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In an Age of Prose: A Literary Approach to Ezra-Nehemiah
Tamara Cohn Eskenazi
In this widely praised work, Eskenazi provides “an analysis [of Ezra-Nehemiah] that takes seriously the literary dimensions of the book and observes certain controlling dynamics in the book on that basis.” After establishing the limits of the text, especially in relation to Chronicles (ch. 2), and analyzing the structure and themes of Ezra-Nehemiah (ch. 3), Eskenazi focuses on the characters in the book (ch. 4) and brings Ezra-Nehemiah into relation with 1 Esdras (ch. 5). Through her careful literary examination of Ezra-Nehemiah, Eskenazi demonstrates that the relatively simple structure of the book, which “describes how the people of God build the house of God in accordance with authoritative documents,” highlights three distinctive themes: the centrality of the people; the expansion of the house of God to encompass the city; and the primacy of the written text as a vehicle of authority. These themes, in turn, demonstrate the radical nature of Ezra-Nehemiah’s message, which “breaks with the past [and] implements a vision of theocracy which places the book, not the hero, at the center of the community. The house of God extends beyond the confines of the temple to embrace city and people.”
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