When I was young I wanted to be a scholar. I worked at the Steak and Ale on Cadillac Drive in Sacramento and lived in the dorms at Sac State. I was 21 and read Greek and I loved Kierkegaard.
Typical kid, right?
I was a dishwasher and my alternate was an old Cajun named Bill. “Bill the Dishwasher.” He’d put that chaw in his mouth and you could not understand a word after. He was maybe 78 and he drank the Tumbleweed – which was lethal – so he has half drunk most of the time. And Joe Smith (a waiter) and I imagined Bill a great philosopher back at the dish-washing station doling out Kierkegaardian philosophy.
“See diss here thang here? Diss like Yooos.. But Yoo gotta choose which way you gonna go…the disspossaaaal…or dee garbage…Is an EXISTENTIAL choice…HERE ME NOW…You gotta choose which way you gonna go! “
Then Bill’a big bellicose laugh (me doing it) AH-HAHAHAHAHA
That was the trick in ’79 – Bill would be in one end of the building laughing it up on tumbleweed and I’d be in the other end doing the same (sans tumbleweed) and draw the same crowd…no one knew… AH-HAHAHAHAHA
Well you can see why I was born to be a theologian right?
The assigned papers for any given class in Seminary are most often 4-6 pages in length and requiring – like auto insurance – both some measure of comprehensive coverage as well as direct collision stipulations with detailed answers. They simply do not leave room to take on the sometimes curious assumptions of the scholars one is reading or the a priori assumptions of the actual enterprise itself.
Well I am a first semester student and so it is utterly appropriate that I ask just these questions now- being in the priori.
This small paper is for potential extra credit (one hopes it cannot hurt things but one always runs such a risk).
In my last paper on Jeremiah 7, when it came to dating the book and determining its place in history, it was suggested by one author that we need not automatically place it as post-exile for the Jews (as some do at 586 B.C.E.) given Jeremiah’s surety that this will happen – since he was a keen observer of the political landscape and could easily predict what would happen under Babylonian rule.
The other opinion is that Jeremiah is heavily redacted and takes place after the exile – being shoved back in place fully worked out long after all events have taken place. The term “prophet” would be ironic. In a sense that we will revisit later.
So it would seem our two choices are either a forced and conjectured (but nuanced) political science that shrewdly foresaw future political events or past back-dating historical events as some form of lessons for someone in the name of some dead prophet .
The latter option always mystifies me. How does one easily insert (as authoritative) a story later amidst an existing oral tradition?
I mean think of it? It is all very well on paper as a concept – but the actual doing of it in time and space seems awkward and untenable at best.
I know it is not the same because we have such a written record – but an oral tradition would be seemingly somewhat just as secure in many ways. To waltz in decades or a century later and treat as antiquated and original a prophetic record from Jeremiah against the state a form-filled prophecy? I really do not see that.
No best to read as presented woth all its inherent flaws for that is how history reads – unblandished and with pockmarks and scars. It is those who do “spin” and for the redactors to clean up texts – but scripture is not this way at all!
As usual, it is supposed that no two prophets might actually have similar concerns having come directly from God – but only from a similar geopolitical situation – and then, of course, instead of buying into the cultural lie at hand of the powers that be, have the utter presence of mind to independently (and at great peril to their own well-being-stand against said forces) and somehow stand up once again for the disenfranchised – including foreigners who are being exploited.
I read recently that one scholar was confused because Jeremiah ahd an idea that only Micah had slightly echoed.
Had it ever occurred to the man (and it is so often men) first that Jeremiah might have had a novel notion? Second, that being a prophet he might have had unusual perception? Or does his position as Humanities professor at a State College give him greater purview?
Well this is only true if there is no God and then the whole enterprise is awash isn’t it?
I am regularly amazed at how modernist scholars will find any way of explaining away God in all their meanderings of the text (as if someone is watching over their shoulder) then – at the end –make a statement of faith in God and His providence as if to cover all bases.
Why on Earth would the prophets keep coming back to those themes independent of each other? What possible motive?
Especially the “foreigner” motive. That makes no sense at all. That makes as much sense as the Gospel going out to the Gentiles…or “the First shall be Last” and all that upside-down-ness.
Foolishness and “scandalion.”
I grew up under Modernity and its foolish quarrel for Enlightenment pedagogery both Liberal and Conservative (I reject both as obstructionist to exploration).
We now live in a situation of invitation.
What can be gleaned from Modernist scholars is important but a great deal has to be “waded through” as a large amount of their presentation is in “answer” to other Modernists and not necessarily the questions at hand.
I freely admit that I look to Modernist scholars like Walter Bruggemann precisely because he is able to cut through the blubber and get to the point with a keen eye without missing any component. I may or may not agree – but I will not be simply “put to sleep” but endless preliminaries, precursors, long-tilted side-lights and over-dubbed concerns that have no bearing to the clear questions at hand.
As Woody Allen said in Annie Hall, “what I wouldn’t do for a large sock of horse manure right now…”
I’m a text guy. I want to know the meaning of the text and sure – the Sitz im Leben of the text is crucial. But it is a lot simpler than many make it out to be. Know – I’m on the inside. I know how the kitchen works.
Better still ..I know how the dishwasha works.