International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
I. BACKGROUND OF APOCALYPTIC
1. Judaism and Hellenism
2. Political Influences
II. GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF APOCALYPTIC
1. Differences from Prophecy in Content
2. Differences from Prophecy in Literary Form
III. AUTHORSHIP OF JEWISH APOCALYPTIC WORKS
1. Pseudepigraphic Authors not Known Individually
2. General Resemblance and Mutual Dependence Show Them to be Products of One Sect
3. Three Jewish Sects Comprise Whole Literary Class
4. Not the Product of the Sadducees
5. Nor of the Pharisees
6. Probably Written by the Essenes
WORKS ENTITLED APOCALYPTIC
I. APOCALYPSES PROPER
1. Enoch Books:
(1) History of the Books;
(5) Internal Chronology: The Book of Noah;
(6) External Chronology;
(7) Slavonic Enoch;
(8) Secrets of Enoch
2. Apocalypse of Baruch:
(5) Relation to Other Books;
(6) The Rest of the Words of Baruch
3. The Assumption of Moses:
(5) Relation to Other Books
4. The Ascension of Isaiah:
5. The Fourth Book of Esdras:
(1) Summary; (2) Structure;
II. LEGENDARY WORKS
The Book of Jubilees:
III. PSALMIC PSEUDEPGRAPHA
1. The Psalter of Solomon:
2. The Odes of Solomon:
(1) Relation to Pistis Sophia and Summary;
1. Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs:
(4) Date and Authorship;
(5) Relation to Other Books
2. Testament of Adam
3. Testament of Abraham
4. Testament of Job:
(4) Date and Authorship
V. SIBYLLINE ORACLES
A series of pseudepigraphic works, mainly of Jewish origin, appeared during the period between 210 B.C. and 200 A.D. They have many features in common. The most striking is the resemblance they all bear to the Book of Daniel. Following this model, most of them use "vision" as a literary device by which to introduce their conceptions of the remote future. A side product of this same movement was the composition, mainly in Alexandria, of the Sibylline books. The literary device of "vision" was one used in the Aeneid by Virgil, the classical contemporary of a large number of these works. One peculiarity in regard to the majority of these documents is the fact that while popular among the Christian writers of the first Christian centuries, they disappeared with the advent of the Middle Ages, and remained unknown until the first half of the 19th century was well on in its course.
I. Background of Apocalyptic.
1. Judaism and Hellenism:
When the Jews came back from Babylon to Palestine, though surrounded by heathen of various creeds, they were strongly monotheistic. The hold the Persians had of the empire of Southwest Asia, and their religion-Zoroastrianism-so closely akin to monotheism, prevented any violent attempts at perverting the Jews. With the advent of the Greek power a new state of things emerged. Certainly at first there does not seem to have been any direct attempt to force them to abandon their religion, but the calm contempt of the Hellene who looked down from the superior height of his artistic culture on all barbarians, and the influence that culture had in the ruling classes tended to seduce the Jews into idolatry. While the governing orders, the priests and the leaders of the Council, those who came in contact with the generals and governors of the Lagids of Egypt, or the Seleucids of Syria, were thus inclined to be seduced into idolatry, there was a large class utterly uninfluenced by Hellenic culture, and no small portion of this class hated fanatically all tampering with idolatry.
When the dominion over Palestine passed out of the hands of the Ptolemies into that of the house of Seleucus, this feeling was intensified, as the Syrian house regarded with less tolerance the religion of Israel. The opposition to Hellenism and the apprehension of it naturally tended to draw together those who shared the feeling. On the one side was the scribist legal party, who developed into the Pharisaic sect; on the other were the mystics, who felt the personal power of Deity. These afterward became first the Chasidim, then later the Essenes. These latter gradually retired from active participation in national life.
As is natural with mystics their feelings led them to see visions and to dream dreams. Others more intellectual, while they welcomed the enlightenment of the Greeks, retained their faith in the one God. To them it seemed obvious that as their God was the true God, all real enlightenment must have proceeded from Him alone. In such thinkers as Plato and Aristotle they saw many things in harmony with the Mosaic law. They were sure that there must have been links which united these thinkers to the current of Divine revelation, and were led to imagine of what sort these links necessarily were. The names of poets such as Orpheus and Linus, who survived only in their names, suggested the source of these links-these resemblances. Hence, the wholesale forgeries, mainly by Jews, of Greek poems. On the other hand, there was the desire to harmonize Moses and his law with the philosophical ideas of the time. Philo the Alexandrian, the most conspicuous example of this effort, could not have been an isolated phenomenon; he must have had many precursors. This latter movement, although most evident in Egypt, and probably in Asia Minor, had a considerable influence in Judea also.
2. Political Influences:
Political events aided in the advance of both these tendencies. The distinct favor that Antiochus the Great showed to the Greeks and to those barbarians who Hellenized, became with his son Antiochus Epiphanes a direct religious persecution. This emphasized the protest of the Chasidim on the one hand, and excited the imagination of the visionaries to greater vivacity on the other. While the Maccabees and their followers were stirred to deeds of valor, the meditative visionaries saw in God their refuge, and hoped for deliverance at the hand of the Messiah. They pictured to themselves the tyrant smitten down by the direct judgment of Yahweh. After the death of Epiphanes, the Maccabeans had become a power to be reckoned with, and the visionaries had less excitement from external events till the Herodian family found their way into supreme power.
At first the Herodians favored the Pharisaic party as that which supported John Hyrcanus II, the friend of Antipater, the father of Herod the Great, and the Essenes seem to have taken Herod at first into their special favor. However, there was soon a change. In consequence of the compliance with heathen practices, into which their connection with the Romans forced the Herodians, the more religious among the Jews felt themselves compelled to withdraw all favor from the Idumean usurper, and to give up all hope in him. This naturally excited the visionaries to new expectation of Divine intervention. Behind the Herodians was the terrible iron power of Rome. The Romans had intervened in the quarrel between John Hyrcanus and his brother Aristobulus. Pompey had desecrated the temple by intruding into the Holy of Holies. The disastrous overthrow that he suffered at the hands of Caesar and his miserable end on the shores of Egypt seemed to be a judgment on him for his impiety. Later, Nero was the especial mark for the Apocalyptists, who by this time had become mainly Christian. Later Roman emperors impressed the imagination of the Apocalyptists, as the Flavians.
II. General Characteristics of Apocalyptic.
1. Differences from Prophecy in Content:
Both in matter and form apocalyptic literal and the writings associated with it differ from the prophetic writings of the preceding periods. As already mentioned, while the predictive element as present in Apocalypses, as in Prophecy, it is more prominent and relates to longer periods and involves a wider grasp of the state of the world at large. Apocalypse could only have been possible under the domination of the great empires. Alike in Prophecy and in Apocalypse there is reference to the coming of the Messiah, but in the latter not only is the Messianic hope more defined, it has a wider reference. In the Prophets and Psalmists the Messiah had mainly to do with Israel. "He will save his people"; "He will die for them"; "His people shall be all righteous." All this applies to Israel; there is no imperial outlook. In the Apocalypses the imperial outlook is prominent, beginning with Daniel in which we find the Messianic kingdom represented by a "son of man" over against the bestial empires that had preceded (Daniel 7:13) and reaching the acme of Apocalypse, if not its conclusion, in the Revelation of John: "The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ" (Revelation 11:15). While the prophet was primarily a preacher of righteousness, and used prediction either as a guarantee, by its fulfillment, of his Divine mission, or as an exhibition of the natural result of rebellion against God's righteous laws, to the Apocalyptist prediction was the thing of most importance, and in the more typical Apocalypse there is no moral exhortation whatever.
2. Differences from Prophecy in Literary Form:
In the literary form employed there are marked differences between Apocalyptic and Prophecy. Both make use of vision, but in Prophecy, in the more restricted sense of the word, these visions are as a rule implied, rather than being described. Although Isaiah calls the greater part of his Prophecy "vision," yet in only one instance does he describe what he sees; as a rule he assumes throughout that has audience knows what is visible to him. The only instance (Isaiah 6) in which he does describe his vision is not at all predictive; the object is exhortation. In the case of the Apocalypses the vision is the vehicle by which the prediction is conveyed. In Ezekiel there are visions, but only one of these-"the valley of dry bones"-is predictive. In it the symbols used are natural, not, as always in Apocalypses, arbitrary. Compare in Daniel's vision of the Ram and the He-goat (Daniel 8).
In Ezekiel the dry bones naturally suggest death, and the process by which they are revivified the reader feels is the natural course such an event would take did it come within the sphere of ordinary experience; while in what is told of the horns on the head of the Greek goat there is no natural reason for the changes that take place, only a symbolical one. This is still more marked in the vision of the Eagle in 4 Esdras 11. What may be regarded as yet more related to the form is the fact that while the Prophets wrote in a style of so elevated prose that it always hovered on the border of poetry-indeed, frequently passed into it and employed the form of verse, as Isaiah 26:1 NAME? Acts 23:8). Josephus compares them with the followers of Epicurus among the Greeks. Nothing could be farther removed from the spirit and doctrines of the Apocalypses than all this. The Messianic hopes bulk largely; angels are prominent, then, hierarchies are described and their names given. The doctrine of immortality is implied, and the places of reward and punishment are described. The Apocalypses cannot therefore be attributed to the Sadducees.
5. Nor of the Pharisees: There is greater plausibility in attributing them to the Pharisees. So far as doctrines are concerned, there is no doubt that the agreement is relatively close. There are, however, difficulties in accepting this view of their origin. With the fall of the Jewish state, the Sadducees disappeared when there was no field for political activity, and when with the destruction of the temple there were no more sacrifices to require the services of Aaronic priests. Nearly contemporaneously the Essenes disappeared in Christianity. The Pharisees alone remained to carry on the traditions of Judaism.
We have in the Talmud the result of Pharisaic literary activity. The Mishna is the only part of this miscellaneous conglomeration which is at all nearly contemporary with the works before us. It has none of the characteristics of the apocalyptic writings. The later Hagadi Midrash have more resemblance to some of these, noticeably to the Book of Jubilees. Still, the almost total want of any references to any of the Apocalypses in the recognized Pharisaic writings, and the fact that no Jewish version of any of these books has been preserved, seems conclusive against the idea that the Apocalypses owed their origin to the Pharisaic schools. The books that form the ordinary Apocrypha are in a different position. The majority, if not the whole of them, were received into the Jewish canon of Alexandria. Some of them are found in Hebrew or Aramaic, as Ecclesiasticus, Tobit and Judith. None of the Apocalypses have been so found. This leads necessarily to the conclusion that the Pharisees did not write these books.
6. Probably Written by the Essenes:
By the method of exclusions we are led thus to adopt the conclusion of Hilgenfeld, that they are the work of the Essenes. We have, however, positive evidence. We know from Josephus that the Essenes had many secret sacred books. Those books before us would suit this description. Further, in one of these books (4 Esdras) we find a story which affords an explanation of the existence of these books. 2 (4) Esdras 14:40-48 tells how to Ezra there was given a cup of water as it were fire to drink, and then he dictated to five men. These men wrote in characters which they did not understand "for forty days" until they had written "four score and fourteen books" (Revised Version (British and American)). He is commanded, "The first that thou hast written publish openly, and let the worthy and unworthy read it: but keep the seventy last that thou mayest deliver them to such as be wise among thy people."
While the twenty-four books of the ordinary canon would be open to all, these other seventy books would only be known by the wise-presumably, the Essenes. This story proceeds on the assumption that all the biblical books had been lost during the Babylonian captivity, but that after he had his memory quickened, Ezra was able to dictate the whole of them; but of these only twenty-four were to be published to all; there were seventy which were to be kept by a society of wise men. This would explain how the Books of Enoch and Noah, and the account of the Assumption of Moses could appear upon the scene at proper times and yet not be known before. In the last-named book there is another device. Moses tells Joshua to embalm (hedriare) the writing which gives an account of what is coming upon Israel.
Books so embalmed would be liable to be found when Divine providence saw the occasion ripe. These works are products of a school of associates which could guard sacred books and had prepared hypotheses to explain at once how they had remained unknown, and how at certain crises they became known. All this suits the Essenes, and especially that branch of them that dwelt as Coenobites beside the Dead Sea. We are thus driven to adopt Hilgenfeld's hypothesis that the Essenes were the authors of these books. Those of them that formed the Community of Engedi by their very dreamy seclusion would be especially ready to see visions and dream dreams. To them it seem no impossible thing for one of the brotherhood to be so possessed by the spirit of Enoch or of Noah that what he wrote were really the words of the patriarch. It would not be inconceivable, or even improbable, that Moses or Joshua might in a dream open to them books written long before and quicken their memories so that what they had read in the night they could recite in the day-time. As all the Essenes were not dwellers by the shores of the Dead Sea, or "associates with the palms of Engedi," some of the writings of this class as we might expect, betray a greater knowledge of the world, and show more the influence of events than those which proceeded from the Coenobites. As to some extent corroborative of this view, there is the slight importance given to sacrifice in most of these works.
WORKS ENTITLED APOCALYPTIC
Classes of Books:
In the classification of plants and animals in natural science the various orders and genera present the observer with some classes that have all the features that characterize the general Mass prominent and easily observable, while in others these features are so far from prominent that to the casual observer they are invisible. This may be seen in the apocalyptic writings: there are some that present all the marks of Apocalypses, such as the Book of Enoch, the Assumption of Moses and the Apocalypse of Baruch. They all claim to be revelations of the future-a future which begins, however, from the days of some ancient saint-and then, passing over the time of is actual composition, ends with the coming of the Messiah, the setting up of the Messianic kingdom and the end of the world. There are others, like the Book of Jubilees, in which the revelation avowedly looks back, and which thus contain an amount of legendary matter.
One of the books which are usually reckoned in this class, has, unlike most of the Apocalypses, which are in prose, taken the Book of Psalms as its model-the Psalter of Solomon. A very considerable number of the works before us take the form of farewell counsels on the part of this or that patriarch. The most famous of these is the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs. Although the great masonry have been written in Hebrew or Aramaic by Jews resident in Palestine, the Sibylline books, composed to a great extent by Jews of Alexandria, present an exception to this.
We shall in the remainder of the art consider these sub-classes in the order now mentioned:
(1) Typical Apocalypses;
(2) Legendary Testaments;
(5) Sibylline Oracles.
I. Apocalypses Proper.
As above indicated, all these take the Book of Daniel as their model, and imitate it more or less closely. One peculiarity in this connection must be referred to. While we have already said these later Apocalypses were practically unknown by the Jews of a couple of centuries after the Christian era, the Book of Daniel was universally regarded as authoritative alike by Jews and Christians. In considering these works, we shall restrict ourselves to those Apocalypses that, whether Jewish or Christian by religion, are the production of those who were Jews by nation.
1. Enoch Books:
The most important of these is the Book, or rather, Books of Enoch. After having been quoted in Jude and noticed by several of the Fathers, this work disappeared from the knowledge of the Christian church.
(1) History of the Books.
Fairly copious extracts from this collection of books had been made by George Syncellus, the 8th century chronographer. With the exception of those fragments, all the writings attributed to Enoch had disappeared from the ken of European scholars. In the last quarter of the 18th century. Bruce, the Abyssinian traveler, brought to Europe three copies of the Book of Enoch in Ethiopic, which had been regarded as canonical by the Abyssinian church, and had consequently been preserved by them. Of these three copies, one he retained in Kinnaird House, another he presented to the Bodleian Library In Oxford, the third he gave to the Royal Library in Paris. For more than a quarter of a century these manuscripts remained as unknown as if they had still been in Abyssinia. In the year 1800 Sylvestre de Sacy published an article on Enoch in which he gave a translation of the first sixteen chapters. This was drawn from the Parisian copy.
Twenty-one years after Archbishop Laurence published a translation of the whole work from the manuscript in the Bodleian. Seventeen years after he published the text from the same MS. The expedition to Magdala under Lord Napier brought a number of fresh manuscripts to Europe; the German missionaries, for whose release the advance had been undertaken, brought a number to Germany, while a number came to the British Museum. Some other travelers had brought from the East manuscripts of this precious book. Flemming, the latest editor of the text, claims to have used 26 manuscripts. It needs but a cursory study of the Ethiopic text to see that it is a translation from a Greek original. The quotations in George Syncellus confirmed this, with the exception of a small fragment published by Mai.
Until the last decade of last century. Syncellus' fragments formed the only remains of the Greek text known. In 1892 M. Bouriant published from manuscripts found in Gizeh, Cairo, the Greek of the first 32 chapters. More of the Greek may be discovered in Egypt. Meantime, we have the Greek of chapters 1-32, and from the Vatican fragment a portion of chapter 89. A study of the Greek shows it also to have been a translation from a Hebrew original. Of this Hebrew original, however, no part has come down to us. As we have it, it is very much a conglomeration of fragments of various authorship. It is impossible to say whether the Greek translator was the collector of these fragments or whether, when the mass of material came into his hands, the interpolations had already taken place. However, the probability, judging from the usual practice of translators, is that as he got the book, so he translated it.
The first chapter gives an account of the purpose of the book, Enoch 2-5 an account of his survey of the heavens. With Enoch 6 begins the book proper. Chapters 6-19 give an account of the fallen angels and Enoch's relation to them. Chapters 20-36 narrate Enoch's wanderings through the universe, and give an account of the place of punishment, and the secrets of the West and of the center of the earth. This may be regarded as the First Book of Enoch, the Book of the Angels. With chapter 37 begins the Book of Similitudes.
The first Similitude (chapters 37-44) represents the future kingdom of God, the dwelling of the righteous and of the angels; and finally all the secrets of the heavens. This last portion is interesting as revealing the succession of the parts of this conglomeration-the more elaborate the astronomy, the later; the simpler, the earlier. The second Similitude (chapters 46-57) brings in the Son of Man as a superhuman if not also superangelic being, who is to come to earth as the Messiah. The third Similitude occupies chapters 58-71, and gives an account of the glory of the Messiah and of the subjugation of the kings of the earth under Him. There is interpolated a long account of Leviathan and Behemoth. There are also Noachian fragments inserted.
The Book of the Courses of the Luminaries occupies the next eleven chapters, and subjoined to these are two visions (chapters 83-90), in the latter of which is an account of the history of the world to the Maccabean Struggle. Fourteen chapters which follow may be called "The Exhortations of Enoch." The exhortations are emphasized by an exposition of the history of the world in 10 successive weeks. It may be noted here that there is a dislocation. The passage Enoch 91:12 contains the 8, 9, and 10 weeks, while chapter 93 gives an account of the previous 7. After chapter 104 there are series of sections of varying origin which may be regarded as appendices. There are throughout these books many interpolations. The most observable of these are what are known as "Noachian Fragments," portions in which Noah and not Enoch is the hero and spokesman. There are, besides, a number of universally acknowledged interpolations, and some that are held by some to be interpolated, are regarded by others as intimately related to the immediate context. The literary merit of the different portions is various: of none of them can it be called high. The Book of Similitudes, with its revelations of heaven and hell, is probably the finest.
We have the complete books only in Ethiopic. The Ethiopic, however, is not, as already observed, the original language of the writings. The numerous portions of it which still survive in Greek, prove that at all events our Ethiopic is a translation from the Greek. The question of how far it is the original is easily settled. The angels assemble on Mt. Hermon, we are told (En 6), and bind themselves by an oath or curse: "and they called it Mount Hermon because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecation upon it." This has a meaning only in Hebrew or Aramaic, not in Greek. A very interesting piece of evidence of the original language is obtained from a blunder. In Enoch 90:38 we are told that "they all became white bullocks, and the first was the Word" (nagara). As for the appearance of this term, from its connection it is obvious that some sort of bullocks is intended. In Hebrew the wild ox is called re'em (Aramaic rima). The Greek translators, having no Greek equivalent available, transliterated as rem or rema. This the translators confused with Tema, "a word." It is impossible to decide with anything like certainty which of the two languages, Hebrew or Aramaic, was the original, though from the sacred character ascribed to Enoch the probability is in favor of its being Hebrew.
The question of date is twofold. Since Enoch is really made up of a collection of books and fragments of books, the question of the temporal relation of these to each other is the primary one. The common view is that chapters 1-36 and 72-91 are by the same author, and form the nucleus of the whole. Although the weighty authority of Dr. Charles is against assigning these portions to one author, the resemblances are numerous and seem to us by no means so superficial as he would regard them. He, with most critics, would regard the Book of Similitudes as later.
Nevertheless, we venture to differ from this view, for reasons which we shall assign.
(5) Internal Chronology: The Book of Noah.
The fragments of the Book of Noah above alluded to present an intrusive element in the Book of Enoch. These, though fairly numerous, are not so numerous as Dr. Charles would claim. Those that show clear traces not only of being interpolations, but also of being interpolations from this Book of Noah, are found only in those portions of the Book that appear to be written by the author of Enoch 37-71. In them and in the Noachian fragments there are astronomical portions, as there are also in the portion that seems to proceed from another hand, chapters 1-36; 72-91. When these are compared, the simplest account of the phenomena of the heavens is found in the non-Noachian portions, the first noted chapters 37-71; 92-107; the next in complexity is that found in the Noachian interpolations; the most complex is that contained in chapters 72-91.
This would seem to indicate that the earliest written portion was chapters 37-71; 92-107. Our view of the date of this middle portion of En, the Book of Similitudes, is opposed by Dr. Stanton (Jewish and Christian Messiah, 60-63; 241-44), who maintains that it is post-Christian. For this decision he rests mainly on the use of the title "Son of Man." This title, he says, as applied to the Messiah, is unknown in rabbinic literature. Rabbinic literature is all so late as to be of no value. The Mishna has few traces of Messianic belief, and was not committed to writing till the end of the 2nd century, when the difference between church and synagogue was accentuated. He further s
ESDRAS, THE SECOND (FOURTH) BOOK OF; APOCALYPTIC ESDRAS
Or The Apocalyptic Esdras:
1. Name 2. Contents 3. Language 4. Versions 5. Origin of the Book 6. Date
This book was not received by the Council of Trent as canonical, nor has it ever been acknowledged as such by the Anglican church.
The book is not found in the Septuagint and no complete copy of the Greek text is known, though at one time it did exist. The oldest extant name is "The Prophet Ezra" (Esdras ho prophetes; see Clement of Alexandria, Strom., iii.16): It has been often called the Latin Esdras because it exists more completely in that language; compare the name Greek Esdras for 1 Esdras.
3 Esdras is the designation in old editions of the Vulgate, 1 Esdras being Ezra and Nehemiah, 2 Esdras denoting what in English is called 1 Esdras. But in editions of the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) later than the Council of Trent, and also in Walton's Polyglot, Ezra is called 1 Esdras, Nehemiah, 2 Esdras, 1 Esdras = 3 Esdras, the present book (the Latin Esdras) being known as 4 Esdras. In authorized copies of the Vulgate, i.e. in those commonly used, this book is lacking. On account of its contents, Westcott, following the example of Anastasius Sinaita (bishop of Antioch from 559 A.D.), called the book the "Apocalypse of Esdras." But as Tischendorf in 1866 edited a later and inferior work with this title the present writer suggests the name "The Apocalyptic Esdras." Of all the Jewish apocalypses this is the sublimest and most pleading.
See APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE, sec. II, 1, 5.
The original work consists of 2 Esdras 3-14, chapters 1 and 15 being late additions. The entire book of 16 chapters exists in the Latin version only, the other versions containing chapters 3-14 only. The real 2nd (apocalyptic) Esdras, consisting of chapters 3-14, is made up of 7 visions given to Ezra in exile 30 years after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The drift of these visions is, How can a just and loving God allow His own people to suffer so much? The problem thus raised is fully and beautifully dealt with. For lack of space the present writer must refer for a fuller analysis to the article APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE, sec. I, 5, and the literature there cited. For 2 Esdras 1 and 15 see under ESDRAS 5 AND 6.
Though no complete text even of 2 Esdras 3-14 has survived, a careful examination of the Latin shows that it has been made from a Greek original.
(1) Some fragments of the Greek can be traced, as 5:35 in Clement of Alexandria and 8:23 in the Apostolical Constitutions.
(2) The order of the twelve prophets in 1:39 follows that in the Septuagint.
(3) The Latin version bears throughout clear traces of Greek idiom.
Thus the gen. is used with the comparative (5:3; 11:29); we have the genitive (not ablative) absolute in 10:9, the double negative and the use of de (Greek apo) and ex (Greek ek) with the genitive in various parts. But there are cogent reasons for concluding that the Greek version implied in the Latin itself implies a Hebrew original, and the proof is similar to that of a Greek version as the basis of the Latin In the Greek there are idioms which are Hebrew, not Greek, not even in their frequency Hellenistic Greek. The participle used to strengthen the finite verb is the regular Hebrew idiom of the absolute with the finite verb: see 4:2 (excedens excessit); 5:30 (odiens odisti). For other examples see Gunkel (in Kautzsch, Die Apokryphen u. Pseud. des Altes Testament, 332); R. H. Charles (Enc Brit, X, 106). Ewald was the first to defend a Hebrew original, but in 1866 he was followed by his distinguished pupil Wellhausen and also by R. H. Charles (Apoc Bar, lxxii).
The Latin version is far the most important and on it the English Versions of the Bible depends. But all published editions of the Latin text (those of Fabricius, Hilgenfeld, Fritzsche, etc.) go back to one and the same MS, the so-called Codex Sangermanensis (date 822), which omits a large part of the text between 2 Esdras 7:36 and 7:37 Any reader of the English text can see the lack of continuity between these verses. In 1875 Bensly published the missing fragment with an Introduction and critical notes. In 1895 Bensly and James published a critical edition of The Fourth Book of Ezra in Latin, restoring the missing fragment and correcting with the aid of the best-known manuscripts.
(2) Other Versions.
There are Syriac (Peshitta), Ethiopic, Arabic, Armenian and yet other VSS, but all depend on the lost Greek except one of the two extant Arabic translations. The number and variety of versions show that 2 Esdras was widely circulated. By the Greek and Latin Fathers it was quoted as a genuine prophetical work. Its importance in the estimation of the medieval Roman church is vouched for by the fact that it has reached us in a number of wellknown manuscripts of the Scriptures, and that it was added to the authorized Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) as an appendix.
5. Origin of the Book:
Two main views may briefly be noted:
(1) That of Kabisch (Das vierte Buch Esra, 1889) who holds that the editor of the book freely used a goodly number of sources, subtracting, adding and altering to suit his purpose. He gives a list of probable sources. R. H. Charles (Enc Brit, X, 107) is inclined to adopt this analysis.
(2) Gunkel (loc. cit.) maintains and tries to prove that the book is the production of a single writer. Yet he admits that the book contains a large number of inconsistencies which he explains by assuming that the editor made free use of oral and written traditions. The two views do not therefore stand very far apart, for both take for granted that several sources have been used. It is simply a question of more or less.
Wellhausen is probably right in saying that the author of 2 (4) Esdras had before him the Apocrypha of Baruch, written under the impression awakened by the destruction of Jerusalem in 71 A.D.
The opinion of the best modern scholars is that the book was written somewhere in the East in the last decade of the 1st century of our era. This conclusion rests mainly on the most likely interpretation of the vision of the Eagle and the Lion in 2 Esdras 11:1-12:51; but also on the fact that Clement of Alexandria (died 217 A.D.) quotes the Greek of 5:35.
Besides the literature referred to above see Schurer, A Hist of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, II, iii, 93 (Ger. edition 4, III, 315); the articles in HDB (Thackeray) and Encyclopedia Biblica (James); the New Sch-Herz under the word "Pseudepigrapha, Old Testament" (G. Beer), and in the present work under APOCRYPHA and APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE.
T. Witton Davies