Book of Baruch

{bair' - uhk}

A book in the Old Testament Apocrypha

General Information

Baruch, considered a canonical book of the Bible by Roman Catholics, follows the Book of Lamentations. It is not found in the Hebrew Bible and is included in the Apocrypha by Protestants. The book, a brief compilation of verses from the books of Job, Daniel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, is named after Baruch (fl. 600 BC), secretary of the prophet Jeremiah. Its dependence upon later works such as Daniel, however, suggests a composition date in the 2d century BC. Written in three sections, it contains liturgical prayers and a homily on wisdom.

Book of Baruch

General Information

Baruch is a book of the Old Testament in those versions of the Bible following the Septuagint (generally Roman Catholic and Orthodox). Baruch is included with the Apocrypha in the King James Version; it does not appear in the Hebrew Bible. The book is attributed to Baruch, trusted friend and secretary of the prophet Jeremiah. Addressed to the Jews exiled in Babylon, the work was written partly in prose and partly in poetry. The prose section (1-3:8) comprises an admission of sin, a promise of deliverance after repentance, and a prayer asking mercy and praising God. The poetry section (3:9-5:9) consists of verses in praise of wisdom and of God's commandments and of verses urging the exiles to be courageous and comforted. Chapter 6, which claims to be a letter of Jeremiah addressed to the exiles in Babylon, is a warning against idolatry. The three parts of the book were probably written at different times. Baruch may have been compiled as late as the 1st or 2nd century AD by an Alexandrian editor using original Hebrew manuscripts; it has been preserved in a Greek version.

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Baruch, blessed.

(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)


Catholic Information

(Hebrew Barûkh, blessed, Benedict; Septuagint Barouch).

The disciple of Jeremiah, and the traditional author of the deuto-canonical book, which bears his name. He was the son of Nerias (Jeremiah 32:12, 32:16; 36:4, 8, 32; Baruch 1:1), and most probably the brother of Saraias, chief chamberlain to King Sedecias (Jeremiah 32:12; 51:59; Baruch 1:1). After the temple of Jerusalem had been plundered by Nebuchadnezzar (599 B.C.), he wrote under the dictation of Jeremiah the oracle of that great prophet, foretelling the return of the Babylonians, and read them at the risk of his life in the hearing of the Jewish people. He wrote also the second and enlarged edition of the prophecies of Jeremiah after the first had been burned by the infuriated king, Joachim (Jer. 36). Throughout his life he remained true to the teachings and ideals of the great prophet, although he seems at times to have given way to feelings of despondence, and perhaps even of personal ambition (cf. Jer. 45). He was with Jeremiah during the last siege of Jerusalem and witnessed the purchase by the prophet of his ancestral estate in Anathoth (Jer. 32). After the fall of the Holy City and the ruin of the Temple (588 B. C.), Baruch lived probably for some time with Jeremiah at Masphath. His enemies accused him of having prompted the prophet to advise the Jews to remain in Juda, instead of going down into Egypt (Jer. 43), where, according to a Hebrew tradition preserved by St. Jerome (In Isaiah 30:6, 7), both died before Nebuchadnezzar invaded that country. This tradition, however, conflicts with the data found in the opening chapter of the Prophecy of Baruch, wherein we are told of Baruch writing his book in Babylonia, reading it publicly in the fifth year after the burning of the Holy City, and apparently being sent to Jerusalem by the Jewish captives with sacred vessels and gifts destined to the sacrificial service in Yahweh's Temple. It conflicts likewise with various traditions, both Jewish and Christian, which perhaps contains some particles of truth, but which do not allow us to determine the date, pace, or manner of Baruch's death, with anything like probability.

In the Catholic Bible "the Prophecy of Baruch" is made up of six chapters, the last of which bears the special title of an "epistle of Jeremiah", and does not belong to the book proper. The Prophecy opens with an historical introduction (1:1-14), stating first (1-2) that the book was written by Baruch at Babylon in the fifth year after Jerusalem had been burned by the Chaldeans, and next (verses 3-14) that it was read in an assembly of King Jechonias and other Babylonian exiles upon whom it produced the most beneficial effects. The first section in the body of the book (1:15; 3:8) contains a twofold confession of the sins which led to the exile (1:15-2:5; 2:6-13), together with a prayer that God may at length forgive His people (2:14; 3:8). While the foregoing section has much in common with the Book of Daniel (Dan. 9:4-19), Baruch's second section (3:9; 4:4) closely resembles passages in Job 28, 38. It is a beautiful panegyric of that Divine Wisdom which is nowhere found except in the Law given to Israel; only in the guise of the Law has Wisdom appeared on the earth and become accessible to man; let, therefore, Israel prove faithful again to the Law. The last section of the Book of Baruch extends from 4:5 to 5:9. It is made of up four odes, each beginning with the expression, "Take courage" (4:5, 21, 27, 30), and of a psalm closely connected with the eleventh of the apocryphal Psalms of Solomon (4:36; 5:9). Chapter 6 contains as an appendix to the whole book "The Epistle of Jeremiah", sent by that prophet "to them that were to be led away captive into Babylon" by Nebuchadnezzar. Because of their sins they were to be removed to Babylon and to remain there "for a long time, even to seven generations". In that heathen city they would witness the gorgeous worship paid to "gods of gold, and of silver, and of stone, and of wood", but should not conform to it. All such gods, it is argued in various ways, are powerless and perishable works of man's hands; they can do neither harm nor good; so that they are not gods at all.

It is certain that this sixth chapter of Baruch is truly distinct from the rest of the work. Not only its special title, "The Epistle of Jeremiah", but also its style and contents clearly prove that it is a writing wholly independent of the Prophecy of Baruch. Again, while some Greek manuscripts that have Baruch have not the "Epistle", others, among the best, have it separate from the Book of Baruch and immediately before the Lamentations of Jeremiah. The fact that the sixth chapter of Baruch bears the title, "The Epistle of Jeremiah", has been, and is still in the eyes of many, a decisive reason for holding the time-honoured view that the great prophet is its author. It is also urged that the vivid and accurate description of the splendid, but infamous, worship of the Babylonian gods in Baruch, vi, makes for the traditional authorship, since Jer. 13:5, 6, probably speaks of the twofold journey of Jeremiah to the Euphrates. Finally it is affirmed that a certain number of Hebraisms can be traced back to a Hebrew original point in the same direction. Over against this traditional view, most contemporary critics argue that the Greek style of Baruch, vi, proves that it was originally written not in Hebrew, but in Greek, and that consequently Jeremiah is not the author of the Epistle ascribed to him. For this and for other reasons suggested by the study of the contents of Baruch, vi, they think that St. Jerome was decidedly correct when he called this writing pseudepigraphos, that is, inscribed with a false name. However this may be, an important study of the Canon of Holy Writ proves that, despite the assertions of Protestants to the contrary, Baruch 6 has always been recognized by the Church as an inspired work.

With regard to the original language of the Book of Baruch proper (chaps. 1-5), a variety of opinions prevail among contemporary scholars. Naturally enough, those who simply abide by the title which ascribes the Book to Baruch, admit that the whole work was originally written in Hebrew. On the contrary, most of those who question or reject the correctness of that title think that this writing was totally, or at least partially, composed in Greek. It is indeed true that the Greek literary features of the various sections do not point back with equal force to a Hebrew original. Yet, it can hardly be doubted that the whole of Baruch proper in its extant Greek form looks like a translation. The linguistic evidence is also confirmed by the following considerations:

It is highly probable that Theodotion (end of the second century of our era) translated the Book of Baruch from a Hebrew original.

There are some marginal notes of the Syro-Hexaplar text stating that a few words in the Greek "are not found in the Hebrew".

Baruch 1:14 says that the book was meant to be read publicly in the Temple; hence it must have been composed in Hebrew for that purpose.

Besides this unity as regards its original language, Baruch presents a certain unity in point of subject-matter, so that most of those who maintain that the whole work was primitively written in Hebrew admit also its unity of composition. There are, however, in the Book of Baruch many traces of the compilatory process whereby its various parts were apparently brought together. The difference in literary form between 1-3:8, on the one hand and 3:9-5, is very great indeed, and, taken together with the abrupt manner in which the panegyric on Wisdom is introduced at 3:9, suggests a difference with respect to origin. The two confessions of the sins which led to the exile in 1:15; 3:8, are put side by side without any natural transition. The literary differences between 3:9-4:4, and 4:5-5:9, are considerable, and the beginning of the third section at 4:5, is no less abrupt than that of the second at 3:9. Again, the historical introduction seems to have been composed as a preface to only 1:15-2:5. In view of these and other such facts, contemporary critics generally think that the work is the outcome of a compilatory process, and that its unity is due to the final editor, who put together the various documents which obviously bore upon the exile. Such a literary method of composition does not necessarily conflict with the traditional authorship of the Book of Baruch. Many of the sacred writers of the Bible were compilers, and Baruch may, and, according to the Catholic scholars who admit the compilatory character of the work inscribed to him, must, be numbered among them. The grounds of Catholics for this view are chiefly three:

The book is ascribed to Baruch by its title;

it has always been regarded as Baruch's work by tradition;

its contents present nothing than would be later than Baruch's time, or that should be regarded as foreign to the style and manner of that faithful disciple and secretary of Jeremiah.

Over against this view, non-Catholics argue:

That its ultimate basis is simply the title of the book;

that this title itself is not in harmony with the historical and literary contents of the work; and

that those contents, when impartially examined, point to a much later compiler than Baruch; in fact some of them go so far as to ascribe the composition of the book to a writer living after A.D. 70.

Catholics easily disprove this last date for the Book of Baruch; but they do not so easily dispose of the serious difficulties that have been raised against their own ascription of the whole work to Baruch. Their answers are considered sufficient by Catholic scholars generally. Should anyone, however, judge them inadequate, and therefore consider the Book of Baruch as the work of a later editor, the inspired character of the book would still remain, provided this later editor himself be regarded as inspired in his work of compilation. That the Book of Baruch is "a sacred and canonical" writing has been defined by the Council of Trent; that it has just as much right to be held "inspired of God" as any other book of Holy Writ can readily be shown by a close study of the Canon of the Bible. Its Latin rendering in our Vulgate goes back to the old Latin version anterior to St. Jerome, and is tolerably literal from the Greek text.

Publication information Written by Frances E. Gigot. Transcribed by Janet Grayson. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume II. Published 1907. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York

Book of Baruch

Jewish Perspective Information




Date and Authorship.

Date of First Part.

Date of Second Part.



One of the Apocryphal or so-called deuterocanonic books of the Old Testament. It consists of two parts. The first (i. 1-iii. 8) is in the form of a prose letter with a historical introduction. Baruch, the secretary of Jeremiah, having written a book, reads it before King Jehoiachin and the exiles in Babylon. The people weep, fast, and pray. Then they make a collection of money, which they send to Jerusalem to be used for the Temple service, with an injunction to pray for the life of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and that of Belshazzar, his son, so that the people may dwell in peace under the shadow of these princes (i. 1-14). A letter follows, which is presumably the one written by Baruch, although not expressly mentioned as such. This letter (i. 15-iii. 8) is a confession of national sin, a recognition of the justness of the nation's punishment, and a prayer for mercy.

The second part of the book (iii. 9-v. 9), which differs greatly in form and tone from the first, consists of two poems, the first of which (iii. 9-iv. 4) is an exhortation to Israel to learn wisdom, which is described as the source of all happiness, and as "the book of the commandments of God." The second poem (iv. 5-v. 9) is a picture of the suffering of Israel, and an exhortation to Jerusalem to take heart and await hopefully the salvation of God, Jerusalem being here represented as a desolate widow mourning over the distress of her children.


That the first part of the book was originally written in Hebrew is probable, both from the Hebraic character of the diction and from the fact that certain errors in the Greek are explicable as misunderstandings of Hebrew words; thus "manna" (i. 10) is a misreading of "cereal offering" (); "dead" (iii. 4) is error for "men" (); "to pay the penalty" (iii. 8), for "dismay" (perhaps , or -read ); and the enigmatical river "Sud" (i. 4) is possibly an erroneous writing of "Kebar" ( for )

Date and Authorship.

The book properly begins (after the superscription, i. 1, 2) with i. 15. The confession and prayer seem to consist of two parts; namely, i. 15-ii. 5 and ii. 6-35; and these are possibly (as Marshall holds) two separate productions, the first being the confession of the Palestinian remnant, the second that of the exiles. Still, "them" (ii. 4, 5), which appears to refer to the exiles, may be a scribal slip; and it seems more probable that the letter is a juxtaposition of two forms of confession. Very few scholars now hold that the book was composed by Jeremiah's secretary, as its relation to the books of Jeremiah and Daniel precludes such an origin. The remarkable verbal agreement between the confession (i. 15-iii. 8) and Dan. ix is most naturally explained by the supposition that Baruch borrows from Daniel; the hypothesis that Daniel borrows from Baruch or that both draw from earlier material being less satisfactory. Here, however, a difficulty is encountered. In ii. 26 the Temple is said to be in ruins-a statement which accords with two periods only, those of the Chaldean and the Roman conquests. As the former period is out of the question, certain scholars, such as Kneucker, for example, assign this part of the book to a time later than the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. It is difficult, however, to reconcile with such a date the view of the dead given in ii. 17, where it is said that those whose spirits have been taken from their bodies will not ascribe honor and righteousness to the Lord. This statement is in accordance with the Old-Hebrew conception of the life in Sheol, which can scarcely have been current after the year 70 of the common era. Hence, in the text as it stands, there are discordant data; but if (as Kneucker holds) ii. 26a is to be rejected as an interpolation, there is no reason why the confession and prayer should not be assigned to the Maccabean time.

Date of First Part.

The historical introduction is confused, and does not readily attach itself to the body of the confession; indeed, it appears to have been an afterthought. The singular historical statements (such as that King Zedekiah made silver vessels), as well as the injunction to pray for Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, all indicate a late period, and strongly suggest dependence on the Book of Daniel. It is impossible, however, to say how early the view arose that Belshazzar was a son of Nebuchadnezzar. Some recent writers see in the names of the two Babylonian princes an allusion to Vespasian and Titus, which is a plausible assumption if ii. 26a be retained. The date given in i. 2, the "fifth year," is obscure; it may mean the fifth year after the fall of Jerusalem (B.C. 581), or, more probably, may be taken from Ezekiel, whose epoch is the fifth year of Jehoiachin's captivity (B.C. 592). But there is no reason for supposing (as, for example, from Jer. xxix. and li.) that Baruch was ever in Babylon. Though there are difficulties in any hypothesis, it seems probable, upon the whole, that the first part of Baruch is composed of two confessions, which aneditor in the Maccabean time combined, prefixing the statement about Baruch.

Date of Second Part.

The obvious imitation of Job and Ecclus. (Sirach) in the second part of the book (see Job xxviii.; Ecclus. (Sirach) xxiv.) makes it impossible to assign this piece to a time earlier than the second century B.C.; and the conditions seem to accord with the early Maccabean period. Kneucker, Marshall, and several other recent critics, however, place its composition after the capture of Jerusalem by Titus, holding that the "strange nation" of iv. 3 ("give not thine honor . . . to a strange nation") refers to the Christians, and relates to a time when the antagonism between Judaism and Christianity had become pronounced. While this is possible, the expression may also be understood to allude to the antagonism between Judaism and Hellenism in the second century B.C. The verse iii. 37 ("afterward did he [or it] show himself [or itself] upon earth and converse with men"), which was much quoted by early Christian writers, interrupts the connection and is undoubtedly a Christian interpolation.

The second poem (iv. 5-v. 9) belongs to the same general period as the first. It is divided into a number of strophes, each beginning with the words "Be of good cheer." The people, scattered and afflicted, are exhorted to trust in God; and Jerusalem, mourning over her children, is urged to take courage. The picture accords either with the late Maccabean period or with the time soon after the Roman capture of Jerusalem. The resemblance between iv. 36-v. 9 and Psalms of Solomon, xi. is striking. Whichever may have been the borrower, the two probably belong to the same period; and the Psalms of Solomon were composed not far from 48 B.C.


The Book of Baruch was never accepted as canonical by the Palestinian Jews (Baba Batra 14b). According to the "Apostolical Constitutions," it was read in public worship on the tenth day of the month Gorpiaios (probably Ab). This statement, however, can hardly be considered authoritative; and even if it be correct, it can refer only to the usage of some group of Hellenistic Jews. If, as is probable, the first part of the book was written in Hebrew, its exclusion from the Palestinian canon must have been owing to its supposed lack of prophetic authority. It was, however, accepted by the Alexandrian Jews as a work of edification; and through the medium of the Septuagint it passed into the hands of the Christians, among whom it speedily became popular, being often quoted by Athenagoras, Clement of Alexandria, and many others as a work of Jeremiah and as sacred Scripture. In a number of early Christian canonical lists the work was included in Jeremiah, and together with the other Apocryphal books was pronounced canonical (deuterocanonical) by the Council of Trent (1545-63). Its canonicity, however, is not accepted by the Protestant churches. Besides its value as a mirror of the time, the book, though devoid of new ideas, contains many liturgical and poetical passages of great beauty and power.

The Epistle of Jeremiah is usually printed as an appendix to the Book of Baruch and marked as ch. vi. of that book. It is, however, an independent work (see Jeremiah, Epistle of).

Crawford Howell Toy

Jewish Encyclopedia, published between 1901-1906.


The Greek text is given in Swete's Septuagint. For an account of the Greek MSS., see Swete and Gifford; for the other ancient versions (Latin, Syriac, Coptic, etc.) see Kneucker and Schürer. There are modern Hebrew translations by Fränkel, 1830; Plessner, 1833; Kneucker, 1879. The best general discussion of the book is that of Kneucker, Das Buch Baruch, 1879; the largest list of citations by early Christian writers is in Reusch, Erklärung des Buches Baruch, 1853. Other authorities are: Fritzsche, in Exegetisches Handbuch zu den Apokryphen, 1851; Hitzig, in Hilgenfeld's Zeitschrift, 1860; Hilgenfeld, ib. 1879-1880; Ewald, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, 1864; idem, Propheten, 1868; Bissell, Apocrypha, in the Lange series, 1880; Gifford, in Speaker's Commentary, 1888; Reuss, Gesch. der Heiligen Schriften des Alten Testamentes, 1890; Schürer, Hist. Jewish People, 1891; Ryle, in Smith's Dict. of the Bible, 1893; Marshall, in Hasting's Dict. of the Bible, 1898; Bevan, in Cheyne's Encycl. Bibl. 1899; Introductions of Eichhorn, Welte, and others. For other works attributed to Baruch see Charles, Apocal. of Baruch, 1896, and article Apocrypha, in Encycl. Bibl.T.

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