Esther in Ancient Jewish Thought

Esther in Ancient Jewish Thought

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Aaron Koller
Cambridge University Press, 1/9/2014
EAN 9781107048355, ISBN10: 1107048354

Hardcover, 278 pages, 22.8 x 15.2 x 2.5 cm
Language: English

The book of Esther was a conscious reaction to much of the conventional wisdom of its day, challenging beliefs regarding the Jerusalem Temple, the land of Israel, Jewish law, and even God. Aaron Koller identifies Esther as primarily a political work, and shows that early reactions ranged from ignoring the book to 'rewriting' Esther in order to correct its perceived flaws. But few biblical books have been read in such different ways, and the vast quantity of Esther-interpretation in rabbinic literature indicates a conscious effort by the Rabbis to present Esther as a story of faith and traditionalism, and bring it into the fold of the grand biblical narrative. Koller situates Esther, and its many interpretations, within the intellectual and political contexts of Ancient Judaism, and discusses its controversial themes. His innovative line of enquiry will be of great interest to students and scholars of Bible and Jewish studies.

Part I. The Provocation
Conventional Wisdom in Early Second Temple Judaism
1. Setting the stage
the theological challenge of political stability
2. The movement of Ezra and Nehemiah
3. Authoring/editing
Joseph, Daniel, and God
4. Identity of a hero
Mordecai the Yehudi, scion of the house of Saul
Part II. Entering the Fray
Esther as a Political Book
5. Persian law and Persian king in the Book of Esther
6. Modeling heroes
Daniel, Esther, and Mordecai
7. Hero models
Joseph and Saul
8. Diaspora revisions
rethinking the Exodus and rethinking God
Part III. Early Reactions
Rejection, Subversion, Correction
9. A tense embrace
the reception of Esther in hellenistic Alexandria
10. Subvert or ignore
canonical re-contextualization and outright rejection of Esther
11. Criticism by adaptation
rewriting Esther in Hellenistic and Roman times
12. Adoption
Esther in the eastern diaspora and in the canon
Part IV. Rabbinic Readings
Moving Esther from the Periphery to the Center
13. Introduction to the rabbinic literature on Esther
14. Biblicizing Esther
15. Restoring God and Torah.

'[Koller's] suggestions are intriguing and insightful, and his detailed research is impressive. I highly recommend this book for seriously interested students and scholars … If you're doing any kind of serious work on Esther, you must reckon with this fantastic book.' John Anthony Dunne, graduate student, University of St Andrews