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Was prophecy a day job for poets?

posted by Nathan Schneider

In The New Republic, Adam Kirsch reviews David Rosenberg’s A Literary Bible, which makes an arresting claim about Hebrew biblical literature:

Literary BibleTo 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.” He draws a comparison with the contemporary American poet John Ashbery, who has been a professor and an art critic. Still, “Ashbery wasn’t called an art critic-poet, and neither were the poets of Jeremiah called prophet-poets, as far as we know.”

Continue reading at The New Republic.

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