Suffering and the prophetic vocation
The "self-disclosures" in Jeremiah, including not only the so-called "confessions" but also other first person material which seems to express the prophet's inner feelings, are examined in a detailed, exegetical fashion with careful attention to-both the ancient versions and the subsequent history of exegesis. Special attention is given to the works of Rashi and Kimchi. Three basic questions are asked: 1) What do the "self-disclosures" represent? 2) To what degree can the "self-disclosures" be said to portray the historical Jeremiah? 3) Why are the "self-disclosures" included in the corpus of Jeremianic literature? These questions are approached by examining the relevant passages against the backdrop of the prophetic orthodoxy of the late 7th century B. C., which is seen to consist of commonly held notions of the role, message, and perhaps even temperament of the prophet within the current socio-religious framework. This orthodoxy is viewed as having initially defined Jeremiah's understanding of the prophetic office. But in the "self-disclosures" Jeremiah wrestles with the other side of his experience as a prophet, the painful and mysterious side, and attempts to forge a new understanding of the prophetic vocation. In the end, the fundamental element of the prophetic vocation for Jeremiah is seen as the "Word of the Lord." The prophet's conviction that he had been entrusted with the powerful, efficacious "Word" became the touchstone of both his vocational self-understanding and his authentication against the false prophets who represented prophetic orthodoxy. And the "Word" was ultimately the source of his suffering. All of these elements may be seen in the call-narrative which is examined in detail as the introduction to the entire book. The closing chapter of the thesis takes a closer look at the theological kerygma of the "self-disclosures," particularly in relation to the problem of suffering.