Oral Performance and the Function of 4 Ezra

by Shayna Sheinfeld, McGill University

A version of this paper was first presented at the Pseudepigrapha section at the 2012 SBL Annual Meeting in Chicago.

"The purpose of this research is to consider 4 Ezra as performed text and to question what we can discern about the function of the text by paying attention to audience identification. I will consider 4 Ezra as a story performed rather than a text that is read by an individual. I imagine 4 Ezra as a story presented to an audience in the same way that texts were presented all over the ancient world. Examining Ezra from an oral perspective shows how the audience would be encouraged through aural cues to identify with the character of Ezra in the first six episodes, while the final episode–which serves as a conclusion to the entire narrative–distances the audience from Ezra while it also provides the ultimate solution to the problems facing a post-destruction community: a continuation with the past and observance of God’s commandments. This approach, I argue, allows scholars to stop asking the question of with which character does the author identify, and instead turn to consider the experience the audience had when listening to 4 Ezra."

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