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Merkur, D. (1985). The Prophecies of Jeremiah. Am. Imago, 42(1):1-37.
   

(1985). American Imago, 42(1):1-37

The Prophecies of Jeremiah

Daniel Merkur

Psychoanalytic discussions of the prophets are fewer than of any other part of the Old Testament. Both the texts and the nature of the prophets' experiences are obscure. In my view, the obscurity of the texts arises from undue reliance on philological methods. Interdisciplinary competence in the psychology of religious experiences, long resisted by professional Old Testament critics, is, I suggest, a conditio sine qua non for the scientific study of prophetic literature.

Despite the scepticism of modern critics, the authenticity of Jeremiah's prophecies is not in doubt. Jeremiah's prophecies were “known” before they became manifest. Jeremiah indeed foretold a remarkable series of historical events. How this is to be explained—whether through random chance, extrasensory perception 7, or divine revelation—one cannot say. Freud states that “there is at least one spot in every dream at which it is unplumbable—a navel, as it were, that is its point of contact with the unknown” (10, p. III, n. 1).

In developing a phenomenology of Jeremiah's experiences as a data base for analysis, I will follow the manifest content in writing of “Yahweh.” All translations are from the Hebrew, in the light of the textual criticism of Old Testament scholarship.

A. R. Johnson 26 suggests that, originally, the various Hebrew terms for “prophet” had distinct meanings. In early use, ro'eh, “seer,” primarily denoted a visionary, although a seer, such as Samuel, also “foreheard” auditory phenomena. Hozeh, by contrast, was used to designate ecstatics whose experiences were predominantly locutions; but the exact sense is unclear. Nabi early indicated a “frenzied” diviner. In later use, nabi came to supplant both ro'eh and hozeh as the general term for “prophet.”

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