The problems which abound in a study of the book of Ezekiel are apparent to scholar and layman alike. For the latter, questions arise mainly in the interpretation of the book, owing to its highly visionary character. For the former, other difficulties appear in the contents of the book, such as the dating, the literary style and locale. Such matters seldom bother the reader who is not initiated into the mysteries of literary criticism. In ancient times the rabbis recognized the possibility of misunderstanding the symbolism of Ezekiel and did not allow the first chapter of Ezekiel to be read in the synagogue services. Jerome reports that in his day, about 425 A.D., there was a regulation among the jews forbidding anyone under 30 years of age to read either the beginning or the end of the book. The opposite extreme to such caution has often been displayed by more modern students of prophecy, who have built quite detailed schemes of eschatology on certain chapters of Ezekiel.
The prophecy is a fairly closely-knit composition, so much so that many literary critics have said that Ezekiel’s own work has been radically revised and edited. Some sections of the book bear a poetic or near-poetic form while others are in very staid prose. This has given rise to the speculation that Ezekiel was a poet and that only the poetic sections and those which may, by changing the text, be forced into a poetic mold are the writings of Ezekiel. Thus, Gustav Holscher assigns about 170 verses out of 1,273 verses in the book to Ezekiel, while H. G. May in The Interpreter’s Bible more generously gives about sixty percent of the book to the prophet. The methods of analysis used in this type of criticism are so subjective that other scholars have reacted ...1
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