Esther, Additions to the Book of

views updated


The Book of Esther in the Septuagint, followed by the Old Latin version, contains six passages comprising 107 verses that are not found in the Hebrew text. In the fourth century c.e., *Jerome, when compiling the Latin Vulgate Bible, removed all these additions and grouped them as an appendix at the end of the Book of Esther. Although Jerome had provided notes to indicate where each addition belonged within the canonical book, subsequent scribes sometimes neglected to copy the explanatory notes, resulting in a meaningless combination of separate portions. The confusion was compounded in the 13th century when Stephen Langton, having divided the text of the Vulgate into chapters, numbered the chapters of the canonical and the apocryphal portions of Esther consecutively. Rearranged in their proper order and with chapter and verse numbering according to Jerome's sequence, the six additions are as follows: a (11:2–12:6), Mordecai saves King Artaxerxes' life; b (13:1–7), the edict of Artaxerxes ordering the massacre of the Jews; c (13:8–14:19), the prayers of Mordecai and Esther; d (15:1–6), Esther risks her life to appeal to the king; e (16:1–24), Artaxerxes' second edict, denouncing Haman and supporting the Jews; f (10:4–11:1), the interpretation of Mordecai's dream. These additions belong within the sequence of the canonical text as follows: a before 1:1; b after 3:13; c and d after 4:17; e after 7:12; f after 10:3.

The author (or authors) of the additions is unknown, but probably at least some of them were composed by Lysimachus, an Alexandrian Jew who lived in Jerusalem and who translated the canonical Hebrew text of Esther into Greek about 114 b.c.e. (11:1). Although the name of God does not appear in the canonical Book of Esther, all but one of the additions contain it. Likewise, although prayer is not mentioned in the canonical text, addition C includes two devout prayers. Thus it appears that one of the purposes of the expansions is to introduce into the book certain religious elements that are conspicuously absent from the Hebrew narrative. Occasionally the additions contradict statements in the canonical text. For example, according to the Hebrew, Mordecai discovered the plot against the king sometime after the seventh year of the reign of Ahasuerus (Esther 2:16–21), whereas addition A suggests that this occurred in the second year of the king's reign; in 16:10 Haman is called a Macedonian, whereas in Esther 3:1 he is called the Agagite (= Amalekite); and in 13:6 the date set for the massacre of the Jews is the fourteenth of Adar, whereas in Esther 3:13 it is the thirteenth of Adar.


Schuerer, Gesch, 3 (1909), 449–52; J.A.F. Gregg, in: Charles, Apocrypha, 1 (1913), 665–84; R.H. Pfeiffer, History of New Testament Times, with an Introduction to the Apocrypha (1949), 304–12; B.M. Metzger, Introduction to the Apocrypha (1957), 55–63.

[Bruce M. Metzger]