donderdag 21 februari 2013

Review of: E.W. Dobbs-Allsopp, Lamentations (Interpretation), Westminster John Knox, 2002; in: Interpretation

E.W. Dobbs-Allsopp, Lamentations (Interpretation), Westminster John Knox, 2002

Review in: Interpretation 2003 57: 80
Review door: Kathleen M. O'connor
Gevonden op:

by E.W. Dobbs-Allsopp
Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. John Knox, Louisville, 2002.
159 pp. $21.95 (cloth). ISBN 0-8042-3141-9.

LYRIC POETRY DIFFERS FROM other poetic forms because it lacks plotline, characters, and other structuring devices common to narratives. To provide meaning, lyrics rely upon evocative powers of language and a plethora of poetic devices. In an elegant introduction, Dobbs-Allsopp identifies linguistic and stylistic features of Lamentations' lyrics. Five chapters, corresponding to the five poems of Lamentations, sustain that attention and distinguish this commentary.

Dobbs-Allsopp's conversation partners include not only biblical scholars but also contemporary poets and literary critics, giving rare breadth and freshness to his interpretation. He is more certain than some scholars of the book's origins during the Babylonian period, but he does recognize the dearth of historical evidence within the text itself. More importantly, his attention to poetry reveals how the biblical book has been able to embrace multiple calamities throughout history. Although Lamentations expresses little hope for the future, Dobbs-Allsopp finds healing benefits even in God's hurtful silence. Divine silence in the face of catastrophe leaves space for human sorrow, respects truth, and makes faith its own touchstone. And for Christians, God's silence also invokes the cross.

One of the more vexing matters of interpretation is the question of the relationships of the five poems to one another. Despite formal features like acrostic and alphabetic structures that separate the poems, Dobbs-Allsopp rightly insists upon literary coherence across the book. Excursuses on personified Zion, Egyptian captivity, conventional language, the choral lyric, and the silence of God bring other literary and theological questions to bear upon the commentary. This beautifully written book contributes much to the work of scholars, but it also shows contemporary readers how Lamentations can help us grieve and become more compassionate in the aftermath of unspeakable suffering.


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