Wednesday, November 28, 2012

On studying Ezekiel (1)

Was it coincidental that Calvin died in the process of working on Ezekiel and never got past Chapter 20? Ezekiel has been for many one of the most difficult books to study. Thus, I was interested in what Brevard Childs had to say about this book in his Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture. To Childs, and the commentators he references, Ezekiel’s perspective was complicated by the fact that he seemed to be in exile, preaching much of the time to Jerusalem, a thousand miles (or as Brownlee says, 700 miles) away. Why would he do that, many commentators have asked and then speculated about. Perhaps he was really in Jerusalem when preached to the people there.

This is what Brownlee (from Vol 18 of Word Biblical Commentary) thought. He subscribes to the view that “Ezekiel was either solely or initially a Palestinian prophet, but later editing has confused the issue” and made it seem as though he was preaching from Babylon.

Brownlee disparaged G. A. Cooke (who wrote the commentary on Ezekiel for the ICC) for “defending the supposed absurdity of ‘a prophet in Babylonia hurling his denunciations at the inhabitants of Jerusalem across 700 miles of desert’ by averring that ‘to a man of Ezekiel’s temperament the unseen was more vividly present than the seen.”

Brownlee also disparages E. C. Broome and G. Widengren for taking “Kittel’s idea of Ezekiel’s schizophrenia” and developing it “to absurd lengths” in their Literary and Psychological Aspects of the Hebrew Prophets, interpreting Ezekiel in the light of parapsychic experiences. But then Brownlee died. It is perhaps another coincidence that he also died before he finishing his commentary on Ezekiel. He got to only chapter 19. The remaining chapters were commented upon by Leslie C. Allen.

Over the years I’ve dabbled at understanding Ezekiel with commentary after commentary. The following are currently in my library:

Allen, Leslie C, Word Biblical commentary, Ezekiel 20-48 (1990)

Brownlee, William H. Word Biblical Commentary, Ezekiel 1-19 (1986)

Calvin, John, translated by John Owen, chapters 1-20 (1564)

Carley, Keith W., The Cambridge Bible Commentary, The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, 1974

Cooke, G. A., ICC, The Book of Ezekiel (1936)

Craigie, Peter C. The Daily Study Bible Series, (1983)

Eichrodt, Walther, The Old Testament Library, Ezekiel (1970)

Fairbairn, Patrick, An Exposition of Ezekiel (1851)

Fisch, S., Rabbi Dr, & Rosenberg, A. J. Rabbi, Soncino Books of the Bible, Ezekiel (1st ed 1950, rev ed 1994)

Greenberg, Moshe, Volumes 22 (1983) & 22A (1997) from The Anchor Bible

Jenson, Robert W., Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible, Ezekiel (2009)

Joyce, Paul M. Ezekiel, A Commentary (2009)

Keil, C. F. Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol IX, Ezekiel and Daniel (nd)

Stuart, Douglas, The Communicator’s Commentary, Ezekiel (1989)

Taylor, John B., IVP, Ezekiel, An Introduction and Commentary (1969)

Zimmerli, Walther, Hermeneia, 2 vols (1969), English translations 1978, vol 1, 1983 vol 2

I’m not counting Poole, Henry, church fathers, etc which are available online.

I was encouraged by Childs belief that Zimmerli was the best commentary available as of the time he wrote (1979). He also had a favorable view of Eichrodt.

Also, Joyce, described as “one of the world’s leading scholars of Ezekiel” has written in his own brief commentary, “There is no intention in this volume to address every critical issue in the book of Ezekiel, still less to rehearse everything of significance that has been written . . . These tasks are admirable handled, in their very different ways, by Zimmerli and Block.” Uh oh, I don’t have Block. However, further on Joyce shows immense admiration for Moshe Greenberg, so perhaps I can delay acquiring Block until I move further into Zimmerli and Greenberg and be satisfied with what I learn from them . . . or discover that they are just as confused (and confusing) as the rest.

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