The book of Esther.

Counted among the writings.


Attributed author(s).
Anonymous.

Text(s) available.
None on site.
CCEL: Esther (Hebrew only).
Swete LXX (Greek only).
Bible Gateway (English only).
Humanities Text Initiative: Additions to Esther (English only).
HTML Bible: Esther 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (Hebrew and English).
HTML Bible: Esther 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (Latin Vulgate only).
Zhubert (Greek and English).
Kata Pi BHS: Esther 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (Hebrew and English).
Kata Pi LXX: Esther 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (Greek and English).
Sacred Texts: Esther 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 (polyglot).
Sacred Texts: Additions to Esther 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 (English only).

Useful links.
Esther at the OT Gateway.
Esther and apocryphal Esther in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
EJW (Peter Kirby).
Esther and the rest of Esther at Kata Pi (Oesterly and Robinson).
Esther from the Plymouth Brethren.
Introduction to Esther (David Malick).
Outline of Esther (David Malick).
Translation of Esther (Mordecai Housman).
Holy Disobedience in Esther (Karol Jackowski).
Esther and the Future of the Commentary (Zerbanoo Gifford).
Esther 7.4 Interactive (Sheffield).

The book of Esther is counted as an historical book in our English Bibles, but in the Jewish scriptures it is among the writings.

The book was originally written in Hebrew, but the ancient Greek translation known as the Septuagint (abbreviated LXX) is also a very important witness to the text. The LXX, however, also incorporates several apocryphal additions to the book.


Peter Kirby (Early Jewish Writings).

Esther.
Additions to Esther.

Peter Kirby surveys scholars writing on the book of Esther:

Demetrius R. Dumm writes: On this point [of literary form], scholarly opinion ranges from pure myth to strict history. Most critics, however, favor a middle course of historical elements with more or less generous literary embellishments (thus J. Schildenberger, H. Gunkel, O. Eissfeldt, A. Barucq). The Gk additions in particular appear to be essentially literary creations. That neither author intended to write strict history seems obvious from the historical inaccuracies, unusual coincidences, and other traits characteristic of folklore (all of which will be pointed out in the commentary). On the other hand, there is no compelling reason for denying the possibility of an undetermined historical nucleus, and the author's generally accurate picture of Persian life tends to support this possibility. Several details of Est suggest a fictitious story. The very fact of variations between the Hebrew and the deuterocanonical additions shows that the book was freely embellished in the course of its history. Then there are the many difficulties concerning Mordecai's age, and the wife of Xerxes (Amestris). Moreover, the artificial symmetry suggests fiction: Gentiles against Jews; Vashti as opposed to Esther; the hanging of Haman and the appointment of Mordecai as the vizier; the anti-Semitic pogrom and the slaying of the Gentiles. A law of contrasts is obviously at work. On the other hand, one cannot dispute the possibility of Jewish pogroms during the Persian period, and the story of Esther and Mordecai may have some basis in fact. As it stands, it has been developed very freely as the 'festal legend' of a Feast of Purim, which is itself otherwise unknown to us." (The Anchor Bible Commentary, vol. 1, pp. 628-629)

David J. A. Clines writes: "But the plausibility of the chronological framework and the accuracy of the local color do not amount to a demonstration of the book's historicity. It is more significant that the essential plot of the book hangs upon a considerable number of improbable coincidences—for example, that there should be a Jewish queen on the Persian throne at the very time when genocide of the Jews is being plotted; that Mordecai's service to the king (2:21-23) is not rewarded at the appropriate time but brought to the king's attention merely hours before Haman, the prime minister, arrives to ask for Mordecai's life (6:1-3); or that Haman, in begging for his life at Esther's feet, should be thought by the king to be attempting to rape the queen and for that reason be executed (7:8-10). The combination of coincidences, none perhaps entirely improbable in itself, brings the historical credibility of the work into question." (The Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 387)

Jay G. Williams writes: "Although conservative scholars through the ages have taken this to be a factual account of an historical event, it is clear that this is by no means the case. The story bears too many marks of a highly contrived melodrama to be considered historical. It is true that the author was fairly knowledgeable about the goings-on in a Persian court, but he also makes a good many mistakes. For instance, the Persian Empire never had 127 provinces as the story claims (1:1). Persian court records to not name either Vashti or Esther as the name of Ashasuerus' queen, nor is there any indication that Purim was ever celebrated in Jewry during the Persian period." (Understanding the Old Testament, p. 304)

James King West writes: "Whether or not this entertaining story rests upon some historical incident is impossible to say. The account is such as manifestly fictional, and its knowledge of Persian affairs sufficiently remote to make unlikely a date for the work ealier than the Greek period. Several considerations argue for a second-century date. No reference either to the feast of Purim appears elsewhere in Jewish literature before the first century B.C.; and the Qumran discoveries have thus far failed to produce a single fragment of the book. Had it circulated prior to the second century, moreover, the absence of the names of Esther and Mordecai from the exhausitve list of heros in Eccleasiasticus (c. 180 B.C.) would be difficult to explain." (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 409)

Samuel Sandmel writes: "Major objections [to canonicity] can be cited from the religious standpoint of the Pentateuch. First, the story relates that Esther became a concubine to the King of Persia, before becoming the queen; and in becoming the queen, she was married to a Gentile. Secondly, the story contains incidents of bloodthirsty revenge, at variance with the Pentateuchal view that man must not be vengeful. Even more significant is the total absence of any mention of God. The modern commentators who stress this peculiarity are underlining a fact that also occurred to the ancient Greek translators. Esther in the Greek Bible has been expanded by the addition to the Scroll of some prayers which the Greek Jews felt Esther should have prayed." (The Hebrew Scriptures, p. 497)

Peter Kirby also surveys scholars writing on the additions to the book of Esther:

Demetrius R. Dumm writes: "Est has been preserved in two substantially different forms: a Hebr text, assumed by most scholars to be original; and a Gk text (also existing in two rather divergent forms—LXX and Lucian), which freely translates the Hebrew and adds to it six large (deuterocanonical) sections. When Jerome translated this book, he lumped the Gk sections together at the end of his work. In this commentary, they are restored to their proper places, where they are designated by capital letters. The Gk numbering (11:2-12:26; 13:1-7; 13:8-14:19; 15:1-16; 16:1-27) is adopted in many translations. The Greek additions to Est are the 'deuterocanonical' portions, and they were, as usual, questioned by Jerome. But they were finally recognized as canonical by the Council of Trent." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 628)

James King West writes: "There are six items contained in these five sections. (1) 11:2-12 prefaces the story with a dream in which Mordecai receives a premonition of the events that are to follow and gives a variant of the story of the plot against the king discovered by Mordecai, which is related in 2:21-23 and alluded to in 6:2. (2) In 13:1-7 the text of the decree drafted by Haman in the king's name is supplied. (3) 13:8-18 and 14:1-19 supply appropriate prayers offered by Mordecai and Esther as she prepares to enter the presence of the king to intercede for the Jews. In Mordecai's prayer is a pious explanation for his refusal to bow to Haman; Esther's prayer ends with the striking petition, 'And save me from my fear!' (4) 15:1-16 is a much more elaborate account of Esther's preparation, entrance, and reception by the king than the brief statement in 5:1-2 which it replaces. (5) 16:1-24 supplies the royal decree nullifying the original one against the Jews and making provisions for their self-defense. Here we learn the surprising fact that Haman is not a Persian but a Macedonian! (16:10) The edict also provides the explicit connection of this letter with the Feast of Purim (cf. the colophon 11:1). (6) As the Greek Esther opens with an account of Mordecai's dream, so it closes with its interpretation and a note as to how it had been fulfilled. The appended colophon credits the Greek translation to one Lysimachus of Jerusalem. Several discrepancies between the Greek and the Hebrew texts make it appear likely that the additions were made at a later time in order to clarify and 'correct' the older version (cf. 12:2 with 2:21-23; 12:5 with 6:3; 12:6 with 3:2-6; 16:10 with 3:1; 16:22-23 with 9:20-28)." (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 456)

David J. A. Clines writes: "The Additions are found only in the Greek Bible, and not in the Hebrew, but some of them seem to have existed earlier in a Hebrew or Aramaic form. This is the case with Additions A, C, D, and F, where traces of a Semitic original are still visible. Additions B and E (the royal letters), on the other hand, are obvious examples of flowery Greek rhetorical style and must have been composed originally in Greek. All the Additions are most probably Jewish in origin, especially Additions A and F, which breathe an anti-Gentile spirit. The Semitic Additions are quite likely Palestinian in origin, while the Greek Additions more probably come from a Jewish community outside Palestine, such as that in Alexandira, Egypt where the LXX version of the Bible was made. The date of the Additions is witnessed to by the unusual colophon or conluding bibliographic notice attached to the book at 11:1 (omitted by NAB). This librarian's note records that the Greek Esther, including the Additions, was brought from Jerusalem, where it had been translated, to Egypt in the fourth year of Ptolemy and Cleopatra. The date is therefore ca. 114 B.C. (but ca. 77 or ca. 48 B.C. are also possibilities, since there was more than one Ptolemy with a wife named Cleopatra)." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 815)

David A. deSilva writes: "The date, however, helpfully records the year in which Dositheus brought the scroll to Alexandria. Unfortunately, every successor of Ptolemy I took the name Ptolemy, and several were married to a Cleopatra. Bickerman (1944: 346-47) determined that the translation was accomplished in 78-77 B.C.E., the fourth year of the reign of Ptolemy XII Auletes and Cleopatra V. The other popular date is 114-113 B.C.E., the fourth year of the reign of Ptolemy VIII Soter II and an earlier Cleopatra (Moore 1977: 250; Jacob 1890: 279-80). Bickerman rejects this possibility—as well as a third, Ptolemy XIII, the brother and husband of the famous Cleopatra—since the queen was acting in both cases as a regent for a younger Ptolemy in the fourth years of those reigns, and official documents listed Cleopatra first in those cases, unlike the colophon of Esther. In addition to two lively possibilities for the date of the translation, the colophon also preserves a name, Lysimachus—a resident of Jerusalem, probably with an Egyptian Jewish background (his father's name, Ptolemy, suggests this), thus perhaps explaining why the book should speak so well to the Egyptian Jewish situation, whither it was sent (Pfeiffer 1949: 311)." (Introducing the Apocrypha, p. 117)

J. Alberto Soggin writes: "As we have seen, the proto-canonical book does not mention the name of God once, nor is it very concerned with Jewish belief; these elements appear continually in the additions. It is therefore easy for those who defend the need to read Esther with the additions to show that without them the book would be theologically void and its presence within the canon incongruous, to say the least. But notwithstanding the presence of these theological elements, the additions, like the Hebrew text, have a strongly nationalistic attitude which is also projected on to almost a cosmic plane, in this way far transcending the original dispute between Mordecai and Haman. They thus become a kind of anti-Gentile manifesto, carrying on a discourse which we have seen to be extremely problematical in itself. This is probably the reason why they were not admitted into the Hebrew canon, despite the theological element, which admirably completes what is lacking in the proto-canonical Esther." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 440-441)

Daniel J. Harrington writes: "The Hebrew Esther is canonical for Jews and Protestants. In the Roman Catholic and Greek and Russian Orthodox churches, the expanded Greek version with the additions is the canonical form. The canonical status of Esther was debated in antiquity among both Jews and Christians. It is the only book in the Hebrew Bible not represented among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Indeed, the revised and expanded Greek version of Esther was most likely produced to make the book more acceptable." (Invitation to the Apocrypha, p. 53)