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The Catholic Study Bible A special version of the New American Bible, with a wealth of background information useful to Catholics.

The Message of the Book of Baruch

Baruch, the secretary of Jeremiah, preserved and interpreted the words of his master for a new time and situation. By the time Baruch was written (probably the late second or early first century BC), the exile had gone on far longer than what Jeremiah predicted. Jeremiah's “seventy years” had come and gone and the exile continued. “Exile” had come to mean something more complex than absence from one's homeland. It meant also subjugation to a foreign government, high rates of taxation, harassment, and arbitrary treatment by an occupying power. The author of the book believes in the authority of the Jeremiah tradition but realizes it has to be interpreted for a new situation. Jeremiah's seventy years of exile (Jer 25, 1–12; 29, 10 ) become in Baruch “many days” (Bar 1, 12; 4, 35 , literal translation; NAB “long” and “long time”). In the Letter of Jeremiah, it becomes “many years, a period seven generations long” (Bar 6, 2 ). Jeremiah advised the exiles to settle down and pray for the welfare of Babylon (Jer 29, 5–7 ) and promised that the Lord had a plan to bring the exiles back provided they were constant in prayer (Jer 29, 10–14 ), “When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you” (Jer 29, 12 ). Baruch provides a model of such prayer (Bar 1, 15–3, 8 ): the nation abases itself and places all its hopes in the Lord. Baruch also shows the people that there are other ways to gain life during exile, especially the pursuit of wisdom, which is to be found in the law of the Lord ( 3, 9–4, 5 ). Mother Zion instructs the people how they are to live so that the Lord will bring them back: maintain a lively hope that the Lord will bring them back to Zion ( 4, 5–5, 9 ).

Baruch shows that many Jews, at least in Judea, considered the exile to be still continuing. It had not ended when the first exiles returned in the latter part of the sixth century. Rather, it continues as long as Israel is not free and another empire rules their land, as long as their Temple is subject to foreign supervision, and their rulers govern under the direction of others. Such subordination is an insult to the Lord of heaven and earth who is Israel's God.

For modern readers, Baruch shows how ancient Scripture can be interpreted to give life and meaning to people in new situations. The book's insistence that one must place all one's hope in the Lord, that one can find the Lord in the inspired Scriptures, and that one must hear words of hope make it perennially valuable for all ages.

Influence in Judaism and Christianity

The Hebrew text was not preserved in Judaism. According to Jerome, in the late fourth century ad, the Jews did not even possess a Hebrew text. In early Christianity, however, Baruch was widely quoted and cited as sacred Scripture. Baruch 3, 36–37 , concerning the appearance on earth of the wisdom of God, was a particular favorite because it was given a Christological reference. Fathers of the Church often quoted it, though they sometimes cite it as “Jeremiah,” because in the Septuagint (Greek) translation Baruch was an appendix to Jeremiah. The work appears in several canonical lists of Greek fathers but never in lists compiled by Latin fathers. The book was included in the canonical list of the Council of Trent in 1546 and was ratified by Vatican I in 1870. Luther and other reformers followed Jerome's example and excluded Baruch from the canon. Protestants place it among the Apocrypha.

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