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date: 29 July 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Ezra-Nehemiah and 1 Esdras are the books of the Bible that describe the return to Judah under the Persians, so it is important to understand what in their portrayal is accurate, and what can be assigned to the imagination of the writers. Text-critical, historical-critical, and archaeological methods enable us to disentangle these elements. They confirm returns to Judah under Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes I, a temple rebuilt under Cyrus and Darius, and a rebuilt wall around Jerusalem under Artaxerxes. We may confirm as well that a man named Ezra was an official in the Persian Empire who served as the “eyes and ears of the King,” but that he did not bring either the Torah or Torah-law to Judah, and there was no law-reading ceremony. The law-reading ceremony, currently described in Nehemiah 8, was written in the Maccabean period, perhaps to emphasize to their Seleucid overlords that even the Persians had supported Judean traditions.

Keywords: Ezra-Nehemiah, 1 Esdras, temple, Jerusalem’s city wall, law code, torah, Persia, apocrypha, textual history, textual criticism

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