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will arraign them (the kings ?) while yet alive before His
tribunal, and convict them of their wickedness, and then
destroy them. But the people of God He will cause to rejoice
(during 400 years, as was foretold in the third vision) till the
day of judgment comes (xii. 31-34). After receiving those
revelations Ezra is commissioned to write what he had seen
in a book, and preserve it in a secret place (xii. 35-51). —
Sixth vision (xiii. 1-58): Once more he sees in a dream a
man rising up out of the sea. And an innumerable company
of men gathered themselves together for the purpose of warring
against that man. And when they marched out against him,
he emitted a fiery breath and flames from his mouth, so that
they were all burnt up. Thereupon other men advanced
toward him, some of them joyfully, others in sadness, and some
again in fetters (xiii. 1-13). In answer to Ezra's request
this vision is explained to him as follows. The man who
rises out of the sea is he by whom God will redeem His whole
creation. He will annihilate his enemies, not with the spear
^® So the Oriental versions. The Latin has tn'a refjna.


or implements of war, but by means of the law, which is like

unto fire. But the peaceful crowd that advances towards him

is the ten tribes returning from the captivity (xiii. 14-58). —

Seventh vision (xiv. 1-50): Ezra is commissioned by God to

instruct the people and set his house in order and withdraw

from mortal things, for he is about to be taken from the earth.

Moreover, he is to take to himself five men who, during a period

of forty days, are to write down what they are told to write.

And Ezra did so. And the men wrote what they did not

understand. Thereupon Ezra was carried away and conveyed

to the place appointed for such as he (xiv. 1-50).

, . For anything at all decisive with regard to the date of the

composition of this remarkable book, we are chiefly indebted to

the interpretation of the vision of the eagle. For the data

furnished by the other passages that have been brought to

bear upon this point are of too uncertain a character to be of

much service. For example in chap. vi. 9 it is stated that

the present world is to end with the rule of Edom, while the

world to come is to begin with the supremacy of Israel (finis

enim hujus saeculi Esau, et principium sequentis Jacob). But

it is open to question whether by Edom it is the Herodians

(so Hilgenfeld, Volkmar) or whether it is the Eomans

(so Oeliler in Herzog's Beal-Enc. 1st ed. vol. ix. p. 430, 2nd

ed. vol. ix. p. 660 ; Ewald, Excivrsus, p. 198 ; Langen, p.

125 sq.) that are meant. The latter is no doubt the correct

view of the matter.^** But even if the former were to be

preferred, very little after all would be gained considering the

long period embraced by the Herodian dynasty (down till tlie

year 100 of our era). Then as for the calculation of the

-3 In Eabbiuical literature Edom is quite a common designation for Eome ;
see Buxtorf's Lexicon Chaldaicum, col. 29 sqq. Otho, Lex Eahb. under
" Roma." Levy, Neuhehr. Worterb. i. 29. Grunbaum, Zeitsclr. der DMG
xxxi. pp. 305-309. Weber, Sijstem der altsynag. palast. Theol. p. 348 and
elsewhere. This designation occurs so early as in the Sifre (see Weber, p.
GO). Comp. fiu-ther Jerome's Comment, ad Jenaj. xxi. 11, 12 {0pp. ed.
Vallarsi, iv. 217) : Quidam Hebraeorum pro Duma Romam leguut, volentos
prophetiam contra regnum Romanum dirigi, frivola persuasioue qua semper
in Idumaeae nomine Romanes existimant demonstrari.


world-periods as given in chap. xiv. 11, 12 (Duodecim enim
partibus divisuin est saeculum, et transierunt ejus deciraam et
dimidium decimae partis, siiperant autem ejus duae post
medium decimae partis). The mere fact of the reading
fluctuating so much here (in the Syriac and Armenian
versions the passage does not occur at all) should of itself
have been enough to deter any one from attempting any
calculation whatever of these world-periods. It will be seen
then that, apart from the general purport of the book, it is the
vision of the eagle alone that can be said to furnish a clue to
the date of its composition. In the interpretation of this
vision the following iioints, which naturally present themselves
on a general survey of the contents, are to he kept steaelily in
view: the twelve principal wings, the eight subordinate ones,
and the three heads represent twenty-three sovereigns or rulers
who reign one after the other, and that in the following order,
rirst we have the twelve principal wings and two of the
subordinate ones. Then comes a time of disorder. At the
expiry of this period four subordinate wings have their turn,
and after them the three heads. During the reign of the
third head the Messiah appears, upon which follows the over-
throw of the third head and the short feeble reign of this two
remaining subordinate wings. We thus see that, from the
author's standpoint, both the overthrow of the third head and
the reign of the last two subordinate wings were still in the
future ; from which it follows that he must have written
during the reign of the third head, and that the reign of the
two last subordinate wings is not matter of history, but exists
only in the author's imagination. Further, the following
points are to be specially noted: (1) The second principal
wing reigns more than twice as long as any of the rest
(xi. 17). (2) Many of the wings, particularly of the sub-
ordinate wings, come upon the scene without actually getting
the length of reigning, and therefore represent mere pretenders
and usurpers. (3) All the rulers belong to one and the same
kingdom, and are, or at least aim at being, the rulers of the


whole of tliat kingdom. (4) The first dies a natural death
(xii. 26), the second is murdered by the third (xi. 35, xii. 28).
Now, with the help of this exegetical result, let us test the
various interpretations that have been attempted, and which we
may divide into three leading groups, according as the eagle
has been supposed to refer either (1) to Eome under the
monarchy and the republic, or (2) to the Greek rule, or (3) to
Eome under the emperors.

1. Laurence, van der Vlis and Liicke (2nd ed.) under-
stand the vision of the eagle as referring to the history of
Eome from the time of Eomulus till that of Caesar. Those
three writers are all agreed in this, that the three heads
represent Sulla, Pompey and Caesar, and that our book was
composed in the time of Caesar (Liicke), or shortly after his
assassination (van der Vlis), or a little later still (Laurence).
No doubt the interpretation 12 + 8 wings is beset with con-
siderable difficulty, but this is supposed to be got over by
falling back upon those persons who at a later period aspired
to the throne, and upon the party leaders in the time of the
civil wars. But even if this were not a somewhat doubtful
proceeding, there are still two considerations that could not
fail to prove fatal to this view : first, the fact that for a Jewish
apocalyptic writer the whole period previous to the time of
Pompey would have simply no interest whatever ; and then
this other fact, that if Eome is to be thought of at all, the
reference can only be to a time when she was mistress of tlie
world. For the whole of the wings and heads are intended
to represent rulers who exercised or at all events aspired to
exercise sway over the entire world.

2. Hilgenfeld supposes the vision to have reference to the
Greek rule. It is true that previously (Apokalyptik, pp.
217-221) he took the 12 + 8 wings to mean the Ptolemies.
The twelve wings and the first two of the subordinate wings
he made out to be the following : — (1) Alexander the Great,
(2) Ptolemy I. Lagi, (3-8) Ptolemy IL to Ptolemy VII., (9)
Cleopatra I., (10-14) Ptolemy VIII. Lathyrus to Ptolemy


XII. Auletes. The other six subordinate wings were supposed
to refer to the offshoots from the Ptolemaic dynasty down to
Cleopatra the younger (t 30 B.C.). Then some time after
(Zeitsclir. 1860, pp. 335-358) lie substituted the Sdeucidae
for the Ptolemies, and reckoned the kings from Alexander the
Great on to the descendants of Seleucus. P)ut still he always
adhered strictly to the view, that the three heads were to be
taken as referring to Caesar, Antony and Octavian, and that
the book must have been composed immediately after Antony's
death in the year 30 B.C. {Zeitsclir. 1867, p. 285: "exactly
30 years before Christ"). Although this interpretation
fcnables us more easily to find room for the twenty kings
than the foregoing one, still it can hardly be said to be a bit
more tenable. One great objection to it above all is this, that
while it supposes the twenty wings to refer to Greek rulers, it
regards the three heads, on the other hand, as referring to
Boraan rulers, whereas the text obviously requires us to
regard the whole as rulers of one and the same kirgdom.
But Hilgenfeld's interpretation is incompatible above all with
the statement that the second wing was to rule twice as lorn,'
as any of tha others (xi. 1 7). For this will suit neither the
case of Ptolemy I. nor that of Seleucus I. Nicator. Hilgenfeld
too has fully realized the awkwardness of this passage, and
while at one time he was disposed to look upon it as an
interpolation, he has more recently had recourse to the
expedient of supposing that, in the statement in question, the
author had in view only the first six wings, namely those on
the right side, on which assumption he finds that the notice
exactly suits the case of Seleucus I. {Zeitsclir. 1867, p. 286
sq., 1870, p. 310 sq.). But the text does not in the least
degree sanction such a limitation as this (nemo post te tenebit
tempus tuum, sed nee dimidium ejus). There is a further
contradiction of the text in the referring of the first head to
Caesar, who, as is well known, was assassinated, whereas, accord-
ing to chap. xii. 20, the ruler in question was to die su2:)er
ledum. But let vs say generally that every interpretation is to Ic


regarded as untenable wldch proceeds on the assumption that the
look ivas tcritten earlier than the destruction of Jerusalem hi/
Titus. One of the principal objects of the book is just this^
to comfort the people on the occasion of the destruction in
question. Ezra over and over again prays to have an
explanation of the mystery of Jerusalem's lying low in the
dust while the Gentile nations exult in triumph. It is with
regard to this that, through the medium of a divine revelation,
he obtains instruction and comfort. Now to write a work of
this nature could hardly be supposed to have any meaning or
object whatsoever except at a time when Jerusalem was
actually lying in ruins. No doubt it is the first destruction
of the city (by Nebuchadnezzar) that is in view. But as it is
of course impossible that the book can have been written in
the decades immediately following this event (if for nothing
but chap. xi. 39, xii. 11, where Daniel is presupposed), the
only course open to us is to come down to a date subsequent
to the destruction by Titus, and to assume that the author
intended that first destruction by Nebuchadnezzar to be
regarded as, so to speak, a type of the second, and that the
consolations purporting to have been communicated to Ezra
were in reality meant for that generation in whose minds the
recollection of the destruction of the year 7 was still fresh ;
although for the pseudo-Ezra this event was perhaps more a
thing of the past than it was for the pseudo-Baruch. Then a
distinct allusion to the destruction of the city by the Eomans
may also be found in the words which the lion addresses to
the eagle (xi. 42) : Destruxisti habitationes eorum qui fructi-
ficabant et humiliasti muros eorum qui te non nocuerunt.
Consequently there cannot be a doubt that — ■

3. Corrodi, LUcke (1st ed.), Gfrorer, Dillmann, Volkmar,
Ewald, Langen, Wieseler, Keil, Hausrath, Eenan, Drummond,
Eeuss, Gutschmid, Le Hir are correct in holding that the
eagle is to be understood as representing imperial Rome.
They are all at one in this, that the line of rulers should begin
with Caesar, and that, by the second wing, the duration of


whose reign was more than twice as long as that of any of
the others (xi. 17), it is Augustus that is meant. This point
may in fact he regarded as settled. For the placing of Caesar
as the first in the line of Eoman emperors is also to be met
with elsewhere (Joseph. Antt. xviii. 2. 2, 6. 10 ; Orac. Sihi/ll.
V. 10-15. Comp. Volkmar, p. 344). Moreover the length
of time during which Augustus reigned is estimated, as a rule,
at 5G years, counting from his first consulate in the year
711 A,u.c. = 43 B.C. (see Volkmar, p. 344; Gutschmid,
Zcitsclir. 1860, p. 37). According to this calculation the
actual duration of the reign of Augustus is found to have
been more than twice longer than that of all the other Eoman
emperors belonging to the first three centuries.

But there is one point in regard to which there is an
essential difference between Gutschmid and Le Hir on the one
hand and all the other writers mentioned above on the other.
For while Corrodi (i. 208)* and the others understand the
three heads as referring to the three Flavian emperors
(Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian), and accordingly regard the
book as having been written during the last decades of the
first century of our era, Gutschmid interprets as follows : —
He takes the'twelve principal wings to represent: (1) Caesar,
(2) Augustus, (3) Tiberius, (4) Caligula, (5) Claudius, (6) Nero,
(7) Vespasian, (8) Domitian, (9) Trajan, (10) Hadrian,
(11) Antoninus Pius, (12) Marcus Aurelius. The first two
of the subordinate wings he supposes to refer to Titus and
Nerva, and the four immediately following them to : (1) Corn-
modus, (2) Pertinax, (3) Didius Julianus, and (4) Pescennius
Niger. The three heads again he takes to represent, Scptimius
Severus (193-211 A.D.) with his two sons Caracalla and Gda.
Geta was murdered by Caracalla, but this latter also fell by
the sword (217 A.D.). The last two of the subordinate wings
he supposes to be intended for IMacrinus and his son Diadu-
menianus, who were assassinated in the year 218 a.d. He
thinks therefore that the vision of the eagle must have been
written immediately before, in the montli of June 218


{Zeitschr. 1860, p. 48). Moreover Gutschmid regards the
vision of the eagle as a later interpolation, while he thinks —
and here he is more in accord with Hilgenfeld — that the main
body of the book must have been written in the year 3 1 B.C.
Le Hir, in Ids interpretation of the vision now in question,
coincides with Gutschmid in almost every particular {Etudes
Bihliques, i. pp. 184-192). The only point in which they
differ is this, that Le Hir, founding upon the list of emperors
given by Clement of Alexandria, counts the reign of Marcus
Aurelius and Commodus as simply one, thus including the
latter among those represented by the principal wings, while,
to make up for this, he inserts Clodius Albinus after
Pescennius Niger among those represented by the subordinate
wings. Nor does he think that the entire book was written
in the year 218 A.D., but is of opinion that there was in the
first instance a Jewish original, and subsequently a Christian
revision and modification of this latter. He holds that the
former, which is already made use of in the Epistle of
Barnabas, was written in the last quarter of the first century
of our era, while the Christian revision, in which the vision
of the eagle was inserted, would be composed in the year
218 A.D. {Etudes BiUiqucs, i. p. 207 sq.).

The tempting thing about this interpretation is, that it
enables us actually to specify all the rulers represented by
the 12 + 8 wings, which, if we suppose the Flavian period to
be in view, it is impossible to do. But, for all that, it is
unquestionably erroneous. It is precluded above all by the
circumstance that the book is already quoted by Clement of
Alexandria. Consequently it must have been in existence
toward the close of the second century. No doubt Gutschmid
and Le Hir are disposed to fall back upon the hypothesis of
interpolation or of revision and modification. But the book
itself furnishes neither occasion nor justification for such a
hypothesis. The vision of the eagle fits in admirably, and
could scarcely be omitted without completely mutilating the
work. The hypothesis of interpolation is therefore gratuitous


in the extreme, to say nothing of the fact that it is incom-
patible witli many points of detail. Tor example Galba,
Otho and Vitelliiis are completely left out of account.
Commodus is classed by Gutschmid witli those who are
represented by the subordinate wings, while Le Hir counts
his reign and that of Marcus Aurelius as constituting simply
one reign, all which is extremely forced. But the most
awkward thing of all is, that the two subordinate wings, Titus
and Nerva, did not reign, as the text however requires us to
suppose (xii. 21), appropinquante tempore medio, i.e. shortly
before the interregnum, before the period of disorder, but in
the heart of the peaceful rule of the principal wings.^"

Consequently if we are to adopt the ordinary interpretation
we will have to stop at the Flavian period. There can be no
mistaking the fact that all that is said with regard to tJie three
heads will apply admirably to the three Flavian emperors,
Vespasian, Titus and Domitian. Those who had brought
about the destruction of the holy city really constituted for
the Jew the acme of power and ungodliness. Vespasian died,
as we are told xii. 26, super lectum et tamen cum tormentis
(comp. Sueton. Vesp. xxiv. Dio Cass. Ixvi. 17). It is true
Titus was not murdered by Domitian as is presupposed in
chaps, xi. 35, xii. 28. Yet it was currently believed that this
was the case, and certainly Domitian's demeanour at the time
of his brother's death gave ample occasion for such a belief
(Sueton. Domitian II. Dio Cass. Ixvi. 26 ; Orac. Sibyll. xii.
120-123. Aurelius Victor, Caesar, x. and xi., states explicitly
tliat Titus had been poisoned by Domitian). This likewise
corresponds with the actual fact that several of the subordinate
wings, i.e. of the usurpers, had been disposed of with the help
of the other two heads. But after all, the finding of a place
for the whole 12 + 8 wings is not a matter of insuperable
difliculty. The twelve principal wings may be regarded as
representing say the following rulers: — (1) Caesar, (2) Augustus,
(3) Tiberius, (4) Caligula, (5) Claudius, (6) Nero, (7) Galba,
20 In answer to Gutschmid, see also Yolkniar, p. 389 sq.


(8) Otho, (9) Vitellius, to whom may be added the three
usurpers: (10) Vindex, (11) Nymphidius, (12) Piso. But
what is to be made of the eiirht subordinate winss ? To
dispose of them Volkmar and Ewald have had recourse to
expedients of the most singular kind. Volkmar, who is
followed by Eenan, makes out the number of rulers to be not
12 + 8, but, by taking the wings as pairs, only 6 -i- 4. The
six rulers he takes to be the Julian emperors from Caesar to
Nero ; the four again he takes to be : Galba, Otho, Vitellius,
and Nerva. So Volkmar and Eenan, and that although we
are plainly told in chap. xii. 14 that: Eegnabunt autem in
ea reges duodecim, unus post unum ; and in ver. 20 of the
same chapter find the words: exsurgeut enim in ipso octo
reges. Ewald again goes the length of thinking that not
only the eight subordinate wings, but also the three heads, are
to be regarded as included among the twelve principal wings,
and consequently that the three groups of rulers are to be
identified, and that we should reckon only twelve rulers
altogether (counting from Caesar to Domitian). The most
obvious exegetical principles should have been sufficient to
prevent any such attempts at explanation as we have here.
Nor can Langen be said to have altogether eschewed this
arbitrary style of criticism when he inclines, as he does, to
take the numbers merely as round numbers, and to regard
the twelve principal wings as intended to represent the six
Julian emperors. For the text undoubtedly requires us to
assume that there were 12 + 8 rulers, or at all events pre-
tenders. No less untenable is the view of Gfrorer (i. 90 sq.),
who refers the eight subordinate wings partly to Herod and
some of his descendants, partly to Jewish (! !) agitators, as
John of Gischala and Simon Bar-Giora ; or that of Wieseler,
who thinks that the whole eight subordinate wings are meant
to represent the Herodian dynasty alone. In point of fact
however the only distinction between the subordinate and the
principal wings is this, that in the case of the former tlie
reign is short and feeble (xii. 20), or they fail ever to get the


length of reigning at all (xi. 25-27). As for the rest they
are, quite as much as the principal wings, rulers of the entire
empire, or at all events aspire to be so. Consequently it is
impossible to suppose that it is vassal princes that are repre-
sented by those subordinate wings ; rather must we hold, with
Corrodi {Gesch. dcs Cltiliasmus, i. 207), that it is "governors,
rival candidates for the throne, and rebels," or with Dillmann
(Herzog's Eeal-Enc. 1st ed. vol. xii. p. 312), that it is
" Ptoman generals and pretenders " that are in view. Of
course we have had to avail ourselves of the better known
among the usurpers in order to complete the number twelve.
But it would appear that the author reckons along with them
all those Itoman generals who, during the period of disorder
(68-70), had at any time put forward claims to the throne.
And of these surely it would not be difficult to make out six.
Por it is only a question of six, seeing that, as has been already
noticed, the last two of the subordinate wings do not represent
actual historical personages.

If the view which represents the three heads as referring
to the Flavian emperors be correct, it should not be difficult
to determine the date of the composition of our book. We
have already -seen that the author wrote during the reign of
the third head, inasmuch as he is already acquainted with
the manner in which the second was put to death, while on
the other hand he is looking forward to the overthrow of the
third after the Messiah has made His appearance. Conse-
quently the composition of the book is not, with Corrodi and
Ewald, to be referred to so early a date as the time of Titus,
nor again, with Volkmar, Langen, Hausrath and Eenan, to
one so late as the time of Nerva, but, with Gfrorer, Dillmann,
Wieseler and Eeuss, to the reign of Domitian (81-9G A.D.).

The designation Fourth Booh of Ezra, under which our work is known,
is current only in the Latin Church, and is to be traced to tlie fact that the
canonical books Ezra and Nehcmiah were reckoned as First and Second Ezra
rosjiectively, while the Ezra of the Greek Bible was regarded as Third Ezra
(so Jerome, rra

Online LibraryEmil SchürerA history of the Jewish people in the time of Jesus Christ .. (Volume 2 pt.3) → online text (page 11 of 51)