Article

Esther and Additions to Esther

Jill Middlemas

in Biblical Studies

ISBN: 9780195393361
Published online March 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0114
Esther and Additions to Esther

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The biblical book of Esther is the story of a Jewish heroine (Esther, or Hadassah—the character’s Hebrew name) and Mordecai, her adopted uncle, who live in Persia and involve themselves with the Persian authorities in order to save the Jewish people, who are under threat. The story is the liturgical text used during the Jewish celebration of Purim, and it may have been written to serve as an etiology for the festival because it authorizes its observance by providing a historical situation origin for it. Critical discussions of the book of Esther were once dominated by historical debates that focused on identifying an event in the Persian period to which it corresponded and the origin of the traditions of Esther, Mordecai, and the festival of Purim. Recently, more attention has focused on literary matters including the story’s genre and its artistry as well as its applicability to contemporary situations of oppression and genocide. The tale of Esther is a good story with heroes and villains, court intrigue, the threat of destruction, feasting and fasting, intimate relations, and great reversals. It lends itself to—even invites—the application of different approaches, and there have been many. It has been fertile ground for the application of feminist approaches, for example—the story begins with the deposition of one queen and the installation of another; it is one of the few books of the Old Testament to be named after a woman; and the titular character is a woman who acts courageously in the midst of threatening times and as a marginalized individual within a marginalized group, but theological and other thematic readings have been made as well. There is something about the scroll of Esther that welcomes different approaches, various analyses, and seemingly endless discourses. This has been as true with the reception of the book since the intertestamental period when at least two Greek manuscripts (the Old Latin version is now thought to give evidence of a third) with different stories of Esther circulated among Greek-speaking Jews in Egypt and elsewhere outside the homeland. Moreover, the Targumim (Aramaic translations and paraphrases of biblical texts) evidence a number of significant aggadic (homiletic) expositions interwoven within the story. This article presents a guide to enable the reader to wade through the enormous variety of studies of the scroll of the Hebrew Esther and its Greek relations.

Article.  11770 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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