Peckham on Zephaniah and Ezekiel (and Their Editors)

For my write-up today of Brian Peckham’s History and Prophecy, I have two items:

1.  On page 472, Peckham states that “Zephaniah saw the whole known world being swept away and creation reverting to indiscriminate origins.” But did Zephaniah have any hope of a new beginning?  Not that I can tell, from Peckham’s description—though Zephaniah does exhort Judahites to repent while there is still time.  But, according to Peckham, a later editor of Zephaniah applied Zephaniah’s vision of cosmic destruction primarily to Judah and Jerusalem, as well as predicted that a remnant would be spared, that Israelites would return from the Diaspora, that a pious and humble community of worship would be formed, and that God would be relaxed in the midst of Zion.

2.  Peckham also maintains that the Book of Ezekiel manifests at least two layers.  On pages 470-471, he summarizes Ezekiel himself as follows:

“He set himself out from the beginning as a son of Adam who had seen what seemed to be the glory of God in the likeness of Adam…He ends up in a city that has no name but has all the characteristics of Eden and that is centered on a mountain inhabited by the glory of God…He starts in exile, where he imagines the siege and capture of Jerusalem and understands it as the end of the world…He comes to realize that the land will flourish again and that life will follow on death and sees the dead bodies of the slain rise out of their graves…He begins with the desecration of the temple, the departure of the glory of God, and the sorry flight of the king…He sees in the end, in the image of Egypt and Tyre, that the glory of Adam has departed and the kings lie limp in Sheol…He knows that life and death are individual, in the instance of the lover, the king, the innocent son, but he comes to a resolution when he realizes that the whole nation must die to be brought back to life…”  Moreover, on page 272, Peckham states that Ezekiel did not believe that the new Israel would be centered on Jerusalem.

Peckham affirms that Ezekiel wrote late in exile, and his vision in Babylon enabled him to conceptualize exile and restoration.  But his vision was not deemed to be all that practical by the survivors of the catastrophe, specifically those who wanted a specific program about how they could rebuild their society.  Ezekiel’s vision of the death of the old and the rebirth of the new was too abstract for them, as was his appeal to mythological concepts, such as Adam, avenging angels, and kings in Sheol.  Peckham does not use the word “mythological”, but his argument seems to be that a Jerusalem establishment updated Ezekiel so that his person and the reference-points of his visions could be securely anchored within historical events, and also so that the existence of survivors would be acknowledged.  More importantly, the Jerusalem editors sought to develop a specific program for a restored cult.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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