1 and 2 Esdras

Robert Carroll and Stephen Prickett

in The Bible: Authorized King James Version

Published in print February 1998 | ISBN: 9780192835253
Published online April 2009 |

Series: Oxford World's Classics

1 and 2 Esdras

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Esdras is the Greek/Latin equivalent of the Hebrew, Ezra: the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are in the Old Testament, but the Apocrypha contains two more volumes of Ezra and there are a number of other books of Ezra in the Pseudepigrapha (Greek Apocalypse of Ezra, Vision of Ezra, Questions of Ezra and Revelation of Ezra).85 Ezra the scribe was a key figure in ancient Jewish literature, even though his name is absent from the list of famous names given in Ben Sira's well-known narrative discourse, ‘Let us now praise famous men and our fathers that begat us’ (Ecclus. 44–50). The four books of Ezra (I–IV) consist of Ezra and Nehemiah and the two books of Esdras in the Apocrypha. Further confusion can arise from the fact that the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are listed as such in the Hebrew Bible, but the Latin Bible (Vulgate) represents them as 1 and 2 Ezra and so 1 and 2 Esdras become 3 and 4 Ezra. In the Greek Bible (LXX) Ezra and Nehemiah make up 2 Esdras. The canon of the English Bible, like all Bibles, represents a series of distinct choices from a multiplicity of earlier biblical canons, constituting, as it were, a palimpsest,86 incorporating and reinscribing the traces of its predecessors—just as the AV itself reinscribes so much of all the earlier English translations (especially Wycliffe and Tyndale). 1 Esdras is an account of the history of Israel from the time of King Josiah's celebrated passover festival to the proclamation by Ezra of the law (Torah). There are some similarities between it and Chronicles. The text is written in Greek, but there may be a Semitic (Aramaic) archetype behind it. It is impossible to be sure of its date or provenance. The story of the rebuilding of the temple in 1 Esdras differs from the Book of Ezra in containing a lengthy tale of a competition between three young men in the court of the Persian emperor, Darius. Zorobabel, the winner of the competition, persuades Darius to remember his promise to rebuild Jerusalem and its temple (3–4). Zorobabel (Zerubbabel in Haggai, Zechariah, Ezra, and Nehemiah) wins the competition by showing how truth is stronger than wine, the king and women: ‘O ye men, are not women strong? great is the earth, high is the heaven, swift is the sun in his course, for he compasseth the heavens round about, and fetcheth his course again to his own place in one day. Is he not great that maketh these things? therefore great is the truth, and stronger than all things. All the earth calleth upon the truth, and the heaven blesseth it: all works shake and tremble at it, and with it is no unrighteous thing. Wine is wicked, the king is wicked, women are wicked, all the children of men are wicked, and such are all their wicked works; and there is no truth in them; in their unrighteousness also they shall perish. As for the truth, it endureth, and is always strong; it liveth and conquereth for evermore. With her there is no accepting of persons or rewards; but she doeth the things that are just, and refraineth from all unjust and wicked things; and all men do well like of her works. Neither in her judgment is any unrighteousness; and she is the strength, kingdom, power, and majesty, of all ages. Blessed be the God of truth' (4: 34–40). This is characteristic wisdom teaching, even though as a hymn of praise to truth it may well echo Persian sentiments.

Chapter.  1145 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies ; Biblical Studies

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