The Forgotten “Religious” Version of the Book of Esther

March 5 2015

Any Catholic edition of the Bible contains a text known as “Additions to Esther.” Based on an ancient version of the Book of Esther, and originally written in Greek, these “additions” differ strikingly from the Hebrew text in more than one way. Aaron Koller writes:

One of the most famous—and significant—features of the Hebrew Book of Esther is the absence of any mention of God. Some of the book’s earliest readers were disturbed enough by that fact that they actually changed it. They changed a lot of other details, as well. . . .

These are six blocks of text, conventionally labeled A through F, found in all known Greek versions of Esther and without any parallel in the Hebrew text. . . . Additions A and F, found at the very beginning and very end of the book, are a dream of Mordecai’s and its interpretation. In his dream, Mordecai sees two dragons fighting, threatening to destroy the world; peace is effected by a spring that bursts forth. At the end of the book, he realizes that the two dragons represented himself and Haman, and that their conflict would have wreaked havoc had it not been for Esther. . . . Addition C contains prayers uttered by Mordecai and Esther for the salvation of the Jews. . . .

Who were the “earliest readers” responsible for this revised and expanded version? Evidence suggests they were Jews living in the land of Israel in the first century BCE, and that they had a clear theological agenda:

[T]heir new and improved version of Esther brought the book and its associated festival back in line with what was, to their minds, normative Jewish ideology and practice: devotion to God, prayer, an abhorrence of intermarriage, . . . and a fealty to Jewish law and practice.

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More about: Apocrypha, Bible, Esther, Purim, Religion & Holidays

The Dangers of Diplomacy with Iran

Aug. 21 2018

Although President Trump’s offer to meet with President Rouhani of the Islamic Republic was rejected, the possibility of direct negotiations remains. Ray Takeyh and Mark Dubowitz warn that Tehran could use talks to stall and gain leverage over Washington:

The mullahs understand that just by staying at the table, Americans usually offer up concessions. [They] are betting that the Trump administration may become weaker over time, preoccupied with domestic politics. Best to entangle America in protracted diplomacy while awaiting what the regime expects will be midterm Republican losses in Congress and the return of a more flexible Democratic president to power in 2021. This is what [Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei probably meant when he stressed that negotiations have to wait until America is softened up.

Diplomacy would surely blunt the impact of U.S. pressure. The mullahs believe they can undermine the escalation of [U.S.] sanctions by being diplomatically flirtatious and know well that America seldom disrupts negotiations with military action. Indeed, as a prelude to the talks, Iran may even resume its nuclear activities to frighten the Europeans and gain leverage by putting even more pressure on Washington to adjust its red lines.

Should negotiations begin, the Trump team should take sensible precautions to avoid the predicament of the Obama negotiators. The administration will need to maintain its maximum-pressure campaign and its negotiating demands. . . . Any negotiations with the Islamic Republic should be time-limited, and Washington must be prepared to leave the table when it confronts the usual pattern of regime bombast and mendacity.

Donald Trump should insist on direct talks with the supreme leader, as he did with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un: Rouhani is a lame duck without any real influence. The administration also should demand that Europeans join its sanctions policy targeting Iran’s ballistic-missile program, support for terrorism, and human-rights abuses as a price for their participation in the talks.

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More about: Ali Khamenei, Donald Trump, Hassan Rouhani, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy