"See and Read All These Words": the Concept of the Written in the Book of Jeremiah
Unusually for the Hebrew Bible, the book of Jeremiah contains a high number of references to writers, writing, and the written word. Written during the exilic period, the book demonstrates a key moment in the ongoing integration of writing and the written word into ancient Israelite society. Yet the book does not describe writing in the abstract. Instead, it provides an account of its own textualization, thereby blurring the line between the narrative and the audience that receives it and connecting the text of Jeremiah to the words of the prophet and of YHWH.
To authenticate the book of Jeremiah as the word of YHWH, its tradents present a theological account of the chain of transmission from the divine to the prophet, and then to the scribe and the written page. Indeed, the book of Jeremiah extends the chain of transmission beyond the written word itself to include the book of Jeremiah and, finally, a receiving audience. To make the case for this chain of transmission, this study attends in each of three exegetical chapters to writers (including YHWH, prophets, and scribes), the written word, and the receiving audience. The first exegetical chapter describes the standard chain of transmission from the divine to the prophet to the scribe, demonstrating that all three agents in this chain are imagined as writers and that writing was a suitable conduit for the divine word. The narrative account of Jeremiah's textualization is set forth, with special attention to the way in which the narrative points beyond itself to the text of Jeremiah itself. The second exegetical chapter builds upon this argument by attending to the written word in Jeremiah, pointing especially to Jeremiah's self-references (e.g. "in this book," "all these words") as a pivotal element in the extension of the chain of transmission beyond the words in the text to the words of the text. Finally, the third exegetical chapter considers the construction of the audience in the book of Jeremiah, concluding that the written word, as Jeremiah imagines it, is to be received by a worshipping audience through a public reading.
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