Esther, Apocryphal Additions to the Book of
Esther, Apocryphal Additions To The Book Of. — Besides the many minor deviations from the Hebrew, there are six important additions in the Septuagint and the other ancient versions of the book of Esther.
I. Title and Position. — In the Sept. and the Old Latin these additions are dispersed through the canonical book, forming therewith a well-adjusted whole, and have therefore no separate title. St. Jerome, however, separated them in his translation, and removed them to the end of the book, because they are not found in the Hebrew. They are, therefore, in this position in the MSS. and the printed editions of the Vulgate, and form, according to cardinal Hugo's division, the last seven chapters of the canonical Esther. Luther, who was the first that separated the apocryphal from the canonical books, entirely detached these additions, and placed them among the Apocrypha under the title "Stucke in Esther." In the Zurich Bible, where the apocryphal and canonical books are also separated, the canonical volume is called 1 Esther, and these additions are denominated 2 Esther. Our English versions, though following Luther's arrangements, are not uniform in their designation of these additions. Thus Coverdale calls them "The chapters of the book of Hester, which are not found in the text of the Hebrew, but in the Greek and Latin." In Matthews and the Bishops' Bible, which are followed by the A.V., they are entitled, "The rest of the chapters of the book of Esther, which are found neither in the Hebrew nor in the Chaldee," whilst the Geneva version adopts Luther's title.
The reason of their present confused arrangement seems to be this: When Jerome translated the book of Esther, he first gave the version of the Hebrew only as being alone authentic. He then added at the end a version in Latin of those several passages which he found in the Sept., and which were not in the Hebrew, stating where each passage came in, and marking them all with an obelus. The first passage so given is that which forms the continuation of chapter 10 (which of course immediately precedes it), ending with the entry about Dositheus. Having annexed this conclusion, he then gives the Prooemium, which he says forms the beginning of the Greek Vulgate, beginning with what is now verse 2 of chapter 11; and so proceeds with the other passages. But in subsequent editions all Jerome's explanatory matter has been swept away, and the disjointed portions have been printed as chapter 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, as if they formed a narrative in continuance of the canonical book. The extreme absurdity of this arrangement is nowhere more apparent than in chapter 11, where the verse (1) which closes the whole book in the Greek copies, and in St. Jerome's Latin translation, is actually made immediately to precede that (verse 2) which is the very first verse of the Prooemium. As regards the place assigned to Esther in the printed Sept., in the Vatican edition (not MS.), and most others, it comes between Judith and Job. Its place before Job is a remnant of the Hebrew order, Esther there closing the historical, and Job beginning the metrical Megilloth. Tobit and Judith have been placed between it and Nehemiah, doubtless for chronological reasons. But in the ancient MSS. the position is different. SEE BIBLE.
II. Design and Contents. — The object of these additions is to give a more decidedly religious tone to the record contained in the book of Esther, and to show more plainly how wonderfully the God of Israel interposed to save his people and confound their enemies. This the writer has effected by elaborating upon the events narrated in the canonical volume as follows:
1. Es 1:1 of the canonical volume is preceded in the Sept. by a piece which tells us that Mordecai, who was in the service of Artaxerxes, dreamt of the dangers which threatened his people, and of their deliverance (verses 1-12). He afterwards discovered a conspiracy against the king, which he discloses to him, and is greatly rewarded for it (verses 13-18). This is, in the Vulgate and Eng. version, chapter 11:2-12:6.
2. Between verse 13 and 14 of chapter 3 in the canonical book, the Septuagint gives a copy of the king's edict addressed to all the satraps, to destroy without compassion that foreign and rebellious people, the Jews, for the good of the Persian nation, in the fourteenth day of the twelfth month of the coming year. This is, in the Vulg. and Eng. version, chapter 13:1-7.
3. At the end of Es 4:17 of the canonical book, the Sept. has two prayers of Mordecai and Esther, that God may avert the impending destruction of his people. This is, in the Vulg. and Eng. version, chapter 13:8-14:19.
4. Between verse 1 and 2 of chapter 5 in the canonical book, the Sept. inserts a detailed account of Esther's visit to the king. This is, in the Vulg. and Eng. version, chapter 15:1-16.
5. Between verse 13 and 14 of chapter 8 in the canonical hooks, the Sept. gives a copy of the edict, which the king sent to all his satraps, in accordance with the request of Mordecai and Esther, to abolish his former decree against the Jews. This is, in the Vulg. and Eng. version, chapter 16:1-24.
6. At the close of the canonical book, chapter 10:3, the Sept. has a piece in which we are told that Mordecai had now recalled to his mind his extraordinary dream, and seen how literally it had been fulfilled in all its particulars. It also gives us an account of the proclamation of the Purim festival in Egypt.
The whole book is closed with the following entry: "In the fourth year of the reign of Ptolemaeus and Cleopatra, Dositheus, who said lie was a priest and Levite, and Ptolemy his son, brought this epistle of Phurim, which they said was the same, and that Lysimachus, the son of Ptolemy, that was in Jerusalem, had interpreted it." This entry was apparently intended to give authority to this Greek version of ESTHER by pretending that it was a certified translation from the Hebrew original. Ptolemy Philometor, who is here meant, began to reign B.C. 181. He is the same as is frequently mentioned in 1 Mace. (e.g. 10:57; 11:12; comp. Joseph. Ant. 13:4, 1 and 5, and Clinton, F.H. 3:393). Dositheus seems to be a Greek version of Mattithiah; Ptolemy was also a common name for Jews at that time.
III. Origin, historical Character, and Unity. — The patriotic spirit with which the Jewish nation so fondly expatiated upon the remarkable events and characters of by-gone days, and which gave rise to those beautiful legends preserved in their copious literature, scarcely ever had a better opportunity afforded to it for employing its richly inventive powers to magnify the great Jehovah, embalm the memory of the heroes, and brand the names of the enemies of Israel, than in the canonical book of Esther. Nothing could be more natural for a nation who "have a zeal of God" than
to supply the name of God, and to point out more distinctly his interposition in their behalf in an inspired book, which, though recording their marvelous escape from destruction, had for some reasons omitted avowedly to acknowledge the Lord of Israel. Besides, the book implies and suggests far more than it records, and it cannot be doubted that there are many other things connected with the history it contains which were well known at the time, and were transmitted to the nation. This is evident from the fact that Josephus (Ant. 11:6, 6 sq.) gives the edict for the destruction of the Jews in the Persian empire, the prayers of Mordecai and Esther, and the second edict authorizing the Jews to destroy their enemies, also mentioning the name of the eunuch's servant, a Jew, who betrayed the conspiracy to Mordecai, and citing other passages from the Persian chronicles read to Ahasuerus, besides that relating to Mordecai, and amplifications of the king's speech to Haman, etc.; and that the second Targum, the Chaldee, published by De Rossi, and Josippon ben-Gorion (ed. Breithaupt, page 74 sq.), give the dream of Mordecai, as well as his prayer and that of Esther.
The first addition which heads the canonical book, and in which Mordecai foresees in a dream both the dangers and the salvation of his people, is in accordance with the desire to give the whole a more religious tone. The second addition originated from the fact that Es 3:13 of the canonical book speaks of the royal edict, hence this piece pretends to give a copy of the said document; the same is the case with the third addition, which follows Es 4:17, and gives the prayers of Mordecai and Esther, for the said passage in the canonical volume relates that Esther ordered prayers to be offered. The fourth addition after Es 5:1, giving a detailed account of Esther's interview with the king, originated from a desire to give more information upon the fact, which is simply alluded to in the canonical passage. The fifth addition, after Es 8:13, originated in the same manner as the second, viz. in a desire to supply a copy of the royal edict, while the sixth addition, after Es 10:3, beautifully concludes with an interpretation of the dream with which the first addition commences the canonical volume. From this analysis it will be seen that these supplementary and embellishing additions are systematically dispersed through the book, and form a well-adjusted and continuous history. In the Vulgate, however, which is followed by the versions of the Reformers on the Continent and our English translations, where these additions are torn out of the proper connection and removed to a separate place, they are most incomprehensible.
IV. Author, Date, and original Language. — From what has been remarked in the foregoing section, it will at once be apparent that these apocryphal additions were neither manufactured by the translator of the canonical Esther into Greek, nor are they the production of the Alexandrian nor of any other school or individual, but embody some of the numerous national stories connected with this marvelous deliverance of God's ancient people, the authorship of which is lost in the nation. Many of them date as far back as the nucleus of the event itself, around which they cluster, and all of them grew up at first in the vernacular language of the people (i.e., in Hebrew or Aramaic), but afterwards assumed the complexion and language of the countries in which the Jews happened to settle down. Besides the references given in the preceding section which lead us to these conclusions, we also refer to the two Midrashim published by Jellinek in his Beth Ha-Midrash, (Lpz. 1853), 1 sq. In chapter 3 the pretended copy of Artaxerxes's decree for the destruction of the Jews is written in thorough Greek style; the prayer of Esther excuses her for being wife to the uncircumcised king, and denies her having eaten anything or drunk wine at the table of Haman; the pretended copy of Artaxerxes's letter for reversing the previous decree is also of manifestly Greek origin in chapter 8, in which Haman is called a Macedonian, and is accused of having plotted to transfer the empire from the Persians to the Macedonians, a palpable proof of this portion having been composed after the overthrow of the Persian empire by the Greeks.
V. Canonicity of these Additions. — It is of this Sept. version that Athanasius (Hist. Epist. page 39, Oxf. translation) spoke when he ascribed the book of Esther to the non-canonical books; and this, also, is perhaps the reason why, in some of the lists of the canonical books, Esther is not named, as, e.g. in those of Melito of Sardis and Gregory Nazianzen (see Whitaker, Disput. on H. Scr. Park. Soc. pages 57, 58; Cosin on the Canon of Scr. pages 49, 50), unless in these it is included under some other book, as Ruth or Esdras ("this book of Esther, or sixth of Esdras, as it is placed in some of the most ancient copies of the Vulgate," Lee's Dissert. on 2d Esdas, page 25). The fathers, who regarded the Septuagint as containing the sacred scriptures of the O.T., believed in the canonicity of these additions. Even Origen, though admitting that they are not in the Hebrew, defended their canonicity (Ep. ad African. ed. West, page 225), and the Council of Trent pronounced the whole book of Esther, with all its parts, to be canonical. These additions, however, were never included in the Hebrew canon, and the fact that Josephus quotes them only shows that he believed them to be historically true, but not inspired. St. Jerome, who knew better than any other father what the ancient Jews included in their canon, most emphatically declares them to be spurious ("Librum Esther variis translatoribus constat esse vitiatum; quem ego de archivis Hebraeorum relevans, verbum e verbo expressius transtuli. Quem librum editio vulgata laciniosis hinc inde verborum sinibus [al. funibus] trahit, addens ea quae ex tempore dici poterant et audiri; sicut solitum est scholaribus disciplinis sumto themate excogitare, quibus verbis uti potuit, qui injuriam passus est, vel qui injuriam fecit," Praef. in 1 Esth.). Sixtus Senensis, in spite of the decision of the council, speaks of these additions after the example of Jerome (as "la cinias hinc inde quorumdam scriptorum temeritate insertas"), and thinks that they are chiefly derived from Josephus; but this last opinion is without probability. The manner and the order in which Josephus cites them (Ant. 11, 6) show that they had already, in his days, obtained currency among the Hellenistic Jews as portions of the book of Esther, as we know from the way in which he cites 6ther apocryphal books that they were current likewise, with others which are now lost; for it was probably from such that Josephus derived his stories about Moses, about Sanballat, and the temple on Mount Gerizim, and the meeting of the high-priest and Alexander the Great.
VI. Literature. — Josephus, Ant. 11:6,6 sq.; the Midrash Esther; Targum Sheni on Esther, in Walton's Polyglot, volume 4; Josippon ben-Gorion (ed. Breithaupt, 1710), page 72 sq.; Whitaker, Disputation on Scripture (Park. Soc., ed. 1849), page 71, etc.; Usher, Syntagma de Graeca LXX interpretum vessione (London, 1655); De Rossi, Specimen Variarum Lectionum sacsri Textus et Chaldaica Estheris Additanmenta (Romns, 1782); Eichhorn, Einleitung in d. Apokr. Schriften d. A.T. (Leip. 1795), ). 483 sq.; Fritzsche, Ε᾿σθήρ, Duplicem libritextum ad optinsos cdd. emend. et cum selecta lectionis varietate (ed. Torici. 1848); and by the same author, Exegetisches Handbuch z. d. Apokr. d. A.T. 1:69 sq.; Davidson, The Text of the O.T. Considered (London, 1856), page 1010 sq.; Herzfeld, Geschichte des Volkes. Israel, vol. (Nordhausen, 1857), page 365 sq.; Keil, Lehrbuch der historisch-kritischen Einleituqng, etc. (ed. 1859), page 705 sq.; Wolf's Bibl. febr. pages 11, 88 sq.; Hotting. 'Thesaur. page 494;
Walton, Proleg. 9, § 13; Nickes, De Estherae libro (Romans 1857, 1858); Baumgarten, De Fide Lib. Esther (Hal. 1839); Schnurrer (ed.), Var. Lect. Estheris (2d ed. Tubing. 1783). SEE APOCRYPHA.