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More Apocrypha: A Letter of Jeremiah, (Fascinating) Additions to Daniel, and 1 Maccabees

Here is another installment on my discussion of the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical books.  The first of the three I discuss here is not well known, but the second and third are historically quite significant.


The Letter of Jeremiah

This is one of the shortest books of Apocrypha—it is only one chapter long, and in the Latin tradition of the Roman Catholic Church it is included as the final chapter of the book of Baruch. The book is allegedly written by the prophet Jeremiah, sent to the Judeans bound for Babylonian exile. In exile they will be among people who worship other gods through idols. This book is nothing but an attack on pagan idolatry.

The real historical context of the writing is a situation in which Jews around the world were surrounded by idol worship. It may have been produced in the aftermath of the Maccabean Revolt; it appears to have been composed in Hebrew or Aramaic.

Much of the book consists of a mockery of …

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Yet Other Apocryphal Books
More Books of the Apocrypha: Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, and Baruch



  1. Avatar
    mkahn1977  October 19, 2018

    How come Esther became Jewish canon and the Maccabees books did not? I ask in the context of the former is the basis for Purim and the latter obviously Hanukkah, and especially since Esther was fiction and the other books reflect history.

    • Bart
      Bart  October 21, 2018

      Esther was thought to have been written in (what was then) antiquity; 1 and 2 Maccabees were known to be “recent”

  2. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  October 19, 2018

    Maybe with the exception of 1 Maccabees, I would imagine that these books seem quite odd to a lot of us. Do we know much about the arguments for and against including them in the Bible?

  3. Avatar
    rivercrowman  October 19, 2018

    Bart, this is off-topic. How safe is it for me to claim that Jesus’ second coming is a failed prophecy? Thanks!

    • Bart
      Bart  October 21, 2018

      If by that you mean a prediction that never came true, then yes, in my view that’s safe to say.

  4. Avatar
    Stephen  October 19, 2018

    How historically accurate is the account in 1 Macc supposed by scholars to be? Does Josephus help us at all?


    • Bart
      Bart  October 21, 2018

      It is usually taken to be reasonably accurate in its historical descriptions.

  5. Avatar
    godspell  October 20, 2018

    It’s interesting to me that this letter, whether written by Jeremiah or not, is mainly an attack on idol worship–and yet only Catholic and Orthodox bibles include it. Catholics pray to statues of saints, Orthodox to icons–neither really believes the image they pray to is itself a living being, but rather a means of focusing on prayer, coming closer to Jesus, Mary, and the saints–revered in itself, perhaps, but not worshiped. A remnant of old pagan practice–not idolatrous in the true sense.

    Protestants mainly rejected this type of worship, went for a sparer more minimalist approach to devotion (and contributed much less to the world of religious art as a result). And yet they didn’t include this letter, which endorses their POV. The Catholics and Orthodox do, even though whoever wrote it would find some of their practices abominable.


    • Avatar
      Duke12  October 22, 2018

      I prefer the term “paradoxical” rather than “strange” :-). Another example: at pretty much every Orthodox Christian feast day Liturgy honoring the Virgin Mary, the Gospel reading includes Luke 11:27-28.

  6. Avatar
    WLFobe  October 21, 2018

    Dr Ehrman,
    In your commentary on 1 Maccabees you refer to “Chapter 6”. I assume this was from one of your books. Which on?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 21, 2018

      Ah, sorry: it wsa my book The Bible: A Historical and LIterary Introduction.

  7. Avatar
    caesar  October 21, 2018

    Do you have a sense of why sometimes the ancient Jews combined obviously later materials into older materials, and sometimes they didn’t? For example, 2nd Isaiah, which never claims to be from Isaiah, apparently was added to the original Isaiah…but the additions to Daniel or Esther, which clearly are additions to those books, were never combined with the originals. (Although Daniel itself appears to have been authored by more than one person over at least a century.) Is there any rhyme or reason to any of this?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 22, 2018

      My sense is that different editors took different approaches to texts, and it wasn’t a matter of “earlier” or “later” ones. We get similar “expanded” texts (where different texts are combined into one longer one) within the early Christian tradition, for example. Even 2 Corinthians may be that kind of thing. Sometimes editors / scribes would do that to make a different text equally “authoritative” (as coming from Isaiah, e.g., or Paul)

  8. Avatar
    SidDhartha1953  November 15, 2018

    One of the Psalms, I forget which, addresses the elements (fire etc.) in much the same way as the Song of the 3 in Daniel. Is the Song a copy of the psalm?

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