Worlds That Could Not Be: Utopia in Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah
Schweitzer, Steven J. and Frauke Uhlenbruch, editors
London: Bloomsbury, 2016 pp. xii + 211. $112.00
Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies, 620
Description: The idea of Utopia was first made current and popular by Sir Thomas More with the publication of his book by the same name in 1516. The 'no-place' that was created has had a fantastic reception history, which makes its application to the biblical books of Nehemiah, Ezra and Chronicles as vibrant as the current scholarship which is ongoing into the Renaissance term and its implications. The essays in this collection take different approaches to the question: are there proto-utopian elements in the three books from the Hebrew Bible? Methodological considerations are to be found, but each essay also moves beyond the methodological constraint to raise the hypothetical question of 'what if?' in different ways.
The essays evaluate the potential, and pitfalls, of reading Biblical books as (proto-)utopian. Topics include how utopia construct intricate counter-realities, and how to tell whether a proposal diagnosed as 'utopian' from a modern point of view is meant to motivate its audience to political action. Case studies which read aspects of Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah as potential utopian traits include the restoration project of Ezra-Nehemiah and the rejection of foreign wives, utopian concerns in Chronicles, as well as the empire's role in writing a putative utopia, and King Solomon as a utopian fantasy-king.
Subjects: Bible, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Historical Books, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Literature, Methods, Literary Approaches
Review by Sean Burt
Citation: Sean Burt, review of Steven J. Schweitzer and Frauke Uhlenbruch, eds., Worlds That Could Not Be: Utopia in Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2016).
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