Jeremiah, Letter of

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A paraenetic composition of the Hellenistic period directed to the Jewish exiles in Babylon urging them to repudiate Babylonian idolatry because the idols are not gods. In the Septuagint (LXX) the letter is found as an independent unit between Lamentations and Ezekiel, but in the Vulgate it is reckoned as ch. 6 of Baruch. It was formerly thought to be an original Greek composition, written at Alexandria against Egyptian idolatry, since its oldest preserved form is the Greek of the LXX; but internal evidence has now made it certain that it was written originally in Hebrew and most likely in Babylonia, since it is Babylonian idolatry that it condemns.

In subject matter the author, without much logical sequence or literary skill, treats of various aspects of the impotence of idols, thus demonstrating the folly of idol worship.

The author cannot be Jeremiah because, among other reasons, he speaks of the "seven generations" of the Exile, which, if taken literally, would date the work to c. 300 b.c. It is apparently a late and poor imitation, in synagogue-homily fashion, of the authentic letter of Jeremiah (Jer 29.128), with much borrowing from Jeremiah's polemic against idols (Jer 10.316). Arguments against idolatry have also been taken from Isaiah ch. 40 to 55, especially Is 44.920. The letter shows considerable knowledge of Babylonian religion.

Bibliography: a. robert, Dictionnaire de la Bible, suppl. ed. l. pirot, et al. (Paris 1928) 4:849857. c. j. ball, "Epistle of Jeremy," The Apocrypha and Pseudoepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, ed. r. h. charles et al., 2v. (Oxford 1913) 1:596611. a. penna, "Geremia," La Sacra Bibbia, ed. s. garofalo, 3 v. (Rome 1954) 2:745749.

[l. a. iranyi]