Historicity, Genre, and Narrative Design in the Book of Esther -- By: Forrest S. Weiland
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and Narrative Design
in the Book of Esther*
* This is the first of four articles in a series “Literary Art in the Book of Esther."
Forrest S. Weiland is a Greater Europe Mission missionary and an adjunct faculty member, Christian Heritage College, El Cajon, California.
Skepticism regarding the historicity of the Book of Esther has been one of the greatest problems surrounding the book since the late nineteenth century. Paton wrote concerning the book, “It is doubtful whether even a historical kernel underlies its narrative.”1 More recently Levenson expressed the same view. “The historical problems with Esther are so massive as to persuade anyone who is not already obligated by religious dogma to believe in the historicity of the biblical narrative to doubt the veracity of the narrative.”2 Berlin holds a similar perspective. “The story itself is implausible as history and, as many scholars now agree, it is better viewed as imaginative.”3
Evangelical scholars have responded to attacks on the historicity of Esther primarily in the arena of historical studies.4 Re-
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cent archaeological and historical studies have softened some of the more extreme positions that designate the book as entirely fictitious.5 These studies have led most scholars to accept at least a quasi-historical basis for the narrative, but not its full historicity.6
These scholars maintain that the account should be viewed as a composite of fact and fiction. They doubt that the events of Esther actually occurred as recorded; they hold that the story was placed in a historical setting much like a modern historical novel. For example Moore asserts that many elements of the Esther story are implausible and improbable and that the account is similar to certain fictitious stories. Yet he concedes that these things may not undermine the book’s essential historicity. Along with his objections to the book’s veracity he offers several plausible arguments that support its historicity.7 This composite view of the Book of Esther explains in part why there has been so much disagreement about its literary genre.You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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