The Fourth Book of Ezra is an apocalyptic Jewish work composed towards the end of the first century CE, some years after the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed. 4 Ezra was authored in Hebrew or possibly Greek and survived to our day only in Latin, Syriac, Ethiopic, Armenian and Arabic translations. Despite the fact that Christian scribes added 2 chapters to this extra-biblical text (not by the biblical prophet Ezra) the rest of the book is full of first-century Jewish theology and many Hebraisms. In this excerpt, Ezra laments why so few people stand to inherit the world to come. You can compare his words to the teaching in Matthew 7:13-14, 22:14, Mark 10:26, and Luke 13:22-23. Many are called by God but only a few righteous will endure to the end. The narrow road is not well-traveled.

” 1 He (angel) answered me and said, “The Most High made this world for the sake of many, but the world to come for the sake of few. 2 But I will tell you a parable, Ezra. Just as, when you ask the earth, it will tell you that it provides very much clay from which earthenware is made, but only a little dust from which gold comes; so is the course of the present world. 3 Many have been created, but few will be saved.”…

41 “For just as the farmer sows many seeds upon the ground and plants a multitude of seedlings, and yet not all that have been sown will come up in due season, and not all that were planted will take root; so all those who have been sown in the world will not be saved.” 42 I answered and said, “If I have found favor before you, let me speak. 43 For if the farmer’s seed does not come up, because it has not received your rain in due season, or if it has been ruined by too much rain, it perishes. 44 But man, who has been formed by your hands and is called your own image because he is made like you, and for whose sake you have formed all things—have you also made him like the farmer’s seed? 45 No, O Lord who are over us! But spare your people and mercy on your inheritance, for you have mercy on your own creation.”

46 He answered me and said, “Things that are present are for those who live now, and things that are future are for those who will live hereafter. 47 For you come far short of being able to love my creation more than I love it. But you have often compared yourself to the unrighteous. Never do so! 48 But even in this respect you will be praiseworthy before the Most High, 49 because you humble yourself, as is becoming for you, and have not deemed yourself to be among the righteous in order to receive the greatest glory. 50 For many miseries will affect those who inhabit the world in the last times, because they have walked in great pride. 51 But think of your own case, and inquire concerning the glory of those who are like yourself, 52 because it is for you that Paradise is opened, the tree of life is planted, the age to come is prepared, plenty is provided, a city is built, rest is appointed, goodness is established and wisdom perfected beforehand.

53 The root of evil is sealed up from you, illness is banished from you, and death is hidden; hell has fled and corruption has been forgotten; 54 sorrows have passed away, and in the end the treasure of immortality is made manifest. 55 Therefore do not ask any more questions about the multitude of those who perish. 56 For they also received freedom, but they despised the Most High, and were contemptuous of his Law, and forsook his ways. 57 Moreover they have even trampled upon his righteous ones, 58 and said in their hearts that there is no God—though knowing full well that they must die. 59 For just as the things which I have predicted await you, so the thirst and torment which are prepared await them. For the Most High did not intend that men should be destroyed; 60 but they themselves who were created have defiled the name of him who made them, and have been ungrateful to him who prepared life for them. 61 Therefore my judgment is now drawing near; 62 I have not shown this to all men, but only to you and a few like you.” (4 Ezra 8. 1-3, 40-62 quoted from Charlesworth edition)



  1. Thank you so much for sharing this here. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this excerpt of The 4th Book of Ezra. With the striking similarities to the portions of Scripture found in the Gospels that were listed and invited to compare it seems reasonable to conclude that this literature was known by those in Jesus' time. When Jesus was teaching and using these phrases His audience would have been familiar with these writings of Ezra (possibly the Jewish Authority?). Is this a logical conclusion?
    • Yes, the idea is that these were known as stories, probably long before they were written down. Israel was a largely oral culture. So the more background of the stories they knew we become aware of the more the texts and stories they left to us begin to make sense. We need points of reference that are native to the original audience and not to us modern people to read the Scripture through their eyes.
  2. Does Ezra 10 (and Nehimia 13) forbid Isreal to marry someone from another nation or was it just to keep the law and faith strait and clear, and to keep the enemies outside?
    • There are some people from specific nations that Israelites are forbidden to marry in Torah. But exceptions were always made in history. The words of the prophets caution Israel from marrying outside of their clans because Israelite identity was particularly vulnerable at that moment in history. Israel can always absorb a certain amount of "foreign wives" but widespread practice of marrying outsiders could create a disbalance and thus idolatry. This happened to King Solomon.
  3. ... well, it is for a certaintity that all of the world is full of vanity & pride ... ignorance is the plague of the world ... greed is as a leprosy; the infestation of those who perish ... it is certain that we should never fall into the pitfall of comparing our circumstances to the unrighteous, of 'trying to fit in'; mourning our poverty or low 'status' ... we of the Faith are called out of the world, thus, we are weaned of the desire to belong in it ... 53 through 62 is at once so beautifully reassuring, yet the poignancy of the fate of the lost is so apparent ... Thanks be to YHWH for his incomparable Mercy to us of the Faith, who love Him, love Truth, love Righteousness, ... who know, recognize, receive His Holy Son our Lord & Saviour Jesus Christ; our Messiah ...
  4. Thank you, Prof. Shir. This seems so appropriate in our present circumstances as we long for the coming of the kingdom.


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