- Christogenea Saturdays
Christogenea Saturdays, June 6th, 2015 - Esther: Fraud or Fable? Part 3
In the first part of our presentation refuting the canonical status of the Book of Esther, we showed that historically, the Esther narrative does not fit into the rule of any of the kings of Persia, from the earliest of them all the way down to the last of them, for the entire 200-year span of the Persian empire. We also presented textual evidence of the rejection of Esther by the writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the sect of Judaeans at Qumran. Additionally, we showed that the supposed events portrayed in Esther are impossible in light of the records of Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, and the minor prophets of the second temple period, which are Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.
Then in the second part of our presentation of the arguments against the veracity of the Book of Esther, we began following Bertrand Comparet's sermon against the book. Doing this, along with Comparet we pointed out several inconsistencies in the story itself, as well as several historically ridiculous situations which the book expects us to accept. Among the inconsistencies is the fact, recorded by both the prophet Daniel and by the Greek historian Herodotus, that the Kings of Persia were forbidden to change any laws or decrees which had been made before-time. Yet in the Esther story, even though the story itself also informs us of this Persian custom, the king is seen making such changes which are impossible because of the custom. Among the historically ridiculous situations, we saw that the king had issued a lengthy proclamation that all of the Jews throughout the empire would be put to death, on a specific date eleven months from the date that the proclamation was made. Yet there was no Exodus, and no uprising. Among the inconsistencies we pointed out, the story purports that only two months later the King of Persia had apparently forgotten that he made such an important proclamation.
Other aspects of the Esther story are just as ridiculous, such as the reverse proclamation made in the third month of the year, that the Jews would be allowed to avenge themselves on their enemies in the 12th month of the year. The Jews were therefore given nine months notice, and their supposed enemies given nine months warning, that Jews would be allowed to kill all the Persians they wanted on a specific date. Yet it is not yet evident in Esther that any of the Persians outside of Haman himself had been enemies of the Jews. But the King is portrayed as having given such advance permission to the Jews even to kill or plunder women and children. And there are no protests recorded by any of the Persian people, although the proclamation went out to all of the provinces nine months in advance, to be announced publicly.
We read in Esther chapter 8: “9 Then were the king's scribes called at that time in the third month, that is, the month Sivan, on the three and twentieth day thereof; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded unto the Jews, and to the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers of the provinces which are from India unto Ethiopia, an hundred twenty and seven provinces, unto every province according to the writing thereof, and unto every people after their language, and to the Jews according to their writing, and according to their language. 10 And he wrote in the king Ahasuerus' name, and sealed it with the king's ring, and sent letters by posts on horseback, and riders on mules, camels, and young dromedaries: 11 Wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey, 12 Upon one day in all the provinces of king Ahasuerus, namely, upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar. 13 The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province was published unto all people, and that the Jews should be ready against that day to avenge themselves on their enemies.” Later in the story, as we are told that the Jews killed tens of thousands of people, including women and children, and even 800 people in the King's palace itself – which would ostensibly include many people from among the King's own friends and family – yet the King approved such an act, and no protests were recorded by Persians. The Esther story is patently ridiculous and not only contrary to all of the records of Scripture and History, but contrary to reality itself.
Here we shall present the balance of Bertrand Comparet's sermon on the Book of Esther, with further notes and commentary of our own. It amazes me that any Christian pastor, and especially any Identity Christian pastor, would accept this book. Yet six years ago this month I sat across a table from the Great Impersonator from Chicago, and he argued that the book was legitimate, and that he would debate me in that regard. When I accepted his challenge, the debate never materialized, although he made many subsequent remarks in support of the Esther story, and although we had done perhaps a hundred and fifty podcasts together after that time. In truth, only a Satanic Jew could love the Book of Esther.
Now we shall return to Bertrand Comparet's sermon on the Book of Esther:
In due time the 13th day of the month Adar arrived and the Jews began a wholesale massacre of the Persians, who, for some reason or other, put up no resistance. Not only out in the various towns of the province, but in the king's palace itself, the Jews came in armed with swords and raged through the corridors and rooms of the palace, butchering the king's servants in the king's own palace. And the first day, in the palace alone, they slaughtered 500 of the king's officers and servants in his palace.
So at the end of this first day, the king finds out that all this commotion had gone on in the palace and 500 of his own officers and servants had been killed, and he expresses his delight, how fine this was, and asks Esther, “Well, how is the slaughter going out in the provinces?" She tells him, "Fine; blood is flowing in rivers." “Well, what else would you like?" Then she said, "I would like to have another day of slaughter ordered, the 14th of Adar, tomorrow." “Fine: that is the way it is to be.” So on the 14th day of Adar, the Jews massacred 300 more of the king’s officers and servants, in his own palace; that is 800 of his staff who have been slaughtered in his own palace. And they slaughtered other people throughout the kingdom to the number of at least 75 thousand people that the Jews have slaughtered and stolen all their property. So the book says that the 14th day of Adar was made the feast of Purim.
[Here Comparet sarcastically characterizes the dialogue between Esther and the king which is recorded in Esther chapter 9. The characterization is appropriate, and the narrative which the book itself presents is just as ridiculous.]
Suppose you read that in a magazine. Suppose your ten year old child read it in a magazine. Do any of you have a child so feeble-minded that he could believe there was some element of truth in this? Even if he didn't know ancient history, even if he didn't know oriental customs, could he be duped by anything as absurd as this? And yet you are told in your churches to believe this, because it got in your Bible by a process I am going to tell you about.
Because of the time it was written and because of the circumstances of its origin and because of the many discrepancies in it, such as I have mentioned, this book was not accepted among the Jews for somewhere around two-and-a-half to three centuries. When it was written cannot be fixed with exactness. It is found in a copy of the Septuagint; that is the translation of the Old Testament into Greek which was begun, roughly, around 300 B.C. in Alexandria. And it is found in a copy of the Septuagint which cannot be dated earlier than about 160 B.C. But all through the rest of the B.C. period, better than a century and a half, and for practically the first century A.D., no Jew would accept this fable as being inspired scripture. It was a well known work of fiction. As I said, nowhere in it does it mention God; nowhere does it speak of prayer for deliverance or prayer of thanksgiving.
[Comparet is perhaps assuming that there were copies of the Esther story in the first Septuagint manuscripts, which is not necessarily true. First, the oldest surviving Septuagint manuscripts cannot be dated any earlier than the third century AD. These are the famous Codices such as the Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus and Vaticanus. Esther is found in all of these. The oldest known Greek translations of Scripture which actually still exist are probably those found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, where there is absolutely no support for Esther, but proof that it was unknown or refuted, and then those found in Josephus' Antiquities which may, if they are not interpolations, date to the first century.
Comparet is correct that the writing of Esther cannot be determined with any exact certainty, but we will show that the date of the writing of Esther can be determined circumstantially.
As a digression, we have already discussed some of the lengthy additions which are found in the Greek manuscripts of Esther, but which are not in the Hebrew. Among these we find inserted after verse 13 of Esther chapter 3 a supposed copy of the letter ordering the death of the Jews allegedly written by Artaxerxes himself. Then we find appended to the end of chapter 4 a very lengthy passage describing in a very exaggerated manner the prayers of Mordecai and Esther on the plight of the Jews in Persia. There is also a very lengthy version of chapter 5, verse 1. In addition to these, we find another very lengthy portion inserted at the end of Esther chapter 8, which is another alleged letter from Artaxerxes in which Haman, now considered a criminal, is portrayed as a treacherous Macedonian, and the orders concerning the extermination of the Jews in the original letter are reversed by the King. We believe that this betrays these interpolations as a product of the Hellenistic period. From the time of Philip of Makedon and his conquest of the other city states of the Greeks, Makedonia was a threat to the borders of the Persian empire and had therefore become a political enemy which could be demonized in Persia.
In Esther chapter 8, after the King is portrayed as having issued the proclamation allowing the Jews to kill all of their enemies, we read thus: “16 The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour. 17 And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king's commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them.” Of course, that phrase “fear of the Jews” is reminiscent of John's words in his Gospel.
There is another phrase in Esther which is found in the Gospel, where the King is several times portrayed as promising Esther anything she wants, as much as half of hiskingdom. The only other place I could ever recall seeing such a phrase is where Herod lusts over his own daughter, as it is portrayed in Mark chapter 6: “22 And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. 23 And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom.” So the phrase seems to reflect the product of the lustful Edomite heart.
But beyond coincidence and more importantly, the spirit of Esther is absolutely contrary to that of Ezra and Nehemiah, who are supposedly from the same period of time. Both Ezra and Nehemiah soundly rejected the idea of converts to their religion, where the narrative in Esther rejoices over such converts. Neither did the Maccabees of the First Book of Maccabees make any converts. That book stops short right at the time of John Hyrcanus, who came to rule in Judaea from 134 BC, until 104 BC. It is during the rule of John Hyrcanus that the idea of converts to Judaism, both forced and voluntary, was put to practice. It is plausible, I think, that the idea was developing a little earlier and came into fruition during his time. But the earlier Maccabees were still destroying or running off, rather than converting the people of the cities that they conquered. The spirit of Esther is very agreeable to the time of John Hyrcanus and the late second century BC, where somehow that idea of converts to Judaism had become popular.
From the second century looking back, a writer with a fuzzy interpretation of history can justify Haman's wickedness by claiming for him a Makedonian origin, since the Makedonians had become the enemies of Persia. But they were not a threat until at least the time of Philip in the fourth century, and the threat was not entirely serious until the rule of Philip's son, Alexander the Great! From the second century BC, a writer who wanted to promote the idea of the Hebrew religion being easily open to converts would want to create a historical narrative which would support such an idea, and Esther certainly fills that purpose. But the narrative is not historical, rather, it is sheer propaganda. Esther was a race-mixer who would have been scorned by Ezra and Nehemiah, if indeed she ever existed.
Furthermore, we find that there is the curious note at the end of the Greek manuscripts of Esther, mentioning “Ptolemy and Cleopatra”, which of course must be from even later in the Hellenistic period. The reference must be to that Cleopatra who had ruled jointly with her father Ptolemy XII Auletes, and then with her brothers Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV, and finally by herself until she was defeated by the Romans at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC.
So I would seriously entertain the proposition that Esther was written no earlier than the rule of John Hyrcanus in 134 BC, and possibly as late as the time of the first king Herod of Judaea, which also corresponds with the time of Cleopatra. Now we shall return to Comparet:]
At a later time - oh, the book had been in existence two centuries, at least - some of the Alexandrian Jews wrote what you will find in some copies: a part that is not in most of our Bibles. They wrote a last few paragraphs, telling how the Jews had offered prayers of thanksgiving to God for their deliverance, and for the loot they stole. Now do you think that even the Jews would have dared to add another chapter to Isaiah or Jeremiah? No. Remember that all through this period the scribes were so careful in copying the manuscripts of the Old Testament, on every line they counted the number of words and then they counted the number of letters on that line. And when they made a new copy, they checked it: did it have so many words containing so many letters on that line. They did this to make sure that there would not be inadvertent errors in the copying. But here they add what you might say is practically a last chapter to the Book of Esther, showing that the Jews themselves did not regard it at that time as being holy scripture at all.
[Here Comparet uses the additions to the end of Esther as an example, while we have seen that the Greek copies also contain several other additions throughout the rest of the manuscript.]
At any rate, the thing went on until about the end of the first century A.D. Now you remember the Jewish rascality became so intolerable that the Romans couldn't put up with it any longer, and the Roman general in charge of Syria and Palestine [meaning Vespasian] marched with his armies to capture Jerusalem. And of course the Jews shut the gates against him; and so he threw his army around the city, in a siege ring, but then the emperor at Rome died. And who was to be his successor? His own army said, “You are, the best qualified for emperor, and if necessary we the army will make you emperor.” So he dropped the siege of Jerusalem and hurried home and he was made emperor.
[This is true, but it is oversimplified. There were four emperors in a very short time starting with the death of Galba, who was successor to Nero. After Galba died, Otho ruled for about six months, and was killed and supplanted by Vitellius who ruled for three months before he was forcibly deposed with the coming of Vespasian from Palestine. Vespasian established an order which would be passed on to two of his own sons, Titus and then Domitian who died in 96 AD. Vespasian also became the patron of the Judaean historian Flavius Josephus.]
His son Titus resumed the siege of Jerusalem in the year 69 A.D. The siege lasted about a year, and in A.D. 70 the Romans captured Jerusalem. You will find this all written up in great length of course in Josephus' history, “The Antiquities of the Jews” and “The Wars of the Jews.” When the Roman armies came in, of course the people fled from the country and all the smaller cities that couldn't be defended, into Jerusalem, which had massive fortifications and could possibly be defended. So you might say that all the Jews in Palestine were cooped up in Jerusalem. During the siege they engaged in savage fighting among themselves. More of them were killed in their own fighting in Jerusalem, than were killed by the Romans. But their total losses, from their own internal fighting, from battle losses against the Romans, from famine, and from pestilence, were about a million. The rest of them were captured by the Romans.
The Romans sold some of these Jews for slaves; they couldn't get much of a bid for them, because who would pay good money for a Jew slave? Did you ever get good honest work out of a Jew? [This is Comparet's own sarcastic conjecture.] The Romans drove out the rest of them, drove them out of Palestine, and forbade them to return under penalty of death. And the great bulk of them moved on north into the huge city that was then known as Byzantium, which later became Constantinople. Here was a huge city with very well established commercial institutions. So here was a place where the Jews, instead of working, could go into business and make money; and you know, "beezness is beezness." [This is also Comparet's own sarcastic conjecture, but by this time the characterization fits the nature of the Edomites of Judaea, and most, but not all, of the remaining Judaeans of this time were Edomites.]
After the fall of Rome, after the Jews were driven out, some of the Jewish rabbis began saying, “Well, this Book of Esther which talks about Jews murdering thousands of people, and stealing all their property, this is our kind of scripture.” And you may say that pretty close to 100 A.D. is the first time that any Jew started taking the Book of Esther seriously. In the Talmud you will find that Rabbi Simeon Ben Lachish, who lived about 300 A.D., says, “The Book of Esther ranks next to the Law in holiness and importance.”
And their great rabbi Maimonides, who lived during the Middle Ages, said this: “Although the prophets will pass away when Messiah comes, the Book of Esther and the Law will remain.” If you look up the Book of Esther in the Jewish Encyclopaedia, you will find they do not take it seriously, and I quote word-for-word from the Jewish Encyclopaedia: “The Jews' well known skill in transforming and enriching traditional narratives was applied to the Book of Esther.”
Now let us see what we can find out, when we analyze this. First of all, you remember the name which has been anglicised into Esther was Hadassah. Where does it come from? It is the Babylonian Hadashatu, literally “the bride”, which was the name of a Babylonian pagan goddess. No doubt you all remember that Ishtar was the Babylonian goddess of sexual intercourse, corresponding to the Roman Venus, and the Syrian form of Ishtar was Esther. Good honest scripture? No! And that ought to be a giveaway in itself. But let us look further into this thing now.
[While Comparet was confused about Esther being a transliteration of Hadassah, and we have seen that Esther was instead a second name for Hadassah, he is right about the meanings of both names.]
Mordecai: Mordecai is not a Hebrew name at all. It is a Grecianized form of the name of a Babylonian god. Remember that in these ancient languages it was customary, early, to write the consonant letters, not the vowels; and when at a later time they began writing the vowel letters in too, in different places, you didn't always have the same vowels used and get the same pronunciation. If you will take a present day London cockney, a New England Yankee, and a southern white man, they all speak the English language, but they don't pronounce it the same, do they? And yet the ancestors of all of them spoke identically the same English when they were living in England.
Now, similarly, with these other languages you find some variations in pronunciation in different places and in different centuries. So this Babylonian god is mentioned in your Bible, sometimes with the name Marduk, sometimes with his name Merodach; and it represents those variations in pronunciation, but it is talking about exactly the same pagan god. So Marduk or Merodach, the Greeks called Mordecai. You remember that Esther and Mordecai were cousins. If you go into the Babylonian pagan legends, they tell you that Marduk and Ishtar were also cousins.
[Comparet is also correct here in equating the names Mordecai, Marduk and the Merodach of scripture, the name of a pagan idol. Marduk was the high god of the Assyrian pantheon. There is apparently, however, one other Mordecai mentioned in Scripture, in Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7. It is plausible, however, that at least some of the Judaeans had adopted pagan names in captivity. But that does not mean that the Mordecai of the Esther fable actually existed.]
Now what about Haman? Alter the pronunciation very slightly from Haman to Humen and you have the name of a Persian pagan god. The king's wife, Vashti: Vashti was the name of a Persian goddess. The name of Haman's wife, Zeresh, is a slight corruption of Kerisha, which is the name of another Persian goddess. So the whole story of the Book of Esther is a slight change, an embroidering of a Babylonian legend about a conflict between Babylonian gods and Persian gods, in which the Babylonian gods triumphed over the Persian gods. Remember, the Jewish Encyclopaedia says, “The Jews' well known skill in transforming and enriching traditional narratives was applied to the Book of Esther.”
[There were Persian deities named Homanos and Homadatis which were mentioned by Strabo, and the connection of these to the Haman and Hammedatha of the Esther tale was first mentioned by a German scholar named Winckler. It is certainly not a coincidence. While the name Vashti has been imagined to be from one of several possible sources, it does seem to be derived from a Persian word. The Midrash in the Talmud asserts that Vashti was a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar II who was eventually married to the historical Xerxes. That incredible tale would make her at least 100 years old when she was considered beautiful by the nobles of the Persians. This straw-groping only further discredits the Esther story.]
Now let us look at it again. The Book of Esther tells you the kingdom was divided into 127 provinces; but all the historical records show there were 20 provinces, no more. The Book of Esther says that the Jews were scattered and dispersed throughout all the provinces of the kingdom. Now this was not true during the period of the Persian Empire. You remember that Alexander the Great on his great world conquering expedition across western Asia overthrew the Persian Empire. Alexander started in 331 B.C. and his whole period, from then on to the end of his life, was eleven or twelve years, I forget which. Alexander died at the end of that period and his kingdom, you remember, was broken up into four pieces, with each of his four principal generals taking over one part of the kingdom. So when the Greek period started, with Persia and Babylon governed by this Macedonian Greek general and his descendants, during that period, you did have, it is true, some scattering of the remaining Jews who had not come home from Babylon back to Palestine.
[The Greek historian Herodotus lists 20 satrapies of the Persian empire, and all of the nations generally included in each of them which had contributed soldiers for the war effort against the Greeks. However it cannot be ascertained that the 127 provinces of Esther are the 20 satrapies of Herodotus, or whether each satrapy had several provinces within it. This later scenario seems to be true, as we read in Daniel chapter 6 that “1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom; 2 And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage.” Esteeming that Daniel is accurate, Comparet's criticism here is unfair. But that, of course, gives no credit to the Esther fable.
Of course, there were Israelites in various parts of the Persian empire at this time, such as diverse tribes of Scythians, and the Parthians. But none of these were Jews. There may, however, have been Judaeans around Babylonia, in Susa, and in certain other places. The Persians had permitted those of the Babylonian captivities of several nations to return to their original homelands. However this argument by Comparet is more or less superfluous.]
About 536 B.C. was when the Medo-Persian Empire overthrew Babylon. So the Persian Empire there lasted, you might say; from 535 B.C. to 320-318 B.C., a little over 200 years. In that entire period, it was not true that the Jews were scattered throughout the provinces. The Macedonian-Grecian period of rule lasted until Rome took over, and you remember the first appearance of the Book of Esther that we can trace is no earlier than 160 B.C.
[We cannot determine where Comparet ever saw such a manuscript which is as old as 160 BC. However we have already established circumstantially that Esther dates to after 134 BC.]
Now another thing to indicate something about the time of writing it is the language. If somebody came to you all bubbling over with excitement and said, “I have just discovered a manuscript of William Shakespeare, a brand new never-published play by Shakespeare. Oh, it must be by Shakespeare, see, it is signed with his name.”
So you take the manuscript and you start to read it, and it is not written in the archaic English of Shakespeare's day; it is written in present day hippie slang. Are you going to be convinced that Shakespeare wrote it, because somebody put his name on it? It couldn't possibly be his. The language is changed too much in the meantime. All other languages, while they were living languages, have undergone that same type of change. The approximate periods, say, within a century one way or the other, the approximate period of writing ancient books can be determined by the way the language is used, by the vocabulary that is used. And the Hebrew in the Book of Esther is at least as late as anything in the Old Testament, as late or later even than the Book of Malachi. It shows strong Aramaic tendencies, and you remember, into about the last century B.C., Aramaic was taking over, in place of Hebrew, as the commonly used language in Palestine. And also Greek influences are very common in it. It was written definitely during the Greek period.
As I said, when Alexander died, his empire was broken up; one general took over Persia and Babylon, but another took over Syria and Palestine. So it was during that period of Greek rule in Palestine that the Book of Esther was written.
Another curious thing: of all the people mentioned in this Book of Esther, not one of them is mentioned in any known historical record, and not one of them is mentioned in any other book of the Bible.
Going back to the language of it, by the way, there are a great many words in the Book of Esther that are not used anywhere in the Bible outside of Esther; but they are rabbinical words that are found to be commonly used in the Talmud.
As I said, the names of these people who are supposedly nobles of the Persian kingdom, none of them are Persian names, but they are all Babylonian names.
[Aramaic was the Lingua Franca of both empires, and all of the names are Aramaic names, which is certainly very odd and absolutely inconsistent with what one may expect from a historical viewpoint. Some of the things Comparet is about to discuss, we have commented upon at length in the earlier segments of this presentation, and here we will not repeat our comments.]
Mordecai's ability to go into the king's harem every day is something that was never known in any oriental harem, either in the past or in oriental countries today.
During the Persian period, an official decree that was proclaimed was not translated into the languages of the different provinces. The Persians had no doubt whatsoever that they had conquered this territory, they were the bosses, and anybody living there had better find out that the Persians were bosses. And when the Persians put out an official decree, it was in the Persian language, and you had better get somebody to translate it for you. The Persians didn't bother doing it. But the Book of Esther says that these proclamations, first to slaughter the Jews and then to slaughter the Persians, were translated into the different languages of the provinces. So that is another thing never historically known to have occurred.
[Actually, official decrees were published in Aramaic and Persian, and sometimes also in Akkadian.]
Some have speculated that the king mentioned might have been Xerxes. Well, they do that on this basis: that Xerxes was a man of reckless and irresponsible disposition, even for an oriental monarch, and therefore he might perhaps have been the kind of a man to weathervane in every direction like this. But history records first of all, that his queen was named Amestris, not Vashti. History does not record she was ever deposed; and the best historical records we have on the subject, by the great Greek historian Herodotus (called the father of history) records that by Persian law the king could choose a wife only from among the seven noblest families of the Persian nation; not some Jewess pick-up.
Haman's long toleration of Mordecai's insults was something that is never common in the orient, either in the past or now. The queen's inability to send a message to her husband has never been known in either ancient or modern history in the orient.
In Babylonian pagan lore, the 13th day of the month Adar was unlucky; the 14th day, however, was a lucky day. So the unlucky day for the Jews, when they were to be massacred, was changed; and on their lucky 14th day, they completed the massacre of the Persians.
Now you find this curious fairy-tale fable in your Bible today. How and when did it get there? What was the attitude of the Christian church when they were from seventeen to nineteen centuries nearer that time than we are today? Well, there was no early Christian church that ever accepted the Book of Esther. The Syrian Christians rejected it. The once very extensive Christian sect, the Nestorians, never read it in their Old Testament. One of the early Christian writers; Melito, writing about 170 A.D., does not list it among the list of books which he says were accepted as Scripture. Origen, writing about 225 A.D. does not mention it among the books accepted by the Christians as Scripture in his day. For four centuries the Greek Christian church rejected it.
You remember that the Catholic Church adopted as its official Bible the Latin translation by Jerome. Now when Jerome was undertaking to find what books were to be accepted as authentic for the Old Testament, he said, “Well, what do the Jews accept? That is the primary standard.” And you remember that it wasn't far from 400 A.D. when Jerome did this. By that time of course the Jews were whooping it up with the utmost enthusiasm for the Book of Esther as being the most authentic of all the books in Scripture. It told about Jews murdering people and robbing them. So Jerome put the Book of Esther translated into Latin into his Bible, and the Catholic Church accepted it.
[In fairness to Jerome, he was not the first Christian who was suckered into accepting the Esther account. However Esther is not mentioned at all in many of the early Christian writers, which is a good sign that the book was not accepted by those writers. But the canon which seems to have prevailed is nevertheless associated with Alexandria. Here we shall repeat what we had written concerning this in the first part of this series of presentations against Esther:
Among the so-called “Church Fathers”, the Book of Esther was apparently accepted by the 2nd century Clement of Alexandria. Certain writings in the works of the 3rd century Origen notice the different versions of Esther, but in other places in his writing he accepted the story. In one of those places, Origen, who was also from Alexandria, had also confused the Jews of Esther with Israel, where he mentioned the story in his commentary on the Gospel of John. (So Comparet was mistaken about Origen's opinion of Esther.) The 4th century writings of Lactantius, a Roman of North Africa who converted to Christianity late in his life, accepted the Esther story, and he thought the Persian king of the story was the famous Xerxes. Lactantius received his Christian education from Arnobis of Numidia, another Christian apologist who had some clearly Gnostic influences. We do not find any mention of Esther in the numerous early writings of any of the other early “Church Fathers”.
The Book of Esther, which seems to have been promoted by the Jews, is often said to have made its way into the canon of the still-future Roman Catholic Church when Jerome, translating the Hebrew scriptures into Latin in Alexandria, included the book in his Vulgate. Bertrand Comparet, whose own sermon on Esther we shall incorporate into this short series, made that mistake. However Eusebius, a hundred years before Jerome, had included Esther in the list of Old Testament books which he had compiled from Origen, and certainly had also approved of the book. So the inclusion of Esther among canonical books predates Jerome, but nevertheless leads back to the Judaeans, or Jews, of Alexandria. The book is, however, included in the three oldest of the Great Uncial Greek manuscripts, the Codices Sinaiticus, Vaticanus and Alexandrinus. All of these are from the 4th and 5th centuries.
Back to Comparet:]
How do we who are Protestants have it in our Bible? Well, you remember that for many centuries the Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic Church, was also the church in England, and when they finally split up, it was over the high moral principle of whether a divorce should be granted to King Henry VIII. The Church of England, the Episcopal Church, decided that King Henry VIII should be granted a divorce and the Roman Catholic Church would not grant it. So that was the high moral basis for the Reformation in England. It did not have the basis of the Reformation under Martin Luther which was on matters of principle and doctrine. Up to this time, the Church of England differed from the Roman Catholic Church on just two points. First of all they would grant Henry VIII the divorce, which the Roman Catholic Church would not. And secondly, they did not recognize the bishop of Rome as having any more authority than any other bishop. Aside from that, their ritual was the same.
Like the Catholic Church, the Church of England believed that the people who came to church should not be allowed, ever, to find out what was in the Bible, because if they ever found out, they would learn the priests were not telling them the truth. So the Bible was kept in Latin, which the priests could read, and none but a very few scholars among the people were able to read Latin. When finally the real Reformation began developing in England, to the point where English translations began to be made, the Church of England burned to death several of the early English translators. This was heresy, they were printing the Bible in English. When finally it was accomplished, what Bible did they have to work with? They had the Latin Bible that their church used, plus a few manuscripts in Greek and a very few Hebrew, in some of the monasteries. The Book of Esther, having first gotten into the canon of accepted books through Jerome and the Catholic Church, roughly about 400 A.D., became a part of the Latin Bible and continued in it down to the time when the Protestant churches split off from the Church of Rome.
Now I think you will agree with me, that the Book of Esther does not belong in your Bible.
[Now most of Comparet's critique of the Book of Esther is very good, and we believe that we have been able to go even far beyond that to discredit the book with all certainty in the historical details and all the other circumstances which we have offered here in our three-part series. The Book of Esther certainly does not belong in the Bible, nor does it belong to any historical narrative. It is pure fiction and an outright fraud to incorporate it into the Holy Scripture.
However we cannot agree with what follows. The last four paragraphs of Comparet's sermon on the Book of Esther, as it is popularly transcribed, contains a criticism of the Song of Solomon. In those paragraphs, Comparet asserted that the Song does not belong in Scripture.
We must correct the record. The Song of Solomon certainly does belong in Scripture, but Comparet did not realize that the story was not actually about Solomon and his wife. Rather, the Song of Solomon is an allegorical love poem illustrating the husband-wife relationship between Yahweh and the children of Israel as His nation-bride.
If we could have shown Comparet the allegories in the Song of Solomon which cannot pertain to any sitting queen, but certainly described the Israelites as a nation, we are certain we could have changed his mind about the poem which represents the greatest love story ever told: that of Yahweh's love for Israel His bride.
So we will not present those final four paragraphs here tonight. Rather, in the near future and with the will of Yahweh God, we shall present the Song of Solomon and demonstrate both the nature of the writing and its importance to Christians one evening in the near future.]