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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

The Second Book of Esdras - Introduction

This book is known in the Vulgate as 4 Esdras. Esdras is the Greek form of the name Ezra, to whom the book is attributed. The Second Book of Esdras is distinctive in the Apocrypha as an apocalyptic book. “Apocalypse” means “unveiling”; and apocalyptic literature usually involves the disclosure of previously unknown truths about reality and the future in visions and highly symbolic language. In this literary genre, the author, under the pseudonym of a famous person of the past, describes events that are taking place in the author's own day. In this way consolation is offered to innocent sufferers by showing that what is happening is under God's Providence and that injustices will be reversed at the end of time, which is also described as revealed. For further information, see “Literary Forms of the Bible” (pp. *21–*22 ) and “The Apocalyptic Vision” (p. *181 ).

Second Esdras contains a core of seven visions (chs. 3–14 ). To these were added a prefix (chs. 1–2 ) and a suffix (chs. 15–16 ) which differ markedly in content. The core Jewish section was probably written in Judea in either Hebrew or Aramaic about 100 C.E.; the additions were written in Greek by Christian writers in the second and third centuries respectively.

A small fragment of the Greek has come down to us, but 2 Esdras survives only in ancient translations whose great number and variety reflect the popularity of the book in early centuries.

Echoing Old Testament Job and Habakkuk, the author of 2 Esdras dealt with the problem of human suffering. Though the work is particularly concerned with the fall of Jerusalem and the triumphs of the persecuting Roman Empire, the author also agonizes about the misery of human existence in general, finding some respite only in the conviction of restitution and reward in the world to come.

Roman Catholic tradition excludes 1 and 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh from its canon but accepts the rest of the Apocrypha.

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