The Years of
WILLIAM L. HOLLADAY
A reconstruction of the chronology expressed and implied within the
Book of Jeremiah helps us glimpse the man behind the biblical book
as he seeks to relate God's word to events in the life of God's people.
In the course of preparing a fresh commentary on the Book of Jeremiah,1 I am attempting to discern the settings of the poems and speeches of the book and thus have been developing a chronology for the prophet, one which in my own mind at least gains in convincingness as I continue to work at the texts. Portions of the scheme have been published recently;2 the complete reconstruction, with some of the supporting data, may be useful now as a preliminary report.3
Almost every suggestion which I offer here could be challenged, and some of my suggestions are quite different from anything heretofore proposed. At the outset I part company with those who assume that Jeremiah began to prophesy in 627 B.C.4 and with those who assume that much of the prose material in the book was shaped by a circle of Deuteronomistic editors.5 Of course, modest expansions in the tradition were made during and after the exile; but I have a different explanation for the so-called “Deuteronomistic prose” of the book. Scholarly proposals must stand or fall on their merits; this is the one I hold at present, to be modified by better ones in time to come.
I take it that the “thirteenth year of Josiah” (1:2) is the date of the prophets
1. Jeremiah, vol. 1, Hermeneia (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986).
2. The Identification of the Two Scrolls of Jeremiah,” VT 30 (1980) 452-67; “A Coherent
Chronology of Jeremiah's Early Career,” in Livre de Jérémie, BETL 54 (Leuven: University
Press, 1981), pp. 58-73.
3. It is to be noted that I do not deal here with all the possible texts but deal only with a
selection. 1 also sidestep the bewildering questions of spring vs. autumn New Year and the like,
simply offering my own conclusions.
4. Most scholars, e.g., John Bright, Jeremiah, AB 21 (New York: Doubleday & Co., 1965), p.
5. On this assumption see, e.g., E. W. Nicholson, Preaching to the Exiles: A Study of the
Prose Tradition in the Book of Jeremiah (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1970), and Robert P. Carroll,
From Chaos to Covenant: Prophecy in the Book of Jeremiah (New York: Crossroad, 1981).