n Journal for Semitics - The newness of the word : hermeneutical implications of the reinterpretation of prophetic words in the book of Jeremiah

Volume 19, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1013-8471


Engaging the text of Jeremiah has revealed interesting and challenging aspects with regard to hermeneutical issues. Careful study of the Jeremiah corpus has revealed that the text of Jeremiah reflects different periods and communities in the history of Judah. The text of Jeremiah has shown itself to reveal a dynamic process of reinterpretation and appropriation within the same book. Two brief sections in Jeremiah 23:5-6 and 23:7-8 are examples of this phenomenon. Jeremiah 23:5-6 is duplicated in Jeremiah 33:15-16, and 23:7-8, so it seems, in 16:14-15. At first glance these appear to be direct quotations, but closer scrutiny reveals slight but significant re-applications of the texts. The purpose of this article is to compare these instances by doing thorough exegesis and close comparison to determine the slight deviations. The second step would be to offer explanations for these deviations and what the interpretative reasons for them would be. The suspicion is that these texts were reinterpreted because of changes in social contexts and the need to demonstrate their ongoing relevance. The aim would be to show that, with changes in context and social circumstances even in a short period of time, the need arose to appropriate the prophetic words through a dynamic process of reinterpretation. If this is true, it surely has important hermeneutical implications. It will demonstrate the existence of the freedom within believing communities to reinterpret and appropriate prophetic words as authentic revelations even before they were canonised as Hebrew Bible. What we have as canonised biblical texts would therefore include already reinterpreted and appropriated prophetic words. This exercise will show that a dynamic process of interpretation of prophetic texts was therefore canonised.

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