Isaiah and Jeremiah: Made for each other?

Reading a master’s thesis reminded me of Robert Alter’s bold suggestion:

Let me risk a large conjecture, … It may be that a sense of some adequate dialectical tension between these antitheses of divine plan and the sundry disorders of human performance in history served as an implicit criterion for deciding which narratives were to be regarded as canonical.

Alter, Robert. The art of Biblical narrative. Basic Books, 1983, 34.

To someone studying alternately roughly week about:

  • assertions of YHWH’s sovereignty in Isaiah
  • Jeremiah’s laments

Alter’s conjecture is highly suggestive, whatever else the book of Isaiah is “about” it is concerned to explore what it means to declare the sovereignty of God in three different imperial contexts, whatever else the book (or books if we count the LXX as a different work) of Jeremiah is about it is concerned with the tempestuous and troubled relationship of God and prophet. These two works epitomise Alter’s two tendencies rather well, and they follow each other in the canon :)

The fact that both works are among the longest and most complex in the Bible should not interfere with your enjoyment of such a bold oversimplification built upon such a conjectural foundation ;) But do rip it to shreds, or admit its fascination, or just ask for clarification… I need distraction from my writer’s block…