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Orthodoxy and the Book of Esther

problematic books

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#1 H. Smith

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 11:41 PM

The holiday of Purim is about here, and a Jewish friend told me that he avoids the reading of Esther and its celebration because he sees it as supporting vengeful violence. I sympathize with his concerns, because in our Esther, we read about how 75000 Persians were killed as part of the reprisals against Haman's desire. I think Haman was a bad dude, but I feel sorry that he was killed in a bad way, particularly because he did not succeed in carrying out his deadly plan.

 

At the same time, I know that the book of Esther is a canonical book, meaning that God's spirit intended the book to be written. Perhaps one of the positive ways to look at this is that it does not say that God actually wanted the reprisals to occur.

 

On the surface, at least when I read it, it seemed to me that the book supported the events it described, but now I am a bit doubtful. On one hand, Esther can be seen as a prefiguring Messianic figure because she saves her people. It is notable that the fast she made was three days, resembling in a way Christ's 3 day period in the tomb. And the hand of God can be seen in it as protecting David's line. On the other hand, Esther sleeps with the gentile king, which violates the Law of Moses, and God is nowhere mentioned in the book, unless I think if one counts the Greek Septuagint's unique parts that go outside the Masoretic.

 

It is not my purpose here to go into problems with how Purim is celebrated (mentioned http://vakomi.livejo...om/2132657.html), unless you believe that they were handed down in the era before the Church.

 

The Greek Septuagint's special parts include: "prayers for God's intervention offered by Mordecai and by Esther" and "an expansion of the scene in which Esther appears before the king, with a mention of God's intervention" (Wikipedia).

 

Archmandrite Rafael says that it is an old Testament holiday that prefigures things in its meaning, and he points to Christ's words "You don't know of what spirit you are, as the Son of Man didn't come to kill the sinner, but to save him". (http://www.novorossi...im-i-kanon.html)

 

In Esther 9, she orders people to celebrate Purim.

 

One convert to Orthodoxy from Judaism says that she thinks Purim has moral values that she relates to Christianity, although she does not address the reprisal aspect:

http://www.lfpress.c...8/17670386.html

 

Some scholars doubt whether the story happened. Another issue is whether festivals could be made after those mentioned in Moses' law. The Maccabees books describe it being celebrated in the Maccabean period. Patristic commentary on it is extremely rare, and it is not found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, although it was not rejected by the fathers AFAIK and it was listed among the canonical books since at least a 4th century council in Carthage.


Edited by H. Smith, 15 March 2014 - 11:50 PM.


#2 H. Smith

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Posted 16 March 2014 - 12:51 AM

By the way, Esther is considered an Old Testament saint.



#3 Niko T.

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Posted 16 March 2014 - 05:14 PM

The ever-memorable Elder Athanasios Mytilinaios (+2006) has seven talks (in Greek) as audio recordings discussing the significance and interpretation of the book of Esther.






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