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Book of Baruch

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The Book of Baruch, occasionally referred to as 1 Baruch, is called a deuterocanonical or apocryphal book of the Bible. Although not in the Hebrew Bible, it is found in the Septuagint and in the Vulgate Bible, and also in Theodotion's version.[1] There it is found among the prophetical books which also include Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the twelve minor prophets. It is named after Baruch ben Neriah, Jeremiah's scribe. Scholars propose that it was written during or shortly after the period of the Maccabees.[2] In the Vulgate, the King James Bible, and many other versions, the Letter of Jeremiah is appended to the end of the Book of Baruch as a sixth chapter.

Basic structure

  • 1:1-14 Introduction: "And these are the words...which Baruch...wrote in Babylonia.... And when they heard it they wept, and fasted, and prayed before the Lord."
  • 1:15-2:10 Confession of sins: "[T]he Lord hath watched over us for evil, and hath brought it upon us: for the Lord is just in all his works.... And we have not hearkened to his voice"
  • 2:11-3:8 Prayer for mercy: "[F]or the dead that are in hell, whose spirit is taken away from their bowels, shall not give glory and justice to the Lord..." (cf. Psalms 6:6/5)
  • 3:9-4:14 Paean for Wisdom: "Where are the princes of the nations,... that hoard up silver and gold, wherein men trust? ... They are cut off, and are gone down to hell,..."
  • 4:5-5:9 Message to those in captivity: "You have been sold to the Gentiles, not for your destruction: but because you provoked God to wrath.... [F]or the sins of my children, he [the Eternal] hath brought a nation upon them from afar...who have neither reverenced the ancient, nor pitied children..."
  • Chapter 6: See Letter of Jeremiah

Use in the New Testament

Liturgical use

Western

In the Roman Catholic Church, Bar 3:9-38 is used in the liturgy of Holy Saturday during Passiontide in the traditional lectionary of scriptural readings at Mass. A similar selection occurs during the revised liturgy for the Easter Vigil.[3]

Bar 1:14 - 2:5; 3:1-8 is a liturgical reading within the revised Roman Catholic Breviary[4] for the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time, Friday Office of Readings. The subject is the prayer and confession of sin of a penitent people:

Justice is with the Lord, our God; and we today are flushed with shame, we men of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem, that we, with our kings and rulers and priests and prophets, and with our fathers, have sinned in the Lord's sight and disobeyed him. ... And the Lord fulfilled the warning he had uttered against us.... Lord Almighty, ... Hear... and have mercy on us, who have sinned against you... (Bar 1:15-18; 2:1; 3:1-2)

St. Augustine's reflection, which is paired with this reading, on this occasion speaks of prayer: "[S]ince this [that we pray for] is that peace that surpasses all understanding, even when we ask for it in prayer we do not know how to pray for what is right..."; from there he explains what it means that the Holy Ghost pleads for the saints.

Bar 3:9-15, 24-4:4 is a liturgical reading for the Saturday of the same week. The theme is that the salvation of Israel is founded on wisdom: "Learn where prudence is, ... that you may know also where are length of days, and life, where light of the eyes, and peace. Who has found the place of wisdom, who has entered into her treasuries? ... She is the book of the precepts of God, ... All who cling to her will live... Turn, O Jacob, and receive her: ... Give not your glory to another, your privileges to an alien race." Paired with this on the same day is a reading from St. Peter Chrysologus [2], d. A.D. 450, who quotes the Apostle: "let us also wear the likeness of the man of heaven".

Eastern

In the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, a selection from Baruch (which is considered an extension of the Book of Jeremiah, and is announced in the services as "Jeremiah") is read as one of the eight Paroemia (Old Testament readings) during the Vesperal Divine Liturgy on Christmas Eve.

Use by theologians and Church Fathers

In Summa Theologiae. III 4 4, Doctor of the Church Thomas Aquinas quotes Baruch 3:38 to affirm that "the Son of God assumed human nature in order to show Himself in men's sight, according to Baruch 3:38: 'Afterwards He was seen upon earth, and conversed with men.'" This is part of his discussion of "the mode of union on the part of the human nature" III 4. He quotes the same passage of Baruch in III 40 1 to help answer "whether Christ should have associated with men, or led a solitary life" III 40.

Church Father St. Clement of Alexandria [3], d. A.D. 217, quoted Baruch 3:16-19, referring to the passage thus: "Divine Scripture, addressing itself to those who love themselves and to the boastful, somewhere says most excellently: 'Where are the princes of the nations...'" (see "Paean for Wisdom" example infra) (Jurgens §410a).

St. Hilary of Poitiers [4], d. A.D. 368, also a Church Father, quoted the same passage as St. Thomas, supra, (3:36-38), citing "Jeremias", about which Jurgens states: "Baruch was secretary to Jeremias, and is cited by the Fathers mostly under the name of Jeremias" (§864n). St. Hilary states: "Besides Moses and Isaias, listen now a third time, and to Jeremias, who teaches the same thing, when He says:..." (Jurgens §864).

Use in the current Catechism of the Catholic Church

Baruch 6 is quoted in CCC §2112 as part of an exposition against idolatry. During the Diaspora the Jews lamented their lapse into idolatry, and their repentance is captured in the Book of Baruch.

References

  1. "Baruch" by P. P. Saydon, revised by T. Hanlon, in A New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, ed. Reginald C. Fuller, Thomas Nelson, Inc. Publishers, 1953, 1975, §504j. The same source states that "[t]here is also evidence that Baruch was read in Jewish synagogues on certain festivals during the early centuries of the Christian era (Thackeray, 107-11)," i.e. Henry St. John Thackeray, The Septuagint and Jewish Worship, 1923.
  2. Fuller, op. cit., §504h. Also, "late Babylonian"; "alluded to, seemingly, in 2 Mac 2:1-3" in The Jerusalem Bible, 1966, p. 1128.
  3. Catholic Calendar web page
  4. Laudis canticumLatin text — Paul VI, 1 November 1970
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