Tag Archives: Jew

Letter of Jeremiah

The Book of Letter of Jeremiah in the BibleThe Letter of Jeremiah, or the Epistle of Jeremiah, is a note of encouragement written by Jeremiah and sent to the exiles living in Babylon. The theme of the letter reminds the Jews in Babylon to avoid idols and idol worship.

A short one-chapter book, the Letter of Jeremiah, is comparable to, but different then, Jeremiah’s letter recorded in Jeremiah 29. Also, we see some similar language in Jeremiah 10:2-15.

Some versions of the Bible include the Letter of Jeremiah as an addendum to the book of Baruch, in Baruch 6. This includes the original Authorized King James Version (KJV), The New Jerusalem Bible, New American Bible (NAB), Good News Translation (GNT) and Douay-Rheims (DRA). Though Baruch did not write the letter, he may have preserved it and added it to his other writings. This is understandable, since Baruch was the scribe who helped Jeremiah record the prophet’s writings for the book of Jeremiah.

The Letter of Jeremiah is an Apocrypha book and not included in all versions of the Bible. The Common English Bible (CEB), Revised Standard Version (RSV), and Wycliffe Bible (WYC) all include the Letter of Jeremiah. The Eastern Orthodox and Ethiopian Churches have the Letter of Jeremiah in their scriptures.

For more information, see why “Christians Should Consider the Entire Bible.”

3 Maccabees

Third Maccabees tells the story of Jewish persecution under King Ptolemy Philopator, likely Ptolemy IV, who lived from 245 to 202 BCE and ruled from 211 to 202 BCE.

The Book of 3 Maccabees in the BibleAfter Philopator defeats Antiochus, he has a celebration tour. He visits Jerusalem and wants to enter the temple, which Jewish Law prohibits. Though he doesn’t care about the Law and tries to proceed anyway, he is supernaturally stopped. As a result, a hatred for the Jews erupts. When he returns to Alexandria in Egypt, he rounds up the Jews with the intent to kill them in a grand public spectacle in the hippodrome.

Though several times the death of the Jews seems imminent, each time God intervenes and spares them for another day. After trying to crush them with 500 enraged, drunk elephants, the king finally gives up. He frees the Jews and has a conversion experience of sorts, affirming that “we have come to realize that the God of heaven surely defends the Jews,” (3 Maccabees 7:6, RSV).

Some people claim the name of 3 Maccabees is a misnomer, since the Maccabees are never mentioned by name. Yet Judas Maccabees, part of the priestly line, has a brother Simon. In 1 and 2 Maccabees, Simon (presumably Judas’s brother) is high priest. In 3 Maccabees 2:1, Simon is the high priest. Judas also has a brother Eleazar. An Eleazar is mentioned in 3 Maccabees 6:1-16.

Third Maccabees is not found in all versions of the Bible or even all versions of the Apocrypha. However, the Eastern Orthodox and Ethiopian Bibles include 3 Maccabees. The Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Jewish scriptures, which was widely used in Jesus’s day, also contains 3 Maccabees, as does the various versions of the RSV (Revised Standard Version) and the CEB (Common English Bible).

Compare to 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, and 4 Maccabees.

For more information, see why “Christians Should Consider the Entire Bible.”

Bible Term: Jew

The term Jew, or Jewish, can refer to either a nationality or a religion.

In biblical times these were one in the same. Nowadays a person can be one without the other. That is, they can be Jewish by birth but not belief, or they could be Jewish in faith but not biologically.

A person can be Jewish by birth, technically a child of a Jewish mother, or become Jewish, in a religious sense, through conversion.

From a human standpoint, Abraham is the founder of the Jewish nation..

Traditionally, the Jewish language is Hebrew, so Jews are sometimes called Hebrews.

[Read verses in the Bible with the word Jew and Jews.]

There’s More to Discover in the Bible

Check out these books of the Bible, which are not found in all versions, but are in others, such as The Jerusalem Bible:

Tobit is a story of Tobiah who journeys with Raphael to retrieve some money for his father (Tobit).  Along the way he is attacked by a fish and gets married; when he returns home, he restores his father’s eyesight.

Judith is an account of beautiful and pious women, who daringly and single-handedly delivers the Jewish people from their enemy, using her beauty and charm, while remaining pure and chaste.

1 Maccabees is both a historical and literary work about stoic faith; it addresses the politics and military situation around Israel circa the second century BCE.

2 Maccabees covers approximately the same time as First Maccabees, but from a different perspective and includes signs, wonders, and miracles.

Wisdom (aka The Wisdom of Solomon) is like other wisdom literature in the Bible.

Sirach (aka Ecclesiasticus, not to be confused with Ecclesiastes), is a compilation of sayings similar to Proverbs, concluding with a tribute to notable Jewish figures.

Baruch, written by Baruch (Jeremiah’s scribe), is effectively a sequel to the book of Jeremiah, written after the people are exiled.

In or Out?

While the New Testament of the Bible has small phrases or scattered verses that are not found in all of the ancient manuscripts, the Old Testament has a slightly different issue of inclusion or exclusion, which mostly relates to entire books.

Here’s the short version of what happened.  The Old Testament was written in Hebrew.  It was translated to Greek a couple of centuries before Jesus.  The Greek translation is used when the New Testament quotes from the Old.

For some of the books in the Greek Old Testament, either the original Hebrew version was lost or it was first written in Greek.  It is these books that are in question.  For most of history, Christians have accepted and embraced these writings, but during the modern era, some have opted to remove them from the Bible, in part because there are no original Hebrew manuscripts, viewing them as superfluous or even heretical.  (Jews likewise dismiss these books.)

It has been only recently that I have discovered these books, feeling sad for what I have missed over the years.

The question becomes is it wrong to include them or wrong to exclude them?  Again, as with the New Testament consideration, I opt to include them.  I do this primarily because most Christians, for most of the past 2,000 years have deemed them as part of the Bible, so I feel safe to do so as well.  As a result, my appreciation for God’s word and understanding of him is heightened in the process.

Perhaps these have likewise been missing in your Bible; future posts will provide an introduction to these fascinating books.

The Error of the Sadducees and Pharisees

Two thousand years ago, the Jewish religious scene was comprised of two major factions, the Sadducees and Pharisees.  Although their respective theologies about God were quite different, these two camps did coexist – albeit not harmoniously – within the same religion.  The reason for their different perspectives of the same God, likely comes from how they treated the Bible.

The short version is that the Sadducees took away from the Bible, considering only the Law of Moses (the first five book of the Bible) as their holy canon.  This gave them a partial and incomplete view of God.

The Pharisees did the opposite.  They greatly added to the Bible, introducing thousands of their own laws and rules.  Although their intension in doing so was to aid them in holy living, their legalistic additions where elevated in importance to the point of surpassing the Bible as their guide.

The error of the Sadducees was to take away from the Bible, while the error of the Pharisees was to add to it.  Both are errors that we need to carefully avoid.

Seeking God’s Favor

There are several places in the Bible that talk about seeking God’s favor.  In reading these sections it becomes clear that when people seek God’s favor, good things result; when they don’t, bad things result.

For example, Hezekiah sought God’s favor and disaster was averted, whereas the Jewish people did not seek God’s favor and spent 70 years in captivity.

What isn’t readily apparent is how one goes about seeking God’s favor, but Daniel provides the answer.  It is simply by stop doing bad things and acknowledging his truth.

Seeking God’s favor isn’t hard, but it’s not often done.

[Jeremiah 26:19, Daniel 9:13]

Esther Was Not Like Cinderella

I’ve always liked the story of Esther.  She was a peasant girl who won a national beauty pageant and became queen.  In my imagination, I’ve given this tale a Cinderella-like grandness, with Esther and the king, falling in love and living happily ever after.

Alas, the story does not mention love and fails to include any thoughts of happiness.  Let’s review the facts:

  • Esther and her people had been taken captive and forcibly relocated to a foreign land; she was a spoil of war.
  • Esther did not opt to take part in the beauty contest; all attractive virgins were compelled to participate.
  • Esther’s heritage prohibited her from marrying outside her faith; to do so would be a shameful and disobedient act.

Add to this these reasonable conclusions about Esther’s “relationship” with the king:

  • Even after she was made queen, he seemingly continued to enjoy the company of other women in his harem.
  • She was estranged from him; she had not been “summoned” by him for thirty days.
  • She feared him; she could be summarily executed by merely approaching him without permission.

In the New Jerusalem Bible, we are treated to the prayer that she offered in the midst of this.  She says, in part:

  • “I loathe the bed of the uncircumcised” (that would be the king)
  • “I am under constraint” to wear the crown, that is, to be queen
  • “Nor has your servant found pleasure from the day of her promotion until now”
  • “Free me from my fear”

Sadly, there is no love, happiness, joy, or satisfaction in her role as queen.  Even so she did use her unwanted position to save her people, the Jews, from a certain annihilation.  So this account of Esther isn’t a love story, at least not in the traditional sense.  It is, however, a tale of valor and bravery — and a reminder that one person can make a difference.

Which Gospel Should I Read?

The Bible contains four separate accounts of the life of Jesus; they are called Gospels.  The question is often asked, “Which one should I read first?”  That is a hard to answer, as each one has its own strengths:

The Gospel written by Matthew does much to connect Jewish history and understanding to the life of Jesus.  It is great as a bridge from the old to new testaments of the Bible and for those interested in better seeing the connections between Judaism and Christianity (and the connection is strong and significant).

The Gospel written by Mark is the shortest and most concise.  It is a great source to quickly gain an essential understanding of who Jesus is and what he did.

The Gospel written by Dr Luke contains details and information not included by Matthew and Mark, serving to nicely round out and fill in our understanding of Jesus.  (The second chapter of Luke contains the familiar Christmas story of Jesus’ birth.  Even if you’ve never read Luke, you have likely heard the Christmas story, as recited by Linus in the popular animated TV special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”)

Last, but not least, is the Gospel written by John.  It contains more unique content than the other three accounts.  John was a disciple of Jesus and part of the inner circle, so he was an eyewitness to what he recorded.  His writing is poetic in nature and is great for those who want to mull over and contemplate what he says (and conversely frustrating for readers in a hurry).

Each account has its particular purpose and strength.  Pick the one that seems best for you to read first — then read the other three!