donderdag 21 februari 2013

Review of: Dianne Bergant, Lamentations (AOTC), Abingdon Press, 2004; in: Interpretation

Dianne Bergant, Lamentations (AOTC), Abingdon Press, 2004.

Review in: Interpretation 2004 58: 422
Review door: Adele Berlin
Gevonden op:

by Dianne Bergant
Abingdon, Nashville, 2003.
144 pp. $20.00. ISBN 0-687-08461-X.

BERGANT HAS A TALENT FOR writing graceful, non-technical commentaries that convey the essence of modern scholarship in an accessible way. Here she eschews an historical approach, declining to speculate on the historical context of the book except for what the book itself conveys; and the book itself conveys precious little, except that Jerusalem was destroyed. Bergant concentrates instead on the literary aspects of Lamentations. This is in many ways a good choice for Lamentations, whose poetry is excruciatingly moving, but the lack of any contextual-ization (reminiscent of New Criticism) tends to deprive the interpretation of some depth.

The Introduction covers typical topics like the acrostic structure of four of the chapters and the other poetic features; a discussion of the book's genre, canonization, and placements in the Bible (different in Jewish and Christian Bibles); and a brief consideration of historical matters. Especially welcome are her comments on voice and on metaphor. There is no translation, although the NRSV is the principal translation of reference for the series, Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries. The commentary proceeds along three tracks: literary analysis, exegeti-cal analysis, and theological and ethical analysis. The first two sections address the literary structure, style, and meaning. The last section draws out the theological implications and contains applications of the message for today's world, as does the Conclusion (pp. 137-139). Bergant draws comparisons and lessons for today's reactions to destruction, suffering, retribution, and theodicy. Pastors will find here good material for sermons.

The scholarship is good but largely derivative, although the sources are generally not noted (in keeping with the format of the series), except for a listing in the Bibliography. This omission will bother scholars; but then the series is not directed primarily at scholars.

A commentary inevitably invites disagreement over specific interpretations. I found myself agreeing with Bergant often but not always. I cite two examples where I disagree. Bergant declares that the "uncleanness on her skirts" in 1:9 is menstrual blood, which she conflates with sin (p. 41). This is a common misunderstanding. The impurity is actually one resulting from a sexual offense, sexual promiscuity, not menstruation.

The phrase "king and priest" in 2:6 leads Bergant to speculate on what the reference might be. She concludes that the king refers to David, who brought the Ark to Jerusalem (p. 63). She forgets, however, that there was a real king, a political leader, in Jerusalem at the time of its destruction. Perhaps more historical contextualization would have helped here.

These critiques aside, Bergant has provided an informed and readable entrée into the book of Lamentations. She has done a service in synthesizing a large amount of recent scholarship and presenting it in a palatable way.


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