God’s Message Through Secular Society in the Book of Esther -- By: Titus Kennedy
CTSJ 14:1 (Spring 2009) p. 23
God’s Message Through Secular Society in the Book of Esther
Titus Michael Kennedy, an archaeologist and a researcher at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, earned his B.A. in History and Humanities from Biola Univeristy and his M.A. in Near Eastern Archaeology from University of Toronto. He can be reached at [email protected]
Peculiarities Of The Book
The book of Esther is perhaps the most unique book in the entire biblical canon, due to its secular nature and setting. In fact, it is the only book of the Tanakh (Old Testament) that gives a description of life in the Diaspora.1 However, the secularism of the book is the most striking feature: “the Hebrew text of Esther has a distinctly secular flavor in that it contains no explicit reference to God. It does not even mention religious faith or prayer.”2 Although Esther would be placed into the genre of historical writings based upon the style of the book, it is differentiated from the other historical books in both style and apparent lack of theological content. The secularism that permeates the book may be the reason that Esther is the only book of the Tanakh that has not been found—not even a fragment—among the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran.3 Perhaps the Essenes did not consider it holy writing, as it lacks any mention of God, prayer, faith, law, covenant, the temple, or dietary laws. It is possible, however, that someone will discover a copy or fragment of Esther at Qumran someday. Yet, considering the apocryphal additions to Esther,4 and the lack of references to God and other religious practices, it comes as no surprise that the religious community at Qumran, in addition to many others in the past, would question the book’s inclusion in the canon.
The discomfort with the content of Esther, or lack thereof, is demonstrated most clearly by the Greek additions to the book around the end of the second century B.C. by the Jewish community in Alexandria. Being distressed by the anomalies of this book, the decision was made to rectify the “problems” in the original text, but through addition, not modification. These additions consist of 107 verses, including prayers of Esther and Mordecai, a prophetic dream of Mordecai, eight mentions of God, and additional details not found in the Masoretic (Hebrew) text. These Greek additions are also placed at the end of the Vulgate for as the Catholic Church formally accepted these sections into their “canon” of scripture.5
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