The Cited Documents of Ezra-Nehemiah: Does Their Authenticity Matter?

In: Biblical Interpretation
Laura Carlson Hasler Indiana University, USA

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Determining the authenticity of Ezra-Nehemiah’s sources was a central question among scholars more than a century ago and remains so today. In this article, I explore why posing questions of authenticity about the source documents endures as a mainstay of Ezra-Nehemiah scholarship and argue that the implications of the authenticity question are frequently overstated. This overstatement reveals a prevailing scholarly instinct to separate “the real” from “the ideological,” a dichotomy traceable since C.C. Torrey’s Ezra Studies. Using Ezra 4 as an example, I argue that determining the authenticity of Ezra-Nehemiah’s source documents is not a worthy litmus test of historical-critical scholarship. Instead, considering how Ezra 4 resembles a space of collection rather than a linear story collapses methodological boundaries, calling into question the usefulness of categories like authenticity and fabrication in our understanding of Ezra-Nehemiah and beyond.

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