Jeremiah: Closer up

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by: Jack Lundblad

Closer up than what? Many recent studies of Jeremiah leave us with but a faint glimmer of this great Hebrew prophet; in some he disappears completely into later tradition. Some scholars think that the book of Jeremiah lacks historical veracity: when it was composed, supposedly in the late exilic or postexilic periods, historical memories had been dimmed and ideology had come to dominate the Jeremiah legacy. The present essays combine to argue that both the prophet and his book can be viewed "closer up" than the imagination of many modern-day interpreters will allow. The first three essays discuss the text, rhetoric and composition of the book of Jeremiah. The longer Hebrew text is given preference over the Greek Septuagint text, which means that we can dispense entirely with the idea that scribes were busily writing, editing and expanding the Jeremiah book in Babylon. Rhetorical and other delimiting criteria show that Jeremiah's so-called 'Temple Sermon' (7.1-15) is rather a cluster of three oracles manifesting a rudimentary form of logic. Finally, a correlation of Gedaliah's murder with the exile of 582 argues for a nearly four-year existence of the remnant community at Mizpah, more than enough time for Jeremiah and Baruch to write up the events following the destruction of Jerusalem. The remaining essays discuss Jeremiah's views of history, the created order, the covenant, and nations of the world, as well as the prophet's so-called 'confessions'. These extraordinary insights into the interior disposition of a Hebrew prophet reveal how Jeremiah felt about the word he had to preach, and what impact it had on him personally. The confessions are analysed both as formal psalm-like laments, and as gems of rhetorical composition.