The book of 1 Esdras.
Counted among the apocrypha.
None on site.
Swete LXX (Greek only).
HTML Bible: 1 Esdras
(Latin Vulgate only).
Humanities Text Initiative:
1 Esdras (English only).
Kata Pi LXX: 1 Esdras (Greek and English).
Sacred Texts: 1 Esdras (polyglot).
1 Esdras in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
EJW (Peter Kirby).
1 Esdras and the
apocryphal books in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
1 Esdras at Kata Pi (Oesterly and Robinson).
Introduction to 1 Esdras (David J.A. Clines).
Introduction to 1 Esdras (Ralph W. Klein).
between Nehemiah, Ezra, Chronicles, and Esdras (David C. Hindley; in
The book of 1 Esdras is counted among the apocryphal books
of the Old Testament.
The book is not extant among the Hebrew scriptures, but rather in
the Septuagint, abbreviated LXX.
The titles of the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esdras can be quite
(Also refer to my pages on Ezra,
Peter Kirby (Early Jewish Writings).
Peter Kirby surveys scholars writing on the book of 1 Esdras:
The book today termed 1 Esdras is not in the Jewish, Protestant, or Catholic
canon. But it was included in the Septuagint, in the Eastern Orthodox canon,
in an appendix to the Vulgate, and among the Apocrypha in the King James Version
and Revised Standard Version.
J. Alberto Soggin writes: "This [III Ezra] is the title given to the work
in the Vulgate, in which, as we have seen, Ezra and Nehemiah are called respectively
I and II Ezra; it is more often called I Esdras (sometimes also the Greek Ezra),
following the LXX, in which Ezra and Nehemiah together make up II Esdras. In
the Vulgate it appears after the New Testament and is not canonical in the Catholic
Church. It sets out to give the history of Israel from the passover celebrated
under Josiah in 622-21 to the proclamation of the law under Ezra, and in fact
runs parallel to Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, with some differences of order
and of detail. Ezra 4.7-24 precedes 2.1; Ezra 4.6 and Neh. 1.1-7.5 and 8.1-13.31
are missing; instead, it has the story of the three young men at the court of
Darius. A contest is won by Zerubbabel who, as a reward, receives permission
to rebuild the temple (III Ezra 3.1-5.6, cf. Josephus, Antt. XI, 3.2ff.
= §§33ff.). The Greek of the texts which are parallel to the work
of the Chronicler has remarkable style, whether as a translation or as an original.
It always keeps its independence from the LXX and is much closer to the Hebrew
text; sometimes the translation is very free, but at other times it offers readings
which are superior to the Massoretic text. In other words, it is an extremely
useful work for textual criticism." (Introduction to the Old Testament,
James King West writes: "With the exception of one section, this book
appears to be nothing more than a parallel version of the history which begins
with the Passover of Josiah (622 B.C.) described in II Chronicles 35:1 and continues
through Ezra (except 4:6), including Nehemiah 7:73-8:12a and stopping abruptly
with the story of Ezra's reading of the Law (c. 400 B.C.). Differences in detail
as well as order, however, shows that it is not a reedited version of this material
in the LXX, but a translation of a Hebrew text, of whose relationship to these
books in the Hebrew Canon we cannot be certain. In some respects both the order
and the styles are superior to the parallel history contained in the LXX version
of the canonical books." (Introduction to the Old Testament, p.
Ralph W. Klein writes: "Others, therefore, treat 1 Esdras as a more or
less complete document that has been drawn from the materials now in 1 and 2
Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah. They represent the integrity of the present
book and seek to understand what its author or editor might have wanted to say
by the present arrangement of materials. Tamara Eskenazi, for example, believes
that the author of 1 Esdras wanted to conform the books of Ezra and Nehemiah
to the ideology of the books of Chronicles by giving special emphasis to the
centrality of David, the inclusive characteristics of Israel, the doctrine of
retribution and the need to obey the prophets, and the Temple and its practices.
Anne E. Gardner attempts to relate 1 Esdras as a complete book to the events
and people of the Maccabean crisis. The reinterpretation of the death of Josiah
in 1:23-24 shows that this disaster too was the result of sin and not divine
caprice. The insertion of the story of the three bodyguards was to show that
all the riches and power in the world are of no interest compared to rebuilding
the Temple. The Temple's central importance is also emphasized by setting the
beginning and ending of the book in the Temple, or at least in its vicinity."
(Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 769)
Raymond E. Brown writes: "It appears that I Esdras enjoyed more
popularity than Esdras B [Ezra-Nehemiah] among those who cited the Gk bible.
Josephus used it, and the early Church Fathers seem to have thought of it as
Scripture. It was really Jerome with his love for the Hebr bible who set the
precedent for rejecting I Esdras because it did not conform to Hebr Ezr/Neh.
It contains little that is not in canonical Ezr/Neh except the story in 3:1-5:6,
which tells of a contest among three Jewish pages at the Persian court of Darius
(520 BC). Zerubbabel won: His prize was the permission to lead the Jews back
to Jerusalem. The story in its present form (from ca. 100 BC?) may have
been adapted from a pagan narrative." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary,
vol. 2, p. 542)
Marjorie L. Kimbrough writes (Stories Between the Testaments, pp. 101-102):
The information found only in First Esdras begins in chapter 3. King Darius
gives a banquet for all in his kingdom, and after he has gone to bed, three
young men of the bodyguard hold a contest to determine what one thing is the
strongest. The person giving the wisest answer is to be richly rewarded by
the king. Each contestant writes a statement, seals it, and places it under
the pillow of the king, who along with the three nobles of Persia will judge
which is the wisest statement (3:1-9).
The first answer is wine; the second is the king; and the third answer is
"Women are the strongest, but above all things truth is victor"
(3:12). When the king awakes, he reads the statements and summons a company
of judges and calls the three young men in to explain their answers (3:13-17a).
The first young man explains that wine leads minds astray, causes changes
in behavior neutralizes intelligence, diminishes capacity, and causes loss
of memory (3:17b-24). The second man tells how he believes the king is stronger,
for he rules over others, sends them to war and to work, and takes what they
win or earn. They watch over him while he sleeps and they obey him in all
matters (4:1-12). The third man, Zerubbabel, tells how women give birth to
kings and to those who plant the vineyards that produce the wine. Men cannot
exist without women, and they are willing to give all they possess to be with
a beautiful woman. They will risk their lives for love of a woman, and they
leave their parents and hold to the wives with whom they wish to spend the
remainder of their days on earth (4:13-25). "Many men have lost their
minds because of women, and have become slaves because of them. Many have
perished, or stumbled, or sinned because of women" (4:26-27).
He explains further how women can take the crowns from the heads of kings,
but as strong as they are they cannot compete with truth (4:28-35a). "Truth
is great, and stronger than all things. The whole earth calls upon truth,
and heaven blesses her. All God's works quake and tremble, and with him there
is nothing unrighteous. Wine is unrighteous, the king is unrighteous, women
are unrighteous, and all such things. There is no turth in them and their
unrighteousness they will perish. But truth endures and is strong forever,
and lives and prevails forever and ever" (4:35b-38). When he has finished
speaking, everyone says, "Great is truth, and strongest of all"
Zerubbabel is declared the winner and is promised whatever he asks of the
king. Zerubbabel asks that the king honor his vow to build Jerusalem, return
the holy vessels, and rebuild the temple. King Darius grants him and all who
would go to build Jerusalem safe passage and assistance in building. They
will not have to pay tribute, and offerings will be given to the temple. He
provides land and wages for those who guard the city, and he sends back the
holy vessels. Zerubbabel leaves praising God and thanking the Lord for providing
the wisdom, and they got to build the city, feasting and rejoicing for seven
Daniel J. Harrington writes: "The history of the composition of 1 Esdras
is complicated and uncertain. Most of the contest of the three bodyguards in
chapters 3-4 probably existed separately in Aramaic (or Hebrew), which in turn
may reflect an oral or written Persian original. Little or nothing in the account
is distinctively Jewish until 4:41. The question ('What one thing is the strongest?')
and the first three responses (wine, the king, and women) sound like pagan court
wisdom. Even the addition about truth (4:33-41) to the third answer is not particularly
Jewish or religious until the affirmation 'Blessed be the God of truth' (4:40).
The story only becomes Jewish with the obviously parenthetical identification
of the third bodyguard as Zerubbabel (4:13) and most clearly by Zerubbabel's
request in 4:42-63 that as his reward for winning the contest King Darius should
remember his vow to rebuild the Jerusalem temple. These links to Zerubbabel
and thus to Judaism may have been made before the story's incorporation into
1 Esdras, and thus inspired the author/editor to include it in his narrative.
Or the author/editor may have made the link on his own." (Invitation
to the Apocrypha, pp. 153-154)
David A. deSilva writes: "Determining the date of 1 Esdras is difficult,
since it is primarily interested in reflecting on past history rather than providing
windows into the situation of the author. Determination of date has therefore
rested on an examination of the vocabulary of the book, which appears to have
much in common with the vocabulary of other second-century-B.C.E. Jewish texts
(Goodman 1992: 610; Cook 1913: 5). This has tended to set the composition of
the book sometime in the two centuries before the turn of the era. It was used
by Josephus as the basis of Jewish Antiquities 11.1-158 in preference
to the Septuagint translation of Ezra and Nehemiah, though not exclusively,
and not without some correction of its historical inaccuracies (Bissell 1899:
70; Schürer 1986: 3.2.714; Cook 1913: 5). It must therefore have been composed
prior to the late first century C.E. Egypt has been suggested as a provenance,
given the allusions to unveiled women (4:18), sea travel, and piracy (4:15,
23) (Cook 1913: 5; Bissell 1899: 64) but certainty in this matter lies beyond
our meager evidence." (Introducing the Apocrypha, p. 284)