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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Synchronic Interpretation.

1.

While it is evident that the book is vastly complex literature composed over a long period of time by many hands, the text's unreadability may be overstated in some theories of composition. By concentrating on origins of texts and placing greater historical and theological value on the oldest texts, interpreters often overlook theological and literary power embedded in the text as it stands. Synchronic approaches are beginning to address these issues. Brueggemann (1994 ); Clements (1993 ); Seitz (1989a ); Biddle (1996); Liwak (1987); Stulman (1995); Diamond and O'Connor (1996); and Kessler (1997 ) are employing new approaches to investigate literary unity across many parts of the book. (See Perdue 1994 on new methods.)

2.

When the search for origins of texts is set aside, the book emerges as a conversation among many voices in an open-ended structure (see also Biddle 1996 ). Voices overlap, echo and re-echo, debate, rage, and grow quiet. Often a narrative, symbolic logic appears in the book's circular and discordant symphony. Voices portray different characters in poetry and different narrators in prose. Unity comes from the dominance of the divine voice across the book (Biddle 1996 ) and from the central role given to Jeremiah. His words and actions help structure the book, create emotional and theological power, and draw readers into his struggles as both foil and mirror to their own. Synchronic interpretation attends to the unifying effects of root metaphors in poetry and prose, notices narrative devices and symbolic meanings of events and dates, and considers rhetorical functions of text.

3.

Diachronic questions cannot be dismissed entirely, however. The relationship of text to historical context remains central to interpretation (Liwak 1987 ). Rather than seeking original contexts of small units, however, synchronic interpretation seeks to understand the relationship of the final form of the text to its audience in exile. Past, present, and future time frames criss-cross one another as if temporal boundaries were permeable. Linear chronology is absent because for exiles the pre-exilic past and hoped-for future merge with present realities as they struggle to survive.

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