Of Bookends, Hinges, and Hooks: Literary Clues to the Arrangement of Jeremiah’s Prophecies -- By: Richard D. Patterson

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 51:1 (Spring 1989)
Article: Of Bookends, Hinges, and Hooks: Literary Clues to the Arrangement of Jeremiah’s Prophecies
Author: Richard D. Patterson


Of Bookends, Hinges, and Hooks:
Literary Clues to the Arrangement of Jeremiah’s Prophecies

Richard D. Patterson

I. Preliminary Considerations

THE prophecy of Jeremiah is beset by a twofold textual problem: (1) the nature of the textual tradition, and (2) the process of its composition. The former problem is best highlighted by comparing the Masoretic Text (MT) with that of the Septuagint (LXX). Thus, on the one hand LXX lacks about one eighth of the text found in MT, while on the other it adds about one hundred words not found in MT. LXX also knows a different arrangement of the material in places. For example, it puts chaps. 46–51 after 25:13, omits 25:14, and, after the foreign nations prophecies (which, in turn, are in a different order in LXX), it resumes the account with 25:15.1 Interestingly enough, both the longer MT and the shorter LXX textual forms are attested in the Dead Sea Scrolls.2

The latter problem has several interrelated aspects, including the authorship of the book, the history of its composition, matters of literary genre and style, and the present arrangement of the

prophecies.3 This paper will deal with the canonical text of Jeremiah as finalized in MT and seek to reveal the underlying principles upon which the present arrangement of the prophecies is based.

The reason for the present arrangement of the Book of Jeremiah has long baffled Jeremiah’s interpreters. Although some have attempted to see a skeletal chronological framework around which the Jeremianic material has been arranged in accordance with similarity of subject matter,4 current scholarly opinion tends to attribute the book’s arrangement to a process of composition of smaller units into tradition complexes based on such suggested premises as theme and literary style,5 literary style and theological perspective,6 theme and occasion,7 or theme, occasion, and catchword.8

That a certain amount of editorial process took place is demanded by the scriptural evidence as presented in Jeremiah 36. This incident records Jehoiakim’s...

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