Spirit & Reason
The Embodied Character of Ezekiel's Symbolic Thinking
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: Baylor University Press
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Symbols are integral to the fabric of human life. We get our bearings within the flow of human experience through symbols that point beyond themselves to the larger whole of which they are a part. Furthermore, symbols participate in the larger reality to which they point. Of first rank among these symbols are human beings themselves. The words and actions of humans testify to the way they see themselves fitting into the cosmic hierarchy. This embodied human testimony ...
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The prophet Ezekiel had to invest his entire self in his mission to the Judahite exiles in Babylon in the early sixth century B.C.E. He had to muster his thoughts, feelings, and actions in his task of persuading the exiles to reenvision their identity and resist assimilation into the culture of their Babylonian overlords. Vision and rhetoric were two primary instruments by which he would urge them to imagine a future in which they would continue to be a people ...
1: The Right Ordering of Perception through the Interplay of Spirit and Reason
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New ways of knowing and acting that emerge after a traumatic experience can begin the process of reconstructing the self-understanding of the individual and the community. For the prophet Ezekiel, Yhwh intervened in Judah in the sixth century B.C.E. to bring about both the destruction of an old world and the reconstruction of a new one. Although Nebuchadrezzar and his army were the historical agents that devastated Judah and Jerusalem, the true executive ...
2: The Pure versus the Impure
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Defilement results from a violation of the integrity of life. Humans, who have been given a life on this planet shared with other creatures, recognize when they have transgressed against the basic order of the universe. The experience of defilement arises as a feeling that one is dirty. Dirt is a substance that is out of place. To remove the dirt by washing or sweeping returns the person or place to the proper condition. When such cleansing removes defilement, it is ...
3: The Heart of the Matter
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The exiles appear to have been victimized by their circumstances. Their deportation to Babylonia was carried out by a Babylonian army that was too powerful for them. If they were wondering what they might have done differently to escape deportation, Ezekiel insisted that they take responsibility for their situation and recognize the potential for a new start that would come with repentance. Ezekiel tolerated no second-guessing and wondering how events might ...
4: The Place of Skepticism in Determining the Divinely Willed Order of the World
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The need for inspired knowledge was felt not only among the Judahite deportees but also among the Mesopotamians with whom they were resettled and among the more distant peoples of Presocratic Greece. The vulnerability of mortals along with their limited knowledge of reality leads them to seek guidance about their place in the larger world within which they sojourn. The kind of knowledge needed is one that will reduce anxiety about what the future ...
5: The Justice and Tragedy of a Community Beset by Divine and Human Violence
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Paradox and contradiction reveal limitations to reason’s capacity to comprehend the meaning of life. Life does not permit its mysteries to be coopted by the theories of thinkers and scientists who aim to control nature. Through his visions Ezekiel tried to create the understanding that invisible reality is more important than that which can be seen, touched, smelled, heard, and tasted. In line with the Israelite tradition, Ezekiel maintained that this invisible reality is manifested ...
6: Death and Afterlife
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For humans, death is a fact of life. Although death may be eluded and delayed, in the end, it is inescapable. Thus, it is understandable that the ancient Israelites, Mesopotamians, and Greeks regarded death itself as natural. But premature or untimely death was dreaded. The death of a young woman in childbirth, the accidental death of children, the murder of a man in the prime of life, or the death of a young soldier are examples of individuals who have been deprived ...
7: Spirit and Holiness
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Many important lessons in life can only be grasped by personal change or transformation. The alcoholic must learn those factors and situations that pressure him to take a drink and thus put him at risk in the ways he relates to others and to his own body. The athlete must remain faithful to a training program that regulates diet and exercise. He must listen to his body at the same time he tries to push his performance to new levels. The scholar must accept criticism ...
Page Count: 475
Publication Year: 2007