Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Obadiah-Jeremiah Parallels 3

(Continued from Obadiah-Jeremiah Parallels 1 and 2)

What do these parallels mean in terms of the texts themselves?

Did the author of Obadiah plagiarize Jeremiah? Why did they use similar themes, images, and in some instances identical words and phrases to express YHWHs decrees? Did they live and prophecy at the same time in the same places? Did the author of Obadiah hope that by tailoring his judgments after Jeremiah's, his words would be more readily received? Can we explain it as evidence of the same Person inspiring and guiding their prophetic utterances? Was the author of Obadiah a prophet under Jeremiah like Elisha under Elijah?

The question becomes more complex when we realize that the author of the prophecies of Obadiah does not anywhere identify himself. Not only is the “name” Obadiah part of an editorial gloss added as an introduction to the anonymous prophecies, but “Obadiah” may not even be a name. The word means “servant of YHWH” as much as it means the name of a specific person. While there are many people named Obadiah in scripture, there is no mention of any prophet by that name.

What if the author of Obadiah is Jeremiah? What if this letter is another prophecy of Jeremiah's? It appears that even into the first and second centuries AD, the book of Jeremiah was not yet fixed. The Septuagint and Dead Sea Scrolls preserve a different form of Jeremiah than the Masoretic texts. Some have added verses, in others, whole chapters are missing. Anyone who studies it will recognize the lack of chronological consistency. Narratives are dispersed and broken up among prophecies without apparent form and function like we find in something like Daniel or Revelation. We are dealing with a conglomeration of texts fused into one--which looks different depending on your sources. And don't forget, Jeremiah apparently lost a great deal of his original prophecies and had Baruch re-write them:
Then Jeremiah got another scroll and gave it to the scribe Baruch son of Neriah. As Jeremiah dictated, Baruch wrote on this scroll everything that had been on the scroll that King Jehoiakim of Judah burned in the fire. They also added on this scroll several other messages of the same kind.
--Jeremiah 36:32, NET
What if the text of “Obadiah” is one of those messages added by Jeremiah to the re-write of his own prophecies? To follow this line of thought... because the text itself did not name its author, it was appended to Jeremiah's known body of work and later given an identification ambiguous enough to allow for it to be identified as Jeremiah's (if it was) or point to another prophet (if it wasn't).


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