Jeremiah, Epistle of
Jeremiah, Epistle Of, one of the apocryphal writings, purporting to proceed from the pen of the prophet Jeremiah (q.v.).
1. Title and Position. — This apocryphal piece, which derives its title, ἐπιστολὴ ῾Ιερεμίου (Sept., Vulg., Syriac, etc.), from purporting to be an epistle sent by the prophet Jeremiah "to them which were to be led captive to Babylon," has different positions in the different MSS. It is placed after the Lamentations in Origen's Hexaplas, according to the Syriac Hexapla codex in the Ambrosian Library at Milan, in the Cod. Alex., the Arabic versions, etc.; in some editions of the Sept., in the Latin, and the Syriac, which was followed by Luther, the Zurich Bible, and the A. Vers. ("Epistle of Jeremy"), it constitutes the sixth chapter of the apocryphal book of Baruch, while Theodoret, Hilary of Poitiers, and several MSS. of the Sept. entirely omit it. It is, however, an independent production, and has nothing to do with Baruch. SEE BARUCH, BOOK OF.
2. Design and Contents. — The design of this epistle is to admonish the Jews who were going into captivity with the king to beware of the idolatry which they would see in Babylon. It tells the people of God not to become idolaters like the strangers, but to serve their own God, whose angel is with them (verse 1-7), and it exposes in a rhetorical declamation the folly of idolatry (verse 8-72), concluding every group of verses, which contains a fresh proof of its folly, with the reiterated remarks, "Seeing that they are no gods, fear them not" (ver. 16, 23, 29, 66), "How can a man think that they are gods?" (ver. 40, 44, 56, 64, 69), "How can a man not see that they are not gods?" (ver. 49, 53).
3. Author, Date, original Language, Canonicity, etc. — The inscription claims the authorship of this epistle for Jeremiah, who, it is said, wrote it just as the Jews were going to Babylon, which is generally reckoned to be the first year of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, or B.C. 606. This is the general opinion of the Roman Church, which, as a matter of course, regards it as canonical. But modern critics, both Jewish and Christian, who deny the power to any Church to override internal evidence, and defy the laws of criticism, have shown satisfactorily that its original language is Greek, and that it was written by Hellenistic Jews in imitation of Jeremiah, ch. 10 and 29. This is corroborated by the fact that this epistle does not exist in the Hebrew, was never included in the Jewish canon, is designated by Jerome, who knew more than any father what the Jewish canon contained, as Ψσευδεπίγραφος (Proem. Commentar. in Hierom.), was marked with obeli by Origen in his Hexapla, as is evident from the note of Cod. Chislianus (Βαροὺχ ὅλοςὠβὲλισται κατὰ τοὺς ό), and was passed over by Theodoret, though he explained the book of Baruch. The date of this epistle cannot be definitely settled. It is generally supposed that 2 Macc. 2:2 alludes to this epistle, and that it must, therefore, be older than this book of Maccabees. Herzfeld (Geschichte d. V. Israel vor der Zerstörung des ersten Tempels, Brunswick, 1847, p. 316) infers from it the very reverse, namely, that this epistle was written after the passage in 2 Macc., while Fritzsche and Davidson are utterly unable to see the appropriateness of the supposed reference. It is most probable that the writer lived towards the end of the Maccabaean period.
4. Literature. — Arnald, A Critical Commentary on the Apocryphal Books, being a Continuation of Patrick and Lowth; Eichhorn, Einleitung in die apokryph. Schriften des Alten Testaments (Lpz. 1795), p. 390 sq.; De Wette, Einleit. in d. Alte Testament, sec. 324; Fritzsche, Kurzgefasstes exegetisches Handbuch z. d. Apokr. d. Alten Testamentes, part 1 (Lpzg. 1851), p. 205 sq.; Keil, Einleitung in das Alte Testament (1859), p. 731 sq.; Davidson, The Text of the Old Testament considered (London, 1856), p. 1038; also in Horne's Introduction (London, 1856), 2, 1038, 1039. SEE APOCRYPHA.