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Like Fire in the Bones

Listening for the Prophetic Word in Jeremiah

By Walter Brueggemann; edited by Parick D. Miller

Publication Year: 2011

This work features landmark essays on the prophet Jeremiah. These essays on Jeremiah exemplify the author’s insistence that criticism should lead to interpretation, and remind us again why prophets like Jeremiah still matter in the 21st century. Topics examined include: Jeremiah's use of rhetorical questions; theology in Jeremiah; next steps in Jeremiah studies; when Jerusalem gloats over Shiloh; and a second reading of Jeremiah after the dismantling. The book is written by a highly respected Old Testament scholar and bestselling author.

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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p. v-v

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Editor’s Foreword

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pp. vii-x

There are few books of the Old Testament about which Walter Brueggemann has not written in some depth. The breadth of his work matches the prolific output of scholarly, relevant, and helpful interpretation of scripture in book, essay, sermon, and prayer. It would be difficult, therefore, to identify any one area or book as a primary sphere or subject ...

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pp. xi-xiii

The study of the book of Jeremiah has occupied me for the long time of my teaching years. My beginning in Jeremiah studies was with my teacher at Eden Seminary, Lionel Whiston Jr., who propelled me to graduate study. In graduate study at Union Seminary (New York), my first seminar was on Jeremiah with James Muilenburg, who led us into the ...

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p. xv-xv

The retrieval and gathering together of these older journal articles has been a demanding task, mostly performed by others on my behalf. As usual I am grateful to Tia Foley for bringing the manuscript to fruition and all the work of reshaping these materials for publication. Ruth Marley retyped most of the materials in the face of a demanding deadline, for ...

I. The Word Spoken through the Prophet

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Chapter One. Jeremiah: Portrait of the Prophet

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pp. 3-17

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. 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 ...

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Chapter Two. The Book of Jeremiah: Meditation upon the Abyss

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pp. 18-28

The book of Jeremiah is exceedingly complex and difficult to read. The standard historical-critical consensus about the book—established through the work of Bernhard Duhm and Sigmund Mowinckel—reflected the primary assumptions of that method: The book is constituted by the poetic oracles of the historical person Jeremiah (termed source A); subsequently, the ...

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Chapter Three. Recent Scholarship: Intense Criticism, Thin Interpretation

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pp. 29-40

The year 1986 was an extraordinary year in Jeremiah studies, for we saw the appearance of three major critical commentaries on Jeremiah in one year. The Jeremiah contributions of 1986 are especially important because Jeremiah no doubt has peculiar poignancy for our contemporary situation of faith in Western culture. The publication of these ...

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Chapter Four. Theology in Jeremiah: Creatio in Extremis

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pp. 41-55

The book of Jeremiah offers a clear test case and model for the shift in scholarly paradigms in Old Testament study. In the “history of traditions” perspective dominated by Gerhard von Rad, the tradition of Jeremiah is firmly situated in the exodus and Sinai-covenant traditions of Moses, but with some engagement with the David-messianic traditions as ...

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Chapter Five. Next Steps in Jeremiah Studies

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pp. 56-71

The essays in Troubling Jeremiah, published in 1999, exhibit the fact that Jeremiah studies are off in new directions with a great deal of vigor and energy.1 It is a commonplace that the three great commentaries of 1986 provide a key marker in the turn of Jeremiah studies. While the work of William Holladay does not figure greatly in newer methods and ...

II. Listening for the Prophetic Word in History

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Chapter Six. The Prophetic Word of God and History

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pp. 75-85

The claim that “God acts in history” is not compatible with our Enlightenment notions of control, reason, objectivity, and technique.1 Indeed, if one begins with the assumptions of modernity, history can only be thought of as a bare story of power, in which the God of the Bible can never make a significant appearance. The claim that “God acts in history,” ...

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Chapter Seven. An Ending That Does Not End

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pp. 86-98

The book of Jeremiah is occasionally judged by critical scholarship to be “unreadable,” that it lacks coherence and is so marked by disjunction that it cannot be seen whole.1 What is meant, of course, is that it cannot be read sensibly according to our Western habits of coherent literature that make a single, sustained affirmation.2 The book of Jeremiah is indeed ...

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Chapter Eight. A Second Reading of Jeremiah after the Dismantling

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pp. 99-115

The internal dynamic of the book of Jeremiah is a two-stage development of the tradition that is decisive for the shape of the literature and for its theological claim. ...

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Chapter Nine. A Shattered Transcendence: Exile and Restoration

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pp. 116-131

The Exile—as event, experience, memory, and paradigm—looms large over the literature and faith of the Old Testament. Together with the restoration, the Exile emerged as the decisive shaping reference point for the self-understanding of Judaism.1 Moreover the power of exile and restoration as an imaginative construct exercised enormous impact on ...

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Chapter Ten. Haunting Book—Haunted People

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pp. 132-140

We are, all of us, children of the biblical text. We have been conceived and birthed, generated and summoned, given life by this text and none other. This text keeps having its say among us, by translation and interpretation, by commentary and proclamation, by study and enactment. We must always again, always afresh in every circumstance, come to terms ...

III. Carrying Forward the Prophetic Task

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Chapter Eleven. Prophetic Ministry: A Sustainable Alternative Community

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pp. 142-167

The formation of a religious community, the practice of a disciplined spirituality, and the embrace of prophetic faith are dimensions of Christian obedience that converge and cannot be separated from each other. While my theme concerns the formation of religious community, that is, an ecclesiological matter, I make my beginning with prophetic faith, for ...

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Chapter Twelve. A World Available for Peace: Images of Hope from Jeremiah and Isaiah

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pp. 168-179

A growing breach exists between the dominant values of American society and the claim of the gospel. It has been held for a long time— and with some truth—that there was a congruity between America and the gospel. It did seem that in important ways American values had been shaped and informed by Christian faith. But ...

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Chapter Thirteen. “Is There No Balm in Gilead?”: The Hope and Despair of Jeremiah

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pp. 180-188

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, where King ...

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Chapter Fourteen. Prophets and Historymakers

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pp. 189-198

History—and how it’s made—is a question I got into some time ago when I went to a PTA meeting for my son who was in fifth grade at the time. I knew it was going to be a big night because, when I walked in, the teacher was wearing a white suit and walking around with a baton. In time the reason became evident: the fifth graders were doing a choral ...

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Chapter Fifteen. Why Prophets Won’t Leave Well Enough Alone: An Interview with Walter Brueggemann

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pp. 199-212

Initially, a prophet is simply a poetic figure who stands outside the mainstream of public power and exposes what’s going on. The prophets are people who feel pain and are enormously sensitive to what the public processes are doing to others, and they seem to have amazing rhetorical imagination to get their message said in ...


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pp. 213-214


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pp. 215-248

Index of Names

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pp. 249-250

Index of Biblical References

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pp. 251-255

E-ISBN-13: 9781451419672
E-ISBN-10: 1451419678
Print-ISBN-13: 9780800698287
Print-ISBN-10: 0800698282

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2011