Monday, November 13, 2006

Book of Esther

Why is the book of Esther in the bible at all? There are a number of reasons it should not be …

1) No mention of God.
Esther is the only book in the bible (either Catholic or protestant version) in which the word “God” does not appear … at all.

2) Not a timely record.
Esther was not a contemporary record … it was not actually reduced to written form until more than three and a half centuries after the purported events.

3) Impossible chronology.
According to the written chronology, Esther was a centenarian before she ever even met her husband-to-be!

Mordecai and his uncle (Esther’s father) were among the adults taken from Israel to Babylon - in the Exodus - by King Nebuchadnezzar in 597 BC. After Esther’s father died, she was raised by Mordecai.

After divorcing his second wife Vishti, Persian King Ahaseurus (better known in secular history as Xerxes) gathered a group of maidens - in 480 BC - from whom he was to choose a replacement wife. Esther was included in this group of maidens. Mordecai is described as still being alive in 480 BC, and even if there were as much as thirty years difference in the ages of cousins Esther and Mordecai, Esther would still have been a minimum of 117 years of age when she first met King Ahaseurus! By this book’s account, both Mordecai and Esther lived well over three times the normal life expectancy (which was about 42 to 45 years) in that time and place.

4) No Hebrew names.
Not one character in this book has a Hebrew name. All the characters’ names mentioned - Mordecai, Zeresh, Haman, Vishti, Marduk, Ahaseurus, and in fact, both names of the title character (Esther and Hadasseh) - are Babylonian. Those names were not in common use among the local population … they were the sacred names of the chief gods and goddesses of Babylonian Mythology. This book is an undisguised re-telling of a well-known three thousand year old myth concerning a god and goddess who were cousins.

This tale is not even about Jews. In fact, Esther specifically does NOT claim to be a Jew. She very carefully avoids telling her husband Ahasuerus that she is Jewish, and only makes that claim - late in the book - in order to save Mordecai’s life and punish Haman.

As a side note, when Mordecai is first introduced in the story, his ancestry is specified as a Benjamite … a descendent of Saul. But that one particular verse is not written in Hebrew, as was the rest of the book. Rather, it was written in Aramaic, and is a later addition of unknown origin.

Despite these (and other) deficiencies, the Council of Nicea – six centuries after Esther was written, and a thousand years after the events in the book – nevertheless decided to canonize the book and it was included in the Catholic bible. Also, a number of additions to the book of Esther were later compiled, but these were so implausible and unrealistic that Jewish scholars did not accept them. However, they were included in the Greek Septuagint, and St. Jerome (in translating the Hebrew and Greek into Latin) included them in the Catholic Apocrypha as “The Rest of Esther.”


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