Feb 28, 2012

Greek Esther: It's What's for Purim!

I'm recycling this from 2010, but, well, I thought y'all should know about Greek Esther. Read on!

For those of you looking for a little something more in your Purim, I highly recommend looking up or checking out a copy of Greek Esther. The version we read and know now is Hebrew Esther. There are three main versions of Esther that float around -- Hebrew, Greek, and the Alpha text. The latter is a Greek text that pretty much resembles the Hebrew version we have today (a translation). However, "Greek Esther" is a version of the Esther story that is about 170 lines longer, includes tons and tons of HaShem, and has many inclusions in it that make the modern reader question why the rabbis chose to canonize Hebrew Esther, not Greek Esther. After all, Hebrew Esther doesn't mention HaShem, not once. In Greek Esther, Mordechai and Esther pray to HaShem, Mordechai has a vision about HaShem's plan, and more.

The simplest answer, of course, is that the longer version was written in Greek and Greek = bad. Another theory is that there originally was a longer Hebrew Esther that the Greek Esther was based on, but because it was lost by the time the rabbis got to it, they still believed that Greek = bad. My question is why they didn't translate the longer version into Hebrew and go with it (heck, burn the Greek copy!). Of course, the rabbis would probably say that the whole point of Esther is that HaShem, while implicit, must be hidden for the story to be truly impactful as it takes place in the Diaspora. The funny thing is that the Rabbis, in the Midrash, essentially DO what Greek Esther does in that it elaborates and sort of embellishes the Hebrew Esther and the result is that if you read Hebrew Esther with the Midrash you sort of get the same feel as Greek Esther.

Anyhow, I could talk about this for hours, but what I'm saying is this: Go read Greek Esther. It'll BLOW your mind. Chag Purim Sameach!! Chaviva out!


Unknown said...

i had the opinion that Greek Esther was a 'targum' of sorts; where a targum would include a lot of 'aggadah', so to speak, to let the non-hebraic reader get a clue as to what took place with the key-players.

though, your theory could be right that the rabbis of the mishnah and gemara thought greek=bad; nevertheless, much of first century pharisaic thought was influenced by greek culture altogether - taking with it the positives of the neighboring culture.

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