Scala/Art Resource, NY

Ezra the scribe composes a literary work in this seventh- or eighth-century C.E. illuminated manuscript now at the Biblioteca Laurenziana in Florence. Author Demsky believes that Nehemiah’s Memoir (those portions of the book of Nehemiah that recount the governor’s activities) uses a different dating system from the Ezra Source (Ezra 7–10 and Nehemiah 8–10). Nehemiah’s Memoir, appropriately for a history of a local ruler, uses months with Babylonian names—the prevailing civil calendar at the time—and relates events to the reigns of kings. The Ezra Source, however, because it pertains to the career of a priest and scribe, uses ordinal numbers for months (third month, etc.), as found in the Torah and Prophets (the first two sections of the Hebrew Bible); years are related not to reigns but to the seven-year sabbatical cycles. Demsky concludes that Nehemiah preceded Ezra to Jerusalem by about two-and-a-half years.