1 Esdras (Greek: Ἔσδρας Αʹ), also Greek Esdras, Greek Ezra, or 3 Esdras, is an ancient Greek version of the biblical Book of Ezra in use among the early church, and many modern Christians with varying degrees of canonicity. First Esdras is substantially the same as Masoretic Ezra.
As part of the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, it is regarded as canonical in the churches of the East, but apocryphal in the West. First Esdras is found in Origen’s Hexapla. Greek and related versions of the Bible include both Esdras Αʹ (English title: 1 Esdras) and Esdras Βʹ (Ezra–Nehemiah) in parallel.
First Esdras contains the whole of Ezra with the addition of one section; its verses are numbered differently. Just as Ezra begins with the last two verses of 2 Chronicles, 1 Esdras begins with the last two chapters; this suggests that Chronicles and Esdras may have been read as one book at sometime in the past.
Ezra 4:6 includes a reference to a King Ahasuerus. Etymologicaly, Ahasuerus is the same as Xerxes, who reigned between Darius and Artaxerxes. Because this is anachronistic, some scholars identify it with another king. In 1 Esdras, this reference is replaced with the additional section. Thus, in 1 Esdras, Cyrus the Great, Darius the Great, and Artaxerxes I appear in their historical order.
The additional section begins with a story variously known as the “Darius contest” or “Story of the Youths” which was interpolated into 1 Esdras 3:4 to 4:4. This section forms the core of 1 Esdras with Ezra 5, which together are arranged in a literary chiasm around the celebration in Jerusalem at the exiles’ return. This chiastic core forms 1 Esdras into a complete literary unit, allowing it to stand independently from the book of Nehemiah. Indeed some scholars, such as W. F. Albright and Edwin M. Yamauchi, believe that Nehemiah came back to Jerusalem before Ezra.
|EZRA AND I ESDRAS COMPARED|
|Continuation of Paralipomenon
(i.e., “Things Set Off” from Esdras)
|(II Chr. 35)||(I Esd. 1:1-33)|
|(II Chr. 36)||(I Esd. 1:34-58)|
|Ezr. 1||I Esd. 2:1-14||Cyrus’s edict to rebuild the Temple|
|Ezr. 4:7-24||I Esd. 2:15-30a||Flash forward to Artaxerxes’ reign (prolepsis)|
|Core: Chiasm of Celebration|
|—||I Esd. 2:30b||Inclusio: Work hindered until second year of Darius’s reign|
|—||I Esd. 3||A Feast in the court of Darius with Darius contest|
|—||I Esd. 4||B Darius vows to repatriate the exiles|
|—||I Esd. 5:1-6||X The feast of those who returned to Jerusalem|
|Ezr. 2||I Esd. 5:7-46||B’ List of former exiles who returned|
|Ezr. 3||I Esd. 5:47-65||A’ Feast of Tabernacles|
|Ezr. 4:1-5||I Esd. 5:66-73||Inclusio: Work hindered until second year of Darius’s reign|
|Ezr. 5||I Esd. 6:1-22||In the second year of Darius’s reign|
|Ezr. 6||I Esd. 6:23 — 7||The temple is finished|
|Ezr. 7||I Esd. 8:1-27||In Artaxerxes’ reign|
|Ezr. 8||I Esd. 8:28-67||List of latter exiles who returned|
|Ezr. 9||I Esd. 8:68-90||Repentance from miscegenation|
|Ezr. 10||I Esd. 8:91-9:36||Putting away of foreign wives and children|
|(Neh. 7:73-8:12)||(I Esd. 9:37-55)|
The purpose of the book seems to be the presentation of the dispute among the courtiers, to which details from the other books are added to complete the story. Since there are various discrepancies in the account, most scholars hold that the work was written by more than one author. However, some scholars believe that this work may have been the original, or at least the more authoritative; the variances that are contained in this work are so striking that more research is being conducted. Furthermore, there is disagreement as to what the original language of the work was, Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew. Because of similarities to the vocabulary in the Book of Daniel, it is presumed by some that the authors came from Lower Egypt and some or all may have even had a hand in the translation of Daniel. Assuming this theory is correct, many scholars consider the possibility that one chronicler wrote this book.