The Lost Apocrypha of the Old Testament/Ezra

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With a word about Ezra, Esdras, we actually end our treatment of the lists. The book which they name is, we may be sure, that known as 4 Esdras, or 2 Esdras of the Apocrypha, which, with Enoch, is the most famous of all apocryphal Apocalypses, and need not be described here. I should, however, just like to put on record a caution against what I believe to be a misapprehension about it.

In the opening words (iii. 1) the supposed author describes himself as "I Salathiel, who am also Esdras," and this has served critics as an argument in favour of the thesis that the book is composed of a plurality of documents welded together by a final editor, and that one of these—the principal one—was an Apocalypse of Salathiel. But I believe I have found evidence to show that there was a Jewish tradition which identified Esdras with Salathiel independently of this book.

Epiphanius (on the Twelve Gems) speaks of an "Esdras the priest—not that Esdras who was called Salathiel, whose father was Zorobabel, which Zorobabel was son to Jechonias." Epiphanius—who is wrong, by the way, in his genealogy—nowhere shows any knowledge of 4 Esdras. It is evident from what he says, and from other sources, that the name Esdras was supposed to have been that of several persons; one authority definitely states that Esdras the prophet, the author of 4 Esdras, and Esdras the scribe, the author of the canonical Ezra, lived about 100 years apart: also, 4 Esdras is dated, in its opening words, in the thirtieth year of the ruin of the city (530 B.C.), whereas Ezra the scribe belongs to the middle of the next century. The equation of Salathiel with Esdras is based, I believe, upon 1 Chron. iii. 17, where we read, "and the sons of Jeconiah, Assir, Salathiel his son": and Assir, in despite of phonetic laws, was thought to be, or was forcibly assimilated to, the name Ezra: Assir and Salathiel being taken as two names for one man.

Further details may be read in two articles of mine in the Journal of Theological Studies for 1917 and 1918. The matter is of some little importance, because, if my view is correct, it does away with the only formidable argument in favour of the dissection of 4 Esdras into a congeries of documents.

The first two and last two chapters of the Latin version of 4 Esdras as they stand in our Apocrypha are later accretions. Chapters i., ii. are an independent Christian Apocalypse, surviving only in Latin. Chapters xv., xvi. are prophecies of woes conceived in the spirit of the Old Testament prophets and the Sibylline Oracles. They nowhere contain the name of an author: a small fragment has recently been found in Greek among the Oxyrhynchus papyri; otherwise they are preserved only in Latin.

There are several later Apocalypses of Esdras. One in Greek, edited from a single Paris MS. by Tischendorf (Apocalypses Apocryphæ): one in Latin, printed by Mercati (Studi e Testi 5, 1901), and also by Bratke in a German periodical—I think the Theol. Litteratur-Zeitung—from different MSS. Both Greek and Latin contain visions of the next world, and represent some rather older document, but neither is specially interesting. To them probably applies the condemnation by Nicephorus Homologeta (cir. 850) of an Apocalypse of Esdras. An Ethiopic Apocalypse (Brit. Mus., MSS. Æth. 27, 61) has not been printed. One in Syriac (ed. Baethgen, 1886, Zeitschrift für Alttest. Wissenschaft) has passages about Islam, and must be late in its present form. In Issaverdens' translation of Armenian apocrypha are some Inquiries of Esdras concerning Souls—a dialogue with an angel, imperfect at the end, of Christian complexion.

There is also a series of prognostics—Kalandologia and Brontologia—predicting the character of the year from the day of the week on which it begins, or telling of auspicious days, or what thunder portends at various times of year. More of these are ascribed to Esdras (the "Erra Pater" of Hudibras) than to any one else, but Shem, David and Ezekiel also occur as authors of them. They are to be found in Greek and in several Western vernaculars, and are comparable to the dreambook of Daniel and the magical and alchemical books current under the names of Abel, Seth, Moses, Miriam, Solomon.

As to a Christian passage supposed by Justin Martyr to have been excised from the text of Ezra by the Jews, see Rendel Harris's Testimonies, I.

We have now done with prophets, and revert to kings.