1 Esdras

By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Apocryphal/Apocalyptic Writings


Why wasn't 1 Esdras included in the biblical canon?


Some people think it is because so much of the material is found in other books, i.e. Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah. That argument pales, however, in comparison with the duplication of such books as Kings and Chronicles, which cover much of the same material (to say nothing of the repetition found in the three synoptic gospels).

Others, however, attribute it to the fact that no Hebrew text has ever been found, leading some to think it was originally written in Greek. This argument has gained acceptance because it is written in very good Greek. It is more than a mere translation like some of the texts of the Septuagint. Whoever wrote 1 Esdras had a good command of the Greek language, translating idioms in a very sophisticated manner, not just word for word. It would also mean that this book was written very late, maybe around 100 BCE, though scholars are quick to assert this is only a guess.

Scholars think that around the first century, this book probably had a greater following than the original books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Josephus (a first-century historian) used this text as source material in writing his Jewish Antiquities. The Church Fathers also quote from it in their writings, referring mostly to the court tale of the three bodyguards – the material that is unique to 1 Esdras. Luther, and other Reformers, followed the decision of Jerome who didn't place much value on the book. It was placed in the Vulgate as part of the appendix. This, no doubt, assured its place in the Apocrypha.

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