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Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 106 Reviews this study enlightened, educated, and appreciative of the achievements of Balaban and Oz. Stephen Katz Indiana University Bloomington. IN 47405 EZRA·NEHEMIAH: A COMMENTARY. By Joseph Blenkinsopp. Old Testament Library. Pp. 366. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1988. Cloth. IN AN AGE OF PROSE: A LITERARY APPROACH TO EZRA· NEHEMIAH. By Tamara Cohn Eskenazi. SBL Monograph Series 36. Pp. viii + 211. Atlanta: Scholars, 1988. Cloth/Paper. Scholarly debate about Ezra-Nehemiah has largely been concerned with the questions of (1) the relationship between the books of Ezra and Nehemiah (the issue of their unity and underlying historical questions); (2) the unity of Ezra-Nehemiah with Chronicles; (3) the character, historicity, and redaction of the sources; (4) the respective purpose of the book(s); and (5) their location in the social, cultural, and intellectual life of Second Temple Judaism. Both Blenkinsopp and Eskenazi touch on the above questions; beyond that, the two works differ sharply in their methods and conclusions. Blenkinsopp has provided us with what one commonly expects in a commentary , though this one is distinguished for the erudition and the breadth of learning shown by its author. One of Blenkinsopp's great strengths is his command of a wide range of extra-biblical literature from rabbinic, Persian, Egyptian, Greek, and Assyriological sources that he brings to bear at appropriate points in his discussion. Research in the last couple of decades, largely associated with Williamson and Japhet, has tended to run against the traditional position that accepted the unity of Chronicles with Ezra-Nehemiah. Blenkinsopp's commentary represents the first comprehensive effort to maintain the traditional position in the face of the recent dissent. The arguments, spread throughout the volume, are primarily linguistic , though also to some extent ideological; see particularly pp. 41-54. He rejects the contention of Williamson and Japhet that Ezra 1-6 represents the latest stratum in the composition of Ezra-Nehemiah. Blenkinsopp accepts the traditional order and dates for Ezra and Nehemiah, as the vast majority of scholars now do. He regards Neh 8 as belonging originally to the Ezra narrative and considers that the simultaneous presence and activity Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 107 Reviews of both Ezra and Nehemiah in Ierusalem is the result of editorial work rather than historical reality. Beneath the surface of the text, Blenkinsopp discerns vestiges of a version less favorable to Ezra (p.44), and he considers Ezra's initial mission to have been less than a success, probably ending in his recall to the Persian court due to the turmoil and opposition stirred up by his anti-assimilationist reforms (p.2oo). While the volume abounds with insightful literary evaluations, Blenkinsopp's concerns are somewhat dictated by the commentary genre: he devotes considerable attention to the traditional historical-critical questions that are primarily diachronic in orientation. About a fifth of the volume is given to introductory matters. Blenkinsopp is magisterial in his efforts to situate the book in the history of research and the social world it reflects. Extensive bibliographies enhance the value of the volume. Commentaries are often the least creative of the scholarly art forms. Eskenazi's volume. however, is not a commentary. but rather a reworking of her doctoral dissertation. She provides what is probably the most creative and innovative work done on Ezra-Nehemiah in the last couple of decades. Modern readers of the Bible often find Ezra-Nehemiah somewhat flat when compared with the patriarchal narratives or the succession nafrative -an "age of prose" rather than heros. Eskenazi takes a literary approach to these texts. Whether you agree with all of her conclusions or not, you cannot read her volume without a growth in appreciation for the literary technique and cohesiveness of the present form of the text. A literary approach is a synchronic method. less concerned with diachronic questions about the development of the text. It examines the literary devices. structures, themes. characterization, etc. of the text as it now exists. Eskenazi agrees with the recent trend of research separating Chronicles from Ezra-Nehemiah. and she adds literary arguments to the largely linguistic and ideological ones advanced by Williamson and Iaphet (pp. 178-184). A separate chapter contrasts the ideology...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1681
Print ISSN
0146-4094
Pages
pp. 106-108
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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