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Letters and CommunitiesStudies in the Socio-Political Dimensions of Ancient Epistolography$
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Paola Ceccarelli, Lutz Doering, Thorsten Fögen, and Ingo Gildenhard

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198804208

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198804208.001.0001

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The Literary and Ideological Character of the Letters in Ezra 4–7

The Literary and Ideological Character of the Letters in Ezra 4–7

Chapter:
(p.239) 8 The Literary and Ideological Character of the Letters in Ezra 4–7
Source:
Letters and Communities
Author(s):

Sebastian Grätz

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198804208.003.0009

At first glance, the Aramaic letters embedded in the biblical book of Ezra look like authentic documents issued in favour of the Judaeans by the Achaemenid chanceries. This chapter shows that the letters display formulaic and stylistic features differing from authentic imperial Persian royal correspondence, that the contents of these letters are influenced by other biblical texts, chiefly Deutero-Isaiah and the books of Chronicles, and that the image of the king in these letters comprises aspects of the euergetism characteristic of Hellenistic monarchs. Grätz therefore suggests that the letters in Ezra 4–7 are fictitious and serve certain literary and ideological purposes: they present the Persian period as a time of divinely monitored reconstruction after the exile, and they emphasize God’s lasting election of Judah and the Jerusalem temple. The deployment of letters for such purposes can be compared with similar practices in Hellenistic historiography.

Keywords:   the book of Ezra, pseudepigraphy, embedded letters, Judaeans, Achaemenid empire, Hellenistic kingship, euergetism

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