The Book of Ezeriah:
A Riposte to the Doubting Thomases, Erics and Mabels
who Deny the Authenticity of this Revered Theological Tract
(Ripostor and Theological
Tractor of the Parish of Greater Grunty Fen)
I have taken it upon myself to investigate this
Ďmagnum opusí over thirty or so years and have been gratified to discover
that others besides me are aware of its existence.† I freely confess that Ezeriah continues to pose more
exegetical questions than it answers and its hermeneutics have largely become
the province of amateurs such as myself.
I have been inspired in my efforts by the example of
my late grandfather, the Reverend Handel Plynlimmon
Howells, a noted missionary and church-builder who left funds to establish a
joint honours degree in Hebrew, Woodwork and Welsh at the University of Blaenavon.
The earliest record of Ezeriah as a published work in England appears
in the turbulent days of the Civil War when independent congregations thrived
in East Anglia.† With its heady mix of
apocalyptic visions, acts of fornication (followed by appropriate
chastisement), complex genealogies and agricultural ephemera, Ezeriah proved
to be popular amongst Fen people.
An itinerant Scottish preacher, Mungo
McLaren, based many of his sermons upon the work
and sold a large number of reprints of it to local people. He eventually
settled near Littleport, marrying and producing a
fine brood of seven sons. (Authorís
Note: I should like to think that Ginger ĎPretty Boyí McLaren,
the noted drain-rodder, is descended from him.)
On the shelf
Ezeriah was popular in many local households up to and
including those which existed in Victorian times. Together with Foxís Book of Martyrs, Tupperís Proverbial
Philosophy, Samuel Smilesí Book of Self-Help and Pilgrimís Progress, it was a mainstay of domestic libraries
throughout the Fens.
However, despite its popular appeal, the mainstream
churches refused to include it in the accepted canon of biblical literature.
The only bible I have discovered that included Ezeriah was published by the Prickwillow
Society for the Propagation of the Eternal Word in the Dark Corners of the
Empire. It was included in an
appendix to the Apocrypha, together
with the Lamentations of Adon-Igel, about which even less is known.
Ezeriah was written in the post-exilic period of Judaic
history but survived only in fragments that went to make up the various codexes that, in turn, went to make up the Old Testament.
It is believed that some of these fragments reached England at the
end of the First Crusade, arriving with a Saxon knight, Dionysius von Grundhaafen.
Dionysius returned from the Holy Land and settled in the Fens considerably enriched not by
the usual means of ransom and plunder, but through the sale of surplus arms
and holy relics. His stocks of bones and splinters attracted eager customers
in the area, much to the chagrin of the Bishop of Ely, who found himself
unable to compete in the cut-throat world of sacred artefacts. This might
explain the prejudice against Ezeriah as an
Sects by the sea
I must admit that I have shared othersí scepticism
concerning Ezeriah until recently. Excavations in the
area of the Dead Sea, around Qum-Rhanhaabeen, revealed the
writings of an obscure sect known as the Nisseneens,
who lived in primitive huts leading an ascetic life in pursuit of their
They supported themselves through subsistence
farming and the sale of goods salvaged from lost or abandoned caravans, and
they were suppressed by the Roman procurator Arhubarbus
The fragments make mention of the prophet Azariah and
seem to confirm the genealogies mentioned in the extant versions. The fornicatory episodes are absent but this is hardly
surprising given the extreme asceticism enjoyed by the Nisseneens.
Note that since then the spelling has changed from Azariah to Ezeriah, which is consistent with these latest findings being proto-Mazoretic, reflecting the stabilisation of the
consonantal text taking place at the time of writing, circa AD70.† (Authorís
Note: I am sure that all pious Fen folk will be thrilled to know this.)
These and other findings have yet to be synthesised
into a coherent dissertation upon Ezeriah but I believe that they cast some much-needed
light onto a murky subject. One day the truth will emerge like the last tram
to Grunty Fen did in the Great Drought of 1976.
But that is another story.† †