Great is Thy Faithfulness?

I wanted to highlight a recent project that came out in November. The book is an edited volume on the book of Lamentations entitled, Great is Thy Faithfulness: Reading Lamentations as Sacred Scripture (Pickwick) edited by Robin A. Parry and Heath A. Thomas. Heath is a friend of mine and has a steady stream of projects in the queue for the next couple of years–you’ve been warned (in a good way).

The book seeks to assist the reader in how to read Lamentations as Scripture. Personally, I do not know if I’ve ever heard a sermon based on a text from Lamentations let alone Lamentations even used as a cross reference. To this, Parry and Thomas write:

Lamentations has never had a place of honor at the table of Christian spirituality. It is not one of those texts that everyone wants to converse with—a John’s Gospel, an Exodus, an Isaiah, a Romans. It is one of those texts people feel uncomfortable around, not quite sure what to do with. Indeed, were it left to us, it may well not have had a place at the table at all. Rather, like the desolate character of Lady Jerusalem sitting alone as people pass by on the other side of the road (Lam 1), the book of Lamentations itself has been passed by, ignored by the other guests (xiii).

Great is Thy Faithfulness is a welcomed contribution to the dinner party described. One strength about this project is that it addresses Lamentations from Jewish, Messianic Jewish, Christian, and Artistic/Contemporary reception history. This becomes an ideal work to show how reception history can help inform and shape the way the church approaches Lamentations as a word from God.

The need of the project is coupled by essays from accomplished scholars. Part 1 begins with a chapter from Heath Thomas (Southeastern Seminary) on the interplay of Scripture and Hermeneutics followed by Part 2 with a chapter on the theology of Lamentations by Paul House (Beeson Divinity School). Part 2 then proceeds with Jewish reception history,  with essays from:

Lamentations in Isaiah 40-55 by Lena-Sophia Tiemeyer (Kings College, Aberdeen)

The Character and Significance of LXX Lamentations by Kevin J. Youngblood (Harding University)

Targum Lamentations by Christian M.M. Brady (Penn State University)

Lamentations Rabbati by Jacob Neusner (Bard College)

Introduction to Rashi’s Commentary on Lamentations by Mayer I. Gruber (Gurion University)

Lamentations in Jewish Liturgy by Elsie R. Stern (Reconstructionist Rabbinical College)

Lamentations in Modern Jewish Thought by Zachary Braiterman (Syracuse University)

Following Jewish reception history is a chapter on Lamentations in Messianic Jewish reception history.  Holocaust Theology in the Light of Yeshua? Messianic Jewish Reception of Eikah by Richard Harvey (All Nations College)

After Messianic Jewish reception history is Lamentations in Christian reception history with essays by:

Lamentations in the Patristic Period by Heath Thomas (Southeastern Seminary)

Christian Interpretation of Lamentations in the Middle Ages by David Hogg (Beeson Divinity School)

John Calvin’s Interpretation of Lamentations by Pete Wilcox (Canon Chancellor at Lichfield Cathedral)

Lamentations for the Lord: Great and Holy Friday in the Greek Orthodox Church by Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou

Lamentations and Christian Worship by Andrew Cameron-Mowat SJ (Heythrop College, University of London)

Part 2 ends with a section on Artistic and Contemporary reception:

Musical Responses to Lamentations by  F. Jane Schopf (Rose Bruford College)

Lamentations in Rembrandt van Rijn: “Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem”  by Heath A. Thomas (Southeastern Seminary)

Psychological Approaches to Lamentations by Paul Joyce (St. Peter’s College, University of Oxford)

Feminist Interpretation(s) of Lamentations by Heath A. Thomas (Southeastern Seminary)

Part 3 of Great is Thy Faithfulness is a chapter by Robin Parry (Wipf and Stock Publishers) on Wrestling with Lamentations in Christian Worship.

Part 4 is a chapter on pastoral theology with Confession and Complaint: Christian Pastoral Reflections on Lamentations by Ian Stackhouse (Senior Pastor of Guildford Baptist Church).

Great is Thy Faithfulness is a needed volume for the field and is worthwhile to anyone who wishes to read Lamentations theologically. You can purchase the book here.