A choir in lament: The dialogic theology of incessant invocation in Lamentations

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  • The book of Lamentations is comprised of five acrostic poems that relate to the tragedy of the Babylonian siege and destruction of the temple around 587 BCE. Many commentators and scholars of Lamentations speak of the competing voices that are to be found in the text. This reflects the fact that there are mixed messages present in Lamentations. The poems both accuse and vindicate God. Moreover, the text presents the calamity of the Israelites as the punishment for both the sins of the generation of Israelites at the time of the Babylonian captivity and that of Israel’s ancestors. God does not will evil for those afflicted. Still, it is God who commands both good and evil. These are some examples of the varying ideas expressed in Lamentations. The presence of mixed messages in the text does not necessarily mean that the work contradicts itself, nor does it imply that there are multiple writers reflected therein. In using the methodological tools provided by speech-act theory, dialogical hermeneutics and Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of a polyphonic work, the present thesis looks to show how the nature of Lamentations is that of a question rather than an answer. The book is a question which finds its answer through the response of readers. Lamentations provokes and invites readers to join its mournful cry. It invites its audience to join a community ravaged by war in the incessant and urgent invocation of God for answers, respite, and ultimately, redemption.

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    Research Material
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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International