Jun 16, 2014

The Historicity of Esther: The State of the Question

The historicity of Esther has clearly been called into question particularly in recent times. As Moore has noted, “Even though the book of Esther claims to be a strictly historical account, ever since the work of J. S. Semler in 1773, that claim has been increasingly rejected, to the point that in the twentieth century only a handful of critical scholars have strenuously argued for the book’s historical accuracy.”[1] Clines in a more recent commentary concurs with Moore when he writes, “The current consensus of opinion on the question of the historicity of the Esther narrative is that it is a “historical novel” (so, e.g., O. Eissfeldt, The Old Testament. An Introduction, p. 507), by which is meant an essentially fictional story with probably a foundation in some historical event.”[2] Although, Clines made that assertion over twenty years ago, the critical consensus seems to be intact. In several future posts, I will seek to examine that consensus and challenge its conclusions.

[1] Carey A. Moore, “Archaeology and the Book of Esther,” The Biblical Archaeologist 38 (September- December 1983), 63.
[2] D. J. A. Clines, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, New Century Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 256. See also Michael V. Fox, Character and Ideology in the Book of Esther (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1991), 131–39.

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