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Esdras (Greek: Ἔσδρας) is a Greco-Latin variation of the name of Hebrew Ezra the Scribe (Hebrew: עזרא‬). The name is found in the titles of several books attributed to or associated with the scribe that are in or related to the Hebrew and Christian Bibles.

Naming conventions[edit]

The books associated with Ezra are titled differently in different versions of the Bible. The following table summarizes the various names:

# Masoretic Hebrew Most English versions[1] Latin Vulgate,
English Douay–Rheims
Greek versions Slavonic versions Ethiopic version[2] Alternative names
1 Ezra Ezra 1 Esdras Bˊ Esdras
B΄ Ἔσδρας
1 Esdras 1 Ezra Ezra–Nehemiah
2 Nehemiah Nehemiah 2 Esdras
3 absent 1 Esdras 3 Esdras Aˊ Esdras
A΄ Ἔσδρας
2 Esdras 2 Ezra Greek Ezra
4 2 Esdras 4 Esdras absent 3 Esdras Ezra Sutuel (Ch. 3–14) 4 Esdras
or Jewish Apocalypse of Ezra
or Apocalyptic Esdras
Latin Esdras
5 absent (Ch. 1–2) 5 Esdras
6 (Ch. 15–16) 6 Esdras

The Thirty-nine Articles that define the doctrines of the Church of England follow the naming convention of the Vulgate. Likewise, the Vulgate enumeration is often used by modern scholars, who nevertheless use the name Ezra to avoid confusion with the Greek and Slavonic enumerations: 1 Ezra (Ezra), 2 Ezra (Nehemiah), 3 Ezra (Esdras A/1 Esdras), 4 Ezra (chapters 3–14 of 4 Esdras), 5 Ezra (chapters 1–2 of 4 Esdras) and 6 Ezra (chapters 15–16 of 4 Esdras).

Historical development[edit]

The two books universally considered canonical, Ezra and Nehemiah (lines 1 and 2 of the table above), may have been originally one book titled Ezra (= Esdras). Perhaps as early as Melito's canon of the 2nd century, Jews began to refer to the "two books of Ezra," where the second was Nehemiah. Sometime thereafter the Christian church followed suit.

Since the English Reformation, most English translations[1] have followed the Hebrew titles while the Douay–Rheims version followed the Vulgate. The Greek canon incorporated Ezra–Nehemiah as a single book and called it Esdras B to distinguish it from Esdras A.

The latter book (line 3 of the table above) does not form part of either the Hebrew or the Latin canon though it was often included in Latin manuscripts and editions of the Bible under the title 3 Esdras. The Douay–Rheims version followed this title, while other English versions chose a separate numbering for apocryphical books and called it 1 Esdras (using the Greek form to differentiate the apocryphical book from the canonical Ezra). The Greek bible, which included the book, placed it before Esdras B and called it Esdras A.

Another non-canonical book (line 4 of the table above) is contained in some Latin bibles as 4 Esdras and some Slavonic manuscripts as 3 Esdras. Except for the Douay–Rheims version (which follows the Vulgate), most English versions containing this book call it 2 Esdras (again using the Greek form for the apocryphical book). The book is not included in the Greek Septuagint and no complete copy of the Greek text has survived, though it is quoted by the Church fathers.[3] Due to its apocalyptic content, the book also has been called Esdras the Prophet, Apocalyptic Esdras or Jewish Apocalypse of Ezra. Because the most complete extant text is in Latin, the book is also called Latin Esdras.[4]

The Latin version differs from other versions in that it contains additional opening and closing chapters, which are also called 5 Ezra and 6 Ezra by scholars.

Other books associated with Ezra are the Greek Apocalypse of Ezra, the Vision of Ezra, the Questions of Ezra and the Revelation of Ezra.


The Jewish canon considers the Book of Ezra-Nehemiah to be canonical. All Christians consider the separate books Book of Ezra and the Book of Nehemiah to be canonical. Jews, Roman Catholics, and Protestants do not generally recognize 1 Esdras and 2 Esdras as being canonical. Eastern Orthodox generally consider 1 Esdras to be canonical, but not 2 Esdras. The Jewish Apocalypse of Ezra (2 Esdras), whose authorship is ascribed to Ezra,[5] is part of the Syriac and Ethiopian traditions and in the Apocrypha of the Armenian Church.


  1. ^ a b Including KJB, RSV, NRSV, NEB, REB, and GNB
  2. ^ Cowley, R. W. (1974). "The Biblical Canon Of The Ethiopian Orthodox Church Today". Ostkirchliche Studien. 23: 318–323. Retrieved 30 March 2016. 
  3. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia: Esdras, Books of Archived February 6, 2010, at the Wayback Machine..
  4. ^ NETBible: Apocalyptic Esdras Archived 2007-09-26 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Stone, Michael Edward (1990). Fourth Ezra; A Commentary on the Book of Fourth Ezra. Hermeneia. Fortress Press. p. 37. ISBN 0-8006-6026-9. 

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