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ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 51, 2003

L. J. Hoppe, The Holy City: Jerusalem in the Theology of the Old Testament (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2000). Pp. 191. Paper. $US 17.95.

Jerusalem figures so strongly in the religious imagination of Israel and it is surprising that so little has been written about the city from a theological perspective. Leslie J. Hoppe’s fine text goes a long way to rectifying this lack. After an initial chapter explaining the significance of Jerusalem for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Hoppe traces a variety of religious attitudes focussed on this city. He begins with the Psalms as the collections of Hymns for the Solomonic Temple. Within these songs of praise, thanksgiving and lament Hoppe explores some major images such as Kingship, Zion, The Lord’s Anointed, Exile and Restoration. In developing these images Hoppe draws attention to Israel’s borrowings from the mythologies of neighbouring cultures. In this section Hoppe’s approach could be strengthened by some discussion of the dating of particular psalms and the work could be developed for the more serious scholar through the work of Frank Moore Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973).

Hoppe then outlines some of the reactions to a too-mythological tendency found in the Psalms, by examining the writings of the Deuteronomist, where Jerusalem, and its Temple, no longer are called the place where God dwells, but the place where God’s name dwells. The next two chapters focus on Zion under Judgement in the Oracles of Isaiah 1–39, Micah, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, Lamentations and Ezekiel. In the post-exilic period, a theology of restoration emerges with a rebuilt Jerusalem. This theology is exemplified in Second Isaiah, Haggai, Zechariah 1–8, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Malachi.

With the return from Exile and the disappointment in the historically rebuilt Temple and Jerusalem, a hope emerges that the promised restoration will come about in a future New Jerusalem. In this section Hoppe discuss the latter prophets Trito-Isaiah, Zechariah 9–14, Joel, Daniel and a number of other Jewish writings — 1Enoch, The Testament of the Twleve Patriarchs, The Psalms of Solomon, The Sibylline Oracles and some sections of the Dead Sea Scrolls. His final chapter looks to those within Judaism who took upon themselves the task of saving Jerusalem and not simply relying on the divine fulfilment of ancient prophecies. This chapter examines 1 & 2 Maccabees, Baruch, Judith and the Book of Jubilees.

The Holy City offers a very sound and sensitive perception of the place of Jerusalem in Israel’s developing theological consciousness. The survey method provides a good introduction for students and scholars alike with further references given for those seeking greater depth. One omission is the Biblical Wisdom material. In these books we certainly find a pattern of God seeking a place to dwell and finding it in Israel. While there may not be such a strong Zion motif in these Wisdom books, an examination of the varieties of Wisdom myths would make Hoppe’s work a more thorough survey. 

Review by
Dr Mary Coloe PBVM
Australian Catholic University