The Oracles Against Babylon In Jeremiah 50-51: Structures And Perspectives -- By: Kenneth T. Aitken

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 35:1 (NA 1984)
Article: The Oracles Against Babylon In Jeremiah 50-51: Structures And Perspectives
Author: Kenneth T. Aitken


The Oracles Against Babylon In Jeremiah 50-51: Structures And Perspectives

Kenneth T. Aitken

Of the many questions raised by the oracles against Babylon in Jeremiah 50–51, few have proved more problematical than the literary structure of the composition. On the one hand, whilst it is generally agreed that these chapters are not a literary unity but a collection of poems, there is little agreement concerning either their number and delimitation or the nature and extent of any redactional additions.1 On the other hand, even the more straightforward outlining of the contents into sections for ‘convenience’ of commentary commands little more consensus regarding the

natural divisions within the material as it stands.2 Indeed, the composition is commonly viewed as a loose and amorphous conglomerate in which the same stock themes recur time and time again without rhyme or reason, order or progression, and without, for the most part, indication of boundaries and interconnections between separate units - and hence viewed as lacking semblance of structure giving shape and coherence to its parts and to the whole, such coherence as it has being one simply of general theme.3

But is such a view - often expressed with pejorative implication - a fair assessment of the literary character of the composition?4 It is our impression that its shapelessness and structural incoherence is most often simply taken for granted and made a presupposition for the study of the text without it this question being asked. One suspects that this is as much because of lack of concern with the final form of the text as a meaningful context for its interpretation5 as lack of any obvious patterning within it. Be that as it may, the question should be asked, and it is to this question that our paper is addressed. To anticipate, we hope we demonstrate that the composition is not a disordered and chaotic conglomerate of at best thematically related elements but rather a well-ordered complex of structurally related elements. Specifically, it will be submitted that the composition is comprised of six movements - as we shall call them - set within a common framework, each one of which forms a unified and relatively independent structural pattern; further, that

through its structure each movement articulates its own partic...

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