Losing the Temple and Recovering the Future

Losing the Temple and Recovering the Future : An Analysis of 4 Ezra

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This book explores the Jewish community's response to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. The focus is 4 Ezra, a text that reboots the past by imaginatively recasting textual and interpretive traditions. Instead of rebuilding the Temple, as Ezra does in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, the Ezra portrayed in 4 Ezra argues with an angel about the mystery of God's plan and re-gives Israel the Torah. Drawing on Walter Benjamin, 4 Ezra is analyzed in terms of a constellation composed of elements from pre-destruction traditions. Ezra's struggle and his eventual recommitment to Torah are also understood as providing a model for emulation by ancient Jewish readers. 4 Ezra is thus what Stanley Cavell calls a perfectionist work. Its specific mission is to guide the formation of Jewish subjects capable of resuming covenantal life in the wake of a destruction that inflects but never erases revelation.show more

Product details

  • Electronic book text
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 5 colour illus.
  • 1139898213
  • 9781139898218

About Hindy Najman

Hindy Najman is Associate Professor of Ancient Judaism at Yale University. She is the author of Past Renewals: Interpretive Authority, Renewed Revelation and the Quest for Perfection in Jewish Antiquity (2010) and Seconding Sinai: The Development of Mosaic Discourse in Second Temple Judaism (2003), as well as numerous articles on Second Temple Judaism, Philo of Alexandria, Rabbinics, and the Hebrew Bible. Prior to her appointment at Yale, she held the Jordan Kapson Chair in Jewish Studies at the University of Notre Dame until 2005, and was the Director of the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto until 2011.show more

Review quote

'This remarkable book is a brilliant piece of research, beautifully written and documented, which reveals to the reader the strategies adopted by the writer of 4 Ezra to restore hope after the destruction of the Temple. With the precision, clarity, and philosophical sophistication that characterize all of her writings, Hindy Najman articulates her analysis of the transformations of ancient Judaism in the wake of the destruction. A must-read for everybody interested in Second Temple Judaism.' Florentino Garcia-Martinez, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven 'Hindy Najman's new book on 4 Ezra offers a compelling reading of this important apocalypse. It provides new insights about all aspects of 4 Ezra. I found the interpretation of the final vision, in which Ezra rewrites the Torah, particularly illuminating. It is no small achievement to do justice to this remarkable but difficult passage. Finally, I would note that Najman's book is beautifully composed, truly a pleasure to read.' Martha Himmelfarb, Princeton University, New Jersey 'Najman's study approaches 4 Ezra from an entirely new angle. Through careful examination of the text itself (relying on a new translation of the Syriac version), she investigates in detail specific reworkings of biblical and midrashic material found in 4 Ezra, while also exploring the book's connections to other contemporaneous writings. Familiar themes and motifs here take on a whole new significance thanks to her innovative approach. In the end, however, Najman's book is about far more than 4 Ezra itself. Its ultimate subject is the whole enterprise of understanding anew the nature of divine revelation following the loss of the temple and the dramatic change that this effort brought about in later Judaism.' James Kugel, author of How to Read the Bible 'Hindy Najman's new book opens up breathtaking new perspectives on exile, destruction, and the transformation of revelation, reorienting our understanding of ancient Jewish literature and experience. In the process, she recovers the special significance of 4 Ezra, not just for specialists in so-called pseudepigrapha, but also for readers interested in religion, literature, interpretation, and the creative power of memory.' Annette Yoshiko Reed, University of Pennsylvania '... a thought-provoking work stimulating reflections on a number of time-honoured questions in the study of late Second Temple Jewish literature in general and in the study of 4 Ezra in particular.' Anders Klostergaard Petersen, Journal for the Study of Judaismshow more

Table of contents

Preface; 1. Reboot; 2. The past and future Ezra; 3. The memory of scripture; 4. Re-centering the world; 5. Radical hope and the revitalization of scripture.show more

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