Apocalypse of Esdras
Category: Books sutras and myths
Ezra (Hebrew: עזרא, 480–440 BCE), also called Ezra the Scribe (עזרא הסופר, Ezra ha-Sofer) and Ezra the Priest in the Book of Ezra, was a Jewish scribe (sofer) and priest (kohen). In Greco-Latin Ezra is called Esdras (Greek: Ἔσδρας).
Jewish Encyclopedia - Ezra the Scribe ( ) By: Emil G. Hirsch
A descendant of Seraiah the high priest (Neh. viii. 13; Ezra vii. 1 et seq.; II Kings xxv. 18-21); a member of the priestly order, and therefore known also as Ezra the Priest ( : Ezra vii. 11; x. 10, 16). The name, probably an abbreviation of "Azaryahu" (God helps), appears in Greek (LXX., Apocrypha, Josephus) and in Latin (Vulgate) as "Esdras." Though Ezra was one of the most important personages of his day, and of far-reaching influence upon the development of Judaism, his biography has to be reconstructed from scanty material, furnished in part by fragments from his own memoirs (see Ezra, Book of). The first definite mention of him is in connection with a royal firman granting him permission to lead a band of exiles back to Jerusalem (Ezra vii. 12-26). This edict was issued in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes, corresponding to 458 B.C. There is no reason to doubt the authenticity of the document as incorporated in Aramaic in the Book of Ezra, though Jewish coloring may be admitted.
In Islam Ezra is known as Uzair (عُزَيْرٌ). He is mentioned in the Qur'an although not as one of the Prophets of Islam, although he is considered as one of them by some Muslim scholars, based on Islamic traditions. His tomb at Al-ʻUzair on the banks of the Tigris near Basra, Iraq, is a pilgrimage site for the local Marsh Arabs.
The Book of Ezra
The Book of Ezra is a book of the Hebrew Bible; which formerly included the Book of Nehemiah in a single book, commonly distinguished in scholarship as Ezra–Nehemiah. The two became separated with the first printed rabbinic bibles of the early 16th century. Its subject is the Return to Zion following the close of the Babylonian captivity, and it is divided into two parts,
· the first telling the story of the first return of exiles in the first year of Cyrus the Great (538 BC) and the completion and dedication of the new Temple in Jerusalem in the sixth year of Darius I (515 BC)
· the second telling of the subsequent mission of Ezra to Jerusalem and his struggle to purify the Jews from marriage with non-Jews. Together with the Book of Nehemiah, it represents the final chapter in the historical narrative of the Hebrew Bible
The second book of Ezra
The second book of Ezra is usually called the Apocalypse of Esdras; the (Protestant) English apocrypha, however, give it as II Esdras, from the opening words: "The second book of the prophet Esdras"..
However beautiful and popular the book, its origin is shrouded in mystery. The introductory and concluding chapters, containing evident traces of Christianity, are assigned to the third century (about A.D. 201-268). The main portion (iii-xiv) is undoubtedly the work of a Jew — whether Roman, or Alexandrian, or Palestinian, no one can tell; as to its date, authors are mostly widely at variance, and all dates have been suggested, from 30 B.C. to A.D. 218; scholars, however, seem to rally more and more around the year A.D. 97.
In other words, we can now identify the text we have as a heading – the Apocalypse of Ezra is Chapters 3–14, or the great bulk of 2 Esdras, and is a Jewish apocalypse also sometimes known as 4 Ezra, or the Jewish Apocalypse of Ezra. This Fourth Book of Esdras is considered by some to be one of the most beautiful productions of Jewish literature.
The Ethiopian Church considers 4 Ezra to be canonical, and calls it Izra Sutuel (ዕዝራ ሱቱኤል). It was also often cited by the Fathers of the Church.
Widely known in the early Christian ages and frequently quoted by the Fathers (especially St. Ambrose), it may be said to have framed the popular belief of the Middle Ages concerning ‘the last things’.
This remarkable work has not been preserved in the original Greek text; but we possess translations of it in Latin, Syriac, Arabic (two independent versions), Ethiopian, and Armenian. The Latin text is usually printed in the appendix to the editions of the Vulgate; but these editions miss seventy verses between vii, 35, and vii, 36. The missing fragment, which was read in the other versions, was discovered in a Latin manuscript by R.L. Bensly, in 1874, and has been since repeatedly printed. In the Latin the book is divided into sixteen chapters. The two opening (i, ii) and the two concluding (xv, xvi) chapters, however, which are not to be found in the Eastern translations, are unhesitatingly regarded by all as later additions, foreign to the primitive work.
The body of the Fourth Book, the unity of which appears to be unquestionable, is made up of seven visions which Esdras is supposed to have seen at Babylon.
FIRST VISION The first vision takes place as Ezra is still in Babylon. He asks God how Israel can be kept in misery if God is just. The archangel Uriel 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. In the first vision (iii, 1-v, 20), Esdras is lamenting over the affliction of his people. Why does not God fulfil his promises? Is not Israel the elect nation, and better, despite her "evil heart", than her heathen neighbours? The angel Uriel chides Esdras for inquiring into things beyond his understanding; the "prophet" is told that the time that is past exceeds the time to come, and the signs of the end are given him.
SECOND VISION 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 this vision (v, 21-vi, 34), he learns, with new signs of the end, why God "doeth not all at once".
THIRD VISION - In the third vision Ezra asks why Israel does not possess the world. Uriel responds with a description of the fate of evil-doers and the righteous. Ezra asks whether the righteous may intercede for the unrighteous on Judgment Day, but is told that "Judgment Day is final".
FOURTH VISION - The next three visions are more symbolic in nature. The fourth is of a woman mourning for her only son. She is transformed into a city when she hears of the desolation of Zion. Uriel says that the woman is a symbol of Zion.
FIFTH VISION - The fifth vision concerns an eagle with three heads and twenty wings (twelve large wings and eight smaller wings "over against them"). The eagle is rebuked by a lion and then burned. The final scene is the triumph of the Messiah over the empire. (vi, 35-ix, 25) a glowing picture of the Messianic age.
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.
SEVENTH VISION - Finally, there is a vision of the restoration of scripture. God appears to Ezra in a bush and commands him to restore the Law. Ezra gathers five scribes and begins to dictate. After forty days, he has produced ninety-four books: the twenty-four books of the Tanakh and seventy secret works:
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)
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