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The Oxford Illustrated History of the Bible A richly illustrated account of the story of the Bible written by leading scholars.

Additions to Esther

The ‘Additions to Esther’ are six passages included by the Jewish translator (second or first century BCE) of the text included in the Septuagint (preserved in Codex Vaticanus), and known as Greek B. The translator, incidentally, gives his name as Lysimachus in 11: 1 (this colophon is not reproduced in modern Bible translations). These additions, probably made to compensate for what were seen as theological defects in the story, are found in no extant Hebrew manuscript, and none of the later Jewish translations from the (by then) standardized (Masoretic) Hebrew text (those attributed to Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion) has them.

From this expanded Greek version of the book the Old Latin version was made. For the Vulgate, however, Jerome translated from the Hebrew, and gathered into an appendix the extra material he found in his Latin version, noting where in the story they belonged. Unfortunately, later scribes did not always notice Jerome's notes and simply copied the additional material as a (nonsensical) continuation of the story. Modern Bibles that include the Apocrypha as a supplementary section print these additions separately, but of course they make no sense apart from the rest of the book of Esther.

By permission of the British Library.

But although only the additions belong to the Apocrypha, their textual history cannot be fully explained without considering the history of Greek Esther as a whole. To begin with, additions B and E, comprising the edicts of Haman and Mordecai, and probably F, were created in Greek, but A and D are quite possibly translated from Hebrew or Aramaic, and may therefore have been in the translator's Hebrew text of Esther. The translation, then, cannot be simply regarded as Greek additions to the Hebrew text that we know. Furthermore, the Greek B translation attests numerous small differences, mostly omissions, in comparison with the received, Masoretic text of Esther. These are probably, though not certainly, due to stylistic considerations.

There also exists a second Greek version, known as the A text. It too contains the additions that the B text has. But scholars do not agree over whether this A text is a recension of the earlier B text or a new translation from Hebrew. It seems on the whole to be different, though the differences are much less in the additions. This leads one to suspect that the additions were taken into the A text from the B text, and not from a Hebrew text (and, as noted earlier, additions B and E never existed in Hebrew).

Clines has made the interesting suggestion that Esther A was made from a proto-Masoretic Hebrew, i.e. an ancestor of the received Hebrew text. He bases this conclusion largely on the ending of the A text, which is briefer than the Hebrew. It covers the events narrated in the 34 verses of the Hebrew (7: 9–9: 15) in only ten verses. Put simply, Clines believes that the ending of the Masoretic text has been expanded from an earlier Hebrew text from which Greek A was translated, and that Greek A, shorn of the additions, points us to the original form of the story. Clines's view opposes that of Tov, who regards Greek A as a recension of Greek B, which on balance is perhaps more convincing, though certainty is not possible.

These considerations do not affect the basic observation that the additions to Esther are all secondary to any extant Hebrew version. However, unlike the Greek additions to Daniel, the case of Greek Esther shows that the development of Greek and Hebrew texts of this admittedly late (second or first century BCE) narrative overlap chronologically to some extent, something that remains in principle a possibility for any biblical book, given what we now know from the Qumran scrolls about the flexibility of the Hebrew scriptural text.

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