A Living Tradition:
The Book of Jeremiah in
JAMES L. CRENSHAW
Careful study of the Book of Jeremiah helps us remain faithful to the
prophet's legacy by learning from him to weigh the traditions of the
past and to use them in the struggle to forge a better world.
The thirty-first meeting of the Biblical Colloquium at Louvain, Belgium on August 18-20, 1980, was entirely devoted to the Book of Jeremiah. The twenty papers of this session covered a broad range of topics; seventeen of them subsequently appeared in volume 54 of Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium.1 In addition, two surveys of research on the Book of Jeremiah have recently appeared2 and another was published in 1983.3 Naturally, these assessments of the status of research on the biblical book were prompted by a spate of articles and monographs, and the future promises more of the same, including four commentaries currently under way.4 Since others have provided comprehensive surveys of research, I shall restrict the present discussion to the issues that seem most problematic at the moment.
The fundamental issue can be stated forthrightly: How can we recognize
1. P. M. Bogaert, ed., be Livre de Jérémie. (Leuven: University Press, 1981).
2. Siegfried Herrmann, “Forschung am Jeremiabuch.” ThlZ 102 (1977) 482-90, and Georg
Fohrer. “Neue Literatur zur alttestamentlichen Prophetie (1961-1970). VII. Jeremia,” ThR 45
(1980) 109-21. See also T. R. Hobbs, “Some Remarks on the Composition and Structure of the
Book of Jeremiah,” CBQ 34 (1972) 257-75, esp. 261-67.
3. Leo C. Perdue, “Jeremiah in Modem Research: Approaches and Issues,” in Perdue and
Brian W. Kovacs, eds., A Prophet to the Nations: Essays in Jeremiah Studies (Winona Lake,
Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1983). The following topics are discussed at length: (1) the date of Jeremiah's
call, (2) Jeremiah and the Deuteronomic reform, (3) the foe from the north, (4) the text of the
book, (5) the composition of the book, (6) the quest for the historical Jeremiah, and (7) new
directions of research (rhetorical criticism, canonical shaping, and social dimensions).
4. ICC (McKane); OTL (Carroll); New Century Bible (Jones); BKAT (Herrmann). John
Thompson, The Book of Jeremiah (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1980), provides a recent
study of Jeremiah from the conservative perspective.