Various portrayals of Ezra, as scholar or priest, or ‘priest and scholar’, are found in Ezra-Nehemiah. The portrayals were established as many theological understandings of him at that time and afterwards have been attributed to. This article purports to analyze historical Ezra and later interpretations of him editorially layered thus finding the historical causes and intentionsof the theological interpretations of him, and, also, figuring out the development of the history of the Chronicles, its Sitz im Leben and theological orientation.
First, in the source-layer of the books, Ezra is prominent as a scholar who was an official scribe ( ambassador, official, scribe) of Persian Artaxerxes, executing the Law as the Persian constitution , and uprighted the Judean ministration stabilizing the Returnees to have resorted to their religious traditions. Second, Ezra is prominent as a priest in the early documents of the historical accounts of the Chronicles. He is understood as an orthodox Zadokite priest in the anti-Samaritan context, who strived to preserve the integrity of the Judean community, taking charge of the financial affairs in Jerusalem, the rituals of the people and their problem of intermarriage with ‘the people of the land’. Third, even though the mixed title ‘the priest and scribe , which is derived from the source-layer and the early editorial layer, are attributed to him in the late editorial layer (the final edition) in the historical accounts of the Chronicles, Ezra’s very much expanded role, unlike the former two layers, as a scribe taking charge of whole Israel’s total consensus is significantly told to confirm a solid identity of ‘whole Israel’. That is, ultimately, Ezra was interpreted as a leader (representative) of entire nation, who was supposed to instruct the entire people to unite in the Law along with the Levites, especially in the anti-Hellenistic time.
It may be concluded that Ezra’s status and role were diversely interpreted in the various historical context of each editions. Ezra, a scholar of Persia, was portrayed, i.e., re-interpreted, as an orthodox priest of Jerusalem in the anti-Samaritan context (the early editorial one) by the early historian of the Chronicles, and then as a scribe taking charge of whole Israel’s total consensus in the anti-Hellenistic (or anti-foreign) context (the late editorial one) by the late historian of the Chronicles, respectively. The Chronicles historians, just as they interpreted David as their ideal leader in their record of the Israelite history, interpreted Ezra in their record of the post-Persian history according to their own Sitz im Leben, portraying him as their role model.