Apocalypses: 4 Ezra

Apocalypses

Time Period

85–96 CE, with major redactions at a later time.

Pseudonym

The author identifies himself as Ezra living about a century before the historical Ezra was active. He also identifies himself by the name ‘Salathiel’, a Greek spelling of ‘Shealtiel’. This may be his real name, or a conflation of Ezra with the historical Shealtiel.

In the thirtieth year after the destruction of the city, I was in Babylon—I, Salathiel, who am also called Ezra.

Angelic Guide

Ezra receives the angel Uriel as his guide.

Then the angel that had been sent to me, whose name was Uriel, answered and said to me, ‘Your understanding has utterly failed regarding this world … I have been sent to show you …’

Cosmogony

(n/a)

Primordial Events

(n/a)

Historical Review

The book begins with Ezra praying, surveying the biblical history of Israel.

O sovereign Lord, did you not speak at the beginning when you planted the earth—and that without help—and commanded the dust and it gave you Adam, a lifeless body?

After-the-fact Prophecy

The vision of the eagle goes through the emperors of the first century. He then predicts the arrival of the Messiah during Domitian’s time.

As I watched, one wing on the right side rose up, and it reigned over all the earth. And after a time its reign came to an end, and it disappeared, so that even its place was no longer visible. Then the next wing rose up and reigned, and it continued to reign a long time.

Persecution

The opening chapters are primarily concerned with Jerusalem’s destruction by Rome, a theme that returns periodically.

‘And now, O Lord, these nations, which are reputed to be as nothing, domineer over us and devour us.’

Social Upheaval

There are occasional lists of things that will disrupt society.

There shall be chaos also in many places, fire shall often break out, the wild animals shall roam beyond their haunts, and menstruous women shall bring forth monsters.

Resurrection

God will bring the dead to life for the final judgment, after the Messiah’s four hundred year kingdom.

The earth shall give up those who are asleep in it, and the dust those who rest there in silence; and the chambers shall give up the souls that have been committed to them.

Judgment

The righteous few are granted eternal life, while evildoers are sentenced to eternal torment in Gehenna.

The Most High shall be revealed on the seat of judgement, and compassion shall pass away, and patience shall be withdrawn. Only judgement shall remain, truth shall stand, and faithfulness shall grow strong.

New Creation

At the end of the Messiah’s kingdom the earth will be dead and silent for one week. When this week is finished, the earth will be renewed.

After seven days the world that is not yet awake shall be roused, and that which is corruptible shall perish.

Sources

The majority of 4 Ezra — known as chapters 3–14 of the book 2 Esdras — are thought to come from a single author, though he drew on earlier traditions for his material.

Decades later, revisions to chapters 11–12 were made to add more emperors to the sequence, accommodating for the Messiah’s failure to show up during or shortly after Domitian’s rule.

Chapters 1–2 (called 5 Ezra) were added by a Christian redactor.

Chapters 15–16 (6 Ezra) were later added by another Christian.

Units

3.1–5.19: Dialogue with Uriel. Ezra fasts for seven days.

5.20–6.34: Dialogue with Uriel. Ezra fasts for seven days.

6.35–9.25: Dialogue with Uriel. Ezra eats flowers from a field for seven days.

9.26–10.59: Vision of Zion as a woman. Uriel interprets the vision.

10.60–12.51: Vision of Roman emperors as an eagle. Uriel interprets the vision.

13.1–58: Vision of the Messiah as a man from the sea. Uriel interprets the vision.

14.1–48: Ezra’s final commission.

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