the Fourth Week of Lent
Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary Haydock's Catholic Commentary
by George Leo Haydock
THE FIRST BOOK OF ESDRAS.
This Book taketh its name from the writer, who was a holy priest and doctor of the law. He is called by the Hebrews Ezra, (Challoner) and was son, (Tirinus) or rather, unless he lived above 150 years, a descendant of Saraias, 4 Kings xxv. 18. It is thought that he returned first with Zorobabel; and again, at the head of other captives, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, with ample authority. Esdras spent the latter part of his life in exhorting the people, and in explaining to them the law of God. He appeared with great dignity at the dedication of the walls of Jerusalem, 2 Esdras xii. 26, 35. We have four books which bear his name. (Calmet) --- This and the following book of Nehemias, originally made but one in Hebrew, (St. Jerome, &c.) as the transactions of both those great men are recorded. The third and fourth are not in Hebrew nor received into the canon of the Holy Scriptures, though the Greek Church hold the third as canonical, and place it first; (Worthington) and Genebrard would assert that both ought to be received, as they were by several Fathers. But they contain many thing which appear to be erroneous, and have been rejected by others of great authority, and particularly by St. Jerome. The third book seems to have been written very early, by some Hellenist Jew, who was desirous of embellishing the history of Zorobabel; and the fourth was probably composed by some person of the same nation, who had been converted to Christianity, before the end of the second century; and who injudiciously attempted to convert his brethren, by assuming the name of a man who was so much respected. Many things have been falsely attributed to Esdras, on the same account. It is said that he invented the Masora; restored the Scriptures, which had been lost; fixed the canon of twenty-two books; substituted the Chaldaic characters instead of the ancient Hebrew, Samaritan, or Phœnician. But though Esdras might sanction the latter, now become common, the characters might vary insensibly, (Bianconi; Kennicott, Dis. ii.) as those of other languages have done, (Haydock) and the sacred books never perished wholly; nor could the canon be determined in the time of Esdras. (Calmet) --- As for the Masoretic observations and points, they are too modern an invention. (Elias Levita; Capel.; Houbigant, &c.) --- What we know more positively of Esdras, is, (Worthington) that he was empowered by Artaxerxes to bring back the Jews, and that he acted with great zeal. (Haydock) --- This book contains the transactions of 82 years, till the year of the world 3550. The letter of Reum, and the king’s answer, (chap. iv. 7., till chap. vi. 19., and well as chap. vii. 12, 27.) are in Chaldean; the rest of the work is in Hebrew. (Calmet) --- We may discover various mysteries concealed under the literal sense of this and the following book. (St. Jerome, ep. ad Paulin.) (Worthington) --- Esdras is supposed by this holy doctor, as well as by some of the Rabbins, &c., to have been the same person with the prophet Malachy[Malachias]; (Button) and several reasons seems to support this conjecture, though it must still remain very uncertain. (Calmet) --- Some think that (Haydock) Esdras wrote only the four last chapters, and the author of Paralipomenon the six preceding ones. (Du Hamel) --- But it is most probable that he compiled both from authentic documents. (Haydock) --- Some few additions may have been inserted since, by divine authority, 2 Esdras xii. 11, 22. (Tirinus)