The Prophet Jeremiah and Transmission

Today we return to our short series on Bibliology and the prophet Jeremiah. Taking a look again at chapter 36 we find at least four relevant themes: 1.) inspiration, 2.) transmission, 3.) textual criticism, and 4.) the status of the original. Today we will look at the theme of transmission.

“Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah: and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD, which he had spoken unto him, upon a roll of a book.”

Jeremiah 36:4

First, Jeremiah receives a divine message and he is commanded to write that message in a scroll. But the Scriptures tell us that Jeremiah called an amanuensis, a secretary to write the words for him. Some commentators believe that Jeremiah was in some way hindered from the temple given verse 5. Perhaps he was in prison of some kind or perhaps he was merely forbidden from entering the temple. Perhaps this being “shut up” contributed to Jeremiah’s need for a secretary to take down his words. Whatever the reason, we know that Baruch took the words of the prophet as they were spoken in his ears and wrote them in a scroll as God commanded Jeremiah.

The question now is, “Who carried the inspired word?” Certainly Jeremiah did but did Baruch also? Was Baruch inspired as well? I would contend that the answer is, no. Baruch merely heard and wrote the divinely inspired message. The transmission of the text was so copied that the words of the LORD in vs. 4 are also called the words of the LORD in vs. 8 when Baruch reads them. Jeremiah 36:8 reads,

“And Baruch the son of Neriah did according to all that Jeremiah the prophet commanded him, reading in a book the words of the LORD in the LORD’s house.”

Jeremiah 36:8

So here we have an example of immediately inspired words given to Jeremiah who then commands that they be written at the hand of a non-inspired person on a page not written at the moment of immediate inspiration. Both the writing of Baruch and the written page come after the immediately inspired message given to Jeremiah, and the recorded words remain the “words of the LORD.” In theological terms, God’s words were God breathed and kept by God’s providence through the obedient instrumentality of men. The Scriptures we have today are the result of a series of providential preservations no different in kind than that which transpired between the words of Jeremiah and the words of his scribe.

But you say, “Scribes over time have introduced errors. What is to say that Baruch didn’t do the same, all things being equal?” Fair enough. First, if Baruch introduced errors, the Bible does not indicate as much. So the question is based on conjecture and not evidence. Second, most multiple version only advocates seem to argue that even if there were errors said document would still count as the “words of the LORD,” so why the question?

We here at say the Christian Scriptures are without errors and is the “word of the LORD” and multiple version only advocates argue that their texts have some errors an is still the “words of the LORD.” It is easy to see why we believe our Bible is the words of the LORD, but is is not as easy to see why the multiple version only advocates believe their slightly erroneous Bibles are the words of the LORD. So while we both need to argue for inspiration, preservation, canonicity and the like, the multiple version only position must also explain how A can be A and non-A at the same time and in the same way. I do not envy your position.

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