Page images





p. 359-365.

The apocryphal production, called the Second Book of Esdras, or Ezra, formerly existed only in the Latin Vulgate, and in an Arabic version; until it was translated by Dr. Laurence, from the Ethiopic, and published in 1820. There is a singular statement in that book, concerning the subsequent history of the ten tribes, after their absportation by Shalmanezer, into Upper Asia. The number of these tribes is represented in the Ethiopic version as nine a, in the Vulgate as ten b: but both agree further in saying that, being carried beyond the Euphrates, into another country, they resolved to retire into some quarter of the world before uninhabited, and there keep their law, which they had not observed in their own land : that, accordingly, they crossed the Euphrates, which was miraculously divided to give them a passage, and went a year and an half's journey into a region, which the Ethiopic calls Azaph, and the Vulgate Arsareth, or as it is in the margin, Ararath : where they ever after continued, until the time of the end was approaching. At this time, the same book speaks of their being restored to their own country, and of their being brought back thither miraculously over the flood again, as they had been taken across it c.

a Ch. xiii. 42.

b Ch. xiii. 40.

Before this restitution, and as the direct preliminary to it, it describes also in a very significant manner, the termination of a contest, in which the Son of God himself was previously engaged, on the one hand, and the infidel or antichristian powers, represented as all the nations of the world besides, on the other; the latter being overwhelmed and destroyed by one act of omnipotent energy, on the part of the former; and the scene of his triumph over them being mount Sion.

The author of this book, then, entertained the same expectation as the rest of the early Christians, that an infidel or antichristian contest would precede the coming of Christ to the end of the world ; the locality of which would be Judæa in general, and mount Sion in particular.

It appears too, from other parts of the work, which precede this closing description, if they are but consistent with it—that he expected a reign also of the Son of God upon earth, the visible limits of which would be the boundaries of the Holy Land; and the subjects admitted to partake of it, be either the Jews exclusively, or certainly none but believing Christians among the Gentiles, distinct from them. The former I consider to be his real opinion ; for

d Ch. xiii. 1-15.

c Ch, xiii. 49–52. 17-19: Eth. Vers. 33–41. VOL. V. PART II.


he invariably assumes, and reasons upon the assumption, that the world was created for the Jews, and for them alone; that all besides were created in vain; were regarded in comparison of the Jews, as so many nonentities in the scale of being; and as utterly worthless and insignificant, should be left by their Creator to perish, as though they had never been e

The fact of this reign is supposed to come in between the destruction of the Roman empire, and the general judgmentf: and yet to be preceded by a judgment of some kind or other itself. And we may collect from iv. 28, that this judgment, or these judgments, in the opinion of the Pseudo-Esdras, would take up three years.

“ The earth shall be terrified with those who dwell

upon it, and the springs of water shall stand still “ without flowing for three years.

But the Vulgate, vi. 24, has the latter part of this verse ; “ And in three hours they shall not rise.”

That he was well aware of the futurity of a general judgment, as“ the end of the present world, " and the beginning of that which is to come, where “ mortality should cease and immortality commence,' appears plainly from vii. 12: and from a still more peculiar notion, which is, that after the termination of the reign of Messiah with the chosen few, upon earth, both he, and all before alive, should die, and the world return for seven days to a state of primitive silence; until its awakening, followed by the general resurrection-the general judgment—and the immutable state of happiness or misery through

e See ch. iv. 63. 66 ; v. 10; and a variety of other passages. f Ch. xii. 36-42. & Ch. xiii. 41; iv. 22. 29.

eternity: which general judgment the author was further of opinion should be transacted in one day, but a day equal in length to seven yearsh.

Before all this, however, we have clear intimations of a revelation of Messiah in person; of the raising up of others, to partake of his glory, or of that of God, with him (which is the resurrection of the just, as such); of a change of the hearts and dispositions of the inhabitants of the earth; of the extinction of evil, and the triumph of faith and truth; and of other like effects, which a millenarian can suppose to hold good only of such a dispensation as his millenniumi.

That Judæa is the appointed scene of all this æconomy of happiness, and Judæa strictly limited, may be plainly inferred from ix. 8, 9. 14: and that there is a city, the New Jerusalem, as its capital, appears likewise from the vision of the woman to Esdras, and her sudden transformation into a city, explained by the angel, who converses with him, accordinglyk. Besides which, it is also observable that the author believed in the notion, peculiar to the Jews, concerning the creation of the two monsters, Behemoth and Leviathan; and their destruction, or rather destination, to be " preserved as food for those who may want them;" that is, as the notion, above mentioned, supposed m; for the supper of the faithful in Messiah's kingdom. There is this difference, however, between our author's opinion on this subject, and the rabbinical tradition, that he supposes both


h Ch. v. 30-yi. 16. Ch. v. 26–29; iv. 29, 31, 32. Cf. viii. 60. 62. 64. 70, 71; iii. 10. k Cf. ix. 38; x. 40, 41. 55–70. Cf. ij. 4. 1.Chap. iv. 56–60. m Dr. Laurence's General Remarks, p. 308.

monsters to be reserved for the purpose in ques. tion"; the conceit of the rabbis only Leviathan.

The testimony of this book, then, like that of the other apocryphal productions considered above, is favourable, in general, to the opinions of the millenarians. I say in general; and no one, I hope, will be so unfair as to infer from this mere general coincidence between us, that its particular notions are the same with ours. The reader may perhaps desire to know somewhat of the probable date of its composition ; upon which depends, in a great measure, the value of its testimony, general as it is. The learned translator thinks it was written between B. C. 28 and B. C. 25 °: in which case it was earlier than the Christian era. But there are many passages in it, which seem to me strongly to imply that the author must have been acquainted with the books of the New Testament; and therefore wrote after the Christian era, at least. For example, I, would desire the reader to compare the following parts of the Ethiopic version, with the corresponding ones, produced from the New Testament as parallel to them; and then say, if the resemblance between them is not sufficiently striking to justify the inference that the author of the former knew something of the latter. Ch. ii. 36—40: Parable of the Tares in St. Matt. xiii. 24-30—ii. 44, 45: Rev. vi. 10, 11-iii. 1—20: Prophecy on the Mount, especially iii. 3. 15, and Matt. xxiv. 12-iii. 2: Luke xviii. 8

n In this respect, the opinions of the Pseudo-Esdras agreed with those of the Pseudo-Enoch. See Dr. Laurence's Liber Enoch (second edition) chapter lviii. 7-14.

o General Remarks, 317.

« PreviousContinue »