Alter Intermission IV - The Return

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Alter Intermission IV - The Return

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jun 1, 2013, 12:26am

Just a silly name that describes the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, and maybe a tiny call to our group read to return to the actual group read. We will cover Ezra here...and perhaps will cover Nehemiah here too...or maybe it deserves its own thread. We'll figure that out.

Previous threads:
Previous threads:
Judges (same thread as Joshua, starts on post #69):
Ruth (same thread as Joshua, starts on post #142):
1 & 2 Samuel:
1 & 2 Kings:
1 & 2 Chronicles:

jun 1, 2013, 12:37am

Wikipedia is a good place to start on Ezra, and gives a nice sense of the age of the writing and the contents:

The main thing I get from wikipedia is that whatever the sources of Ezra, the final text was probably heavily reworked after the Persians were gone, giving the writers freedom to pretty much say what they want. What is only touched on and maybe under-emphasized in the wikipedia is that this book may be a key link to all the final writing of the Hebrew bible. It's possible that the Bible was largely stitched together under Persian rule, it's possible that the main writers of Ezra & Nehemiah were also the main editors of the final Hebrew bible, and maybe they were the one who decided on everything we have read up to now.

As a final note, I will continue to post in Chronicles first, and try to complete my notes there before posting much here in this thread.

jun 3, 2013, 10:02am

Has anyone else started yet? I had a little time over the weekend and read through chapter four. Intrigued by the returnee-locals animosity.

jun 3, 2013, 11:10am

Ready to start catching up, at least. I have I Chronicles 1 cued up on my cellphone (as part of a complicated and increasingly ludicrous division of reading powers that has emerged over thesis writing times, where I start in the morning with something peripherally thesis-related to get me in the mood--currently Benjamin Lee Whorf, Language, Thought, and Reality--then, when I sit down to work-work, which is editing journal papers, I'm trying to make it a practice to read a(n already published) paper in the field (linguistics, conceived broadly) every single day--today I'm looking at something called "Language and cultural values: Toward an applied ethnolinguistics for the foreign language classroom," by Bert Peeters--then, before bed, something completely different--right now, Yukio Mishima, The Temple of Dawn. Anyway, now I can also enjoy the Tanakh in quiet moments on transit. I have the version from "The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary." See you guys on Ezra soon!

jun 4, 2013, 12:38am

Glad this could add some light enjoyable reading to your load, Martini. I'm curious as to the (preliminary?) title of your thesis.

Redigeret: jun 4, 2013, 1:33pm

It's changed a stupid number of times. It was first going to be an extension of a paper called "Language and the Imperial Inventory: Sketching Ethnocultural Spheres in Two Late–18th Century British Works," and it went through about a billion no-hoper titles when I was just reading and languishing and not writing. Basically I started out wanting to write about how people draw (how they have drawn historically) lines of cultural affinity and characterize peoples (nations, tribes, communities, whatever) and their languages. Fun stuff about the natural vigour of Greek and the primeval eloquence of the Iroquois and the intrinsically rational French sentence and the organic beauty of Sanskrit and the way Hebrew sounds reflect the intrinsic nature of God's Creation and the magic powers you can get from studying Egyptian and the bestial noises of the Khoisan people and the inert and despotic nature of Chinese. (The "two works" in question were Mungo Park's Travels in the Interior of Africa and Elizabeth Hamilton's Letters of a Hindoo Rajah, but there is a wealth of similar material.)

But then it turned out I couldn't write about that properly without learning about a whole lot of less intrinsically amusing things, like the difference between "real essences" and "nominal essences" and whether all "complex ideas" are "mixed modes" and old-timey epistemology like that, because we (Europeans) didn't really start talking about language of and for its own sake until we'd had a couple thousand years of talking about it for what light it sheds on the shape of the brain or the universe or syllogistic logic or whatnot.

So it's been a weird journey. I'm looking at previous drafts of introductions and prospectuses and whatnot now, and I can find "The Origins of Speech and the Genius of a Language: Linguistic Relativity in the Eighteenth Century," "Whorfianism's Enlightenment Inheritance," "Condillac’s “Sympathy” and Herder’s Volksgeist as an Enlightenment bequest to Whorfian linguistic relativism" (so ugly, that one), "Sympathetic Génies and Friendly Geister: The Originary Debate and the Whorf Hypothesis," and many similar variations.

All of them were massive, paralysis-inducing projects, totally inappropriate for a simple master's thesis, and I knew that, but it wasn't till I banished Whorf from my main line of argument that I managed to get a handle on things. My current title is:

"Creativity, Empathy, and Linguistic Relativity: The Development of Natural Languages According to Leibniz, Condillac, and Herder"

and basically I'm arguing that each of these very dissimilar thinkers actually has virtually an identical understanding of how languages develop and change (via creativity and empathy, of course) and develop their own characters, and that people who ignore that important common ground are both missing the reasons that it emerges (which are important, among other reasons, for the influence they exert on the emerging discipline of empirical linguistics) and also failing to get an accurate picture of the intellectual life of the eighteenth century. And then I go on to talk about how people build intellectual lineages in ways that can be really spurious and look at why linguistic relativity has been such a locus for anger and dishonest mischaracterizations, using Whorf as a comparison case to L, C, and H above.

Does that make any sense? I keep writing and writing and my focus keeps changing and changing and if I were a more organized person I definitely could have gotten a dissertation out of this. But humanities PhDs are for the independently wealthy anyway.

jun 4, 2013, 8:05am

Sorry I haven't replied yet, but I did read Ezra (it's VERY short) a couple of weeks ago and started Nehemiah which I found more interesting, and then got sidetracked and I'm now reading Purity and Danger again, and going back to Leviticus.

Martini, your thesis sounds fascinating though I probably couldn't read it, unless it uses only very simple words. :-P

jun 4, 2013, 8:18am

Martin - I'll try to send you some kind of vibes that make you crave the act of organizing. Let me know if it helps. Your topic is fascinating.

Flo - hope to catch up to you soon. Very curious about your thoughts on Purity and Danger.

jun 4, 2013, 1:37pm

Thanks guys! It is amazing stuff, whether I do it justice or not. Vibes always appreciated.

jun 4, 2013, 10:43pm

> 6

Fun stuff about the natural vigour of Greek and the primeval eloquence of the Iroquois and the intrinsically rational French sentence and the organic beauty of Sanskrit and the way Hebrew sounds reflect the intrinsic nature of God's Creation and the magic powers you can get from studying Egyptian and the bestial noises of the Khoisan people and the inert and despotic nature of Chinese.

I have always wondered if anybody has done an analysis of how languages are 'sacralized' - languages like Arabic, Hebrew, Sanskrit, and probably others by their respective culture/religion. I think it would be great to learn all the 'sacred' languages, but Arabic is just not meant to be in this lifetime.

Redigeret: jun 5, 2013, 1:55am

There was an article in Le Monde a few days ago about how by using "Globish" as the universal language of science and higher education, we would make science poorer, because different languages are better suited for different concepts. That was a reaction to a proposal to use English as a teaching language in some universities in France, I think. Complete rubbish in my humble opinion, but then I don't write articles for Le Monde so I could be wrong.

Another argument against using English was that it would increase the impact of social inequalities, which is already very high in French education (basically, to get the diplomas you need to be in the elite, you need to be already a part of the elite from birth), because it would exclude students who can't afford to have private tutors or travel abroad to learn English. That makes a lot more sense to me.

jun 5, 2013, 2:10pm

>6 MeditationesMartini: but if you've learned Hebrew, you've done so much work in the direction of Arabic! I envy an education like yours (you used to be lilbrattykid or brattylilkid or something similar, right? You're not some whole new guy being like "what does this dude think he knows about me?"), where languages are an intrinsic part of it, as opposed to mine, where language is ostensibly the whole point but actually speaking languages is just this thing people pay lip service to and you have to work it in around the edges. Can't wait to start languaging again when this thing is done!

As for sacralized language, let me precede this by saying I'm no kind of expert and there's undoubtedly a whole specialist literature in this area that I can't tell you about. But some suggestions: Giorgio Agamben's The Sacrament of Language: An Archaeology of the Oath looks at the roots of the meaning of swearing (whether to promise or to profane). According to Justin Clemens, "For Agamben, 'God' is a name that humans give to the hope that names can reliably name at all, de jure if not de facto. But God is then the name for the name of everything that cannot not be taken in vain." There was a major tradition in the seventeenth century of philosophical language-making--trying to name things in a way that would be transcendently clear and exress their "true nature." Some saw this as a return to the language of Adam; Leibniz saw it as trying to make human language like the language of angels (in either case, removing the veil of fallen perception and meaning-making).

MM Bakhtin's The Dialogic Imagination talks about "monologic" and "dialogic" language, and how language achieves "awesomeness" (divine or supernatural numinousness) and "authority" (inaccessibility, insusceptibility to change or challenge; this would be a characteristic of Scripture). He doesn't spend too long talking about sacred language per se, but the relevance is clear, and I wrote a paper applying it to the hadith of Muhammad, which are from the Prophet but not God, and therefore open to interpretation and legal use in a way that the "divine verbatim" of the Qur'an is not.

For something more empirical, Webb Keane has a paper called "Religious Language" in the Annual Review of Anthropology (1997) where he applies similar ideas to speech data from Baptist ritual. Like I said, this is just a weird smattering, and I don't know much about this stuff. But I found all of those enjoyable:)

jun 5, 2013, 2:13pm

>11 FlorenceArt: I think the problem with "Globish" is more that it's not a proper language for complexity, just English drained of its ability to do hard intellectual work. Good for everyday, for business, for technicians working within a context of recognized ways of doing things and established terminology--but not for expressing the kind of grappling-at-the-edge-of-the imaginable stuff that's part of my romantic conception of what science is. Maybe that's just philosophy.

But yeah, vernacular education for all seems like pretty fundamental for a decent society.

jun 5, 2013, 2:17pm

On religious language and the vernacular, you guys are reminding me of how my mum, who was born in rural Austria in the fifties, talks how beautiful the Latin mass was and how she'd stare up at the ceiling and be transported away, and how she was super into church until the vernacular mass came in and that just ruined it for her.

jun 5, 2013, 10:42pm

I don't have anything intelligent to say to all that, Martin. What is Globish? And should I read the word as glob-ish or globe-ish?

And yes, JDHomrighausen is Jonathan, once littlebrattyteen (sp?)

Redigeret: jun 6, 2013, 2:29am

Yeah, a friend of mine on LT who I know IRL pointed out to me that going by "lilbrattyteen" is pretty weird since I turn 23 this month. I made this account when I was 17, and last summer decided to come back after many years' absence.

Martin, your links are fascinating if a bit over my head. I don't have the mental fluidity (insanity?) to wrap my head around what is going on in much of contemporary literary and cultural studies. I have on my shelf a book on Linguistics, Language, and Religion by famed British linguist David Crystal. Crystal pointed out in another book of his I read that religion often needs to talk about language. For example, some twentieth century theologians invent new lexicons to speak of God on the premise that much of our current terminology is outdated. Translation studies are also becoming a thing in biblical studies, as scholars move from historical criticism to the trajectory of the Bible throughout time, space, and language.

(See these: )

For example, I have a copy of the Tibetan Bible on my shelf, a translation done by Moravian missionaries and their converts sporadically throughout the twentieth century. John Bray has written some fascinating papers examining these. If you write in more classical or dharma-text Tibetan, you end up with a translation that works in many different regions of Tibet but that common folk can't understand. If you make a translation that is in common speech, it will inevitably be in one region's common speech but sound bizarre in another region. There's also the issue of appropriating Buddhist terminology, which may the best word for some theological idea you're trying to communicate but may also carry unwanted associations. (Not to mention the postcolonial worries about hijacking another's religious vocabulary.) In Japan the early Jesuit missionaries had to invent a new word for "Holy Spirit" - I'm in awe of the skill and subtlety they must have had in the language. (I'm convinced that Jesuit missionaries founded anthropology.)

Sorry for the tangent....

jun 6, 2013, 2:58pm

We have Jesuit missionaries to thank for linguistics as well, I think. Here's to you, >a href="">Li Madou! It interests me about the Tibetan Bible--over time, have various translations for various dialect regions start to be produced? That seems like the best solution in a perfect world with infinite resources, but you're also slicing the pie really small. In Chinese, of course, you wouldn't have that problem, since the logographs are consistent across the country--even if people read them completely differently aloud.

Interestingly, several of the esoteric scholars I'm writing about in the early part of my thesis put a lot of stock in trying to identify symbolic meanings in alphabetic letters, "reducing" or returning them to a kind of logograph-like state, but not one that's apparent to the naked eye: the hanzilooks like a tree, but someone like Jacob Fludd would argue that since Hebrew א (aleph) logically represents the Creation, and the manifestation of God in the created world, ב (beth), the next letter, must bear some intrinsic connection with the Messiah and the fulfillment of God's plan. It becomes a kind of Kabbalah, where words bear their surface and also their hermetic meanings, only without all the math. Which adds a whole complicated layer to Biblical hermeneutics, of course.

Dan, Glob(b)ish is basically Orwell's Newspeak for the business world. It's repulsive.

The Japanese for the Holy Spirit is 聖霊 seirei, which is interesting because (in my understanding! take all this with a large grain of salt) both characters kind of signify "sacred" AND "spirit"--I'm very far from being able to say with confidence how far the traditional Shinto concepts of, like, sacral immanence in the physical world, and holy places being the places where spirits gather, have to do with that, but it's kind of neat. The first character, according to Wiktionary, is also the title given to Catholic saints in Japanese, and appears in words like "monk" and "sage" (a kind of sacred knowing, then, maybe?). The second one is connected to the spirit world, and to the soul.

Sorry for extending the tangent! You're probably wise to avoid literary criticism, Jonathan. David Crystal will talk good sense if you're interested in dabbling in linguistics:)

jun 6, 2013, 9:44pm

> 17

It interests me about the Tibetan Bible--over time, have various translations for various dialect regions start to be produced? That seems like the best solution in a perfect world with infinite resources, but you're also slicing the pie really small.

I asked my Buddhism professor about this - he speaks fluent Tibetan, has been to Tibet and Nepal numerous times, and says that every Tibetan Christian he has met (not many) reads the Bible in English. So the Bible in Tibetan might be more of a literary oddity than a real evangelization tool at this point.

Kabbalah is probably fascinating, but I don't study it. Supposedly one is supposed to be a certain age (I've heard 35), married, well-versed in the Torah... to me it seems very disrespectful for me (as a Christian) to just flippantly dive into something that is considered special knowledge in another community. That's just me though. So I don't know anything about that logograph stuff other than that in all my Hebrew studies I have never encountered anyone who advocates it. Surely there are fringe theorists with websites but that has about as much credibility as "Holy Spirit Greek."

jun 6, 2013, 10:12pm

>18 JDHomrighausen: oh, yeah, I don't mean to suggest that any of this is anything other than spurious--though no doubt Fludd and Jakob Boehme and Athanasius Kircher were sincere seekers after truth too. But yes, absolutely they were all Christians running roughshod over non-Christian traditions (ancient Egypt as well as Judaism), not Jewish scholars working within their own. It was also the seventeenth century, so the boundaries of the "fringe" were a bit different.

jun 10, 2013, 3:02am

1 Chron 17: Ah, Jesus makes an appearance!

jun 10, 2013, 7:04am

?? What did I miss in the Harper Collins version?

jun 10, 2013, 8:01am

Ah, Rick makes an appearance. I just want to thank you all for this thread that is the only longer read (by several years) than the Mishima read.

jun 10, 2013, 9:10am

Rick, you speak about yourself in the third person !
Are you fictionalizing yourself ?

jun 10, 2013, 11:16am

>21 dchaikin: I was thinking of 1 Chron 17:11–14:

“‘I declare to you that the Lord will build a house for you: 11 When your days are over and you go to be with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. 13 I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. 14 I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever.’” (NIV)

Superficially this refers to Solomon, of course, but I had the idea that the language also foreshadowed Jesus. Indeed, to some Christians, this seems to be the case--examples are a-plenty online.

jun 10, 2013, 6:38pm

Martin, no more than any other proto-alzheimer would.

jun 24, 2013, 12:49am

Bump. Ready to start on Ezra.

jun 24, 2013, 12:59am

I'm ready to carry on...

jun 25, 2013, 9:11am

Sorry, I'm not reading much at the moment and still on Purity and Danger. But I'm following the thread and I'll catch up later.

sep 11, 2013, 4:02pm

Well, I had a rather hectic summer but am now more or less settled in my new home and ready to start reading again. I've restarted Nehemiah several times, but I plan to make it to the end this time. I also think I might buy the Jewish Study Bible notes, just to get a different perspective on the text and also maybe learn a few things abut Jewish culture and religion.

How's everybody doing?

sep 11, 2013, 4:10pm

Coming back to my notes, I find that I highlighted this sentence in Harper Collins, about the beginning of Nehemiah:

"The narrative is told in the first person and apparently has been only lightly edited from a memoir composed by Nehemiah himself."

As far as I can remember, this is the first time that we get to read something written by a participant to the event described. If not Nehemiah, then at least a high-ranking official who was personally involved in the events.

Of course, that doesn't necessarily make the story more truthful or accurate I guess.

sep 12, 2013, 12:59am

Oh my goodness I need to get back to this. Let me read Ezra and work my way back.

sep 13, 2013, 1:01am

I need another Push. I have this idea that Yom Kippur will motivate to start reading starts tomorrow night. But, these posts will help. (Also I just got a copy of The Jerusalem Bible, so now I need to keep reading at least until we get to the psalms)

sep 13, 2013, 4:50am

You folks on this thread are as impressive as anyone in the Salon. Do carry on.

sep 14, 2013, 9:51pm

Rick - i miss the active crazy le Salon, it was such a special place for a few years.

Redigeret: sep 14, 2013, 9:52pm

I read Nehemiah today, using the Jerusalem Bible, without reading any commentary and without taking any notes. I will probably read it again and take notes. The first person narrative is such a welcome change.

It leaves me wondering what to read next. My plan was to go to Ester. Perhaps we should read Tobit and Judith first (Neither are in the Jewish or Protestant bibles. Tobit is found in the Dead Sea scrolls. Judith is not and Wikipedia makes the silly comment that it may the first historical novel.) Anyway, we can read those two books next, or at the end, or not at all. Thoughts?

sep 14, 2013, 11:52pm

I am always a fan of Esther. :)

Redigeret: sep 15, 2013, 3:00am

Oh noes, I'm falling behind again! But I can finish Nehemiah today, I only have 3 chapters left.

About what to read next, well my Geneva Bible has Esther next, but if Judith is the same one that I see in every museum holding the bloody head of Holophernes (who was a very ugly fellow apparently), I'm game. Or even if it's not the same Judith. Whatever you decide.

sep 15, 2013, 7:36am

>35 dchaikin:. Both Tobit and Judith were included in the King James Bible. Think, but I'm not sure, that it was only in the 18th century that editions of the KJV started to omit the Apocrypha. Along with extra bits to Esther and Daniel.

sep 15, 2013, 8:32am

Is Tobit the same as Tobias? I can find Tobias in the apocrypha, but no Tobit.

sep 15, 2013, 2:15pm

>39 FlorenceArt:: Yes, I'm sure Tobit/Tobias are just alternative names. A little odd that my KJV (1611 text) has Tobit but the 1669 Book of Common Prayer has Tobias in the 39 Articles (article VI). Some of the name differences seem to stem from Greek (Septuagint, LXX) and Hebrew but as I have no knowledge of either language I can't say.

sep 15, 2013, 4:07pm

Yes, the names can be confusing. For example, Ezra and Esdras and the same person but there are two different books, Ezra in the canon and Esdras (the Greek version of the name) in the apocrypha. And to make things worse, the book of Ezra is called Esdras in my French Bible. I don't know what the French name is for the book of Esdras.

Redigeret: sep 15, 2013, 10:49pm

There is some sorting out of Ezra and Edras in The New Jerusalem Bible. I haven't mastered it; I'll let you folks have your own look at it -- it is available in both French and English I think.

Nehemiah talks a few times about two different Ezras, a priest and a scribe; I haven't read Chronicles or Ezra so I don't know what that might mean. We had a Unitarian minister a few years back who thought that second Temple Judaism mostly came from Ezra, but here in Nehemiah we see another claimant to political leadership which was religious leadership. We get some of the rigid dismissal of the folk who didn't get shipped off to Babylon but stayed home and married Canaanites. I think that there is cause to wonder what the people might have wanted and how much they might have suffered from what was imposed on them.

I also wonder how many Judaisms there have been. Surely here is the start of one, or is it the start of two -- a Judaism for neighbors of the Temple and a spontaneous Judaism for the people at some remove. Some few hundred years later there will be Rabbinic Judaism, a whole nother matter.

Forgive my intrusion, but I picked up my Bible and read Nehemiah last night instead of Einstein's Mistakes.


sep 16, 2013, 7:59am

I was curious about Judith and started reading it on the train this morning in the KJV version. I really like this translation, and I enjoyed reading the first two chapters. Sadly we don't have an equivalent to the KJV in French, with its poetic language and historical weight.

sep 16, 2013, 4:33pm

I'm reading from the "New Jerusalem Bible" (Simple English Bible of Namugongo, Uganda, you are missed!), and it has Tobit and Judith after Nehemiah. Happy to read those.

Getting back into it now by rereading Ezra. One thing I like is seeing all the Persian kings in action. I'm a big fan of Herodotus, and granted they don't take on the same roundness as characters here, but it's fun to read about Darius responding to the letters of the Jews' neigbours and think about the pontoon bridge oveer the Bosphorus, or whatever. The juxtaposition makes Ezra seem a little more like prosaic history and the Histories a little more like myth, which I like.

dec 28, 2013, 3:18pm

Interest still lives. Nehemiah in January? (And why not Tobit and Judith too for voluntary extra credit?)

dec 28, 2013, 4:53pm

Ready when you are, captain! I have to confess though, I already started a thread about Judith and Tobit. I liked those two books.

dec 28, 2013, 6:04pm

Thanks Flo! I saw some nice pictures over there, will catch up.

jan 2, 2014, 12:34am

So, I'm re-reading Nehemiah and taking notes.

I need some kind of context. Why are we reading this? What is it's significance? What is significant about the 1st-person narrative? Sorry, disoriented. Any help is welcome.

jan 5, 2014, 4:28pm

Dan, I am reading Nehemiah now and getting some notes prepared. Where should I post them? Here or a new thread? I'll wait for you to decide since you are the captain of this ship. (I trust you are better than the captain of Jonah's ship.)

Redigeret: jan 9, 2014, 11:08pm

J - post Nehemiah here.

ETA - Judith and Tobit comments should go in the new thread. We will probably then create a thread for Ester by itself.

EATA - I have re-read part and taken some notes but I'm focusing on a book club read on Sunday, then Nehemiah, then Tobit, then Judith.

jan 9, 2014, 11:02pm

Apropos of nothing:
Above all the immanent Devil was an essential complement to the notion of an immanent God. The early Hebrews had no need to personify the principle of evil; they could attribute it to the influence of other rival deities. It was only the triumph of monotheism which made it necessary to explain why there should be evil in the world if God was good. The Devil thus helped to sustain the notion of an all-perfect divinity.

from Religion and the Decline of Magic by Keith Thomas

jan 10, 2014, 1:11am

Some thoughts on Nehemiah. I’m reading from The Jewish Study Bible with the JPS translation. I’ve never used it before.

The introduction to Ezra and Nehemiah asks the question: are they one work from one author or no? It seems that Jewish tradition has always said yes but early Christian thinkers (Origen and Jerome) say no. What can we tell from the texts?

First person narrative is very uncommon in the Tanakh. Why is it used here?

I thought this text was really interesting in terms of historical details: class warfare (ch 5), a female prophet (6:14), the problem of priests without genealogical records (7:63-64), and the many ways in which a culture that has fallen into disarray tries to revive itself.

jan 10, 2014, 2:04am

52> I don't remember any instance of foreign gods being blamed for anything in the Bible, but maybe that was done in everyday life, who knows. But yes, it's when you start talking about god as perfect that you feel the need of a devil. Does it solve anything though? If god created everything...

jan 10, 2014, 2:08am

53> How do you like the Jewish Study Bible, especially compared to the Harper Collins notes? I almost bought it because it was recommended by the professor in the Yale lessons, but since I already have the Harper Collins I thought it might be too similar.

jan 11, 2014, 7:38am

Jonathan - I find the first-person narrative such a striking change, a tremendously different affect. For one thing, up to know the words apparently came from God (through Moses or another author), giving them divine authority. Here it's through a person. So, we can argue about the reliability of that person without questioning the authority of the bible in general. But, the change is so fundamental, the entire impression is dramatically different from anything earlier. You have to read Nehemiah in a different mindset.

However, having said the, I can't get over the feeling that there is something less important about Ezra and Nehemiah. They feel minor compared to what we have read earlier.

jan 25, 2014, 8:45am

Hoping to post notes later today...

Redigeret: jan 25, 2014, 6:37pm

Shemaryahu Talmon writes the essays on Ezra and Nehemiah in The Literary Guide to the Bible.

Some brief notes on this essay:

- Ezra & Nehemiah were traditionally combined with most of Chronicles into one book. These are considered the late writings, along with Daniel and Ester.

- The books are made up of three sections
1. Book of Zerubbabel - Ezra 1-6. This covers the first returnees, over years 538-515 bce
2. Ezra's memoirs - Ezra 7-10 & Nehemiah 8 & 9. Ezra is a priest who leads a second wave of returnees in 458 bce (There is an alternative and later date for Ezra, which Kugel argues for. The later date is synchronous with Nehemia)
3. Nehemiah's memoirs - Nehemiah 1-7 & 10-13. Nehemiah was a ruler from 445 to 420 bce. He travels to Persia in 433-432 bce.

- Talmon describes these books as unique in their straight forward narration without epic or mythic elements

- These books are autobiographic.
I didn't see this in Ezra, but he sneaks in an "I" in chapter 7 (7:27-28). Nehemiah is clearer written as if autobiographical. (from my notes, Nehemiah has am "I" in books 1-7, 12 & 13)

- the presentation confuses the true chronology
There is close to a 60 year gap between Zerubbabel & Ezra, but no sign of this is found in the narrative.

- Writing is probably 3rd century bce, which is as close to the timing of the events as biblical writing gets

- On Ezra's date
Ezra is listed as arriving in Artaxerxes 7th year. But which Artaxerxes? Nehemiah is clearer and listed as arriving in Artaxerxes I's 20th year.
Artaxerxes I 465-424 bce
Artaxerxes II 405-358 bce
Artaxerxes III 359-338 bce
So, Nehemiah is dates to 445 bce. Ezra could be 458, predating Nehemiah 13 years, or 412, postdating Nehemiah's reign by 8 years.

Notes from How to Read the Bible by James L. Kugel

- Kugel believes Nehemiah arrived first, and Ezra second and that both were sent by the Persian rulers.
- Kugel calls this the age of interpretation, mainly from Nehemiah 8:8 and 9:6-23 (both "Ezra" parts)
N 8:8 So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

jan 31, 2014, 12:55am

I think I'll leave Ezra and Nehemiah at that.

jan 31, 2014, 1:54am

Nice notes. I agree that we probably wrapped those ones up. This is a literary readthrough, and I don't think there was much literary juice to discuss in either of those texts. This shall not be so with Esther!