National and religious identity in crisis – Ezra & Nehemiah

This post is in the series Rite Reading.

If it wasn’t for the names of the biblical books, the title of this piece could look awfully like a contemporary headline. Yet in many other respects, neither Ezra nor Nehemiah feel particularly relevant for the contemporary world. Perhaps that’s why only one reading from these books crops up in the Sunday lectionary.

Gustave Doré’s woodcut of the scene (1843: Public Domain) He imagines Ezra as a second Moses with stone tablets, rather than the scroll described in the story.
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A very public text

This post is in the series Rite Reading.

I want to look at the tradition of public reading through three different texts that show different aspects of it. Today’s text is a story comes from one of the lesser read books of the Old Testament, Nehemiah. It’s the only passage from Nehemiah that crops up in the Sunday lectionary for the main service. Parts of this story, from Nehemiah 8, crop up on the third Sunday of Epiphany (or the third Sunday in Ordinary Time) in Year C.

(If any of the words I’ve just used (lectionary, Epiphany, Ordinary Time or Year C) phase you, then you can find them all defined in the Glossary.)

Gustave Doré’s woodcut of the scene (1843: Public Domain) He imagines Ezra as a second Moses with stone tablets, rather than the scroll described in the story.

Here’s the text. (The reason for putting the word LORD in capitals is a long-standing convention inherited from Judaism. It signifies that the Hebrew text is not the word Lord, but the four-consonant name of God – YHWH.)

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