New Perspectives on Ezra-Nehemiah: History and Historiography, Text, Literature, and Interpretation. Edited by ISAAC KALIMI. Winona Lake, Ind.: EISENBRAUNS, 2012. Pp. xv + 296, ilius. $49.50.
According to the editor's introduction, "The purpose of this volume is to introduce the reader to the latest views on Ezra/Ezra-Nehemiah based on present research" (p. 1). In providing a well-rounded treatinent of several aspects of current research, the writers have accomplished this goal.
Lisbeth Fried begins the set of essays with an interesting theory that the writer of Ezra 1-6 utilized Hellenistic rules of rhetoric. She claims the inclusion of primary documents, such as lists of temple vessels (Ezra 1:9-11) and the returnees to Judah (Ezra 2), follows a technique of Greek historians to bolster credibility (pp. 17-18). Also, the use of narrative and proofs, according to Fried, reflects Hellenistic practice (of. 4:1-23). The question is how much direct Greek influence to allow in Ezra-Nehemiah when no Greek is used in the text. Could some of these "tactics" be cross-cultural in the ancient world?
The essay of Lester Grabbe forms a counter-balance to the trend to search for Hellenistic influences in Ezra-Nehemiah. Grabbe cautions against unwarranted identifications. Focusing on Greek models of leadership, he argues that while some comparisons can be made to Nehemiah's role, this does not mean that Nehemiah followed these role models when making his decisions. In fact, according to Grabbe, Nehemiah is not enacting the same rules as Solon (except in the case of debt cancellation) or Pericles. He points rather to biblical models and, to a lesser degree, Mesopotamian and Egyptian models for Nehemiah's reforms.
Don Polaski regards Nehemiah as a colonial governor caught between imperial edicts and the effort to forge his own realm of control. He sees the Nehemiah Memoir as a redactor's attempt to present Nehemiah as a Persian official who uses texts for authority. However, Polaski is struck by the fact that Nehemiah does not cite either the Persian imperial law or the law of Moses in his efforts to reform his society, relying rather on his position as governor and oral tradition.
Klaas Smelik compares Nehemiah to the Hofjuden, "court Jews" of the seventeenth-eighteenth-century German states. In so doing, he reminds the reader of the difficult position of Jews in government, in both ancient and modern history, trying to mediate between their communities...