The Levitical authorship of Ezra-Nehemiah
The study of Ezra-Nehemiah has been revolutionised in recent years by a growing rejection of the long-established belief that it was composed as part of the Chronicler's work. That shift in scholarly paradigms has re-opened many questions of origin and purpose, and this thesis attempts to establish an answer to the most important of these: the question of authorship. The first part deals with preliminary questions, reviewing the relationship with Chronicles and the unity of the work, and investigating current theories of origin. It affirms that Ezra-Nehemiah should be considered a single, independent composition, to be dated to the late fifth century B.C., and establishes that the author most probably belonged to one of the clerical groups of priests or Levites. The second part examines the attitude toward Levites in Ezra-Nehemiah, and compares it to the treatment of Levites in other, more or less contemporary literature. This comparison shows that the work is unlikely to have been a priestly composition, since priestly texts of the period show a consistent determination to portray the Levites as clerus minor, subordinate to the priests. On the other hand, the portrayal in Ezra-Nehemiah is quite compatible with that of the Levitical stratum in Chronicles. The third part explores the ideology of Ezra-Nehemiah in the context of Persian rule. It establishes that the author was pro-Persian, despite good reasons for Jewish discontent with Achaemenid policies, and shows that this would not have been inappropriate for a Levitical author by the time the work was written. It also explores the socio-political ideology of the book, concluding that its concerns with decentralisation, cooperation and reform are unlikely to have been voiced by a priestly writer. The dissertation concludes, therefore, that the most probable origin for Ezia-Nehemiah lies in Levitical circles, and that it was composed at a time when Levites had established an improvement in their status and authority, following Persian disenchantment with the priesthood. The implications of this conclusion, literary and historical, are explored briefly in the final chapter.