Narrative genres

I’m teaching narrative this semester, so I was delighted to discover (HT Dr Platypus’ superb BS Carnival for March) in a blog I don’t normally read (it’s about the Appendix to the Hebrew Bible ;) two clear concise posts by Steve Runge on Longacre’s ideas on narrative genre classification. I’ve already pointed the class to them but you can benefit too :)

Rethinking narrative genre

Rethinking Genre: Participant-focused narrative

Did Jeremiah confess? Or: Laments, complaints & confessions?

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

Jim West, in typically forthright style (and with no evidence or argument provided – come on Jim ante up, present some reasons for your opinion!) links to and pooh-poohs a short post “Jeremiah: Memoirs or Laments? (Jer 11:18-20; 12:1-6; 15:10-21, 17:14-18; 18:18-23; 20:7-13)” by Don C. Benjamin at Bible and Interpretation. Benjamin rehearses briefly the sort of form-critical argument usually presented to claim these passages as “laments”, mainly and even more briefly that they follow the typical form of that genre. A common corollary of that claim is to deny these texts to Jeremiah seeing them as “traditional texts” rather than the outpouring of a “great spirit”. West seems to wish to return to the maximalist position, viewing the texts (perhaps) as belonging to a person (Jeremiah the prophet), at least his title suggests this: “Jeremiah: Were His Confessions His?

Ever since Gerhard von Rad described various passages in Jeremiah as ‘Confessions’ scholars have discussed and debated the idea.  Personally, I’ve never been persuaded that von Rad was wrong.

[Now, of course, though the idea that, through the confessions Jeremiah initiates a new sort of prophecy, where the life of the prophet is as significant as their message, did “belong” to the great von Rad,1 he was by no means the first to use the name “confessions” for these passages.2]

I think this gives me a topic for my contribution to the colloquium spiritual│complaint : theology and practice of lament. I now plan to work on “Did Jeremiah confess? Or: Laments, complaints & confessions?” Personally unlike that renowned maximalist Dr Jim, I have never been convinced that we even have any evidence for the existence of a “prophet Jeremiah” in sixth century Judah, but I can see no reason for the character Jeremiah the prophet from the eponymous book not to have used the complaint form…

I do hope I have baited Jim enough to get a response with some meat in it (he can put it here in the comments if he really wants to keep his blog pure and free from argument and evidence ;) and perhaps others of you enough to start a discussion, which will help me firm up my ideas for the colloquium!

  1. As well as his Theology see also the essay reprinted as Gerhard von Rad. “The confessions of Jeremiah.” In A Prophet to the nations: essays in Jeremiah studies, edited by Leo G. Perdue and Brian W. Kovacs, Eisenbrauns, 1984, 339-48. []
  2. As evidence see: Thomas Kelly Cheyne, Jeremiah: his life and times. A.D.F. Randolph, 1889, 2. []