Inspired Scribes: The Formation of the Book of Jeremiah and the Vocation of Ancient Jewish Scribal Scholars

Doctoral Dissertation


This dissertation examines the variant manuscripts of the book of Jeremiah in light of the practice of ancient Near Eastern, scholarly scribes who were responsible for transcribing and transmitting prophetic oracles. These scribal scholars were active contributors to the process of divination, i.e., in the discernment of the deity’s will. Through techniques of textual divination, especially vertical reading, intra-textual harmonization, and analogical reapplication, these scribes shaped and expanded the meaning of prophetic oracles. Significantly, these techniques of textual divination illuminate the practice of the Jewish scribes who formed the book of Jeremiah. In particular, they shed light on the processes which produced Jeremiah’s numerous doublets. Each doublet marks an occasion of textual divination when a scribe would lift a set of verses from one context and copy them into another; and through vertical reading and intra-textual harmonization, and sometimes analogical reapplication, such moments of duplication would generate fresh revelation. Also, toward the generation of fresh revelation, the duplicating scribe would often rephrase and adapt the doublet’s text in the process of duplication. Thus, in their creation of doublets the scribes responsible for the formation of Jeremiah resemble the scribal scholars of the ancient Near East. For this reason, it would not be unreasonable to propose that the diving scribes of Second Temple Judea (and earlier) who formed the book of Jeremiah were entrusted with a scholarly vocation comparable to the vocation of scribal scholars in the ancient Near East. Both groups of scribes were authorized, “inspired” conduits of divine revelation. Finally, the divinatory origins of the creation and growth of Jeremiah, have implications for how we should interpret the extant manuscript forms of the book.The main two surviving forms of the book—that of the Masoretic Text and that of the Septuagint—are best understood not as subsequent “Editions,” but as snapshots of an ongoing and more gradual process of scribal divination.


Attribute NameValues
Author Justus T. Ghormley
Contributor Ronnie Goldstein, Committee Member
Contributor Eugene Ulrich, Research Director
Contributor Abraham Winitzer, Committee Member
Contributor James VanderKam, Research Director
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Theology
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2015-07-28

Submission Date 2015-08-01
  • intertextuality

  • textual growth

  • ancient Jewish scribal practice

  • the book of Jeremiah

  • scribal practice

  • Hebrew Bible

  • Jeremiah

  • textual divination

  • Emanuel Tov

  • textual criticism of the book of Jeremiah

  • doublets

  • scribes

  • scribal divination

  • Old Testament

  • Two edition theory

  • Neo Assyian oracle collections

  • Mari letters

  • textual criticism

  • doublets in the book of Jeremiah

  • Formation of the book of Jeremiah

  • Mari

  • synonymous variation

  • scribal scholars

  • divination

  • scribes as performers

  • Neo Assyrian scribes

  • Mari scribes

  • Neo Assyria

  • harmonization

  • Greek

  • Hebrew

  • Akkadian

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

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