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Culture & Religion

Prophet or Poet?

To understand the Hebrew Bible and the book of Jeremiah you need to look at the prophet primarily as a poet, according to David Rosenberg’s new book “A Literary Bible.”

“The quickest way to understand the audacity and originality of what David Rosenberg is attempting in A Literary Bible, the big book of his selected translations from the Hebrew Bible, is to read the introduction to his excerpt from the book of Jeremiah. To countless generations of Bible readers, Jeremiah has been a prophet—indeed, the Hebrew prophet par excellence, his very name a synonym for warning, chastising, and exhorting. To Rosenberg, however, the person (or people) who wrote this book is primarily a poet, whose ‘main form is the prophet’s oracle’—much as we might say that Shakespeare’s main form was the sonnet. At most, prophet was Jeremiah’s day job, the conventional mask he put on in order to voice his poetry more effectively. ‘It is hardly different today when it comes to the profession of the poet,’ Rosenberg writes. ‘Sometimes he or she is a college professor, but we still call him or her a poet, not even a poet-professor.’”


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