They Visited Heaven and Refused to Die: Anxieties of Discontinuity in the Testament of Abraham and in Ezra Traditions

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Abstract

The Testament of Abraham, the Greek Apocalypse of Ezra, the Latin Vision of Ezra (ms. B), and the Apocalypse of Sedrach all develop the motif of a patriarch who refuses to die and, in a vehement argument with the deity, resists the removal of his soul from his body. The motif is rooted, as Esther Chazon has established, in traditions about Moses’ death, as found for example in Petirat Moshe. After being attributed to Abraham, such traditions are developed around the figure of Ezra (or his double, Sedrach), traditionally known as a new Moses. The patriarch’s reluctance to die is highlighted by the narrative context, similar in all four texts: the patriarch resists (or continues to resist) his death after a guided journey beyond the earthly realm, to heaven and/or hell, where he receives assurance that he will gain access to a beatific afterlife. Texts hover between tragedy and comedy: the patriarch, a valiant advocate for human beings, validates anxiety about human mortality, despite the promise of an afterlife; however, the patriarch is also treated as a laughingstock for resisting—or even dreading—a fate that human beings cannot avoid.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFigures of Ezra
PublisherPeeters Publishers
Pages226-248
Number of pages22
StatePublished - 2018

Publication series

NameStudies on Early Christian Apocrypha
PublisherPeeters
VolumeStudies on Early Christian Apocrypha 13

Keywords

  • fear of death
  • Testament of Abraham
  • Greek Apocalypse of Ezra
  • Latin Vision of Ezra
  • Apocalypse of Sedrach
  • embodiment
  • body

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