Fortress Press

Disputed Temple: A Rhetorical Analysis of the Book of Haggai

Disputed Temple

A Rhetorical Analysis of the Book of Haggai

John Robert Barker (Author)

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The prophet Haggai advocated for the rebuilding of the temple, destroyed by Babylon, in the tumultuous period of reconstruction under Persian dominion; so much is evident from a surface reading of the book. John Robert Barker goes further, using rhetorical criticism of the prophet’s arguments to tease out the probable attitudes and anxieties among the Yehudite community that saw rebuilding as both undesirable and unfeasible. While some in the community accepted the prophet’s claim that YHWH wanted the temple built, others feared that adverse agricultural and economic conditions, as well as the lack of a royal builder, were clear signs that YHWH did not approve or authorize the effort. Haggai’s counterarguments‒‒that YHWH would provide for the temple’s adornment, would bring prosperity to Yehud once the temple was built, and had designated the Davidide Zerubbabel as the chosen royal builder—are combined with his vilification of opponents as unclean and non-Israelite. Barker’s study thus allows Haggai to shed further light on the socioeconomic conditions of early Persian-period Yehud.

  • ISBN 9781506433141
  • Format Hardcover
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 314
  • Publication Date November 15, 2017


A breakthrough for the study of Haggai

“This new work from John Robert Barker offers a superb match of approach and text: an excellent rhetorical analysis for a book of prophetic rhetoric. This study pays close attention to the text’s rhetoric following an analysis of its versions and redaction. Barker shows how the book of Haggai spoke to its social and political situation. A breakthrough for the study of Haggai, this book is highly recommended.” 

Mark S. Smith | Princeton Theological Seminary

This is a fine example of rhetorical critical analysis of rhetorical literary content.

“Using rhetorical criticism to show how rhetoric itself functions within the Book of Haggai, John Barker skillfully leads the reader through the prophet’s arguments in favor of rebuilding the temple. Acknowledging the importance of studies that highlight the theological quality of this biblical book, or the role it might play in the reconstruction of the early Persian period, Barker argues that Haggai was engaged in policy debate intent on influencing public debate, clearly a political endeavor. The critical investigation here is exacting; the conclusions to which Barker arrives are subtle but quite clear. This is a fine example of rhetorical critical analysis of rhetorical literary content.” 

Dianne Bergant | Emerita, Catholic Theological Union in Chicago

John Barker has significantly advanced our understanding of the book of Haggai.

“In his ambitious, erudite, and thorough study, John Barker has significantly advanced our understanding of the book of Haggai. He exposes for us the deep ideological struggle staged in the book. By his careful attention to both method and context Barker has contributed in important ways to the broader work of recovering and reassessing our understanding of the Persian period Judaism. His book is an example of the way in which careful study can notably promote our common learning.” 

Walter Brueggemann | Columbia Theological Seminary