Peckham’s Optimistic Jeremiah

For my write-up today on Brian Peckham’s History and Prophecy, I’ll start with a statement that he makes on page 395:

“Despite the optimism of Jeremiah and his mentors, it soon became evident that the reform would have no long-range effect on the future of Judah and Jerusalem.  Nahum knew Jeremiah’s work but did not agree with his tempering of the tradition, and described the onrush of the divine storm that would be the undoing of the city.  Habakkuk recalled and reconfirmed the vision of Isaiah and knew that it would be accomplished by the Chaldeans.  Zephaniah went back to the day of Yahweh envisaged by Amos and saw that the end of the world was at hand.  Ezekiel wrote when the worst was over to describe how and why the people had died and the conditions of their rising again.  For some the reform had failed; for others it made no difference; for all there was a prophetic fate and doom and historical predestination unrolling in their own time before their very eyes.”

For Peckham, certain prophets after the time of Jeremiah took up the mantel of Isaiah: they predicted destruction.  They may not have viewed the destroyers as the Assyrians, as Isaiah did, but they prophesied that some nation would destroy Jerusalem and Judah.  On page 353, Peckham talks about Jeremiah’s vision of the “crumbling of a world order that the Priestly writer described”, which sounds like Richard Elliott Friedman’s argument in Who Wrote the Bible? that Jeremiah argues against P—and one way that Jeremiah does so is by predicting in Jeremiah 4:23 that there will be a reversal of the created order of P’s Genesis 1, as the land reverts to a state of tohu va-vohu.

And yet, Peckham’s argument is that Jeremiah had optimism, and prophets after him sought to counter that.  Peckham’s claim takes me aback, for Jeremiah strikes me as a prophet of doom.  But Peckham bases his argument on Jeremiah 2-3, 4-5, 6 and 8, 9-10, and 30-31.  From these chapters, Peckham concludes that what is going on in Jeremiah’s message is this: God is threatening to destroy Jerusalem and to send Judahites into exile, and Judah indeed experiences God’s discipline.  But, right before she is hurled into exile, Judah repents and submits to God’s law, and God forgives her, and also restores Northern Israel from exile.  Peckham may think that the Book of Jeremiah as it comes down to us—which presents Jeremiah as one who predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and exile for Judah—was the result of redaction, as people sought to bring Jeremiah into line with what had actually happened: Jerusalem’s destruction and the exile of the Judahites.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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