The Arrangement Of Jeremiah’s Prophecies -- By: J. Barton Payne

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 07:4 (Fall 1964)
Article: The Arrangement Of Jeremiah’s Prophecies
Author: J. Barton Payne

The Arrangement Of Jeremiah’s Prophecies

J. Barton Payne

Evangelicalism can find value in a clarification of its thinking about the arrangement of Jeremiah’s prophecies. Improved understanding is to be desired, both for the guidance of our own constituency, who find the unelaborated order of the Book perplexing,1 and for the answering of our contemporary critics, who reiterate the hopelessness of discovering consistency within Jeremiah’s pages.2 The following study therefore attempts (i) to specify certain basic assumptions which distinguish evangelicalism’s approach to the organization of the prophecy; (ii) to analyze the types of evidence by which its chapters may be dated and from these to formulate a chronological picture of their sequence; and (iii) to postulate an explanation for the present arrangement of the Book.

I. Evangelical Presuppositions

Because of their belief in the inerrancy of Jeremiah, evangelical scholars accept at face value the title its compiler has assigned to it, namely that this prophecy is “the words of Jeremiah” (1:1) : his intent, that is, is to teach a uniformly Jeremianic authenticity, right up to the final 52nd chapter. With this agrees his declaration in 51:64, “Thus far are the words of Jeremiah,”3 The effect of this presupposition is indeed pervasive in distinguishing conservative from liberal interpretation; for, as expressed over a quarter of a century ago in The Princeton Theological Review.

There is scarcely a passage in the Book the authenticity of which has been allowed to pass without some from of challenge; nor is it without significance that it is on some of the richest and loftiest portions of Jeremiah’s message that this process of dissection has been put into most active operation.4

A modern critic such as James Muilenburg can thus propose extended oral circu-larization with resultant expansions of Jeremiah’s prophecies;5 and J. Philip Hyatt is able to devote five columns in The Interpreter’s Bible to “The ‘D’ edition of Jeremiah, made about 550 B.C.” and to other, even later additions.6 Evangelicals, however, not simply agree with Edward J. Young’s observation, “We cannot see that there is any real evidence of interpolation;”7 we assert that the obvious intent of t...

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