Book of Ezra
|Light iron-age reading|
|Gabbin' with God|
The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah were originally written as a single text, but were broken up into two books in the 3rd century CE, by the newly emerging "Christian Church", and in the 16th century by Jewish scholars. The books as a collective discuss the world of Jerusalem during a roughly 100 year period just after the fall of Babylon. Both are works from the Ketuvim, the "writings".
Book of Ezra
The Book of Ezra focuses primarily on the Jews' return to Jerusalem from their Babylonian exile (making it a popularly cited work for modern Zionists). The return from Babylon happened in two stages between 457 and 395 BCE. Much of the book is given to descriptions of the rebuilding of the temple. Ezra and Nehemiah are one book in the Jewish TNK, but were split up from the Septuagint on.
Other than being used to beat up gays but not lobster eaters, or being used to look foolish in the face of Science, for Christians, the Old Testament primarily acts as proof that Jesus is Super Cool™. To this end, Ezra had a 60 year gap in the text added by the Christian editors, which was necessary to make Jesus fulfill Daniel's prophecy of the Seventy Weeks. An angel said to Daniel that Jerusalem cannot be restored until a period of 70 weeks has passed. Since the Jews return to Jerusalem finding the temple destroyed, rebuilding it before the 70 weeks are over, would not be sufficient for Daniel's New Jerusalem and the Anointed One to come. Therefore, Christian Theologians who believe Jesus was the Anointed One (Messiah or Christ), needed 70 years of peace to happen between the return of the Jews and the construction of the Temple. Hence the addition of the lapse in the Christian Ezra.
Book of Nehemiah
The Book of Nehemiah is a celebration of post Zion identity, as Nehemiah finds himself rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, symbolically showing how individual Jews rebuilt their city, their religion, and their identity after exile. Nehemiah is a first person memoir of Nehemiah, a high official in the Persian Court. He is not Jewish, but god being who god is, he is somehow convinced that the new city should be blessed and dedicated to God (YHWH, not Ahurah Mazda, of course) and to God's Law, the Torah. The Israelites accept him as the Governor of Judah under Persian rule, which unlike Babylonian rule, allowed them freedom of identity and religion.
Ironically, the fact that the Israelites were more free under Persian rule meant they interacted far more closely with them. One of the historical impacts of the positive relationship between the Persian Zoroastrians who released the exiles and the Jewish religion is the advent of many concepts common to what would become Christianity:
- The concept of an "All Good" god against an "All Bad" dude. (Prior to this, the Jewish faith did not have something akin to the devil - everything, good and bad, emanated from God.)
- Heaven (the Zoroastrian word "paradise", hum...) and the associated Hell instead of a generic afterlife for everyone (Sheol), as before.
- Angels, beings from heaven, are likely a Zoroastrian addition, including the Jewish concept of 7 Chief archangels, which look quite identical to the older "Amesha Spentas", 7 angles that guard entry into the Garden of Paradise.
- All those angels on everyone's shoulders these days, so-called "guardian angels"? They're fravashi, the divine guardian spirits for each born person.
- That whole "End times" thing (well, not specifically the 2012, but 'in general') -- straight out of Zoroastrianism.
- The concept of a Messiah, distinct from simple prophets, traces to Zoroastrianism.
- And gosh, but there's a real similarity between that dude who died on the cross and Zarathustra himself.