Literary trauma theory and Biblical trauma hermeneutics assert that literary works produced during periods of cultural trauma leave traces of the trauma as well as serve as a survival mechanism. Interpretation and meaning-negotiation being inherent components in the assessment of any trauma, studying the cultural trauma process enables stakeholders to better intervene to manage the social and cultural upheaval. The cultural trauma model of Jeffrey C. Alexander is applied to the book of Ezekiel, a product of the Babylonian Exile, focusing on the re-symbolization that the priest-prophet and his redactors undertook in the Temple vision of Ezekiel 40-48.
The re-symbolizing or re-imagining of the Temple is accomplished principally through the following textual strategies: (1) Anonymity of places—”very high mountain”, the re-named city—enabling the connection of history and myth, (2) the use of visual imagery in the measurement of spaces and the dominance of the square shape, (3) creation of a new linguistic symbol in the use of nāśî instead of mĕlĕk, (4) the legal revisions to emphasize holiness in the priesthood and sacrifices, (5) the creation of new attitudes through protology (“going back to the first things”) such as the tribal allotments and the allusions to the Garden of Eden, (6) the creation of new memories, and (7) the legal revisions given sanction of divine authority through (a) being embedded in the vision genre, (b) the use of the prophetic messenger formula throughout the 9 chapters, and (c) the use of priestly-cultic categories.
The hope is the Church, as the custodian of religious symbols, can be equipped to use symbols, whether linguistic or visual, to communicate and invigorate social change in the world today.