Published on April 19, 2018 by Steve West

IVP, 2012 | 321 pages

A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance

By Steve West


About the Author

Andrew Shead is Head of Old Testament at Moore College, Sydney. He is the author of The Open Book and the Sealed Book: Jeremiah 32 in its Greek and Hebrew Recensions, as well as numerous articles and reviews.



In this contribution to the New Studies on Biblical Theology series, Andrew Shead examines the role of “word” vocabulary in the Book of Jeremiah. He argues that there is an important nuance between “word” singular and “words” plural in the book. Shead also contends that the “word of God” functions as the protagonist in Jeremiah. The word of the Lord is identified with Jeremiah’s words. No other book rivals Jeremiah for the diversity, frequency, and importance of the vocabulary of word and words. Shead’s treatment is both exegetical and theological. This book provides a fresh and focused study on this aspect of the Book of Jeremiah.


Table of Contents

Introduction: An Exercise in Theological Interpretation
Chapter 1 Word and Words in Jeremiah
Chapter 2 Structuring Jeremiah as Narrative about the Word of God
Chapter 3 Word and Speaker
Chapter 4 Word and Hearers
Chapter 5 Word and Power
Chapter 6 Word and Performance
Chapter 7 From the Book of Jeremiah to the Doctrine of the Word of God



Introduction: An Exercise in Theological Interpretation

This book combines biblical studies and theological interpretation and formulation. These things should not be separated artificially. Biblical theology is understood quite broadly in the academic community. A confessing biblical theology sees theological unity and development throughout the diversity of the canon. Biblical theology can focus on the initial meaning of a text, whereas theological interpretation can show how that initial meaning also has a final meaning. In this book, biblical theology is the method of reading that creates a framework which can generate theological interpretation. God is the God of the Bible. God reveals himself in Scripture, and he reveals himself in Christ. Scripture leads to Christ. The Bible is irreducibly a theological book, and God addresses us in and through it. In the academic community, there is a large divide between those who think the Bible should be interpreted apart from faith, and those who think that faith should be brought to the task. Everyone who reads the Bible does so with assumptions about what it is (e.g. merely a cultural artefact or the word of God). We should read the Bible with the foundational belief that it is God’s word and that it is true, but we should not assume that we know how a text communicates God’s truth—for that we require careful and open exegesis and interpretation. All reading is constrained at some level by a reader’s stances, although these stances can change. Historians and postmoderns also have controlling commitments that shape their readings. Believers can interpret texts in accord with the ultimate meaning of God’s word, which is revealed across the canon in Christ. Biblical texts are located in cultures and times, and they are the product of human authors, but they are also given by the Holy Spirit, and we require prayer and his help in order to interpret them properly. In the Book of Jeremiah, the “word of God” is the protagonist, and the story tells us about what happened when God’s word came to the prophet. The doctrine of Jeremiah needs to be heard in shaping our doctrine of God’s word.


Chapter 1: Word and Words in Jeremiah

Jeremiah 1:1-2 begins the book by providing an identification between the words of Jeremiah and the word of the Lord. Jeremiah’s words are God’s message. So Jeremiah begins by drawing our attention to the word of God, and the book abounds with references to God’s word. Not only does Jeremiah employ the vocabulary of word and words with striking frequency, such references also serve to divide the text and introduce important sections. For example, Jeremiah uses the expression, “thus says the Lord” more than the rest of the OT put together. The most important formula is “the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord,” since this formula serves as a heading that marks an important break. No other book rivals Jeremiah for the diversity, frequency, and importance of the vocabulary of word and words. Jeremiah reflects Deuteronomy, and it is compiled from a collection of writings, sermons, and oracles. There are also biographical details added. The book was carefully composed, and the importance of word formulas gives it intentional shape and form. Jeremiah 1:1-2 and 51:64 function as an inclusio, which demonstrates that the entire book is the word of God. God put his words (plural) in Jeremiah’s mouth (1:9), so that what Jeremiah spoke was God’s message (i.e. “word”); yet whenever a message from God comes to him, it is always a “word” singular. The word (singular) is a message from God that is received by humans, but it is spoken in words (plural). When words (plural) come from God they are normally written down and normally rejected. Often the word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah and he obeys and proclaims it, only to have the people reject “these words.” God’s message can be faithfully reproduced in a variety of ways: slavish dictation was not required. The word can be communicated without needing to only use the identical words of the initial revelation.


Chapter 2: Structuring Jeremiah as a Narrative about the Word of God

The book of Jeremiah is a coherent narrative about the word of God. Many scholars reject the idea that the book has a coherent structure, and it should be acknowledged that there are a mix of genres and chronological details. Nevertheless, disjunctive headings and narrative formulas using “word” vocabulary reveal careful composition. There are also markers of chronology, persons, and places, as well as obvious genre-blocks. Making smaller contributions to organization are key words and themes. Jeremiah 25 is the pivot of the two halves of the book, but it belongs to 25-51, making the first half chapters 1-24. The first half shows how the word of God tears down the nations. A number of textual features show that chapters 1-24 divides into two sections, 2-10 and 11-24. There are many different opinions about how the second half of the book is structured, and we do need to be prudent and reasonable in putting forward any analysis. Still, when we look for disjunctive headings and other markers, it is possible. . .

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A Mouth Full of Fire: The Word of God in the Words of Jeremiah

IVP, 2012 | 321 pages

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