Theological Patterning In Jeremiah: A Vital Word Through An Ancient Book -- By: Andrew T. Abernethy

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 24:2 (NA 2014)
Article: Theological Patterning In Jeremiah: A Vital Word Through An Ancient Book
Author: Andrew T. Abernethy

Theological Patterning In Jeremiah:
A Vital Word Through An Ancient Book

Andrew T. Abernethy

Wheaton College

There is growing scholarly interest in detecting how the book of Jeremiah, as historically rooted as it is, guides later readers to hear God’s voice. Building on the previous findings that Jeremiah’s writtenness and organization enable later audiences to discern its relevance, this article considers how theological patterning contributes to this end. By focusing on three patterns, patterned places, nations, and people, it is evident that these networks of recurring, corresponding depictions of the God-human-world relationship assist the reader in grasping the enduring relevance of the prophetic word in Jeremiah.

Key Words: Jeremiah, theological interpretation, place, nations, synchronic, final form, theology

Author’s note: This article is dedicated to Willem A. Van Gemeren, who first exposed me to theological patterns in the prophets. Thanks go to BBR’s anonymous reviewers and to Andrew Shead for their helpful feedback. An earlier version of this article was read at the Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in 2012 in Milwaukee.

Those receiving Jeremiah (MT) as Scripture assume that it is God’s word to them, a people living many years after the historical setting of the book. As C. R. Seitz has noted, the challenge arises for scholars, ministers, and laity alike in discerning and explaining how a prophetical book grounded so deeply in a historical situation, as is the case with Jeremiah, can speak as God’s voice to future historical contexts.1 Before turning too quickly to a theological-hermeneutical schema external to the book to rescue us from its irrelevance,2 an interpreter would do well to first consider in what way Jeremiah employs its own strategies to assist later readers in discerning how it is God’s word for them. This article considers how theological patterning (TP) contributes to the book’s aim of helping later readers hear God’s word through Jeremiah.

Appropriating Jeremiah’s Message

Our interest in how the words in Jeremiah speak theologically to situations after the time of the prophet is nothing new in biblical studies. In 1962, Peter R. Ackroyd offered a construal of how the OT developed out of an impulse to apply God’s word “to the ever new needs of a community sensitive to the vitality of that word.”3 E. W. Nicholson advanced Ackroyd’s observations to explain the production o...

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