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Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 113 Reviews TO PLUCK UP, TO TEAR DOWN: A COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH 1-25. By Walter Brueggemann. International Theological Commentary. Pp. x + 222. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988. Paper. In keeping with the goal of this commentary series, Brueggemann's study attempts to provide a theological reading of the text for the church, particularly ministers and Christian educators. As such, a historical-critical reading is not the focus. The chief concern is to assess the theological significance of the Jeremiah tradition within its ancient context in order to indicate its continuing theological relevance for the present. Given the limited size and special focus of the International Theological Commentary, the state of Jeremiah studies today, and-not least-the complexity of the Jeremiah tradition, Brueggemann is set an extremely daunting exegetical challenge to be envied by none. Yet he has produced a very fine offering. Whether one agrees at every point or not, Brueggemann provides a thoughtful, insightful, and never boring reading of Jeremiah. He provides a relatively brief introductory essay and then devotes attention to a theological exposition of Jeremiah analyzed according to major literary blocks and subsections. The discussion is economic, accessible . and generally clear. He alerts the reader to major critical assessments of the material and/or interpretive cruxes and provides a sensitive orientation to the literary-rhetorical art of the section or subsection en route to the stated goal of theological interpretation. Brueggemann. at one level, positions his exegesis in a mediating relationship to the debate over how much of the book, if any, can be traced to the historical person and mission of the prophet and how much is to be ascribed to subsequent editorial creation. Rather than firmly decide such issues, he is quite willing to alert the reader to the critical debate from passage to passage and then to indicate how the text can be read with respect both to its "first" historical context in the prophet's mission and to its "subsequent" exilic and postexilic historical contexts. Exceptions to this approach seem to be constituted by those texts where a broad critical consensus exists that the passage in question presupposes an exilic setting or later. In such instances Brueggemann follows the critical consensus. At another level, though, Brueggemann takes an interpretive stance toward the critical issues which exhibits a far more radical posture to what has largely been a historically oriented debate. Brueggemann's interest is in the production of a literary-theological reading of the text in its present form (cf. canonical criticism and modem literary criticism). Instead of Hebrew StUf/ies 31 (1990) 114 Reviews placing the central focus on the world outside the text, the primary interpretive concern is the imaginative world inside the text as it now stands as a closed hermeneutical system (not hermetically sealed of course). In this move Brueggemann intends to decentralize the historical questions, not to invalidate them completely. Actually the historical interest re-emerges in Brueggemann's exegesis as he incorporates into his theological exposition current attempts to apply sociological analysis to the text Consequently, Brueggemann's reading suggests the following picture of Jer 1-25: The sections and subsections are the product of a complex compositional process. An over-arching principle of structural organization is, with limited exceptions, largely undiscernible. Sections and subsections are discerned by thematic considerations. Nevertheless, a coherent theological meditation on the events surrounding the fall of Judah is offered by the tradition in its present shape. Jer 1-25 develops a "covenantal understanding of historical reality" created out of the intersection of three themes. The central theological assumption of this meditation is rooted in the Deuteronomic understanding of the Sinai covenant. Thus Judah's political demise is understood as the enactment of the covenantal sanctions in response to the nation's covenant violation. A second theme ("pathos of Yahweh," cf. Abraham Heschel) exists alongside the previous; it stands in tension with and provides a critique of the Deuteronomic-covenantal theology. That is to say, God's painful yearning for his people, exhibited in the prophet's pathos, has as its consequence his will to continue their relationship in spite of the community'S...


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