And they shall plan to make war against one another,There is a problem, in that this document is considered, and for very good reasons to be dated from about 100 CE, some 15 years too early to be aware of either the Parthian War or the Tumulto Iudaico. So what is going on here, have I missed something?
city against city, place against place, people against people, and kingdom against kingdom
et in alisalio cogitabunt bellare,
civitates civitatem et locus locum et gens ad gentem et regnum adversus regnum
To answer that question we need to understand 4 Ezra (chapters 3-13 of 2 Esdras), and the events which it is referring to in its visions. 2 Esdras is a collection of documents, which are traditionally broken down as follows
5 Ezra Chapters 1-2 Christian Author from 3rd CenturyThe original language of the document, whether Greek or Hebrew, is lost, but translations into Latin, Coptic, or Syriac for the most part. What should be clear here is 2 Esdras is a composite composition that did not come together as a unit until the late 3rd or even the 4th century. It appears to be a Jewish or Jewish Christian core sandwiched in a Latin Christian wrapper. Something triggered Christian use of the earlier "Jewish" inner core, late in the third century or early in the fourth for that to happen. But that is not an immediate concern here, we are looking at that inner core only, 4 Ezra and its seven visions.
4 Ezra Chapters 3-14 Jewish Apocalypse
6 Ezra Chapters 15-16 these chapters found in Latin, but not in Eastern texts (very late)
4 Ezra opens in 2 Esdras 3:1-2 by declaring
In the thirtieth year after the destruction of our city,We are immediately aware that Jerusalem, "our city," has been destroyed for thirty years. The reference to the "desolation of Zion" (desertionem Sion) is a strong hint that the author has the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus' legions in 70 CE, as Zion is the hill on which Herod's Palace stood, dominating the upper city. It seems clear that when he says "the wealth of those who live in Babylon" he is referring to none other than Rome, an association that is present in the Jewish Christian book of Revelation (14:8, 16:19, 17:5, 18:2, 18:10, 18:21), and 1 Peter 5:13 . Seeing that we have the Bellum Iudiacum in view, the parallel to Luke 21:20 is apparent, as the desolation in both books refers to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. The Temple's destruction is not mention, only the city itself. So then we are asked to add thirty years to the date of the destruction would bring the date to around 100 CE, early in the reign of Trajan.
I Salathiel, who am also called Ezra, was in Babylon.
I was troubled as I lay on my bed, and my thoughts welled up in my heart,
because I saw the desolation of Zion and the wealth of those who lived in Babylon.
We also have a hint at the author's orientation by the choice of names for the protagonist. Salathiel (Salathihel) is a Greek-derived variant (Σαλαθιηλ, see Matthew 1:12) of the Hebrew Shealtiel (שְׁאַלְתִּיאֵל), a name that means "I asked El (for this child)." This suggests Jewish Christian authorship could be in view, since the child requested from God is meant to be Christ. There may also be something in verse 4:1 where the archangel Uriel, "the Light of God," is the one who appears to Salathiel; an interesting coincidence considering the prologue of the Gospel of John. So while the perspective of the visions and the hatred of Rome are shared by Jews and Jewish Christians alike, there is a hint that Christian themes may be present the text.
The end of chapter 3, verses 27-36, Salathiel complains of Jerusalem and Israel have been handed over to Roman (Babylon) rule (dominabit).
So thou didst deliver the city into the hands of thy enemies. Then I said in my heart, Are the deeds of those who inhabit Babylon any better? Is that why she has gained dominion over Zion? For when I came here I saw ungodly deeds without number, and my soul has seen many sinners during these thirty years. And my heart failed me, for I have seen how thou dost endure those who sin, and hast spared those who act wickedly, and hast destroyed thy people, and hast preserved thy enemies, and hast not shown to anyone how thy way may be comprehended. Are the deeds of Babylon better than those of Zion? Or has another nation known thee besides Israel? Or what tribes have so believed thy covenants as these tribes of Jacob? Yet their reward has not appeared and their labor has borne no fruit. For I have traveled widely among the nations and have seen that they abound in wealth, though they are unmindful of thy commandments. Now therefore weigh in a balance our iniquities and those of the inhabitants of the world; and so it will be found which way the turn of the scale will incline. When have the inhabitants of the earth not sinned in thy sight? Or what nation has kept thy commandments so well? Thou mayest indeed find individual men who have kept thy commandments, but nations thou wilt not find.He also complains and asks why it is that the wealth of peoples (nations gens, tribes tribus) and who do not follow the Torah Law (covenants testamentis, commandments mandata) is greater and even far greater than Israel. The situation here describes the travels of a Diaspora Jew around the Roman Empire. This is a very different situation than when the Babylonians crushed Israel. The description is of an empire with many conquered peoples, which only fits Rome. So we again have confirmation that we are looking at a time after Bellum Iudaicum. Salathiel's complaint demonstrates the crisis of faith the Jews faced, as in the ancient era the correctness of a religion and its God(s) was correlated to the success of the people of that faith. The destruction of Jerusalem and loss of sovereignty constituted an enormous shame.
The destruction is again revisited in speech by Salathiel to a distraught woman in verses 10:20-23.
Do not say that, but let yourself be persuaded because of the troubles of Zion, and be consoled because of the sorrow of Jerusalem. For you see that our sanctuary has been laid waste, our altar thrown down, our temple destroyed; our harp has been laid low, our song has been silenced, and our rejoicing has been ended; the light of our lampstand has been put out, the ark of our covenant has been plundered, our holy things have been polluted, and the name by which we are called has been profaned; our free men have suffered abuse, our priests have been burned to death, our Levites have gone into captivity, our virgins have been defiled, and our wives have been ravished; our righteous men have been carried off, our little ones have been cast out, our young men have been enslaved and our strong men made powerless. And, what is more than all, the seal of Zion -- for she has now lost the seal of her glory, and has been given over into the hands of those that hate us.In this account the additional concerning the destruction of the temple, giving an itemozed account: the sanctuary (sanctificatio nostra deserta effecta est), alter (altare nostrum demolitum est), temple (templum nostrum destructum est), ark of the covenant (arca testamenti nostri direpta est), and the holy things (sancta nostra contaminata sunt). The behavior described of the conquering army fits that of the Roman army with the usual plunder and raping, but also the enslavement of the young men. The priests burning to death seems to be from Josephus' account that the priests (like others) were slain as temple burned (De bello Judaico 6.5.1).
While the holy house was on fire every thing was plundered that came to hand, and ten thousand of those that were caught were slain; nor was there a commiseration of any age, or any reverence of gravity, but children, and old men, and profane persons, and priests were all slain in the same manner;The parallel to Josephus is too close not to be about the same event, and arguably it could even be said likely to have been derived from Jospehus' account of the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem.
Καιομένου δὲ τοῦ ναοῦ τῶν μὲν προσπιπτόντων ἦν ἁρπαγή, φόνος δὲ τῶν καταλαμβανομένων μυρίος καὶ οὔτε ἡλικίας ἦν ἔλεος οὔτ᾽ ἐντροπὴ σεμνότητος, ἀλλὰ καὶ παιδία καὶ γέροντες καὶ βέβηλοι καὶ ἱερεῖς ὁμοίως ἀνῃροῦντο,
As for the priests ... two of these of eminence among them ... threw themselves into the fire, and were burnt together with the holy house; their names were Meirus the son of Belgas, and Joseph the son of Daleus
τῶν δὲ ἱερέων ... δύο γε μὴν τῶν ἐπισήμων ... ἑαυτοὺς ἔρριψαν εἰς τὸ πῦρ καὶ τῷ ναῷ συγκατεφλέγησαν, Μηϊρός τε υἱὸς Βελγᾶ καὶ Ἰώσηπος Δαλαίου
Now in response to Salathiel's crisis of faith, the archangel Uriel comes and helps him interpret his coming visions, and to set him right. The one concerns us next is verses 10:44-45 where the vision of a women (verses 10:26-27) as an established city is explained.
This woman whom you saw, whom you now behold as an established city, is Zion.Like verses 3:1-2 above, we are thirty years after the destruction of Jerusalem, confirmed in verse 10:48, which is Zion, as her bareness for thirty years represents the time that has past since then. We again arrive at 100 CE.
And as for her telling you that she was barren for thirty years,
Chapters 11and 12 of 2 Esdras concerns a vision of an Eagle. The vision begins (2 Esdras 11:1-9)
It's pretty obvious that the Eagle is Rome, her symbol. This is confirmed in verse 12:12-15
On the second night I had a dream, and behold, there came up from the sea an eagle that had twelve feathered wings and three heads. And I looked, and behold, he spread his wings over all the earth, and all the winds of heaven blew upon him, and the clouds were gathered about him. And I looked, and out of his wings there grew opposing wings; but they became little, puny wings. But his heads were at rest; the middle head was larger than the other heads, but it also was at rest with them.
Apotheosis of Claudius (Funerary Aquila)
And I looked, and behold, the eagle flew with his wings, to reign over the earth and over those who dwell in it. And I saw how all things under heaven were subjected to him, and no one spoke against him, not even one creature that was on the earth. And I looked, and behold, the eagle rose upon his talons, and uttered a cry to his wings, saying, "Do not all watch at the same time; let each sleep in his own place, and watch in his turn; but let the heads be reserved for the last."
Behold, the days are coming when a kingdom shall arise on earth, and it shall be more terrifying than all the kingdoms that have been before it. And twelve kings shall reign in it, one after another. But the second that is to reign shall hold sway for a longer time than any other of the twelve.The feathers are "kings" or rather Emperors/Caesars. Although the dynasty technically began with Octavia, aka Augustus, the ancients generally regarded Julius Caesar as the first. That being the case Augustus did indeed rule the longest, for 4o years and 7 months. We see the same counting in Revelation chapter 6 with the six seals for the six Roman emperors as follows, with what is said of each seal of the first two seals
I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow;The first is Julius Caesar, to whom is given the crown (50 BC) and who conquered Gaul and Egypt. The white horse (Jupiter) and bow are astrological symbols, not of concern here.
and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer
καὶ εἶδον, καὶ ἰδοὺ ἵππος λευκός, καὶ ὁ καθήμενος ἐπ' αὐτὸν ἔχων τόξον,
καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ στέφανος, καὶ ἐξῆλθεν νικῶν καὶ ἵνα νικήσῃ.
And another, a red horse, went out;This second king is of course Augustus, who "made" peace by civil war to put down rivals such as Brutus, Cassius, Mark Anthony, and established the Claudian dynasty. And so the descriptions continue for the third to sixth emperors of the Claudian reign (Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero). As with 2 Esdras the same focus on the one Empire which rules the "world," that is the Mediterranean world, which is all that is known, except the Parthians who are another Empire to the east beyond.
and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth,
and that men would slay one another and a great sword was given to him.
καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ἄλλος ἵππος πυρρός,
καὶ τῷ καθημένῳ ἐπ' αὐτὸν ἐδόθη αὐτῷ λαβεῖν τὴν εἰρήνην ἐκ τῆς γῆς
καὶ ἵνα ἀλλήλους σφάξουσιν, καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ μάχαιρα μεγάλη.
This brings us back to the twelve feathers, representing the twelve kings or emperors. If one takes a linear count of the emperors, the first twelve - as counted by these apocalypses - are Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian. But this may not be the case, as in Revelation the interim period of less than a year between Nero and Vespasian is simply not counted for any of those three emperors, rather as a vague "dead" emperor in 13:3
I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain,This is not surprising, as the writer of of Revelation had a Judea-Galilee perspective, and the Roman army in the east proclaimed Vespasian emperor, and the army staid in the field, although pausing for direction, rather than returning home like other ancient armies tended to do (verses 13:5-8). The Galba, Otho, Vitellius set of Emperors effectively didn't exist as far as that writer was concerned. We do not know how these three Emperors were or were not counted. If they were counted by the 4 Ezra writer then Emperor twelve would be Domitian, which is two Emperors before 100 CE, since Trajan sat on the throne 30 years after Jerusalem fell, and Nerva, who ended the which hunts for taxation, including the excesses related to the collection fiscus Iudaicus, served two years after Domitian. So if the three are counted as one we are in Trajan's reign, but if they are not counted, the Hadrian would be the twelfth. For the moment we will leave that up in the air until we have clarification.
and his fatal wound was healed
καὶ μίαν ἐκ τῶν κεφαλῶν αὐτοῦ ὡς ἐσφαγμενην εἰς θάνατον,
καὶ ἡ πληγὴ τοῦ θανάτου αὐτοῦ ἐθεραπεύθη.
Everything to this point supports an writing sometime around 100 CE. But now its time to consider things that don't fit that that time frame.
Returning to 2 Esdras, in chapter 11:10-35 the vision of the feathers and heads of the eagles reigning appears to fit a much longer span than before, well into the late third century. Initially verses 11:10-17 speaks of Julius Caesar and Augustus, a voice says that 2nd Emperor will rule longer than all who would follow. Here the analogy maps the feathers to Emperors.
And I looked, and behold, the voice did not come from his heads, but from the midst of his body. And I counted his opposing wings, and behold, there were eight of them. And I looked, and behold, on the right side one wing arose, and it reigned over all the earth. And while it was reigning it came to its end and disappeared, so that its place was not seen. Then the next wing arose and reigned, and it continued to reign a long time. And while it was reigning its end came also, so that it disappeared like the first. And behold, a voice sounded, saying to it."Hear me, you who have ruled the earth all this time; I announce this to you before you disappear. After you no one shall rule as long as you, or even half as long."The verses that follow, 11:18-21, speak of the various Emperors, and that after the Claudians they rise to power; that is they are often military commanders, leading legions who declare them Emperors
Then the third wing raised itself up, and held the rule like the former ones, and it also disappeared. And so it went with all the wings; they wielded power one after another and then were never seen again. And I looked, and behold, in due course the wings that followed also rose up on the right side, in order to rule. There were some of them that ruled, yet disappeared suddenly; and others of them rose up, but did not hold the rule.The third here is Tiberius who had a long reign, but after him stability was not guaranteed. Some came and went as Emperors quickly like Galba, Otho, Vitellius. All the emperors are said to rise up from the right side, which I think has geographic meaning; looking south the West would be on the right, and so the reference is to the Italian and in a few cases Spanish Emperors. But now the time frame has stretched in verse 11:22 peaks of other failed risings of commanders of did not attain rule (nam et aliquae ex eis erigebantur, sed non tenebant principatum). There really are only two after Augustus of any note before the assassination of Commodus in 193 CE; those of Lucius Antonius Saturninus (89 CE) and Avidius Cassius (175 CE), and the revolt of Saturninus does not have any mention of his being named Emperor, although one would assume his legion would have done so for there to be a revolt against Domitian, and it was very quickly put down. Cassius appears to be the first serious challenge in the field. Also since the mention is plural, we must be looking at a late second or even third century perspective. So with that in mind we examine verses 11:22-35.
And after this I looked, and behold, the twelve wings and the two little wings disappeared; and nothing remained on the eagle's body except the three heads that were at rest and six little wings. And I looked, and behold, two little wings separated from the six and remained under the head that was on the right side; but four remained in their place. And I looked, and behold, these little wings planned to set themselves up and hold the rule. And I looked, and behold, one was set up, but suddenly disappeared; a second also, and this disappeared more quickly than the first. And I looked, and behold, the two that remained were planning between themselves to reign together; and while they were planning, behold, one of the heads that were at rest (the one which was in the middle) awoke; for it was greater than the other two heads. And I saw how it allied the two heads with itself, and behold, the head turned with those that were with it, and it devoured the two little wings which were planning to reign. Moreover this head gained control of the whole earth, and with much oppression dominated its inhabitants; and it had greater power over the world than all the wings that had gone before. And after this I looked, and behold, the middle head also suddenly disappeared, just as the wings had done. But the two heads remained, which also ruled over the earth and its inhabitants. And I looked, and behold, the head on the right side devoured the one on the left.We are now past the initial Emperors where the was relative stability from Augustus through Commodus, looking at what appears to be the era of the crisis of the third century, as the reference to one ruling after another and for very brief reigns pushes the era past Septimus Severus and his son Caracella. This era came to an end with the rise of Diocletian, the middle head in verse 11:32, who ruled longer and with a stronger hand (hoc autem caput percontinuit omnem terram et dominavit) than those before for at least a century (et potentatum tenuit orbem terrarum super omnes alas quae fuerunt). The verse also seems to mentions Diocletian persecutions (qui inhabitant in ea cum labore multo) against the Persian supported Manicheans began 31 March 302 CE, and then the Christians beginning 23 February 303 which with the razing of the Nicomedia Church (Eusubius EH 8.1.2). The two heads that appear in the next verse are likely Galerius and Constans/Constantine when Diocletian retired. And the one left standing is Constantine upon Galerius' death of natural causes in 311 CE.
Now with the era of Diocletian to Constantine established in verses 11:32-35, working backward with verses 11:28-31 the two heads planning to rule jointly before being devoured by the stronger one of Diocetian must refer to Numerian and Carinus, the sons of Carus who reigned for two brief years in 283-285. Numerian lived barely a year, Carinus barely a year more. The earlier verses are harder to exactly place, but 11:25-27 probably refers to Probus who reigned for 6 years and the aforementioned Carus. Verses 11:22-24 is difficult to place, except that a transition has occurred where the initial Emperors are gone and we have moved forward to the era of instability.
The writer appears to be writing during the beginning of the reign of Constantine. The persecutions of Christians continued until 311 CE when Galarius rescinded them. We see reference again in the explanation of the vision in 12:18-24
In the midst of the time of that kingdom great struggles shall arise, and it shall be in danger of falling; nevertheless it shall not fall then, but shall regain its former power. As for your seeing eight little wings clinging to his wings, this is the interpretation: Eight kings shall arise in it, whose times shall be short and their years swift; and two of them shall perish when the middle of its time draws near; and four shall be kept for the time when its end approaches; but two shall be kept until the end. As for your seeing three heads at rest, this is the interpretation: In its last days the Most High will raise up three kings, and they shall renew many things in it, and shall rule the earth and its inhabitants more oppressively than all who were before them; therefore they are called the heads of the eagle.The three kings could be Diocletian, Maximentius, and Galarius, with Constantine the hero who arises after, represented by the Lion. The eight kings who rule briefly can be just about any you care to pick during the 3rd century crisis (238-285 CE) in which the Empire was in great peril of collapse.
I am not particularly familiar with this era, as to date I have concentrated on the the Nerva-Antonian era. But it is obvious that a significant layer of Christian writing was placed on top of earlier works. We have here an example of a work that appears to be from the early 2nd century overwritten with visions from the early 4th century.
The work is thus layered, and there are hints of contact with the Canonical Gospels, such as 7:28-29 which make it clear the author is a Jewish Christan
For my son the Messiah shall be revealed with those who are with him, and those who remain shall rejoice four hundred years. And after these years my son the Messiah shall die, and all who draw human breath.Which brings us back to where we started, chapter 13 of 2 Esdras and the relationship to Tumulto Iudaico in verses 13:31-32
And they shall plan to make war against one another,The reference to a son is Christian, and the statement of people against people and kingdom against kingdom has been expanded from the Synoptic Gospels, with City against City and place against place. It is derived from the Gospels, not the other way around. The context is not Tumulto Iudaico and the Parthian War of 114-117, but a stylized 4th century vision, built upon passages of the Synoptic Gospels.
city against city, place against place, people against people, and kingdom against kingdom.
And when these things come to pass and the signs occur which I showed you before,
then my Son will be revealed, whom you saw as a man coming up from the sea.
This very late date explains its absence from the LXX and its only appearing in much later texts like the Vulgate. There does appear to be a prior document from the end of the first century embedded, likely written by a Diaspora Jew in Greek (I do not think the evidence for Hebrew is at all compelling), but it has been completely written over by a 4th century Christian, after Galerius had died and the persecutions ended, but before Christianity is the State religion.
That is my take after examining the content of the text.