This constitutes the central portion (chapters 3-14) of the book of 2 Esdras in the Apocrypha of the Bible (Esdras is the Greek equivalent of Ezra).
The language of the book often focuses on 'Ezra' himself, his own failings and doubts, which are expressed in terms similar to those used by the desperate donkey at the start of Book 11 (2 Esdras 3,1-3: 'I was troubled as I lay on my bed, and my thoughts welled up in my heart, because I saw the desolation of Zion and the wealth of those who lived in Babylon.
Peter Hayman's commentary on 2 Esdras
(=4,5 and 6 Ezra) argues that the book(s) had little impact on "mainstream," i.e., pre-Rabbinic, Judaism, but apparently played a role among the pre-Christian groups that preserved it.
THIS ERUDITE TOUR DE FORCE is something more than a simple bibliographical examination of 2 Esdras, it is also an important contribution to the intellectual history of the period.
Hamilton sets out to examine the reception and use of 2 Esdras chronologically; he does so more or less by century.
Biblical literature alone would have provided medieval authors with anything but a consistent model since the biblical image of the cup at times represents the suffering brought about by divine judgement, and at others the blessings, grace, and comfort granted by God.(14) In Ezekiel 23:31-4 the fate of Samaria is described as a cup of horror and desolation from which Jerusalem must drink; but in Psalm 22: 5 the psalmist's cup overflows with divine blessings, and in 2 Esdras
14: 39-40 the Lord gives Ezra a cup of fire-coloured liquid that causes his heart to pour forth understanding and his breast to fill with wisdom.
Thus, today, in the Pseudepigraphical text 4 Ezra (a version of which appears in the Catholic Bible as 2 Esdras
), one finds the most elaborate description of Jewish afterlife teachings from the first century C.E.(12) Originally written in Hebrew, this text reflects certain streams of philosophical beliefs of the Jewish world in Late Antiquity, and is one of many such texts that were rejected by the Rabbis in canonizing the Torah.
In his delightful book on the reception history of 2 Esdras (4 Ezra), Aiastair Hamilton dedicates one twenty-eight-page chapter to the Anabaptist reception of 4 Ezra.
Alastair Hamilton offers some clues about this in his treatment of the reception history of 2 Esdras among the Anabaptists.
The biblical strand was found in 2 Esdras
6:42, which asserted that the earth was six parts land and one part water, relating the survival of the ocean to God's rest on the seventh day.
While the books covered are largely the same, deSilva adds 3 and 4 Maccabees and 4 Ezra (2 Esdras
) while Kaiser adds 1 Enoch and the Psalms of Solomon.
The three names mentioned above all refer, I believe, to the same person, Esdras or Ezra, the presumed author and protagonist of the Jewish apocalyptic book 2 Esdras
(4 Esdras in the Catholic Bible).
Theodore Bergren (C.3:102-127), in as clear and persuasive an account as one is likely to find, examines the transmission history of the composite work called 4 Ezra or 2 Esdras
, as found among the "Apocrypha" in most Bibles.
Most of the students understood the biblical text in the same way that their Muslim friends understood the Qur'an: the Bible was the result of a divine dictation of the inerrant word of God (see 2 Esdras
[4 Ezra] 14:38-44).