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154 BOOK REVIEWS From Chaos to Covenant. By ROBERT B. CARROLL. New York: Crossroad, 1981. Pp. viii+ 344. $14.95. Described by its author as a work in progress, From Chaos to Cove- !nant is a preliminary work which will find its culmination in a fulllblown commentary on the book of Jeremiah to be published no earlier :that 1985 in Westminster's Old Testament Library series. As such the iconclusions of the present book are advanced as " tentative rather than ~final," with " much thought, analysis and research " remaining to be done '(p. 2). CaIToll, who is Lecturer in Old Testament at the University of 'Glasgow, devoted ten years to the study of Jeremiah before presenting this book for publication as the " firstfruits" of which the forthcoming commentary will be the harvest. He expects the commcmtary to be an improvement on the present work, reflecting a change of view on certain issues and a modification or extension of some its arguments. A central thesis of From Chaos to Covenant is that we rea1ly cannot discover what the historical Jeremiah was like, since the depiction of the prophet in the Book of Jeremiah is clearly the product of the tradition which shaped the book in its present form. It seems inevitable that Carroll will build his commentary on this conviction-a " conviction " in the sense that this view is not patient of proof by any presently available means. The character of this work can be illustrated by the following summary observations about it. First, previous literature on Jeremiah-carefully scrutinized-plays a prominent role in Carroll's book, revealing the im- . pressive range of his acquaintance with the vast field of Jeremiah studies. Secondly, as the book's chapter headings make clear, issues which have become landmarks in the study of Jeremiah serve as the chief organizing principles of Carroll's work. Finally, the work is devoted to a presentation of the results of scholarly research in a primarily academic vein with little direct attention to the ways in which the book of Jeremiah might serve devotion to God. As he works on the biblical material in the light of the central thesis mentioned above, CaIToll uses familiar critical tools. An example is his treatment of the temple sermon, 7 :1-5, with a parallel in 26 :2-6. Carroll first points to differences between the form of the sermon in·chapter 7 and that in chapter 26. He deduces that redactors have produced these two varying texts. Then he refers to the poetical passages in ,Jeremiah which embody the original tradition. Nothing in these passages deals with the temple. Therefore, he concludes, the best way to account for these temple sermons is to attribute them to the verbiage of the deuteronomists. Shoring up this conclusion, Carroll finds that the deuteronorni ,;ts and Jews during and after the exile did have an interest in, BOOK REVIEWS 155 the temple. Thl.s would have motivated the fabr!catl.on ·oi' the two versions of the temple sermon. It is interesting to compare how Rudolph, in the Handbuch zum Alten Testament commentary on Jeremiah (2nd ed., Tiibingen, 1958), treats the temple sermon. He thinks it most probable that we have here genuine words of Jeremiah which have undergone editing by the deuteronomists (p. 47). Again and again Carroll proves to his own satisfaction that the overlay of editing in the book of Jeremiah is so thick that nothing of the historical Jeremiah can now be identified as such. He is aware that this willo '-the-wisp search for the historical Jeremiah parallels the much earlier scholarly search for the historical Jesus (p. 25). Granting the similarity between the two enterprises, one cannot but wonder what is the present state of the search for the historical Jesus, and whether Jeremiah will forever remain shrouded from our eyes and the eyes of scholars such as Carroll. Another main point repeatedly stressed is that neither Jeremiah the invisible man or the book bearing his name can honestly be made relevant for our times. Carroll gives an example from World War II of a man who tried to draw a message from Jeremiah, and came up with conclusions...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 154-156
Launched on MUSE
2017-05-15
Open Access
No
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