Christopher Rowland. “Wheels within Wheels”: William Blake and the Ezekiel’s Merkabah in Text and Image. Père Marquette Lectures in Theology, 38. Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2007. 43 pp. $15.00, hardcover.
IN this installment in a series of annual lectures sponsored by Marquette University, Christopher Rowland, Dean Ireland’s Professor of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture at Queen’s College, Oxford, examines Blake’s response to the introductory chapter of the Book of Ezekiel: the prophet’s vision of a God in human form enthroned on a chariot (merkabah in Hebrew) that moves on intricate wheels and is borne or accompanied by four living creatures that are simultaneously man and animal. The influence on Blake’s conception of the four Zoas has long been recognized, but Rowland finds in Ezekiel a broader inspiration for Blake’s confidence in the truth of visionary experience, his conception of the prophet’s role in society, his insistence on the divine humanity, and his repudiation of any image of God as a distant monarchical lawgiver. In addition to discussion of The Four Zoas, Rowland offers thoughtful commentaries on Blake’s reading of Job and the Apocalypse of Enoch and on the similarities between his response to Ezekiel and that of the mystic Joachim of Fiore. The lecture serves as a preview of a forthcoming book on Blake as an interpreter of scripture, a topic to which Rowland brings his impressive knowledge of the history of biblical exegesis.