Friday 28 August 2009

Matthew Levering on Ezra and Nehemiah

Matthew Levering, Ezra & Nehemiah, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2007).

Matthew Levering contributes the volume on Ezra and Nehemiah to the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible, a series self-consciously devoted to theological reflection on the biblical text, written with ‘the conviction that dogma clarifies rather than obscures’ (‘Series Preface’, 13), and which has turned to theologians rather than biblical scholars, ‘chosen because of their knowledge of and expertise in using the Christian doctrinal tradition’ (‘Series Preface’, 14).

Levering hopes to give ‘a sense of the narrative flow’ of Ezra and Nehemiah, but notes that the commentary ‘makes no claim to be a historical or literary study of the books’ (21). The three distinguishing features of his commentary are:

(1) to employ the template of ‘holy people and holy land’ in reading Ezra-Nehemiah. This picks up an earlier co-written study: Michael Dauphinais and Matthew Levering, Holy People, Holy Land: A Theological Introduction to the Bible (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2005 – a very helpful volume.

(2) to read Ezra-Nehemiah in the light of other canonical books, and

(3) to work with a view of history seen not merely as the linear progression of time, but as ‘the non-chronological relationships through which past, present, and future human beings share in different ways in the same realities’, such that ‘the story of Ezra and Nehemiah becomes our story even while remaining their story’ (23). This notion of participating in the history of Israel and the church receives extended treatment in his Participatory Biblical Exegesis: A Theology of Biblical Interpretation (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008) – a hefty read, it has to be said.

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