The Book of
Jeremiah: Portrait of
The Jeremiah portrayed in the Old Testament book bearing his name
has become the paradigmatic figure of the prophet as he struggles
with his God and with his own vocation of announcing God's Word to
Our theme does not invite us to a new quest for the historical Jeremiah. The critical problems concerning the relation of the person of Jeremiah to the Book of Jeremiah are notoriously difficult, and there seems to be no great progress on that question in current scholarship. It is fair to say that current scholarship tends toward a “minimalist view” concerning the historical Jeremiah. Scholars are assigning more and more work to the redactional process, which leaves less and less material assigned to the “authorship” of Jeremiah and yields (according to the hypothesis) less reliable historical information about the prophet.
On the relation of the person to the redactional process, we may identify two tendencies. On the one hand, there is a scholarly tradition which pays attention to the person of Jeremiah. This tradition generally regards the early part of the book as coming from Jeremiah and credits as historically reliable much of the material in the Baruch section of the book. In English literature the older book by John Skinner1 is a powerful statement of this view, which is also the working assumption of John Bright's commentary.2 It is the inclination of William Holladay,3 who has published a series of important articles, and it is indirectly the basis of Robert R. Wilson's4 sociological
1. John Skinner, Prophecy and Religion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1922).
2. John Bright, Jeremiah: Introduction, Translation, and Notes, AB 21 (Garden City, N.Y.:
Doubleday &Co., 1956).
3. William Holladay, Jeremiah: Spokesman Out of Time (Philadelphia: United Church Press,
4. Robert R. Wilson, Prophecy and Society in Ancient Israel (Philadelphia: Fortress Press,
1980), pp. 231-51.