Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
FM 7:1 (Fall 1989) p. 88
Ezra-Nehemiah: A Commentary by Joseph Blenkinsopp. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1988. 366 pp. $29.95.
This volume represents a welcome addition to the resources available to interpreters of Ezra-Nehemiah. Careful attention to Blenkinsopp’s commentary encourages engagement of the text with greater sensitivity and understanding. His discussions of critical problems are straightforward, balanced, and cognizant of the constraints imposed by the character of our sources.
Regarding the chronology of Ezra and Nehemiah, Blenkinsopp argues that the biblical sequence of Ezra-Nehemiah should be granted the benefit of the doubt. The “working hypothesis” (p. 141) that Ezra preceded Nehemiah is fruitful for Blenkinsopp’s reading of Ezra-Nehemiah. At this point, he is in fundamental agreement with H. M. G. Williamson’s recent commentary on Ezra-Nehemiah.
His view of the compositional history of Ezra-Nehemiah is, however, entirely different. Blenkinsopp argues that it is “essential [to] maintain the structural unity of Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah” (p. 36). Critical scholars’ longstanding consensus on the common authorship of Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah has recently been challenged by Williamson and, earlier, by Sara Japhet. Although he answers their objections against common authorship of Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah (pp. 41-54), Blenkinsopp’s
more telling defense of the earlier critical consensus is the cumulative effectiveness of his invocation of texts from Chronicles to illuminate passages and patterns in Ezra-Nehemiah (passim).
Beyond these and other items on the standard menu of critical study of Ezra-Nehemiah, Blenkinsopp shows a healthy appreciation for the religious value and theological significance of this literature which is too often dismissed with the charge that it represents joyless, legalistic, racist, self-serving religion. For example, commenting on Ezra 9:2 he acknowledges the importance of biological descent in early Judaism, and goes on to write that “the severe measures proposed by Ezra have to be balanced by the remarkable openness of early Judaism to proselytes” (p. 176). When commenting on Nehemiah’s prayer that God remember his good deeds (Neh 13:14), Blenkinsopp observes that “there may be higher levels of religious sensitivity, but to look for assurance that one’s life and work are of some worth in the sight of God is hardly an attitude to be despised” (p. 357).
Two notes of dissent need to be raised. Although the translation is generally quite good, his rendering of the Hebrew parim and the Aramaic...
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