The Canon of Scripture, Part 6: The Lost Book of Ezekiel

“Now Neco, king of Egypt, raised an army, and marched to the river Euphrates, in order to fight with the Medes and Babylonians, who had overthrown the dominion of the Assyrians, for he had a desire to reign over Asia.  Now when he was come to the city Mendes, which belonged to the kingdom of Josiah, he brought an army to hinder him from passing through his own country, in his expedition against the Medes.  Now Neco sent a herald to Josiah, and told him, that he had not made this expedition against him, but was making haste to Euphrates; and desired that he would not provoke him to fight against him, because he obstructed his march to the place whither he had resolved to go.  But Josiah did not admit of this advice of Neco, but put himself into a posture to hinder him from his intended march.  I suppose it was fate that pushed him on to this conduct, that it might take an occasion against him; for as he was setting his army in array, and rode about in his chariot, from one wing of his army to another, one of the Egyptians shot an arrow at him, and put an end to his eagerness for fighting; for, being sorely wounded, he commanded a retreat to be sounded for his army, and returned to Jerusalem, and died of that wound; and was magnificently buried in the sepulchre of his fathers, when he had lived thirty-nine years, and of them had reigned thirty-one.  But all the people mourned greatly for him, lamenting and grieving on his account many days; and Jeremiah the prophet composed an elegy to lament him, which is extant till this time also.  Moreover, the prophet denounced beforehand the sad calamities that were coming upon the city.  He also left behind him in writing a description of that destruction of our nation which has lately happened in our days, and the taking of Babylon; nor was he the only prophet who delivered such predictions beforehand to the multitude; but so did Ezekiel also, who was the first person that wrote, and left behind him in writing two books, concerning these events.  Now those two prophets were priests by birth, but of them Jeremiah dwelt in Jerusalem, from the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah, until the city and temple were utterly destroyed.  However as to what befell this prophet, we will relate it in its proper place.”  (Flavius Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews 10:5:1 [10:74-80], Whiston’s translation)

Welcome to my 6th delve into the complex and grey issue of the Canon of Scripture (which isn’t as black-and-white 66-books-only, as many deceptively teach).  Here are my previous articles on the subject:

The Canon of Scripture, Part 1: The Apocrypha

The Canon of Scripture, Part 2: Enoch and Jubilees

The Canon of Scripture, Part 3: Jasher

The Canon of Scripture, Part 4: The Other Books of Baruch

The Canon of Scripture, Part 5: The Other Books of Enoch

Did you notice something about the above quote from Josephus?  Allow me to highlight a part of the text.

nor was he [Jeremiah] the only prophet who delivered such predictions beforehand to the multitude; but so did Ezekiel also, who was the first person that wrote, and left behind him in writing two books, concerning these events.

Yes, that’s right – Ezekiel wrote TWO books!  We’re missing one!  Unfortunately, 2 Ezekiel hasn’t survived in complete manuscript form.  It was known to and quoted by Epiphanius, Clement of Rome and Clement of Alexandria, their quotes providing four fragments.  The only manuscript surviving is a fragment among the Chester Beatty Papyri (an early collection of Biblical manuscripts), which forms a 5th – and the longest – fragment.  Scholars refer to it as the Apocryphon of Ezekiel.

The following are the 5 fragments of 2 Ezekiel:

Fragment 1 (Papyrus Beatty):

A certain king of this world had a beautiful fig garden. In this garden he had growing some beautiful and ripe figs. In his kingdom were living two men which he had neglected. They were a blind man and a lame man. One night, the lame man conspired with the blind man to steal into the garden and help themselves to some of these figs. Leading the blind man to him with a rope, the lame man climbed upon his back, and acted as the eyes for the blind man. In this way, the two men managed to get into the garden, and eat the figs growing therein. When the king discovered that his figs were missing, he went to the blind man and asked him how such a thing could happen. The blind man responded by saying; “How could I have done this, I who cannot see?” Then the king went to the lame man and asked of him the same question. The lame man responded by saying; “How could I have done this, I who cannot walk?” The king then put the lame man on the blind mans back, and demonstrated how the two had worked together to accomplish there goal, and they were unable to deny it. It is in this way that the body is connected to the soul, and the two will be judged by what both have done, and endure no separate judgment.

Fragment 2:

Repent, house of Israel, from your lawless ways. I say to you, my people, “Even if the list of your sins stretches from heaven to earth, and if they are as black as they can be, and you turn to me, and with all of your heart say, ‘Father’, I will forgive you, and look on you as holy.

Fragment 3:

Look at the cow, She has calved, and yet she is pregnant.

Fragment 4:

In this manner, our Lord Jesus Christ also said, “It is what I have seen you doing that I will judge you for.”

Fragment 5:

Therefore, he told Ezekiel … “I will cure the lame, and heal the ill, those who have wandered away, I will return to the fold, and I will feed them upon my holy mountain … and I will be their shepherd and I will be as close to the as a second skin.”

http://jewishchristianlit.com/Texts/StudTxts/apocEzek.html

Fragment 4 is particularly interesting, directly mentioning Yehoshua ha’Mashiach by name.  Some scholars see this as a Christian interpolation, while others view the Apocryphon as a Christian (although this is unlikely).  It’s entirely possible that it’s part of a vision prophesying Yeshua in a similar manner to 4 Baruch or Isaiah.

Interestingly, fragments from a Book of Ezekiel that is not the same as our own were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (scholars dub it Pseudo-Ezekiel).  This may well be the same book as the Apocryphon/2 Ezekiel.  The following is a fragment from Pseudo-Ezekiel that I found online:

5 The vision which Ezek[iel] saw … [ ]

6 a radiance of a chariot, and four living creatures; a living creature [ and while walking they would not turn]

7 backwards; upon two (legs) each living creature was walking.

And [its] two legs [ ]

8 [up]on [ ] in [on]e there was spirit and their faces were one beside the oth[er. And the appearance of]

9 the fac[es, one a lion, on]e an eagle, and one a calf, and one a man, and there wa[s a hand of]

10 a man joined from the backs of the living creatures and attached to [their wings ] and the whe[e]l[s,]

11 wheel joined to wheel as they went, and from the two sides of the whe[els were streams of fire]

http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1010-99192017000200007

Here’s Early Jewish Writings’ article on the Apocryphon of Ezekiel:

http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/apocezekiel.html

Wikipedia’s article:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apocryphon_of_Ezekiel

Wikipedia’s article on Pseudo-Ezekiel:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudo-Ezekiel

I guess our Book of Ezekiel should be renamed 1 Ezekiel.

IN CONCLUSION

Yet another legitimate “missing book” from the Bible – only surviving in fragments, sadly.

4 thoughts on “The Canon of Scripture, Part 6: The Lost Book of Ezekiel

  1. Sweetie, you are aware that wickipedia can be changed by any one, anytime, and you or me. It can be added to and deleted in any way or form. Please be careful and search the scriptures. Love in Christ.:)

    Liked by 2 people

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