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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

2 Esdras 1–2 (= 5 Ezra).

1.

As we have seen, these two chapters are not attested in any of the oriental versions which we have in abundance for 4 Ezra. They are found only in nine Latin manuscripts (eight of which also contain the text of 4 Ezra). These Latin manuscripts clearly divide into two main recensions which have been named the Spanish and French Recensions (Bensley 1895: xxi–xxii, xliv–lxxviii). It is unfortunate that the RSV and NRSV translations of 5 Ezra follow the manuscripts of the French recension since Bergren (1990 ) has confirmed James's view (Bensley 1895 ) that the readings of the Spanish recension (mostly confined to marginal notes in the NRSV) are almost always superior. See also Kraft (1986 ). Readers interested in a text closer to the original would be better to follow Bergren's Eng. translation (1990: 401–5).

2.

The general scholarly consensus is that 5 Ezra dates from about the middle of the second century CE and is a Christian work (albeit from the hands of a Jewish Christian). Stanton (1977: 80) has argued that it represents a ‘continuation into the second century of Matthean Christianity’ and offers a Christian perspective on the recent cataclysmic outcome of the Bar Kochba revolt (132–5 CE). This view is strongly contested by O'Neill (1991 ) who argues that 5 Ezra is an originally Jewish work, probably of the first century CE, which has suffered interpolations and corruptions at the hand of Christian scribes. As for the original language of these chapters, Bergren (1990: 22), who has studied this at great length, is cautious in his conclusions: ‘5 Ezra could have been written either in Greek or Latin (with the former option being slightly preferable)’ but ‘a Semitic original (at least for parts of the book) also cannot be excluded.’

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