The Book of Esther, fiction or 'Set-Apart' Scripture?

Assembly of Yahweh, Cascade
(an assembly of True Israel of the Diaspora)

The Book of Esther, a fictional account or Scripture?

The Book of Esther is one of a small literary group of Books (along with Tobit and Judith) with very distinctive characteristics, and text which is difficult to determine. The book of Esther has two forms: one long, the Hebrew; one short, in the Greek. Of the Greek text there are two principal types: that of the current Greek Bible and that of the widely variant recension of Lucian of Antioch. The Greek version contains the following passages not found in the Hebrew: the dream of Mordecai, 1:1, and its explanation, 10:3; two edicts of Ahasuerus, 3:13 and 8:12; the prayer of Mordecai, 4:17; the prayer of Esther, 4:17; a second account of Esther's appeal to Ahasuerus, 5:1, and 5:2; an appendix explaining the origin of the Greek version, 10:3. Jerome placed his translation of these passages after the translated Hebrew text (Vulg. 10:4-16:24).

The Book was admitted to the Canon at a late date, although it has been read and quoted from earlier days and appears in the official canonical list in the West from the time of the 'Roman' Synod of 382 and, in the East, from 682 (the 'in Trullo' Council of Constantinople). The Greek passages of Esther are considered deuterocanonical, that is to say, only recognized after certain hesitancy in the patristic period. The Jewish rabbis were still discussing the status of the Hebrew Esther in the 1st century A.D., but the book has now become very popular with the Jews.

The book belongs to a type of literature which treats history and geography with a good deal of 'Freedom.' In the book, the city of Susa is correctly described, along with some Persian customs. Ahasuerus (Hebrew transcription of Xerxes) is well known as an historical figure and the delineation of his character appears to agree with what Herodotus says of him. On the other hand, it is strange that one of the tolerant Achmenid dynasty should agree to sign the order for a Jewish pogrom. And still stranger that he should authorize a massacre of his own subjects, or that the Jews would be so blood thirsty to want to kill 75,000 fellow Persians, or that these Persians should offer no resistance to their own massacre. Moreover, at the time indicated by the narrative, the queen of Persia and consort of Xerxes was Amestris, as recorded in historical records. History leaves no room for either Vashi or Esther. And, if Mordecai was indeed deported under King Nebuchadnezzar, according to Esther 2:6, he would have been one hundred and fifty years old by the reign of Xerxes (which is not very likely).

The Book of Esther tells of the deliverance of the Jews by the actions of a woman. The Jews settled in Persia are threatened with extermination by Aman, a hostile and all-powerful vizir, and are saved by Esther, a young Jewess who has become queen, and who acts on the advice of her uncle, Mordecai. There is a complete reversal of the situation: Aman is hanged and his 10 sons impaled on the stake at the request of Esther (Esther 9:13-14). No wonder "many people of the land were becoming Jews, for the fear of the Jews had fallen on them" (Esther 8:17). It is clear from the Book of Esther, that the Jews living in Persia at the time were a Religious Sect, but they were not a race, or a distinct people group, because of the incorporation of many people of the land that also became Jews.

What the story does illustrate is the hatred toward the Jews, even in ancient times. Their way of life brought them into conflict with their autocratic rulers. The bloodthirstiness of the Book of Esther is very shocking, but we must remember, as in any literary conventions, the harem intrigues and the massacres serve to dramatize. But as to its value for inclusion into the set-apart Scripture, hardly. There is not much of a redeeming factor in the Book, except maybe for the Jew as a fabricated story.

The Greek version of the Book of Esther was in existence in 114 B.C. when it was sent to Egypt to authenticate the Jewish feast of Purim (Esther 4:13-17). The Hebrew text is earlier; in 160 B.C., according to 2 Maccabees 15:36, the Palestinian Jews were celebrating a 'Day of Mordecai'; which presupposes that the story, and probably the book of Esther were well known among the Jews. The book may therefore be assigned to the end of the Persian, or the beginning of the Hellenistic period. It is very doubtful that the Book is in any way connected with the feast of Purim, because Esther 9:20-32 is written in a very different linguistic style and reads very much like it was an addition. The origin of the feast of Purim is itself obscure, and it is quite possible that the book came to be connected with it later (2 Maccabees 15:36 does not use the term 'Purim", but 'Day of Mordecai') apparently to give it some historical basis.

We at the Assembly of Yahweh, consider the Book of Esther interesting Jewish literature, a story. We do not give it any 'Scriptural validity, or place any value on it. We do not believe it has any historical basis, and consider the book in the ranks of the Books of Tobit, and Judith. They are interesting stories, but not much more.

Presented for aletheia, by the Assembly of YAHWEH, Cascade