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God's Voices
Prophet Jeremiah: Man of strength and courage

By MICHAEL GAFFNEY AVALANCHE-JOURNAL


The Old Testament figure of the Prophet Jeremiah was discovered in San Nicola in Carcere (St. Nicholas in Prison Church) in Rome. The fresco was painted in the 12th century.
Vatican Exhibit 2002 Foundation Photos
Jeremiah (also known as Jeremias) lived at the close of the seventh and in the first part of the sixth century B.C.

Like other Old Testament prophets, Jeremiah's image is found in many ancient Christian churches, including San Nicolas in Carcere (St. Nicholas in Prison Church) in Rome, where a fresco of the prophet was painted in the 12th century by an unknown artist.

That fresco, which once adorned the wall of the catacombs beneath the church, will be one among 31 frescoes on display at the Museum of Texas Tech when "Medieval Frescoes from the Vatican Museums Collection" opens Sunday.

The Rev. Malcolm Neyland, director of the Vatican Exhibit 2002 Foundation, a non-profit group organized to arrange the art exhibit, said Jeremiah was a man of strength.

Visiting exhibit

• Title: "Medieval Frescoes from the Vatican Museums Collection."

• When: Sunday-Sept. 15.

• Where: Museum of Texas Tech.

• Tickets: Free. However, tickets must be reserved in advance. Those reserving tickets must know the date and time of day they want to attend.

• Information: 742-6800 or (866) 803-6873.

Sources: The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III, copyright 1908, by Robert Appleton Co.; Internet Online Edition, copyright 1999, by Kevin Knight)

"Be stout-hearted, and be faithful to the laws — the 10 commandments — that was Jeremiah's message," Neyland said.

In 627 B.C., during the reign of Josias, Jeremiah was called as a youth to be a prophet, and from 627 to 585 he accepted the burden, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII.

Jeremiah and his family lived in Anathoth, a small country town northeast of Jerusalem. For the greater part of his life, Jeremiah witnessed in Jerusalem, the town of Masphath and the Jewish colonies in Egypt.

Sources for the history of his life include the book of prophecies bearing his name, and the Books of Kings, as well as the Bible's Book of Paralipomenon (Chronicles).

Given the history of his time and the course of his life, the individuality of Jeremiah's nature and the ruling theme of his teachings can be understood.

The first decades of the sixth century were marked by a series of political catastrophes that changed conditions in Western Asia.

The overthrow of the Assyrian Empire, completed in 606, induced Nechao II of Egypt to try to strike a powerful blow against the Jewish nation. Josias, the last descen dent of King David, tried to stop the Egyptian advance but was killed at the battle of Mageddo (Megiddo).

Four years later, the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar killed Nechao II, then turned toward Jerusalem.

The last kings on the throne of David, Josias' sons Joachaz, Joakim (Joachim) and Sedecias, hurried the destruction of Jerusalem, ignoring warnings from Jeremiah, by refusing to pay tribute to Nebuchadnezzar.

The enraged king destroyed the city in 586 B.C., after an 18-month siege. Despite the catastrophe, Jeremiah persevered.

Carried away by politics, the people of Jerusalem forgot their religion, the national trust in God. Jeremiah stood like a pillar of iron, Neyland said.

His mission was to tell God's decree that the city and temple would be overthrown.

The prophet appeared before the people with chains about his neck in order to illustrate the captivity that he foretold. False prophets preached only of freedom and victory, but the Lord said: "A liberty for you to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine," the Bible states.

It was clear to Jeremiah that the next generation would contribute to the collapse of the kingdom. So he renounced marriage for himself because he did not want children who would be the victims of the sword or become the slaves of the Babylonians.

Along with his task to prove the certainty of the fall of Jerusalem, Jeremiah had a second mission: to declare that the catastrophe was a moral necessity, to tell the people that it was the inevitable result of moral guilt since the days of Manasses, according to the Bible: (IV Kings, xxi, 10-15).

It was because the stubborn nation had thrown off the yoke of the Lord that it must "bow its neck under the yoke of the Babylonians," he said.

In order to arouse the nation from its moral lethargy, Jeremiah's sermons emphasized the connection between punishment and guilt.

Although he failed to convert the people or to alter the calamity, his teachings, for some, were like "a hammer that broke their stony hearts to repentance," according to the Bible.

A more exact picture of the life of Jeremiah was preserved than that of the life of any other seer of Zion.

Because of his prophecies, he was doomed to learn by physical suffering that "veritas parit odium" (truth draws hatred upon itself), according to the Bible. King Joachim never could forgive the prophet for threatening him with punishment on account of his unscru pulous mania for building and for his judicial murders.

The Bible states that the king ranted, "He shall be buried with the burial of an ass."

The king commanded the arrest of the prophet, but the Lord came to Jerermiah's aide and he was freed, according to the Bible.

Jeremiah maintained that only by moral change could a catastrophe in conditions prepare the way for improvement, and his views brought him into conflict with the political parties of the nation.

The Zionists incited open revolt against Jeremiah because he prophesied the destruction of the temple. A faction of the party friendly to Egypt cursed him because he condemned the coalition.

Loathed by his own people, Jeremiah became their scapegoat.

During the siege of Jerusalem, he was condemned to death and thrown into a dungeon. With the fall of Jerusalem, Jeremiah traveled to Canaan to continue his prophetic office. Later, he was dragged to Egypt by emigrating Jews.

According to tradition, Jeremiah was stoned to death in Egypt by his own countrymen because of his pronouncements threatening God's punishment. Roman tradition assigns the date of his death to May 1.

Jeremiah stands alone among the prophets because of the way he developed the Messianic idea.

The troubles of the times demanded that he remain unmarried and joyless. But Jeremiah persevered because he believed the Creator could treat those he creates with the same authority that "the potter has over clay vessels," the encyclopedia states.

And though ill-treated, Jer emiah lamented the suffering of his people and the ruin of Jerusalem by pagans. He held faith with God, Neyland said.

mgaffney@lubbockonline.com 766-8739




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