Ezekiel the Tragedian

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Ezekiel the Tragedian, also known as Ezekiel the Dramatist[1] and Ezekiel the Poet, was a Jewish dramatist who wrote in Alexandria. Some scholars have placed his work in the 3rd century BC,[2] though the evidence of the date is not definitive.[3]

His only known work, Exagōgē, is the earliest known Jewish play. It survives only in fragments found in the writings of Eusebius, Clement of Alexandria, and Pseudo-Eustathius. Nevertheless, the extensive quotations by these writers make possible the assembly of 269 lines of text, about 20-25% of the whole.[4] The only more extensive remnant of the Greco-Jewish poets is that found in the Sibylline Oracles.[5]

Exagōgē is a five-act drama written in iambic trimeter, retelling of the biblical story of The Exodus from Egypt. Moses is the main character of the play, and parts of the biblical story have been altered to suit the narrative's needs. These changes probably point to Ezekiel's intention to stage the play, since certain scenes that are impossible to stage were converted into monologue. This drama is unique in blending the biblical story with the Hellenistic tragic drama.

The main modern edition is a parallel-text English-Greek edition by classical scholar Howard Jacobson.[6][7]


  1. ^ Moses' Throne Vision in Ezekiel the Dramatist by Pieter van der Horst (1983)
  2. ^ Yavneh, Naomi, "Lost and Found; Veronese's Finding of Moses", in Gender and Early Modern Constructions of Childhood, p. 305, 2016, Eds. Naomi J. Miller, Naomi Yavneh, Routledge, ISBN 1351934848, 9781351934848, google books and google books – ebook, with different pages viewable
  3. ^ Allen, Joel Stevens (2008). The Despoliation of Egypt: In Pre-rabbinic, Rabbinic and Patristic Tradition. Brill. p. 60.
  4. ^ Joel Stevens Allen. The Despoliation of Egypt: In Pre-rabbinic, Rabbinic and Patristic Traditions, Brill, 2008, page 59, "First, Ezekiel's Exagôgê, with its extant 269 lines of iambic trimeters, is the most extensive example of the Greek dramatic literature of the Hellenistic period. Second, it is the earliest Jewish play in history, and as such provides important information as how a Hellenized Jew would try to mould biblical material into Greek dramatic forms by means of techniques developed by Greek tragedians."
  5. ^ John J. Collins, Between Athens and Jerusalem: Jewish Identity in the Hellenistic Diaspora, Crossroad, 1983, page 224: "Ezekiel the Tragedian - Another early specimen of "mystical" Judaism is found in the drama on the Exodus by Ezekiel, which, at 269 lines, is the most extensive remnant of the Greco-Jewish poets apart from the Sibylline Oracles"
  6. ^ Jacobson, Howard 1940-
  7. ^ The Exagoge of Ezekiel, ed. Howard Jacobson, 2009: "Professor Jacobson accompanies the text of the play with a translation. In the commentary he examines the fragments line by line, comparing them with the biblical account and other accounts in related Jewish sources."


  • J. Allen, "Ezekiel the Tragedian on the Despoliation of Egypt," Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha, 17.1 (2007), 3-19.
  • Kristine J. Ruffatto, "Raguel as Interpreter of Moses' Throne Vision: The Transcendent Identity of Raguel in the Exagoge of Ezekiel the Tragedian", Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha, 17.2 (2008), 121-139.
  • Koskenniemi, Erkki, "Dramatic Miracles: Ezekiel the Tragedian", in: The Old Testament miracle-workers in early Judaism, Mohr Siebeck, 2005, pp. 64-86
  • Brant, Jo-Ann A., "Mimesis and Dramatic Art in Ezekiel the Tragedians’ Exagoge", in: Ancient fiction: the matrix of early Christian and Jewish narrative, Society of Biblical Literature, 2005, pp: 129-148
  • Jacobson, Howard, The Exagoge of Ezekiel, Cambridge University Press, 1983