Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Making the Path Straight

In 2 Esdras 8:21, Ezra talks about fasting and seeking that the Lord would make the road straight. At first we might be inclined to think of Matthew 7:13, but Esdras talks about the ὁδὸν εὐθεῖαν (Hebrew derek yešārāh) whereas Matthew talks about the στενῆς πύλης. Esdras' road is straight while Matthew's gate is strait.

As it turns out the parallel is to Matthew 3:3 which quotes Isaiah 40:3 using the same vocabulary (in both Greek and Hebrew) as 2 Esdras 8:21 (= Ezra 8:21). In the parallel, John the Baptist is sent to make straight the way of the Lord before his face. Ezra discusses the need for fasting and prayer to make the path straight. John the Baptist discusses repentance as a necessary prerequisite for making the path straight. While Matthew (and the other gospel writers) explicitly refer to Isaiah, the use of the same language as Ezra was probably also in the hearers' mind.