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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Ezra–Nehemiah - Introduction

1.

Originally one work (b. B. Bat. 14b–15a); Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 4.26.14), the books of Ezra and Nehemiah share themes, and even specific texts (the most obvious being what is called the Golah List, Ezra 2 ǁ Neh 7 , gôlâ meaning ‘exile’). In addition, the main character changes from Ezra, then to Nehemiah, and then back to Ezra, etc. The short books are composed largely in late biblical Hebrew, but contain significant sections (Ezra 4:8–6:18; 7:12–26 ) written in what is often referred to as imperial or official Aramaic (Rosenthal 1974 ). By general consensus, the texts are well preserved (Rudolph 1949: p. xix). There are fragments of Ezra among the Dead Sea scrolls (4QEzra) which are quite close to the Hebrew and Aramaic sections of the MT (only 4:2–6 in Heb.; 4:9–11; 5:17–6:5 in Aramaic). The text occasionally reflects Old Persian vocabulary (for a list: Fensham 1982: 22), but there is little significant influence from Greek.

2.

There are two translations in Greek, known as Esdras alpha (1 Esdras) and Esdras beta. Esdras beta is quite close to the canonical work, but 1 Esdras is an independent work which reproduces only the Ezra materials (including the reading of the law which appears in MT Neh 7:72–8:13 (1 Esd 9:37–55 ; see the helpful discussion in Myers 1974: 1–19)). 1 Esdras includes a charming court tale of Zerubbabel very much in the Daniel tradition. Certain readings in 1 Esdras can be used to correct difficulties in the MT (note list in Rudolph, 1949: p. xvi) but in general it is considered a later text featuring a free rendering into Greek.

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