Structure, Themes, And Theology In Ezra-Nehemiah -- By: George Van Pelt Campbell

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 174:696 (Oct 2017)
Article: Structure, Themes, And Theology In Ezra-Nehemiah
Author: George Van Pelt Campbell

Structure, Themes, And Theology In Ezra-Nehemiah

George Van Pelt Campbell

George Van Pelt Campbell is Professor of Biblical and Religious Studies and Sociology at Grove City College, Grove City, PA.


Ezra and Nehemiah were originally a single book with one overarching argument. The book is structured in four movements that address successive stages of a common theme: the manner whereby the people of God rebuilt the house of God. But rebuilding the house of God is not limited to rebuilding the temple. It also involves restoration of full spiritual vitality to the people of God. Ezra-Nehemiah is a manual on spiritual renewal, and preaching the book is a call to the successive stages of spiritual revitalization.

The Unity Of Ezra-Nehemiah

Ezra and Nehemiah were originally written as one book.1 As Eskenazi has pointed out,2 the parameters of Ezra-Nehemiah have been challenged in two different ways. The similarities of Ezra-Nehemiah to Chronicles have led the majority of scholars since 1832 to construe Ezra-Nehemiah as part of the book of Chronicles. On the other hand, Ezra and Nehemiah are usually separated in the popular mind into two separate books, an impression fostered by their separation in modern English translations of the Bible.

In 1832 L. Zunz suggested that many of the scholarly problems related to Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah could be solved by postulating that the three, in that order, form a continuous work written by the Chronicler.3 His view was quickly adopted and reigned as the scholarly consensus into the 1960s.4 The consensus was first challenged by Sara Japhet in 1968.5 Other scholars have followed Japhet, both by undermining the foundations on which the scholarly consensus was built and by adding new and substantial arguments that dispute the supposed similarity of Chronicles to Ezra-Nehemiah.6 As a result, the conclusion that the books are a unity can no longer be considered secure.7 Further, the oldest extant manuscripts separate Chronicles from Ezra-Nehemiah, as do the early lists of biblical books by the church fathers and the rabbis.8 In light of the evidence it seems best to agree with Eskenazi that “the accumulated ...

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