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Der Prophet Hesekiel (Ezechiel), Kapitel 1-19.

Along with the other writings of the Latter Prophets the Book of Ezekiel has undergone major changes of critical perception during the past twenty years and this volume in the ATD series reveals the consequences of these shifts. The differences between Pohlmann's work and the two volumes by W. Eichrodt in the series that it replaces are very marked. Where the latter scholar still set as the commentator's primary task that of reconstructing the original prophet's message in its presumed, rather narrowly defined, historical context, Pohlmann now views the task very differently. The need is to understand the book, as a literary text, in the much more broadly defined context of emergent Judaism in the wake of the disasters to Judah and Jerusalem that occurred in the early sixth century.

Central to such an understanding is a recognition of the three-stage eschatology that arose and which is reflected in the prophetic writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. These stages are those of (1) judgement upon Judah and Jerusalem for its past idolatries (2) the scattering of the remnants of this kingdom among the nations in punishment and (3) the eventual return of these dispersed remnants to establish a new nation and kingdom in the land, with Jerusalem at its centre. This three-stage eschatology is firmly present in the Ezekiel book, with some distinctive features. It must therefore be read and interpreted for what it is -- a postexilic text of divine authorization which showed the spiritual inevitability of events of the past and outlined the course of hope for a different future. Pohlmann's aim is not, however, chiefly directed to reading the `final form' of the text, in the manner of some recent literary approaches. Rather it is firmly devoted to the task of redactional history -- tracing the various layers and stages through which the material has passed and which have given to it its extant shape. The commentary therefore can only be fully evaluated when it is complete.

Some major features are very distinctively present in Ezekiel and two of these must be noted. The first is the importance of the events Of 598-7 BC as marking the transition from the first stage of an eschatology of judgement to the second, in that the removal to Babylon of a small Gola-group of Judean citizens marked out the divine path of hope for future renewal of the nation. Pohlmann argues that this event has been seriously underrated by scholars when compared with what happened later in 587 BC. Secondly, and permeating the whole Book of Ezekiel, is the identification of two distinct layers of editorial development which he labels the Gola-orientation and the Diaspora-orientation. Where the former focuses upon the Babylonian deportees of 597 BC, the latter looks more extensively to the hope of return for the more widely scattered Jewish communities. This redactional layer belongs to a significantly later stage of the book's composition.

To list the individual passages which belong, in Pohlmann's judgement, to this or that layer can only be useful in relation to close study of the details of the text. Similarly the periods to which the separate layers are assigned must also be taken with some caution, since it is broad theological trends that are defined, not specific events or personalities.

Overall, however, this must be regarded as a very important commentary because it recognizes two major realities. The first is that the Book of Ezekiel, like the other major Old Testament prophetic writings, is essentially a community text, aimed at shaping the life and destiny of a religious community. It authorizes their existence, confirms their spiritual integrity and defines their hopes for the future. Secondly, Pohlmann raises afresh fundamental questions about how the prophetic writings were formed. From W. Zimmerli's claim to have identified an `Ezekiel School' who `developed' the original prophet's work, we can now see that such terms as `disciples, redactors, and copyists' increasingly merge into one another and lack clear definition. It appears that almost every time a prophetic text was `copied' it was also effectively edited and developed to serve the needs of the community who preserved and transmitted it. Pohlmann is positive and optimistic about modern scholarly ability to retrace this process. Clearly many will disagree with some aspects of his reconstructions, but he does succeed in showing how, by achieving written status, prophecy fulfilled a distinctive role in the formation of Judaism, both in its biblical and post-biblical forms.
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Author:Clements, R.E.
Publication:The Journal of Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1998
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