2 Esdras on the Ages

While many are preoccupied with the question of whether certain extrabiblical Ancient Near Eastern works are “scripture”, I’m more concerned with the question of whether they are true.  Many of these were documents that were well-known to the apostles and prophets of the First Century, and if we want to understand the Bible, we need to understand the culture of their day.

I add to the pile of evidence, therefore, the following passages from 2 Esdras (2 Ezra) concerning when the ages were to change over. I hope to return to this article later to add some commentary, as well as some cross references to certain Bible passages.

When the “Shepherd” Comes

2 Esdras 2:33. I, Ezra, received a command from the Lord on Mount Horeb to go to Israel. When I came to them they rejected me and refused the Lord’s commandment. 34. Therefore I say to you, O nations that hear and understand, “Wait for your shepherd; he will give you everlasting rest, because he who will come at the end of the age is close at hand.  35. Be ready for the rewards of the kingdom, because perpetual light will shine on you forevermore. 36. Flee from the shadow of this age, receive the joy of your glory; I publicly call on my savior to witness. {Other ancient authorities read [I testify that my savior has been commissioned by the Lord]} 37. Receive what the Lord has entrusted to you and be joyful, giving thanks to him who has called you to the celestial kingdoms. 38. Rise, stand erect and see the number of those who have been sealed at the feast of the Lord. 39. Those who have departed from the shadow of this age have received glorious garments from the Lord. 40. Take again your full number, O Zion, and close the list of your people who are clothed in white, who have fulfilled the law of the Lord. 41. The number of your children, whom you desired, is now complete; implore the Lord’s authority that your people, who have been called from the beginning, may be made holy.”

Jacob and Esau

2 Esdras 6:7. I answered and said, “What will be the dividing of the times? Or when will be the end of the first age and the beginning of the age that follows?” 8. He said to me, “From Abraham to Isaac, {Other ancient authorities read [to Abraham]} because from him were born Jacob and Esau, for Jacob’s hand held Esau’s heel from the beginning. 9. Now Esau is the end of this age, and Jacob is the beginning of the age that follows. 10. The beginning of a person is the hand, and the end of a person is the heel; {Syr: Meaning of Lat uncertain} seek for nothing else, Ezra, between the heel and the hand, Ezra!”

Destruction of Jerusalem

Compare the following to Jesus’ sayings about the destruction of Jerusalem.

2 Esdras 6:20. When the seal is placed upon the age that is about to pass away, then I will show these signs: the books shall be opened before the face of the firmament, and all shall see my judgment {Syr: Lat lacks [my judgment]} together. 21. Children a year old shall speak with their voices, and pregnant women shall give birth to premature children at three and four months, and these shall live and leap about. 22. Sown places shall suddenly appear unsown, and full storehouses shall suddenly be found to be empty; 23. the trumpet shall sound aloud, and when all hear it, they shall suddenly be terrified. 24. At that time friends shall make war on friends like enemies, the earth and those who inhabit it shall be terrified, and the springs of the fountains shall stand still, so that for three hours they shall not flow. 25. “It shall be that whoever remains after all that I have foretold to you shall be saved and shall see my salvation and the end of my world. 26. And they shall see those who were taken up, who from their birth have not tasted death; and the heart of the earth’s {Syr Compare Ethiop Arab 1 Arm: Lat lacks [earth’s]} inhabitants shall be changed and converted to a different spirit. 27. For evil shall be blotted out, and deceit shall be quenched; 28. faithfulness shall flourish, and corruption shall be overcome, and the truth, which has been so long without fruit, shall be revealed.”

At the Day of Judgment

2 Esdras 7:113 But the day of judgment will be the end of this age and the beginning {Syr Ethiop: Lat lacks [the beginning]} of the immortal age to come, in which corruption has passed away, 114. sinful indulgence has come to an end, unbelief has been cut off, and righteousness has increased and truth has appeared. 115. Therefore no one will then be able to have mercy on someone who has been condemned in the judgment, or to harm {Syr Ethiop: Lat [overwhelm]} someone who is victorious.”

First Age Predated Humankind

2 Esdras 9:18. For there was a time in this age when I was preparing for those who now exist, before the world was made for them to live in, and no one opposed me then, for no one existed; 19. but now those who have been created in this world, which is supplied both with an unfailing table and an inexhaustible pasture, {Cn: Lat [law]} have become corrupt in their ways. 20. So I considered my world, and saw that it was lost. I saw that my earth was in peril because of the devices of those who {Cn: Lat [devices that]} had come into it.

12 Parts to the Age

2 Esdras 14:10. The age has lost its youth, and the times begin to grow old.  11. For the age is divided into twelve parts, and nine of its parts have already passed, 12. as well as half of the tenth part; so two of its parts remain, besides half of the tenth part.


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