The Fourth Book of Ezra is an extra-biblical Jewish text. It was not written by the biblical prophet Ezra, but by some Jewish writer living towards the end of the first century CE in the name of Ezra. Still, the text is a beautiful witness of Jewish spiritual thinking from that era. It is introspective, philosophical, and at the same time very apocalyptic in nature, often resembling the visions of John’s Revelation. Though only the Latin, Syriac, Ethiopic, Armenian and Arabic translations of 4 Ezra have survived Jewish thought and first-century theology are clearly discernable in the text. The greater part of this particular excerpt I am quoting is missing from most Latin manuscripts, probably because speaks of not interceding for the dead (not in harmony with common Catholic practice). In this excerpt, Ezra questions the angel why intercession for those about to be judged by God is useless. The angel insists that judgment is the end and mercy is for the living. Once someone is dead, payers for their condition are superfluous. Compare this thinking to Jesus’ parable of “rich mand and Lazarus” (Luke 16) and other places like Mark 10:28-31, Mark 12:18-37, Mat 13:36-43.

“[78] Now, concerning death, the teaching is: When the decisive decree has gone forth from the Most High that a man shall die, as the spirit leaves the body to return again to him who gave it, first of all it adores the glory of the Most High. [79]And if it is one of those who have shown scorn and have not kept the way of the Most High, and who have despised his Law, and who have hated those who fear God—[80]such spirits shall not enter into habitations, but shall immediately wander about in torments, ever grieving and sad, in seven ways. [81]The first way, because they have scorned the Law of the Most High. [82]The second way, because they cannot now make a good repentance that they may live. [83]The third way, they shall see the reward laid up for those who have trusted the covenants of the Most High. [84]The fourth way, they shall consider the torment laid up for themselves in the last days. [85]The fifth way, they shall see how the habitations of the others are guarded by angels in profound quiet. [86]The sixth way, they shall see how some of them will pass over into torments. [87]The seventh way, which is worse than all the ways that have been mentioned, because they shall utterly waste away in confusion and be consumed with shame, and shall wither with fear at seeing the glory of the Most High before whom they sinned while they were alive, and before whom they are to be judged in the last times…

[102]I answered and said, “If I have found favor in your sight, show further to me, your servant, whether on the day of judgment the righteous will be able to intercede for the ungodly or to entreat the Most High for them, [103]fathers for sons or sons for parents, brothers for brothers, relatives for their kinsmen, or friends for those who are most dear.”
[104]He answered me and said, “Since you have found favor in my sight, I will show you this also. The day of judgment is decisive and displays to all the seal of truth. Just as now a father does not send his son, or a son his father, or a master his servant, or a friend his dearest friend, to be ill or sleep or eat or be healed in his stead, [105]so no one shall ever pray for another on that day, neither shall anyone lay a burden on another; for then everyone shall bear his own righteousness or unrighteousness.”

36[106] I answered and said, “How then do we find that first Abraham prayed for the people of Sodom, and Moses for our fathers who sinned in the desert, 37[107]and Joshua after him for Israel in the days of Achan, 38[108]and Samuel in the days of Saul, and David for the plague, and Solomon for those in the sanctuary, 39[109] and Elijah for those who received the rain, and for the one who was dead, that he might live, 40[110]and Hezekiah for the people in the days of Sennacherib, and many others prayed for many? 41[111]If therefore the righteous have prayed for the ungodly now, when corruption has increased and unrighteousness has multiplied, why will it not be so then as well?”

42[112]He answered me and said, “This present world is not the end; the full glory does not abide in it; therefore those who were strong prayed for the weak. 43[113]But the day of judgment will be the end of this age and the beginning of the immortal age to come, in which corruption has passed away, 44[114]sinful indulgence has come to an end, unbelief has been cut off, and righteousness has increased and truth has appeared. 45[115]Therefore no one will then be able to have mercy on him who has been condemned in the judgment, or to harm him who is victorious.” (4 Ezra 7. 102-115, quoted from Charlesworth edition)

BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

16 COMMENTS

  1. ... well, I certainly do appreciate the second & third section of 105 ... absolutely the weight of the burden of others unrighteousness ... I love this statement ... it is totally purifying, rectifying, remedial new's ... to have the assurance of not being absolutely over-whelmed by other's hubris, in neighbourhood, in community, in close family, in the world 'at large' ... yes, I love this ... YWHW Knows All ... therefor, to laugh & dance as a Sufi ...for the assurance that YWHW is a Faithful Father, who laughs, who corrects, who heals, who love's deeply with reassurance that 'other people's stuff' will not over-shadow you, nor interfere with your Salvation ... Glory be to God ... Thanks be for his most Holy Son; our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ; our soon coming Messiah ...
  2. Unknown Ezra should not be considered. In Malayalam drama, Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. Devil's work. Our Lord is merciful. He will not put rich man, who cares for others' well-being, to hell. He was in purgatory.
    Praying for dead is in II Maccabees. Protestant removed it for convenience.
    • There is disagreement on that issue. If you ask me, personally, I would say no. But I am not a spiritual authority in any church or holy order, so what does it matter what I think.
    • That is not the reason I share these segments. They show us the culture, beliefs of some ancient people in context. In fact, exra-biblical texts often clash with the establishment-affirmed interpretations of the Bible.
  3. Should not even be discussed! Extra biblical/philosophical material is just that...Extra / not included because God does not want it to be included & N0, not needed to clarify or confirm - Sola Scriptura does in itself & the canon is accepted closed for good reasons.
    • All I have to say is Wow... Unless it is not Bible it does not deserve to exist or be read? Is this some new form of canonical totalitarianism? Compared to the Bible itself "Sola Scriptura" is a relatively new western rule that does not exist in the Biblical text. I will tell you a secret, friend, the very people who wrote the texts included in your Bible canon today certainly enjoyed reading texts that were not canonical in their day. It is sad you do not see the value of doing the same.

      + More answers (2)
  4. All I can say is that the Holy Spirit interprets. Both of those concepts shared, I had understood without any new translation. Surely with so many followers, not all wanted Him dead. Just like the craziness of this Black lives matters: they make it appear All Whites hate Blacks. Untruth!
  5. Thank you professor for your last comment. Some people are very closed minded and think of them self ‘all knowing’ they come across very ‘disrespectful and annoying’
    I was brought up as a Roman Catholic and they have masses for the dead to go to heaven .
    Thank you for the interesting conversation!
    • I don't believe in bashing anyone's faith. That it not productive. But I cannot turn off my brain and cannot exclude evidence of ancient beliefs that I come across. I have to reconcile it somehow. :)
  6. From the scripture above, it emphasizes that there is no intercession for the dead at the end of the world we know when but not when the world has not ended. This is evident from 36[106] to 45[115].
  7. I think people who believe in everlasting punishment must have had very hard lives and in a way, this type of belief satisfies a need for revenge. I think it wouldn't make sense even to punish Adolph Hitler for an eternity. If there is a temporary hell, such as perhaps a purgatory, I wonder what a soul would learn about itself there. From reading about near-death experiences these kinds of experiences are few. I think about what Raymond Moody in his book Life After Life. He collected all the stories of all kinds of Near-Death Experiences. One way that is common experience is a life review of the soul's life and showing the effect it had on others. Perhaps that's the judgment day.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your name here
Words left: 50
Please enter your comment!