Esther (Biblical book)

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The Book of Esther is an historical account in the Bible, which is about 10 chapters long (about 181 verses) in the Hebrew Bible, and 16 chapters long and more complete in the Septuagint, the Old Testament of the ancient Christian Church, and in the Vulgate, the Catholic Bible.[1] The complete Book of Esther is accepted as inspired and canonical by the Orthodox Church in the Greek Orthodox Bible, and is found in the books of the Old Testament of the Vulgate and included in the canon of inspired scripture by the Third Council of Carthage (397). Since the Council of Trent the complete Book of Esther with all of its parts is dogmatically accepted as inspired and canonical by the Catholic Church in the Catholic Bible—books of the Bible accepted as divinely inspired by the majority of Christian believers in the United States and throughout the world.[2][3]

Six chapters of Esther (10:4—16:24), consisting of a collection of portions of the text, which Jerome separated and moved out of sequence and out of context and placed at the end of the book of Esther in his Latin Vulgate translation, were first removed entirely from the Old Testament and placed in the Apocrypha by Martin Luther in the 16th century. This effectively removed from the canon of the Protestant Bible all of the prayers in the Book of Esther and every mention of God. The parts of Esther that were thus removed from the Bible are regarded as apocryphal by less than one-third of Christian believers.[3]

See Rest of Esther (Bible).
See Apocrypha.

Contents

Content, authorship and date

The Hebrew Book of Esther is more purely historical than any other book of Scripture, except the books of 1 and 2 Maccabees which were removed from the Protestant Bible; and in the shorter Hebrew version is unusual in never mentioning God, and it has this remarkable peculiarity that the name of God does not occur in it from first to last in any form.[4]; instead, the book conveys insights on topics of "knowledge, wisdom, holiness, and love."[5] It has, however, been well observed that, though the name of God be not in it, the shorter Hebrew version wonderfully exhibits the providential government of God, and the certain judgment that comes upon those who plot to destroy his people.[4] This fact may have finally persuaded rabbinical authorities in the 2nd century to continue to grant it a place in the Hebrew canon along with the Book of Ruth, the Book of Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. However, the actual historicity of a "Council of Jabneh/Jamnia/Yavneh" is debated. See Council of Jamnia?

Written in the third or second century B.C., the authorship of the Book of Esther is unknown.[4] It was evidently written after the death of Ahasuerus (the Xerxes of the Greeks), which took place 465 B.C..[4] The minute and particular account also given of many historical details makes it probable that the writer was contemporary with Mordecai and Esther.[4] Hence we may conclude that the book was written probably about 444-434 B.C., and that the author was one of the Jews of the dispersion.[4] The prayers of Mordecai and Esther which the Hebrew writer omitted were included by the rabbinical Greek translators of the Septuagint, which was the Bible of the Greek-speaking Jews of the Dispersion and the original scriptures read by the apostles.

The last verse at the end of the longer Greek version of the Book of Esther (11:1) strongly indicates that the whole of the book in Greek ("this epistle of Phurim") as it appears in the Septuagint was a translation [interpreted] by "Lysimachus the son of Ptolemeus" of the whole of a larger Hebrew text original, a text in content more extensive and inclusive than the version adopted by the Jews for their Palestinian Hebrew canon.
"In the fourth year of the reign of Ptolemeus and Cleopatra, Dositheus, who said he was a priest and Levite, and Ptolemeus his son, brought this epistle of Phurim, which they said was the same, and that Lysimachus the son of Ptolemeus, that was in Jerusalem, had interpreted it." Greek Esther 11:1.

The shorter Hebrew version of the Book of Esther is read aloud at the Jewish celebration of Purim.[6]

The Book of Esther is not quoted in any book of the New Testament.

Chapter summaries

The following chapter summaries are from the Douay-Rheims Bible.

1 King Assuerus maketh a great feast. Queen Vasthi being sent for refuseth to come: for which disobedience she is deposed.
2 Esther is advanced to be queen. Mardochai detecteth a plot against the king.
3 Aman, advanced by the king, is offended at Mardochai, and therefore procureth the king's decree to destroy the whole nation of the Jews.
4 Mardochai desireth Esther to petition the king for the Jews. They join in fasting and prayer.
5 Esther is graciously received: she inviteth the king and Aman to dinner. Aman prepareth a gibbet for Mardochai.
6 The king hearing of the good service done him by Mardochai, commandeth Aman to honour him next to the king, which he performeth.
7 Esther's petition for herself and her people: Aman is hanged upon the gibbet he had prepared for Mardochai.
8 Mardochai is advanced: Aman's letters are reversed.
9 The Jews kill their enemies that would have killed them. The days of Phurim are appointed to be kept holy.
10 Assuerus's greatness. Mardochai's dignity.[7]
11 The dream of Mardochai, which in the ancient Greek and Latin Bibles was in the beginning of the book, but was detached by St. Jerome and put in this place.[8]
12 Mardochai detects the conspiracy of the two eunuchs.
13 A copy of the letter sent by Aman to destroy the Jews. Mardochai's prayer for the people.
14 The prayer of Esther for herself and her people.
15 Esther comes into the king's presence: she is terrified, but God turns his heart.
16 A copy of the king's letter in favour of the Jews.

References

  1. Old Testament Statistics - New American Bible, compiled by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.
  2. The Catholic Church is the world's largest Christian body comprised of several distinct "Rites". The Catholic Church (Latin Rite) is the largest religious body in the United States, with over 60 million adherents (4 times as large as the second largest church, the Orthodox).
    “The Global Catholic Population,” © 2011, Pew Research Center.
    The Largest Catholic Communities
    The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church, and also referred to as the Orthodox Church and Orthodoxy, is the second largest Christian church in the world, with an estimated 225–300 million adherents, most of whom live in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Russia.
    The Greek (Eastern) Orthodox Church. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Of America (1983). Retrieved on 7 May 2014.
    Christianity:Basics:Eastern Orthodox Church Denomination. about.com. Retrieved on 22 May 2014.
    Christianity. Major Branches of Religions Ranked by Number of Adherents. adherents.com. Retrieved on 22 May 2014.
  3. 3.0 3.1 See Percentage of Christians in Protestant Denominations (29.5%).
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Easton's Bible Dictionary, article on Esther originally published in 1897.
  5. Trivia Library. Bible Numbers and Statistics
  6. Judaism 101 Purim פּורים
  7. Douay-Rheims Bible Esther Chapter 10:4-13 includes Mardochai's remembrance of his dream at the beginning
  8. Douay-Rheims Bible Esther Chapter 11:1 is the last verse of the Book of Esther in the Greek, to which is sometimes appended, "Here endeth the book."

External links

Esther: Introduction (usccb.org)

Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible, edited by James D. G. Dunn, John William Rogerson page 758. Greek Esther, John Jarick (googlebooks.com)

Patheos: Hosting the Conversation on Faith. Joel J. Miller: Where Christian Theology Meets Daily Life. You’re reading the wrong Book of Esther, June 9, 2013 by Joel J. Miller

Thematic Concordance to the Works of Josephus. Esther: Her Point of View. Josephus' Version with Commentary, by G. J. Goldberg (josephus.org)

My Jewish Learning. Greek Versions of Esther. Same story, different perspective, By Adele Berlin

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