The Catholic University of America

Lina Rong Defense

Final Examination of Lina Rong
For the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 2:00 p.m., Caldwell Room 125



Christopher T. Begg, S.T.D., Ph.D.


"Forgotten and Forsaken by God (Lam 5:19-20): The Community in Pain in Lamentations and Related Old Testament Texts"

This study takes Lamentations as an integrated unity of form and content, and considers the mini-acrostic in Lam 5:19-20 as crucial for the interpretation of the whole book. It applies a holistic approach and a dialogic interpretation to the book of Lamentations.

This dissertation first examines the extent to which an intrinsic connection exists between the acrostic structure and the content of the book; it reads the book as a whole from the angle of the mini-acrostic in Lam 5:19-20 and explores whether and how this mini-acrostic underlines the main themes running through the book. It also explores the dialogic interaction among the voices within Lamentations and between Lamentations and other related communal laments in the Hebrew Bible regarding mood change and admission of guilt. Finally, the dissertation examines the significance of Lamentations for contemporary suffering individuals and communities.

The book of Lamentations makes evident that mood change in biblical laments is not a uni-directional movement from lament to praise: it can also move from praise to lament or to alternate between the two. Lamentations remains in lament without moving into praise and insists that God continues to be their dialogue partner. Admission of guilt is heard in Lamentations, but it is one voice in the book and has to be understood in the context of the articulation of pain that dominates the book. 

This dissertation affirms that Lamentations 5 serves as the climax of the book using a more carefully designed structure than the previous four alphabetic acrostics, while chapter 3 forms the center with its triple acrostic. Lamentations also exemplifies the dialogic nature of truth, the social value of lament, and the significance of remaining in lament when necessary.