IV Ezra, Fishbane

Source: Michael E. Stone, “Apocalyptic Literature,” Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period, ed. Michael E. Stone (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984) 428-429.

“Classic in this connection is 4 Ezra 14 claiming Mosaic authority, indeed authority beyond that of Moses, for the apocalyptic revelations…It has also been claimed persuasively that the methods of exegesis in the apocryphal literature in general and a fortiori in the apocalypses, show that the possibility of inspiration and the results of independent individual cogitation were accorded more weight than in rabbinic literature, this also leading to a less intimate tie to the biblical text.”

Much of IV Ezra was written in the first century C.E., since it mentions Roman emperors from that time. Although there was a biblical canon–as Philo, Josephus, and the New Testament make clear–there were still Jews who believed that God continued to inspire new writings. I guess that’s not too surprising, since the New Testament made the same claim!

This overlaps with my Fishbane paper. (BTW, I haven’t written any Fishbane posts as of late because I’ve actually been working on the Fishbane paper.) During the post-exilic period, there were people who challenged the laws of the Pentateuch. They claimed new inspiration, and they acted as if their writings superseded what came before. That seems to be what occurred within certain circles in the first century C.E., as we see in writings such as IV Ezra.

At the time of IV Ezra, there was a clear canon that most Jews deemed to be authoritative, and it included the Torah and the prophets. Yet, there were still Jews who claimed new revelation, notwithstanding the canon’s existence and prominence. Consequently, even though there were challenges to the Torah in the post-exilic period, it may very well have been an authoritative and widespread traditum, meaning that Fishbane’s model of a traditio interpreting an authoritative traditum has merit. But Fishbane should still acknowledge that there were Jews who questioned the Torah, believing that God could act in new, fresh ways anytime he chose.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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2 Responses to IV Ezra, Fishbane

  1. Byker Bob says:

    Don’t we call this evolutionary process dispensationalism today? I’ve always understood that term to mean progressive revelation as plotted against the passage of time.

    One can interpret the various covenants from a dispensationalist point of view. The Noachian covenant, the Abrahamic covenant, the Mosaic covenant, and the New Covenant. Some do not buy into this. They believe instead that the Mosaic covenant is the eternal covenant, known earlier to Adam, Noah, Melchizedek, and Abraham, and simply reiterated to Moses, who recorded it in detail.



  2. James Pate says:

    There’s a lot I can say in response to your post, since it’s a rich topic. I think that those who offered new revelation may have been dispensationalist, in the sense that they believed they were communicating a new way of doing things, for a new time. This is true of the prophets (3 Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah), the New Testament, and possibly 4 Ezra. The thing was that there were also people who were quite static–who believed that God’s revelation in the past was the way things were always supposed to be. This would characterize Ezra and Nehemiah, and, to a certain extent, the rabbis (though there are huge exceptions there).


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