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The Great Drama of Jeremiah
A Performance Reading
Valerie M. Billingham

In this original work, joining the growing corpus of performance criticism of Hebrew Bible texts, Billingham offers a performance reading of some eleven scenes in the book of Jeremiah, analysing their scripts, actors/speakers, audiences, settings and improvisation of scripts. While kings, priests, prophets and people act in various ways in these performances, Jeremiah himself plays an important role both in reporting their actions and in delivering speeches proclaiming Yhwh’s oracles. Earth and members of the Earth community also raise their voices in distress at the absence of the exiled people. The people of the exile themselves can be assumed as the audience if no other is designated in a scene; it will be their role to process the experiences of the drama. Various socio-political and geographical contexts provide safe settings in which they may view the traumatic events that unfold. In a synchronic reading, Billingham argues that Jeremiah improvises several old Israelite traditions, applying them to the new context of exile, challenging the prevailing royal-priestly ideology, and prompting the audience to rethink its beliefs, attitudes and actions.

Among the performances analysed in this book are the divine ultrasound of the pre-natal prophet, Jeremiah’s vision of the reversal of creation, the people’s search for a single righteous person in Jerusalem, the siege of the city and (horror!) the destruction of the temple. In a ludicrous contest with the idols, the best god wins. And Jeremiah smashes a pot as a sign-act for Judah’s destruction. This heuristic reading of Jeremiah invites readers to interact with Jeremiah’s messages as dramatic performances that may be brought to life in their own experiences of crisis, challenge and triumph.


Series: Hebrew Bible Monographs, 95
9781910928868 hardback
Publication May 2021