ludwig Wilibald Grimm (1851).
Kurzgefasstes exegetisches Handbuch zu den Apokryphen des Alten
Testamentes. Weidmann. p. 205.
Otto Kaiser (2004-06-01). The
Old Testament Apocrypha: An
Introduction. Alban Books Limited. ISBN 978-1-56563-693-4.
James Hastings; John Alexander Selbie; Andrew Bruce Davidson; Samuel
Rolles Driver; Henry Barclay Swete (1899). A dictionary of the Bible:
dealing with its language, literature, and contents, including the
Biblical theology. T. & T. Clark. p. 578.
Metzger, Bruce M. (1957). An Introduction to the Apocrypha, 95–98.
New York: Oxford University Press.
Moore, Carey A. (1992). "Jeremiah, Additions To," in Anchor Bible
Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman, 6 vols., 3:698–706. New York:
Michael E. Stone (1984). Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period:
Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Qumran, Sectarian Writings, Philo,
Josephus. Fortress Press. ISBN 978-0-8006-0603-9.
William Oscar Emil Oesterley (1914). The books of the Apocrypha: their
origin, teaching and contents. Revell. p. 506.
Pfeiffer, Robert H. (1949). History of
New Testament Times with an
Introduction to the Apocrypha, 426-32. New York: Harper and Brothers.
Emil Schürer (1896). A history of the Jewish people in the time of
Jesus Christ. T. & T. Clark. p. 195.
Emil Schürer (2000-11-14). History of the Jewish People in the Age of
Jesus Christ: Volume 3 (ii) and Index. T&T Clark.
Tededche, S. (1962). "Jeremiah, Letter Of," in The Interpreter's
Dictionary of the Bible, 4 vols., 2:822-23. Nashville: Abingdon.
Torrey, C. C. (1945). The Apocryphal Literature: A Brief Introduction,
64–67. New Haven:
Yale University Press.
Theodoor Christiaan Vriezen; A. S. Van Der Woude (2005). Ancient
Israelite and Early Jewish Literature: Tenth, Completely Revised
Edition of De Literatuur Van Oud-Israël. BRILL.
John Mee Fuller (1893). A Dictionary of the Bible: Comprising Its
Antiquities, Biography, Geography, and Natural History. J. Murray.
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Preier of Jeremye (Wycliffe)
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Baruch 6 (
Epistle of Jeremiah) (KJV)
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Jeremiah's Letter (World English)
Wycliffe's Translation known as the Preier of Jeremye (Prayer of
Text of the
Epistle of Jeremy from CCEL
Jeremiah in the KJV
Baruch 6 (Letter of Jeremiah) in the New American Bible
Epistle of Jeremiah
The Catholic Encyclopedia: Baruch
Epistle of Jeremy
Introduction and Text of the Letter of Ieremias from the New English
Translation of the Septuagint
2012 Translation & Audio Version
Books of the Bible
Baruch includes the Letter of Jeremiah
Books of the Bible
Books of the Bible
Old Testament Protocanon
Additions to Esther
Baruch / Letter of Jeremiah
Additions to Daniel
Song of the Three Children
Bel and the Dragon
Prayer of Manasseh
1, 2, and 3 Meqabyan
Paralipomena of Baruch
Letter of Baruch
Chapters and verses
Major prophets / Minor prophets
Old Testament canon
New Testament canon
Dead Sea Scrolls
New Testament manuscript categories
New Testament papyri
New Testament uncials
Other books referenced in the Bible
New Testament apocrypha
Synod of Hippo