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Bremmer, Jan N., Hirschberger, Veronika, u. Tobias Nicklas [Eds.]


Figures of Ezra.


Leuven: Peeters Publishers 2018. XIV, 300 S. = Studies on Early Christian Apocrypha, 13. Kart. EUR 72,00. ISBN 978-90-429-3530-3.


Gerbern S. Oegema

This is an important collection of essays on Ezra, one of the most important figures in Jewish and Christian apocryphal literature, and a timely and substantial contribution to scholarship as well, as during the past decades few comparable studies have appeared. Apart from the many important and fascinating essays, the book also features an updated bibliography at the end of it and offers the first German translation of the newly discovered longer version of the Vision of Ezra. It is the 13th volume in the very successful new series »Studies on Early Christian Apocrypha«, edited by the very productive Jan Bremmer and Tobias Nicklas.
The collection of essays itself goes back to papers read at a con-ference on the figure of Ezra in Regensburg in 2015 and consists of 14 contributions. In detail, these articles are the following. I. G. Stemberger, »Ezra as a New Moses in Rabbinic Tradition« (1 ff.), explains how Ezra, while hardly mentioned during the Second Temple Period, after the destruction of the Second Temple in Rabbinic literature become a kind of new Moses and sometimes even a new Joshua. II. M. Henze, »Dimensions of Time in Jewish Apocalyptic Thought: The Case of 4 Ezra« (13 ff.), explains how the apocalyptic dimensions of time as dualistic and periodized are quite complex in 4th Ezra but at the same time also teach us a more about apocalyptic concepts of time, age, period and end. III. L. Arcari, »Future Agents of 4Ezra in Light of First and Second Century Jewish Visionary Experiences« (35 ff.), analyzes 4th Ezra against the background of concrete visionary experiences and real contacts with the other world, which is quite different from studying apocalyptic writings as a literary genre, and offers some excellent new insights. IV. I. Czachesz, »Visionary Practices in the Fourth Book of Ezra« (51 ff.), con-tinues with the same topic and offers an equally fascinating study of 4th Ezra as containing accounts of real religious experiences. The author explains that these religious experiences have to be studied in their cultural context and that they involve reflections about the nature of remembering, as they are often only accessible through the ancient subject’s self-report. As a whole the religious ex-periences are therefore intertwined with beliefs, practices, memory and social factors, so that also the visions in 4th Ezra can be studied accordingly. V. I. Dorfmann-Lazarev, »The Messiah Hidden in the Depths of the Sea: Reminiscences of 4Ezra in the Armenian Script of the Lord’s Infancy« (79 ff.), studies the fifth and sixth vision in 4th Ezra in the Armenian version of the Lord’s Infancy, which shows important differences with the Syrian version. The author contributes these differences to influences from the Armenian context, in which at the same time the infancy traditions became a model for later hagiographic accounts. VI. J. Schröter & L. Milbach, »The Composition of ›2Esdras‹. Reflections on the Relationship of 4, 5 and 6 Ezra with Special Regard to the Use of Female Image« (97 ff.). On the one hand this article deals with the quite different manuscript tradition of 4th Ezra compared to that of 5th and 6th Ezra. The latter were written in addition to the former during the 2nd or 3rd centuries CE in quite different contexts than 4th Ezra, after which they were all three together compiled as part of one book in the Latin tradition in the 5th century, and only there. The second part of the article studies the female imagery of 4th, 5th and 6th Ezra as an ensemble, though in each book it has different connotations and func-tions, while at the same time functioning as a mind of anchor motif for all three books. In the conclusion both lines of thought are connected. Whereas 4th and 6th Ezra are more closely linked to each other than 4th and 5th Ezra, they may have been attached to each other because of both their literary character and these common traditions and motifs. VII. V. Hirschberger & T. Nicklas, »5 Ezra — Prophetic or Apocalyptic Writing?« (116 ff.), raise the intriguing question, which can only be answered once one has defined both terms, whether 5th Ezra is apocalyptic or prophetic. For »apoca-lypse« they use the definition of John J. Collins et al. (Semeia 14) and conclude that only at the end 5th Ezra shows some features of apocalyptic literature, but that as a whole the booklet has more the character of a prophetic writing. This makes sense in the Christian context, in which the book was written, as in that setting it was necessary to prove that the Scriptures and especially the Prophets are to be interpreted in light of the coming of Christ. VIII. L. Walt, »As If Not. Dissimulation Strategies from Paul to the Sixth Book of Ezra« (131 ff.). This article uses Jonathan Z. Smith’s thoughts on Wisdom and Apocalypticism as a starting point for a fresh look at 6th Ezra 16:40–45, namely whether these verses reflect the dissimulation of wisdom ideas radicalized by a religious persecution. The author concludes that 6th Ezra fits best in the period 235 to 285 CE of the Roman soldier emperors, in which its author especially reflects on 1 Corinthians and Revelation to reassure its readers to be patient, namely as a kind of »scribal response to a dramatic state of social insecurity«. IX. J. N. Bremmer, »The Long Latin Version of the Vision of Ezra: Date, Place and Tour of Hell« (162 ff.). The author concludes on the basis of a careful study of the longer Latin Vision of Ezra that the book shows influences of both Orphic and Enochic traditions. It was probably written in Alexandria in the middle of the 6th century CE, and belongs to the genre of »tours of hell«, of which the Apocalypse of Peter is the oldest example. X. M. Henning, »Substitutes in Hell: Schemes of Atonement in the Ezra Apocalypses« (185 ff.). This is a more theological and soteriological study of atonement in 4th Ezra within the context of a very diverse early Christian martyrology during the first centuries CE and concludes that: »While none of the Ezra Apocalypses sets out to construct a soteriological schema, these texts do reflect theologically on sin, punishment and salvation.« XI. J. Dochhorn, »The Apocalypse of Sedrach« (205 ff.). The author offers an important study of the much neglected Apocalypse of Sedrach, analyzing its contents, trying to establish its historical setting, as well as showing how it is to be related to the figure of Ezra. XII. F. Mirguet, »They Visited Heaven and Refused to Die: Anxieties of Discontinuity in the Testament of Abraham and in Ezra Traditions« (226 ff.). The author offers a comparative study of the Testament of Abraham, the Greek Apocalypse of Ezra, the Latin Vision of Ezra and the Apocalypse of Sedrach and looks at them through the lens of their common motif of the patriarch Abraham, who was not willing to die and let his soul depart from his body. All texts express some form of anxiety about the fate of the soul after death and the difficulty of conceiving this without a body; at the same time, as texts, they do represent also some form of continuity after the death of the patriarch. XIII. H. Schmitt, in Zusammenarbeit mit J. Stettner, »Die lateinische Vision des Esra« (249 ff.). Finally, as the only contribution in German, a German translation of the Latin Vision of Ezra from lines 1 to 117. XIV. V. Hirschberger & T. Nicklas, »Bibliography of Extra-Canonical Ezra Material« (280 ff.). A very valuable and updated bibliography, also intended for further research. At the end the book concludes with an Index of Names, Subject and Passages.
All in all, this is a very important and timely collection of essays offering fresh approaches to the study of the figure of Ezra in dif-ferent writings attributed to him by leading scholars in the field. It offers a caleidoscope from research into the religious experience behind the book to analyses of its literary character and its relation to 5th and 6th Ezra to the Latin Vision of Ezra.