2 Esdras

2 Esdras

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2 Esdras or Latin Esdras is the name of an apocalyptic book in many English versions
English translations of the Bible
The efforts of translating the Bible from its original languages into over 2,000 others have spanned more than two millennia. Partial translations of the Bible into languages of the English people can be traced back to the end of the 7th century, including translations into Old English and Middle...

 of the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 (see "Naming conventions" below). Its authorship is ascribed to Ezra
Ezra
Ezra , also called Ezra the Scribe and Ezra the Priest in the Book of Ezra. According to the Hebrew Bible he returned from the Babylonian exile and reintroduced the Torah in Jerusalem...

. It is reckoned among the Apocrypha
Apocrypha
The term apocrypha is used with various meanings, including "hidden", "esoteric", "spurious", "of questionable authenticity", ancient Chinese "revealed texts and objects" and "Christian texts that are not canonical"....

 by many Protestant churches. Although Second Esdras exists in its complete form only in Latin, it was originally written in Hebrew. Nonetheless, 2 Esdras has not been preserved in modern Jewish tradition, typical for works dating from the period of the Second Temple.

Naming conventions



As with 1 Esdras
1 Esdras
1 Esdras , Greek Ezra, is an ancient Greek version of the biblical Book of Ezra in use among ancient Jewry, the early church, and many modern Christians with varying degrees of canonicity and a high historical usefulness....

, there is some confusion about the numbering of this book. Some early Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 manuscripts call it 3 Esdras, while Jerome
Jerome
Saint Jerome was a Roman Christian priest, confessor, theologian and historian, and who became a Doctor of the Church. He was the son of Eusebius, of the city of Stridon, which was on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia...

 and the medieval Latin manuscripts denoted it 4 Esdras, which to this day is the name used for it in modern critical editions, which are typically in Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, the language of its most complete exemplars. Once Jerome's 1 and 2 Esdras were denoted Ezra
Book of Ezra
The Book of Ezra is a book of the Hebrew Bible. Originally combined with the Book of Nehemiah in a single book of Ezra-Nehemiah, the two became separated in the early centuries of the Christian era...

 and Nehemiah
Book of Nehemiah
The Book of Nehemiah is a book of the Hebrew Bible. Told largely in the form of a first-person memoir, it concerns the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem by Nehemiah, a Jew who is a high official at the Persian court, and the dedication of the city and its people to God's laws...

 in more recent times, the designation 2 Esdras became common in English Bibles. It appears in the Appendix to the Old Testament in the Slavonic Bible, where it is called 3 Esdras, and the Georgian Bible numbers it 3 Ezra. This text is sometime also known as Apocalypse of Ezra.

5 Ezra


The first two chapters of 2 Esdras are found only in the Latin version of the book, and are called 5 Ezra by scholars. They are considered by most scholars to be Christian in origin; they assert God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

's rejection of the Jews and describe a vision of the Son of God
Son of God
"Son of God" is a phrase which according to most Christian denominations, Trinitarian in belief, refers to the relationship between Jesus and God, specifically as "God the Son"...

. These are generally considered to be late additions (possibly third century) to the work.

4 Ezra


Chapters 3–14, or the great bulk of 2 Esdras, are a Jewish apocalypse
Apocalypse
An Apocalypse is a disclosure of something hidden from the majority of mankind in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception, i.e. the veil to be lifted. The Apocalypse of John is the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament...

 also sometimes known as 4 Ezra, or the Jewish Apocalypse of Ezra. The latter name should not be confused with a later work called the Greek Apocalypse of Ezra.

Among Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 Fathers of the Church, 4 Ezra is generally cited as Προφήτης Εσδρας ("The Prophet Esdras") or Αποκάλυψις Εσδρα ("Apocalypse of Ezra"). Wellhausen, Charles, and Gunkel have shown that the original composition was in Hebrew, which was translated into Greek, and then to Latin, Armenian, Ethiopian and Georgian, but the Hebrew and Greek editions have been lost.

Slightly differing Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, Syriac
Syriac language
Syriac is a dialect of Middle Aramaic that was once spoken across much of the Fertile Crescent. Having first appeared as a script in the 1st century AD after being spoken as an unwritten language for five centuries, Classical Syriac became a major literary language throughout the Middle East from...

, Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

, Ethiopic, Georgian
Georgian language
Georgian is the native language of the Georgians and the official language of Georgia, a country in the Caucasus.Georgian is the primary language of about 4 million people in Georgia itself, and of another 500,000 abroad...

, and Armenian
Armenian language
The Armenian language is an Indo-European language spoken by the Armenian people. It is the official language of the Republic of Armenia as well as in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The language is also widely spoken by Armenian communities in the Armenian diaspora...

 translations have survived; the Greek version can be reconstructed (without absolute certainty, of course) from these different translations, while the Hebrew text remains a bit more elusive.

The Ethiopian Church considers 4 Ezra to be canonical
Biblical canon
A biblical canon, or canon of scripture, is a list of books considered to be authoritative as scripture by a particular religious community. The term itself was first coined by Christians, but the idea is found in Jewish sources. The internal wording of the text can also be specified, for example...

, and calls it Izra Sutuel (ዕዝራ ሱቱኤል); it was also often cited by the Fathers of the Church
Church Fathers
The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were early and influential theologians, eminent Christian teachers and great bishops. Their scholarly works were used as a precedent for centuries to come...

. In the Eastern Armenian tradition it is called 3 Ezra.

4 Ezra consists of seven visions of Ezra
Ezra
Ezra , also called Ezra the Scribe and Ezra the Priest in the Book of Ezra. According to the Hebrew Bible he returned from the Babylonian exile and reintroduced the Torah in Jerusalem...

 the scribe. The first vision takes place as Ezra is still in Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

. He asks God how Israel can be kept in misery if God is just. The archangel
Archangel
An archangel is an angel of high rank. Archangels are found in a number of religious traditions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Michael and Gabriel are recognized as archangels in Judaism and by most Christians. Michael is the only archangel specifically named in the Protestant Bible...

 Uriel
Uriel
Uriel is one of the archangels of post-Exilic Rabbinic tradition, and also of certain Christian traditions...

 is sent to answer the question, responding that God's ways cannot be understood by the human mind. Soon, however, the end would come, and God's justice would be made manifest. Similarly, in the second vision, Ezra asks why Israel was delivered up to the Babylonians, and is again told that man cannot understand this and that the end is near. In the third vision Ezra asks why Israel does not possess the world. Uriel responds that the current state is a period of transition. Here follows a description of the fate of evil-doers and the righteous. Ezra attempts to intercede for the condemned, but is told that no one can escape his destiny.

The next three visions are more symbolic in nature. The fourth is of a woman mourning for her only son, who is transformed into a city when she hears of the desolation of Zion. Uriel says that the woman is a symbol of Zion. The fifth vision concerns an eagle
Eagle
Eagles are members of the bird family Accipitridae, and belong to several genera which are not necessarily closely related to each other. Most of the more than 60 species occur in Eurasia and Africa. Outside this area, just two species can be found in the United States and Canada, nine more in...

 with three heads and twenty wings (twelve large wings and eight smaller wings "over against them"). The eagle is rebuked by a lion
Lion
The lion is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger...

 and then burned. The explanation of this vision is that the eagle refers to the fourth kingdom of the vision of Daniel
Book of Daniel
The Book of Daniel is a book in the Hebrew Bible. The book tells of how Daniel, and his Judean companions, were inducted into Babylon during Jewish exile, and how their positions elevated in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. The court tales span events that occur during the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar,...

, with the wings and heads as rulers. The final scene is the triumph of the Messiah
Messiah
A messiah is a redeemer figure expected or foretold in one form or another by a religion. Slightly more widely, a messiah is any redeemer figure. Messianic beliefs or theories generally relate to eschatological improvement of the state of humanity or the world, in other words the World to...

 over the empire. The sixth vision is of a man, representing the Messiah, who breathes fire on a crowd that is attacking him. This man then turns to another peaceful multitude, which accepts him.

Finally, there is a vision of the restoration of scripture. God appears to Ezra in a bush and commands him to restore the Law
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

. Ezra gathers five scribes and begins to dictate. After forty days, he has produced ninety-four books: the twenty-four books of the Tanakh
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

 and seventy secret works. (This vision is omitted in the Latin translation of the text):
"Make public the twenty-four books that you wrote first, and let the worthy and the unworthy read them; but keep the seventy that were written last, in order to give them to the wise among your people." (2 Esdras 14:45–46 RSV; 4 Ezra 12:45–46)


The "seventy" might refer to the Septuagint, most of the apocrypha
Apocrypha
The term apocrypha is used with various meanings, including "hidden", "esoteric", "spurious", "of questionable authenticity", ancient Chinese "revealed texts and objects" and "Christian texts that are not canonical"....

, or the Lost Books that are described in the Bible.

Most Latin editions of the text have a large lacuna of seventy verses between 7:35 and 7:36 due to the fact that they trace their common origin to one early manuscript, Codex Sangermanensis
Codex Sangermanensis
Codex Sangermanensis designated by Dabs1 or 0319 , α 1027 , is a tenth century diglot manuscript, formerly in the library of St. Germain des Prés, Paris, hence its name Sangermanensis, "of Saint Germanus". It is best known for its copy of the Pauline Epistles...

, which was missing an entire page. In 1895 Bensly
Robert Lubbock Bensly
Robert Lubbock Bensly was an English Orientalist.He was educated at King's College London, and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, studied in Germany, and was appointed reader in Hebrew at Gonville and Caius College 1863...

 and James published a critical edition restoring the lost verses; it is this edition that is used in the Stuttgart edition of the Vulgate
Vulgate
The Vulgate is a late 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible. It was largely the work of St. Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to make a revision of the old Latin translations...

. The restored verses are numbered 7:36 to 7:106, with the former verses 7:37–7:69 renumbered to 7:107–7:137.

Second Esdras turns around a radical spiritual conversion of Ezra in a vision, where he stops to comfort a sobbing woman who turns instantly into a great city (2 Esd. 10:25–27). On this pivotal event, one scholar writes that Ezra
is badly frightened, he loses consciousness and calls for his angelic guide. The experience described is unique not just in 4 Ezra but in the whole Jewish apocalyptic literature. Its intensity complements the pressure of unrelieved stress evident in in the first part of the vision, and it resembles the major orientation of personality usually connected with religious conversion.


The following verses (10:28–59) reveal that Ezra had a vision of the heavenly Jerusalem, the true city of Zion, which the angel of the Lord invites him to explore. As the angel tells Ezra at the end of Chapter 10 in the Authorised Version:
"And therefore fear not,
let not thine heart be affrighted,
but go thy way in,
and see the beauty and greatness of the building,
as much as thine eyes be able to see;
and then shalt thou hear as much as thine ears may comprehend.
For thou art blessed above many other
and art called
Predestination
Predestination, in theology is the doctrine that all events have been willed by God. John Calvin interpreted biblical predestination to mean that God willed eternal damnation for some people and salvation for others...

 with the Highest and so are but few.

"But tomorrow at night thou shalt remain here and so shall the Highest show thee visions
Apocalypse
An Apocalypse is a disclosure of something hidden from the majority of mankind in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception, i.e. the veil to be lifted. The Apocalypse of John is the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament...

 of the high things which the Most High will do unto them that dwell upon earth in the last days
Eschatology
Eschatology is a part of theology, philosophy, and futurology concerned with what are believed to be the final events in history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity, commonly referred to as the end of the world or the World to Come...

."

So I slept that night and another like as he commanded me (2 Esd. 10:55–59).

6 Ezra


The last two chapters, also called 6 Ezra by scholars, and found in the Latin, but not in the Eastern texts, predict wars and rebuke sinners. Many assume that they probably date from a much later period (perhaps late third century) and may be Christian in origin; it is possible, though not certain, that they were added at the same time as the first two chapters of the Latin version. It is possible that they are Jewish in origin; however, 15:57–59 have been found in Greek, which most scholars agree was translated from a Hebrew original.

Author and criticism



The main body of the book appears to be written for consolation in a period of great distress (most likely Titus
Titus
Titus , was Roman Emperor from 79 to 81. A member of the Flavian dynasty, Titus succeeded his father Vespasian upon his death, thus becoming the first Roman Emperor to come to the throne after his own father....

' destruction of the Second Temple
Second Temple
The Jewish Second Temple was an important shrine which stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem between 516 BCE and 70 CE. It replaced the First Temple which was destroyed in 586 BCE, when the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon...

 in AD 70) according to the modern theory. The author seeks answers, similar to Job
Job (Biblical figure)
Job is the central character of the Book of Job in the Hebrew Bible. Job is listed as a prophet of God in the Qur'an.- Book of Job :The Book of Job begins with an introduction to Job's character — he is described as a blessed man who lives righteously...

's quest for understanding the meaning of suffering, but the author doesn't like or desire only the answer that was given to Job.

Critics question whether even the main body of the book, not counting the chapters that exist only in the Latin version and in Greek fragments, has a single author. Kalisch, De Faye, and Charles hold that no fewer than five people worked on the text. However, Gunkel points to the unity in character and holds that the book is written by a single author; it is even possible that the so-called "Christian" chapters were originally in the work. However it has also been suggested that the author of II Esdras wrote the Apocalypse of Baruch
Apocalypse of Baruch
The Apocalypse of Baruch are two different Jewish pseudepigraphical texts written in the late 1st/early 2nd century, after the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans in 70 AD....

. In any case, the two texts (we don't have the original texts of these works so we really can't say for certain) may date from about the same time, and one almost certainly depends on the other.

Critics have widely debated the origin of the book. Hidden under two layers of translation it is impossible to determine if the author was Roman, Alexandrian, or Palestinian.

The scholarly interpretation of the eagle being the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 (the eagle in the fifth vision, whose heads might be Vespasian
Vespasian
Vespasian , was Roman Emperor from 69 AD to 79 AD. Vespasian was the founder of the Flavian dynasty, which ruled the Empire for a quarter century. Vespasian was descended from a family of equestrians, who rose into the senatorial rank under the Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

, Titus
Titus
Titus , was Roman Emperor from 79 to 81. A member of the Flavian dynasty, Titus succeeded his father Vespasian upon his death, thus becoming the first Roman Emperor to come to the throne after his own father....

 and Domitian
Domitian
Domitian was Roman Emperor from 81 to 96. Domitian was the third and last emperor of the Flavian dynasty.Domitian's youth and early career were largely spent in the shadow of his brother Titus, who gained military renown during the First Jewish-Roman War...

 if such is the case) and the destruction of the temple would indicate that the probable date of composition lies toward the end of the first century, perhaps 90–96, though some suggest a date as late as 218.

Usage


The book is considered one of the gems of Jewish apocalyptic literature. While it was not received into European Christian canons, the Jewish Apocalypse of Ezra, i.e. 2 Esdras 3–14, is regarded as Scripture in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and it was also widely cited by early Fathers of the Church, particularly Ambrose of Milan. It may also be found in many larger English Bibles included as part of the Biblical Apocrypha
Biblical apocrypha
The word "apocrypha" is today often used to refer to the collection of ancient books printed in some editions of the Bible in a separate section between the Old and New Testaments...

, as they exist in the King James version, the Revised Standard Version, and the earliest editions of the Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible, among others.

The introitus of the traditional Requiem
Requiem
A Requiem or Requiem Mass, also known as Mass for the dead or Mass of the dead , is a Mass celebrated for the repose of the soul or souls of one or more deceased persons, using a particular form of the Roman Missal...

 in the Catholic Church is loosely based on 2:34–35: "Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them." Several other liturgical prayers are taken from the book. In his Vulgate
Vulgate
The Vulgate is a late 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible. It was largely the work of St. Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to make a revision of the old Latin translations...

, Clement VIII placed the book in an appendix after the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 with the rest of the Biblical apocrypha, "lest they perish entirely".

External links


. (See in the appendix: The Fovrth Booke of Esdras in a 1610 translation. Also included is Robert Lubbock Bensly
Robert Lubbock Bensly
Robert Lubbock Bensly was an English Orientalist.He was educated at King's College London, and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, studied in Germany, and was appointed reader in Hebrew at Gonville and Caius College 1863...

's 1874 translation of a "rediscovered" 70-verse fragment (7:36-105) on a page that was omitted from the 1610 translation, though present in all earlier versions.)