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The Apocryphal Old Testament Collection of the most important non-canonical Old Testament books designed for general use.

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Text Commentary

1Esdras prayed to the Lord, saying, Give me, Lord, faith so that I may not fear when I see the judgements of the sinners. 2And seven angels of Tartarus were given him, who carried him down 1 Lit. ‘over’: L ‘down in’. seventy steps into the nether regions. 3And he saw the fiery gates; and in these gates he saw two lions lying, from whose mouths and nostrils and eyes fierce tongues of flame protruded. 4And strong men were coming and passed through the flame; and it did not touch them. 5And Esdras said, Who are those who walk through the flame with such confidence? 2 L ‘who walk with such great joy’. 6The angels said to him, Those are the righteous 7whose fame has reached to heaven, those who have done great works of mercy, who have clothed the naked, and whose thoughts and inclinations have been always good. 3 Lit. ‘and desired a good desire’. 8And others were coming, and tried to go in through the gates; and the lions 4 All three MSS read ‘dogs’. mauled them, and the fire burned them. 9,10And Esdras said, Who are those? The angels said, Those are they who denied the Lord, and on the Lord's Day 5 LH add ‘before Mass’. sinned with women. 11And Esdras said, Lord, spare the sinners.

12And they led him a further fifty steps lower down; and he saw there men standing and undergoing punishment. 13Some angels were piling fire upon them in front, and others were beating them with fiery whips. 14And the earth was crying out, saying, Beat them, and do not spare them, because it was upon me that they did their wicked deed. 15And Esdras said, Who are those who are daily punished so severely? 16The angels said, Those are they who had intercourse with married women. 17The married women are women who adorned themselves, not for their own husbands, but to please others (and so yielded to their evil inclinations). 6 Lit. ‘desiring an evil desire’. 18And Esdras said, Lord, spare the sinners.

19And again they took him and set him down 7 L ‘And they took me down and set me down’. at the south; and he saw a fire, and poor people hanging up, both men 8 V om. and women, and 9 LH add ‘four’. angels were beating them with fiery cudgels. 20And Esdras said, 10 V adds ‘Lord, spare the sinners’ – obviously in error. Who are those? 21And the angels said, These (sic) are they who had intercourse with their mothers, and yielded to their evil inclinations. 11 Lit. ‘desiring an evil desire’. 22And Esdras said, Lord, spare the sinners.

23And they led him down further into the nether regions; 12 So VH: L specifies that he was taken down what would seem to be an impossible number of steps (‘II quingentos’). and he saw a caldron of burning 13 V om. ‘burning’. sulphur and pitch, and the level of it rose and fell like a wave of the sea. 24And some righteous were coming, and they were walking in the middle of it, over the waves of fire, praising the name of the Lord, just as if they were walking over dew or cool water. 25And Esdras said, Who are those? The angels said, 26Those are they who to their profit daily made confession in the presence of God and of his holy priests, by doing works of mercy, and by resisting sins. 14 L ‘Those are they who did many works of mercy and clothed the naked’. 27And some sinners came, wanting to cross over, and angels of Tartarus came and plunged them into the burning fire. 28And they cried out from the fire, saying, Lord, have mercy on us; but 15 Lit. ‘and’. he showed them 16 V om. ‘them’. no mercy. 29 Their voices could be heard, but they themselves could not be seen 17 Lit. ‘A voice was heard and no flesh was seen’. because of the fire and torment. 30,31And Esdras said, Who are those? The angels said, Those were covetous men and thieves 18 Or ‘slanderers’ (so VH, Lat ‘detractores’): L ‘robbers’ (Lat ‘raptores’). all their days: no stranger did they take in, no work of mercy did they do. 32They took for themselves unjustly what belonged to others: they followed their evil inclinations; 19 Lit. ‘they had (L ‘desired’) an evil desire’. and that is why they are in torments. 33And Esdras said, Lord, spare the sinners.

34And he walked on further, and he saw in a dark place the worm that does not die 20 Lit. ‘the immortal worm’ (cp. Isa. lxvi. 24; Mark ix. 48 ). – its size he could not measure. 35And in front of its mouth were standing many sinners; and when it drew in a breath they were sucked into its mouth 21 Lit. ‘they entered its mouth’. like flies, but when it breathed out they all came out again with a different colour. 36And Esdras said, Who are those? And the angels said, Those were full of every evil, and they passed over without confession and penance. 22 So VH: L om. ‘and they…penance’. Then LH add ‘And he walked on further still and saw a fiery river and a great bridge over it. And some righteous men came and crossed over it with joy and exultation. And some sinners came, and the bridge was reduced to the thinnest thread. And they fell into the river confessing their sins, and saying, We have done every evil thing there is to do, and that is why we are being punished in this way. And they were begging for mercy; but no mercy was granted them’.

37And he saw 23 So V: LH ‘And he walked on further and saw’. a man sitting on a fiery throne, and from the fire his servants ministered to him on every side, and his counsellors stood round about him in the fire. 38And Esdras said, Who is that? And the angels said, That man was a king for many years, Herod by name, who in Bethlehem of Judah killed 24 V om. young children because of the Lord. 39And Esdras said, Lord, thou hast pronounced a proper judgement.

40And he walked on further and saw men bound, and angels of Tartarus were stabbing them in the eyes with thorns. 41And Esdras said, Who are those? The angels said, Those who showed the lost wrong ways. 42Esdras said, Lord, spare the sinners.

43And he saw girls coming with shackles weighing five hundred pounds towards the west. 44And Esdras said, Who are those? And the angels said, Those are the girls who violated their virginity before their marriages.

45And he saw 25 V om. ‘he saw’. a collection of old men lying on the ground, and over them was being poured molten iron and lead; and he said, Who are those? 46The angels said, Those are the doctors of the law who confused baptism and the law of the Lord, because they used to teach with words only and not follow up their words with deeds; 26 Lit. ‘were not filling out in deed’. and they are judged in this way. 47And Esdras said, Lord, spare the sinners.

48And he saw over against the setting of the sun a smelting-furnace of enormous size burning with fire, into which were being thrown many kings and princes of this world. 49And many thousands of the poor were accusing them and saying, Those are the ones who made use of their power to oppress us, and turned free men 27 Or ‘turned our children’. into slaves.

50And he saw another furnace burning with pitch and sulphur, into which were being thrown sons who had laid hands upon their parents, and done them injury with their mouth. 28 LH add ‘And into it were also being thrown those who had denied God and had not paid their hired servants the wages due to them’.

51And in a very dark place he saw another furnace burning, into which many women were being thrown; and he said, Who are those? 52The angels said, Those are they who conceived 29 Lit. ‘had’. children in adultery and killed them. 53And the little ones themselves were accusing them, saying, Lord, the souls thou gavest us, they have destroyed. 30 LH add ‘And he saw other women hanging in the fire, and serpents sucking their breasts’. 54And he said, Who are those? The angels said, Those are the women who killed their children. 31 LH add ‘And did not give their breasts to others who were orphans’. 55And Esdras said, Lord, spare the sinners.

56Then came Michael and Gabriel and said to him, Come to heaven. 32 L adds ‘that we may celebrate the Pasch’. 57And Esdras said, As my Lord lives, I will not come before I see all the judgements of the sinners. 33 LH add ‘And he saw further some men who were being mauled by wild beasts. And he said, Who are those? And the angels said, Those are men who altered boundary-marks and gave false witness. And he said, Lord, spare the sinners’.

58And they led him down into the nether regions a further fourteen steps. And he saw lions and little dogs 34 LH ‘lions and camels’. lying round a flame of fire; and the righteous were passing through them and crossing over into Paradise. 59And he saw many thousands of the righteous; and their dwellings were very splendid and enduring. 35 LH add ‘Light is there, and joy, and prosperity. And every day they have manna from heaven, because they did many deeds of mercy while on earth. And there are many there who did not do them, because they had not the wherewithal (L + ‘they were inhibited by their small means’). Nevertheless they enjoy a similar rest because of the goodwill they had. And so they praise the Lord our God, who has always loved righteousness’.

60And after he had seen these things he was taken up into heaven; 36 L specifies that Esdras was taken up into the seventh heaven. and a host of angels came and said to him, Intercede with the Lord for the sinners. And they set him down in the Lord's presence.

61And he said, Lord, spare the sinners. And the Lord said, Esdras, let them receive what is due to them from the record of their deeds. 62And Esdras said, Lord, thou hast dealt more leniently with the animals than with us: they feed on grass and render thee no praises: they die and have no sin; but us thou dost torment both when living and when dead. 63And the Lord said, Esdras, I fashioned man in my own image, and I commanded them that they should not sin, and they did sin: that is why they are in torments. 64But the elect 37 Lit. ‘And those who are chosen’. will go to eternal rest by virtue of confession and penance 38 So VH: L ‘by virtue of penance and prayer and confession’. and the abundance of their works of mercy. 65And Esdras said, Lord, what is it that the righteous do so that they escape judgement? 66And the Lord said to him, The slave who has done well for his lord will receive his freedom: so also the righteous the kingdom of heaven. Amen.

Notes:

1 Lit. ‘over’: L ‘down in’.

2 L ‘who walk with such great joy’.

3 Lit. ‘and desired a good desire’.

4 All three MSS read ‘dogs’.

5 LH add ‘before Mass’.

6 Lit. ‘desiring an evil desire’.

7 L ‘And they took me down and set me down’.

8 V om.

9 LH add ‘four’.

10 V adds ‘Lord, spare the sinners’ – obviously in error.

11 Lit. ‘desiring an evil desire’.

12 So VH: L specifies that he was taken down what would seem to be an impossible number of steps (‘II quingentos’).

13 V om. ‘burning’.

14 L ‘Those are they who did many works of mercy and clothed the naked’.

15 Lit. ‘and’.

16 V om. ‘them’.

17 Lit. ‘A voice was heard and no flesh was seen’.

18 Or ‘slanderers’ (so VH, Lat ‘detractores’): L ‘robbers’ (Lat ‘raptores’).

19 Lit. ‘they had (L ‘desired’) an evil desire’.

20 Lit. ‘the immortal worm’ (cp. Isa. lxvi. 24; Mark ix. 48 ).

21 Lit. ‘they entered its mouth’.

22 So VH: L om. ‘and they…penance’. Then LH add ‘And he walked on further still and saw a fiery river and a great bridge over it. And some righteous men came and crossed over it with joy and exultation. And some sinners came, and the bridge was reduced to the thinnest thread. And they fell into the river confessing their sins, and saying, We have done every evil thing there is to do, and that is why we are being punished in this way. And they were begging for mercy; but no mercy was granted them’.

23 So V: LH ‘And he walked on further and saw’.

24 V om.

25 V om. ‘he saw’.

26 Lit. ‘were not filling out in deed’.

27 Or ‘turned our children’.

28 LH add ‘And into it were also being thrown those who had denied God and had not paid their hired servants the wages due to them’.

29 Lit. ‘had’.

30 LH add ‘And he saw other women hanging in the fire, and serpents sucking their breasts’.

31 LH add ‘And did not give their breasts to others who were orphans’.

32 L adds ‘that we may celebrate the Pasch’.

33 LH add ‘And he saw further some men who were being mauled by wild beasts. And he said, Who are those? And the angels said, Those are men who altered boundary-marks and gave false witness. And he said, Lord, spare the sinners’.

34 LH ‘lions and camels’.

35 LH add ‘Light is there, and joy, and prosperity. And every day they have manna from heaven, because they did many deeds of mercy while on earth. And there are many there who did not do them, because they had not the wherewithal (L + ‘they were inhibited by their small means’). Nevertheless they enjoy a similar rest because of the goodwill they had. And so they praise the Lord our God, who has always loved righteousness’.

36 L specifies that Esdras was taken up into the seventh heaven.

37 Lit. ‘And those who are chosen’.

38 So VH: L ‘by virtue of penance and prayer and confession’.

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