Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Reviewing Ehud Ben Zvi's New Volume on the Prophetic Literature

I've just finished writing a review for CBQ of a new collection of essays: Utopia and Dystopia in Prophetic Literature (Publications of the Finnish Exegetical Society 92; Helsinki: Finnish Exegetical Society; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006). Pp. [vi] + 298. Paper $56.
Ben Zvi Volume
I cannot pre-publish the review here on-line, of course, but I can post at least one of my reflections that did not make it into the review, which is limited to 700 words.

After reading this collection, my mind is very much playing with how utopian literary theory can help illuminate some of the puzzling features of prophetic visions. I think it may help, for example, with understanding why a book such as Zechariah can contain competing and somwhat conflicting visions of coming dystopia and utopia.

Utopias, critically understood, are not pipe dreams disconected from the recognizable "outside" world. Rather, utopias purposely extrapolate their visions of alternative living from the real world of the here and now. They do so in order specifically to grapple with our real world of experience with all its limitations and challenges. In this model, alternating visions of the future in a book such as Zechariah are meant to give us alternative windows on our own lived world of the present and its varying challenges and failings.

The following essays are included in the volume: Ehud Ben Zvi, “Introduction” (pp. 1-12); Steven James Schweitzer, “Utopia and Utopian Literary Theory: Some Preliminary Observations” (pp. 13-26); Jack M. Sasson, “Utopian and Dystopian Images in Mari Prophetic Texts” (pp. 27-40); Matthew Neujahr, “Royal Ideology and Utopian Futures in the Akkadian ex eventu Prophecies” (pp. 41-54); Ehud Ben Zvi, “Utopias, Multiple Utopias, and Why Utopias at All? The Social Roles of Utopian Visions in Prophetic Books within Their Historical Context” (pp. 55-85); Kathleen M. O’Connor, “Jeremiah’s Two Visions of the Future” (pp. 86-104); James L. Crenshaw, “Deceitful Minds and Theological Dogma: Jer 17:5–11” (pp. 105-121); Hanna Liss, “‘Describe the Temple to the House of Israel’: Preliminary Remarks on the Temple Vision in the Book of Ezekiel and the Question of Fictionality in Priestly Literatures” (pp. 122-143); Julia M. O’Brien, “Once and Future Gender: Gender and the Future in the Twelve” (pp. 144-159); Philip R. Davies, “The Wilderness Years: Utopia and Dystopia in the Book of Hosea” (pp. 160-174); Marvin A. Sweeney, “The Dystopianization of Utopian Prophetic Literature: The Case of Amos 9:11–15” (pp. 175-185); Daniel L. Smith-Christopher, “Are the Refashioned Weapons in Micah 4:1–4 a Sign of Peace or Conquest? Shifting the Contextual Borders of a ‘Utopian’ Prophetic Motif” (pp. 186-209); Mark J. Boda, “From Dystopia to Myopia: Utopian (Re)Visions in Haggai and Zechariah 1–8” (pp. 210-248); Steven James Schweitzer, “Visions of the Future as Critique of the Present: Utopian and Dystopian Images of the Future in Second Zechariah” (pp. 249-267); Michael H. Floyd, “Was Prophetic Hope Born of Disappointment? The Case of Zechariah” (pp. 268-296).

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