The Second Book of Esdras is an apocalypse that attempts to explain why God allowed the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem to be destroyed by Gentiles in AD 70. The book claims to report seven visions of Ezra the Scribe concerning ethical issues and the problem of evil and suffering. The first three revelations (3:1-9:25) concern the angel Uriel's instructions to Ezra about the spiritual-moral realm. In the fourth revelation (9:26-10:59), Ezra witnesses a mourning woman change into the heavenly Jerusalem. The fifth and sixth revelations (11-13) condemn the Roman Empire and forecast its destruction along with other evil Gentile nations by a messiah. The seventh revelation (14) describes Ezra's role in producing the books included in the canonical Scriptures (the 22 books in the Hebrew Bible) and the (70) apocryphal books. This revelation closes with Ezra being taken into heaven without dying. Chapters 1 and 2 and 15 and 16 are generally recognized as subsequent Christian interpolations.
Titles and Nomenclature:Also known as: Fourth Esdras in the Vulgate Third Esdras in the Slavonic Bible Fourth Ezra The Apocalypse of Ezra Its component sections are referred to as: Chapters 3-14: 4 Ezra Chapters 1-2: 5 Ezra Chapters 15-16: 6 Ezra
Canonical Status:Among the Deuterocanonical Books of the Old Testament of the Russian Orthodox Church Among the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha of the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant Churches
Authors:Chs. 3-14: Anonymous Palestinian Jew Chs. 1-2: Anonymous Christian Chs. 15-16: Anonymous Christian
Dates:Chs. 3-14: late 1st century AD (after AD 70) Chs. 1-2: 2nd century AD Chs. 15-16: 3rd century AD
Original Languages:Chs. 3-14: Hebrew or Aramaic Chs. 1-2: Greek Chs. 15-16: Greek
Manuscripts:No original Hebrew or Aramaic manuscripts survive from the central section (chapters 3-14). This section was translated into Greek, but no manuscripts are extant from this version either. A fragment (15:57-59) survives from the third, and latest, section (chapters 15-16) in Greek. Translations from the Greek are extant in Syriac, Latin, Arabic, Georgian, Armenian, Ethiopic, and fragments from a Coptic version.
Notes prepared by Mark Seitz (Junior Biblical Literature Major)
for the Wesley Center for Applied Theology at Northwest Nazarene University
Copyright 2000 by the Wesley Center for Applied Theology
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