P. M. Joyce and A. Mein (eds.), After Ezekiel: Essays on the Reception of A Difficult Prophet

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 12 (2012) - Review

Joyce, Paul M. and Andrew Mein (eds.), After Ezekiel: Essays on the Reception of A Difficult Prophet (LHBOTS, 535; New York: T&T Clark, 2011). Pp. xvi + 282. Hardcover. US$130.00. ISBN 978-0-567-53369-2.

This volume is a collection of papers assembled by Paul Joyce and Andrew Mein from the SBL section “Theological Perspectives on the Book of Ezekiel.” It contains fourteen articles that touch upon various aspects of the reception history of the prophetic book of Ezekiel with even-handed representation of Jewish, Christian, traditional, and more modern interpretations.

John F. A. Sawyer provides a brief introduction to the place of reception history in the overall study of Ezekiel and the necessity for modern examinations of the prophet to look not just at the writings themselves, but also at the way in which these writings have been adopted, accepted, and interpreted in both Jewish and Christian traditions across time. While brief, his observations set the stage for the essays that follow.

Marvin Sweeney examines the way in which authors of the Talmud interpreted the book, noting the well-known accounts that address the difficulty the rabbis reportedly had reconciling the contents of Ezekiel with (often contradictory) information found in the Torah. He also notes the way in which Ezekiel's more mystical issues were interpreted, leading the way—at least in early Judaism—to later mystical interpretations of the text.

Gary Manning considers Ezekiel's images of the dry bones, the shepherd, and the vine evidenced in the Gospel of John. Steve Moyise presents a compelling thesis illustrating the creative appropriation of several of Ezekiel's key concepts in the book of Revelation.

Robert Harris explores twelfth-century French rabbinic exegetical traditions with respect to Ezekiel. He suggests that rabbis from the peshat school, among them the likes of Rashi, Eliezer of Beugency, and Yosef Kara, read Ezekiel contextually and as a historical composition, which Harris sees as a radical departure from previous rabbinic interpretations of the text.

Dalit Rom-Shiloni examines Jewish medieval exegesis of Ezekiel's prophecies, specifically those lobbied against Jerusalem, suggesting that one can read into these interpretations the cultural milieu of the medieval interpreters themselves who were studying the texts in exile, longing for their own return to Zion.

Margaret Odell studies twenty frescoes with motifs from the visions of Ezekiel, all dating to ca. 1151 c.e. and found in the church of St. Maria and St. Clements in Schwarzrheindorf. Odell sees these images as having been influenced by the commentary on Ezekiel composed at a nearby monastery at about the same time. Far from being simple artistic depictions of biblical scenes from the book, Odell sees in these images subtle support of a pro-Christian and anti-Jewish interpretation of the text.

James Lara explores the use of Ezekiel among early missionaries in South America, whom he suggests used the book as a teaching tool to explain concepts important to the church but foreign to Mesoamerican thought.

Andrew Mein examines the influence of Ezekiel in the works of Origen, Jerome, John Calvin, and William Greenhill, specifically with respect to Ezek 16 and its stance vis-à-vis women and gender roles.

Steven Shawn Tuell looks at Ezek 9 and the story of the marking of the Jerusalemites, illustrating the way in which both the Talmud and the writings of John Calvin understand those who were marked not as those to be spared destruction (following traditional interpretations of the text), but rather as those marked to suffer destruction and remain faithful during their travails.

William Tooman examines Cotton Mather's Biblia Americana. Mather (1663–1778), a Puritan exegete, used various motifs from Ezekiel's visions to interpret contemporary events, setting the stage for post-Enlightenment confessional biblical interpretation.

Christopher Rowland looks at the way in which Ezek 1 influenced William Blake's writings and art. Rowland suggests that Blake saw himself as a modern-day prophet, not unlike Ezekiel, who moved between his own heavenly artistic visions and those he witnessed in his contemporary context.

Dale Allison's essay concludes the collection by exploring the writings of Louis Farrakhan and Elijah Mohammad, who liken Ezekiel's chariot visions to UFO sightings that would ultimately destroy all whites, thus setting black people free.

In all, this is an eclectic and interesting collection of essays that uses a wide variety of methodological approaches to examine the reception of Ezekiel from the period of early Judaism and Christianity to the present day. The volume as a whole does much to move forward discussion of the study of Ezekiel and the field of reception/history of interpretation in contemporary biblical studies.

Risa Levitt Kohn, San Diego State University