The Agora
The Lamentations of Jeremiah

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Place In The Canon

According to one major tradition, this book is not found in the Law or the Prophets sections of the Canon, which has caused some doubt as to the Jeremiah authorship of these poems. Instead it is placed with the "Kethubim" or writings, which include the Psalms, Proverbs, and Job as well as the "megilloth" or rolls. The "megilloth" consist of Esther, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Ruth and Lamentations. The edition commonly used in scholarly study today, Kittel's "Biblia Hebraica", is based on a manuscript of 1008 AD which lists the scrolls in chronological order: Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, and Esther. In many manuscripts they are listed in the order in which they are used to commemorate the different Jewish festivals: Song of Songs (Passover); Ruth (Pentecost); Lamentations (the great fast of the ninth of Ab); Ecclesiastes (the feast of Tabernacles); and Esther (Purim).

The following is Schaff's description of a scene at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem: "There the Jews assembled... to bewail the downfall of the holy city. I saw... a large number, old and young, male and female, venerable rabbis with patriarchal beards and young men kissing the stone wall and watering it with their tears. They repeat from their well-worn Hebrew Bibles and prayer books the Lamentations of Jeremiah and suitable Psalms... The keynote of all these laments and prayers was struck by Jeremiah, the most pathetic and tender-hearted of prophets, in the Lamentations, that funeral dirge of Jerusalem and the theocracy. This elegy, written with sighs and tears, has done its work most effectually in great public calamities, and is doing it every year on the ninth of the month Ab (July, when it is read with loud weeping in all the synagogues of the Jews and especially at Jerusalem). It keeps alive the memory of their deepest humiliation and guilt and the hope of final deliverance. The scene of the Wailing Place was to me touching and pregnant with meaning."

A second major tradition places Lamentations immediately after the prophecy of Jeremiah. This is the order followed by the Septuagint, the Vulgate, Josephus and most of the English versions. Jerome explains this by stating that this fits with an enumeration of the Old Testament books which makes their number agree with the letters in the Hebrew alphabet; in this listing Jeremiah and Lamentations are counted as one book.

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