Apocrypha: The Letter of Jeremiah

Luther treated this very short writing as a sixth chapter to Baruch, but the Septuagint and other early copies of the document indicate this is an independent writing.  It is attributed to the prophet Jeremiah, but most scholars both in antiquity and modernity agree that this is not from Jeremiah, and it was written by someone using his name some time after the Babylonian Exile and perhaps after the return to Jerusalem.

The Letter of Jeremiah is a simple and short treatise against idolatry.  It reminds me of passages in Isaiah, such as in Isaiah 44, that show the futility and silliness of exalting a carved or shaped piece of wood or stone to the status of a deity.  While this and Isaiah both focus on the physical ridiculousness of idols, The Letter of Jeremiah spends more time talking about all the actions these idols cannot take and all the things they cannot do – all things any god worth their salt should be able to do!

The letter exhorts God’s people to remain faithful to him and not be lured into idolatry when they are led off into captivity.  It concludes with the simple statement Better therefore is a just man who has no idols, for he will be far from reproach.  Not a call to faithfulness per se, but rather a simple statement that a man of good integrity is better off on his own than throwing his lot in with useless idols.  Or in more Biblical parlance, a just man means one in good standing with the one true God.  In either case, it should be obvious to anyone that idols come from nothing, are nothing, and lead to nothing.

This lacks the poetry evident in many of the prophets, including Isaiah.  While it doesn’t contradict Scripture, it certainly doesn’t add anything to it either, and at best elaborates on things Isaiah says.

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