(Εσδράς A′) is a book from the Septuagint
translation of the Old Testament
regarded as canonical in Eastern
and Oriental Orthodoxy
, but regarded as apocryphal
, and most Protestants
. It is listed among the Apocrypha in Article VI
of the Thirty-Nine Articles
of the Church of England
. It is similar to the Book of Ezra
, but under a different arrangement and with 99 additional verses, which include a polished conclusion that the much shorter Ezra lacks. Modern texts begin with the last two short chapters of the preceding Biblical work — II Chronicles
) — and the work properly begins in Chapter 2.
Josephus and the Church Fathers quoted 1 Esdras extensively; it was considered part of the Canon of the Old Testament, and indeed it is found in Origen's Hexapla.
In the Slavonic editions of the Bible this book is called 2 Esdras; in the Vulgate it is called 3 Esdras, and in the Ethiopian Orthodox Bible it is called Ezra Kali which means 2 Ezra. For information about the book called 1 Esdras in the Vulgate and Slavonic editions, see the article on Book of Ezra.
Naming and numbering
The book now called 1 Esdras
presents various problems of naming. In most editions of the Septuagint
, the book is titled in Greek: Εσδρας Α′
and is placed before the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, which are together titled in Greek: Εσδρας Β′.
However, the Vulgate titled the books of Ezra and Nehemiah as 1 and 2 Esdras, giving the current book the title 3 Esdras.
Since most modern translations use the more Hebraic transliteration of "Ezra" for the Hebrew book, the Vulgate's 3 Esdras is styled 1 Esdras in most English Bibles. The Vulgate's 4 Esdras becomes 2 Esdras.
The Russian Orthodox Church, considers this book canonical but has Latin Ezra in an Appendix to the Slavonic Bible. It calls the Hebrew book of Ezra "1 Esdras", with Nehemiah listed separately, and it calls Greek Ezra 2 Esdras and it calls Latin Esdras "3 Esdras".
The majority of the content of 1 Esdras completely parallels Ezra, Nehemiah, and II Chronicles. In particular:
- Chapter 1 = 2 Chron 35:1-36:21. Josiah's death, history of Jerusalem up to its destruction. Two verses in this chapter are original to this book.
- Chapter 2:1-14 = Ezra 1:1-11. The edict of Cyrus
- Chapter 2:15-26 = Ezra 4:7-24. First attempt to rebuild the temple.
- Chapter 3:1-5, 3 (original) Three courtiers of Darius dispute whether wine, the king, or women (but above all the truth) is the strongest. The winner of the dispute is to receive great honor from Darius. Darius concurs with Zerubbabel, who said women and truth, and at his request, sends him with the Jews, ordering the restoration of the temple.
- Chapter 5:4-6 (original) Beginning of a list of the exiles who returned.
- Chapter 5:7-73 = Ezra 2:1-4, 5. List of exiles returning. Work on the temple. Interruption of building until Darius' time.
- Chapter 6-7:9 = Ezra 5:1-6, 18. Correspondence between Sisinnes and Darius about the temple. Completion of the Second Temple.
- Chapter 7:10-15 = Ezra 6:19-22. Celebration of the Passover.
- Chapter 8:1-9, 36 = Ezra 7:1-10, 44. Return of exiles under Ezra. Preaching against mixed marriages.
- Chapter 9:37-55 = Nehemiah 7:73-8:12. Ezra reads the Law.
Author and criticism
The purpose of the book seems to be the presentation of the dispute among the courtiers, to which details from the other books are added to complete the story. Since there are various discrepancies in the account, most scholars hold that the work was written by more than one author. However, some scholars believe that this work may have been the original, or at least the more authoritative; the variances that are contained in this work are so striking that more research is being conducted. Because of similarities to the vocabulary in the Book of Daniel
, it is presumed by some that the authors came from Lower Egypt and some or all may have even had a hand in the translation of Daniel. Assuming this theory is correct, many scholars consider the possibility that one "chronicler" wrote this book.
Josephus makes use of the book and some scholars believe that the composition is likely to have taken place in the first century BC or the first century AD. Many Protestant and Catholic scholars assign no historical value to the "original" sections of the book. The citations of the other books of the Bible, however, provide a pre-Septuagint translation of those texts, which increases its value to scholars.
In the current Greek texts, the book breaks off in the middle of a sentence; that particular verse thus had to be reconstructed from an early Latin translation. However, it is generally presumed that the original work extended to the Feast of Tabernacles, as described in Nehemiah 8:13-18. An additional difficulty with the text is the apparent ignorance of its author regarding the historical sequence of events. Artaxerxes is mentioned before Darius, who is mentioned before Cyrus. (Such jumbling of the order of events, however, is also suspected by some authors to exist in the canonical Ezra and Nehemiah.)
Use in the Christian canon
The book was widely quoted by early Christian authors and it found a place in Origen
. It was not included in early canons of the Western Church, and Clement VIII
relegated it to an appendix following the New Testament
in the Vulgate
"lest [it] perish entirely"
However, the use of the book continued in the Eastern Church, and it remains a part of the Eastern Orthodox canon.