|dc.description.abstract||Lamentations consists of multiple speaking voices, expressing a variety of theological perspectives on the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BCE, and interacting dialogically. In seeking to clarify “the” theology of Lamentations, however, interpreters summarise its multiple theological perspectives into a single monologic message. Lamentations is read as either primarily a theodicy, highlighting penitence, or an antitheodicy, highlighting protest.
This thesis reads Lamentations as a Bakhtinian polyphony, attending to individual speaking voices and examining their theological perspectives in turn, as well as the interaction between them. Alongside this dialogic reading, the thesis engages theodic and antitheodic interpretations of Lamentations. It reveals the strategies interpreters employ in support of their theodic or antitheodic readings, observing that Lamentations is ultimately read in keeping with the theological position of the interpreter. Interpreters find in Lamentations either an affirmation or an accusation of the God of the text, according to their ideological commitments. Reading for theodicy, God is just and the message of Lamentations is one of necessary penitence, in order to reverse the devastating punishment that has been inflicted on Jerusalem. Reading for antitheodicy, God is cruel, even abusive, and the message of Lamentations becomes a demonstration of protest against divine injustice.
But the burden of Lamentations is also to express immense pain. While there are elements of both penitence and protest within its pages, I argue that collapsing the “theological message” of Lamentations into one of either protest or penitence does a disservice to the text. Lamentations is better read as a polyphony of pain, penitence, and protest.||