Books Faith

The Book of Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah

After the destruction of the Temple, the ritual spilling of blood stopped in Jerusalem. Four great prophetic books — known to us as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Ezekiel, chronicled that awful event and its aftermath. We say awful, but it was designed by God. The LORD proceeded from Jerusalem on these four roads, calling the entire world to worship as He does so.

After passion of Christ, the ritual spilling of blood in Jerusalem was made presentable at all times. Four great accounts of the Gospel — known to us as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, chronicled that awful event and its aftermath. We say awful, but it was designed by God. The Lord proceeds to us on these four roads, calling the entire world to worship as He does so.

Such beautiful stories of the faith.

And then there’s Baruch.

Some of us ate the flesh of their sons
and others the flesh of their daughters.
Baruch 2:3

Baruch does not claim to be a prophet. The LORD is not quoted. Tradition states that Baruch himself was the personal secretary of Jeremiah, and this may well be the case.

This is the exile from the eyes of the people, who raise money and buy offerings and don’t really know what to do.

Then they wept, and fasted, and prayed before the Lord; they collected as much money as each could give, and sent it to Jerusalem to the high priest Jehoiakim son of Hilkiah son of Shallum, and to the priests, and to all the people who were present with him in Jerusalem.
Baruch 1:5-7

Baruch presents not a celestial stage, but a hateful reality that was real enough to those suffering in it.

Pray for the life of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and for the life of his son Belshazzar, so that their days on earth may be like the days of heaven.
Baruch 1:11

To get the effect, imagine a world where the Nazis were triumphant. And a terribly reduced Jewish population was left, praying for the health of Adolf and Eva.

The purpose of Baruch was to help a Jewish population survive in an emergency, immediately after the destruction of the Temple. Just as Baruch contains not just theology, but also please to be wise (which is to say, cunning) in the Darwinian nightmare of Babylon

You have forsaken the fountain of wisdom.

If you had walked in the way of God,
you would be living in peace for ever.
Baruch 3:12-13

This short book is only six chapters –at most. In some churches the sixth chapter is presented as The Letter of Jeremiah (written down by Baruch), a short piece emphasizing that the idols of the Babylonians are not themselves gods.

[The idols’] faces are wiped because of the dust from the temple, which is thick upon them. One of them holds a sceptre, like a district judge, but is unable to destroy anyone who offends it. Another has a dagger in its right hand, and an axe, but cannot defend itself from war and robbers. From this it is evident that they are not gods; so do not fear them.
Baruch 6:13-16

The closest parrallel to this disaster in the New Testament tradition is the Didache, a compilation of Christian events widely circulated in first century Palestine. The purpose of Didache was help a Jewish population survive in an emergency, immediately after the killing of the Lord.

Be watchful for your life; let your lamps not be quenched and your loins not ungirded, but be ye ready; 2for ye know not the hour in which our Lord cometh.
Didache 16:4

As a Catholic, I’ve wondered why Baruch is accepted as part of the Scripture itself, while the Didache is considered more of an early church document, perhaps the first Papal Bull (some traditions state that the Didache was dictated by Peter). Barcuh grounds reality, after the four Great Prophets of the early Exile. Why were the Gospels not similarly grounded in the Bible by the Didache, and instead followed up by the continent-spanning Acts of the Apostles?

This is the closest I have to an answer: Baruch is a story of survival, but Acts is an adventure. Baruch is about huddling around a remnant, Acts is going out from a secure upper room.

And more than that. Baruch could only plee for the Lord to notice the faithful

O Lord, look down from your holy dwelling, and consider us. Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear;
Baruch 2:16

But at Pentecost, the Apostles knew He did much more than notice.

“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
Acts of the Apostles 2:36-39


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