The Book of Jeremiah

Written by J. A. Thompson Reviewed By John Goldingay

Dr Thompson will be known to readers of Themelios as the author of the Tyndale Commentary on Deuteronomy, and that volume will give them a fair idea of what to expect from this more recent—and more substantial—work on Jeremiah. It is a useful, straightforward commentary, relatively conservative within the total range of Old Testament scholarship, relatively open within the conservative spectrum. In the absense of a fully satisfactory commentary in English on Jeremiah, this becomes the obvious buy for the ministerial student and preacher.

The theological student will no doubt find himself using especially the extensive introduction (136 pp.), which covers topics such as the book’s background and the prophet’s life and message, and the approaches scholarship has taken to the book, its structure and its construction. On the former kind of question, Dr Thompson provides a reliable straightforward guide based on material within Jeremiah itself and on ancient Near Eastern sources. On the latter, he gives helpful summaries of much of the critical work on Jeremiah over the past century, though his treatment is rather selective and he does not refer to many important works of the last twenty years (e.g. H. Reventlow, G. Wanke, H. Weippert, W. Thiel, K.-F. Pohlmann). Further, Dr Thompson does not present a developed critique of the theories he summarizes, but generally confines himself to describing them and making occasional observations regarding particular strong or weak points. His opting for broadly conservative positions is thus not very closely argued. Perhaps whether one takes more conservative or more novel views does reflect theological, social, and personality factors at least as much as the manifest drift of the evidence! Nevertheless, I would like to see a more systematic critique of the issues involved in critical study of Jeremiah.

In the body of the commentary, Dr Thompson offers a workmanlike translation of each section of text, accompanied by useful textual and philological notes. He then comments on questions of date and origin relating to the section as a whole, often cross-referring to his introduction—though there is nevertheless much repetition of essentially the same observations (the volume as a whole would have benefited from tighter editing, though it is well-indexed, and the type-setting/proof-reading was good). He also has plenty of space for comment on the content and problems of the material verse by verse. As he observes in his notes on the book’s opening verses, he concentrates especially on questions of historical, geographical, and cultural background. He does not attempt much theological exposition (it is perhaps significant that there seems to be no reference to von Rad’s penetrating chapter on Jeremiah in his Old Testament Theology, nor to H. W. Robinson’s The Cross in Jeremiah). Nor does he attempt many ‘devotional and homiletical suggestions’, despite the blurb. But Dr Thompson’s commentary provides the preacher with a helpful aid for his own attempt to wrestle with the book of Jeremiah so that God may speak to him through it.

John Goldingay

Fuller Theological Seminary