Finding Morality in the Diaspora? Moral Ambiguity and Transformed Morality in the Books of Esther, by Charles D. Harvey

By N, Ilona | Shofar, Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

Finding Morality in the Diaspora? Moral Ambiguity and Transformed Morality in the Books of Esther, by Charles D. Harvey


N, Ilona, Shofar


New York: waiter de Gruyter, 2003. 274 pp. $89.00.

This book is a revised and updated version of the author's Ph.D. dissertation (University of Edinburgh, 2000), portions of which have appeared elsewhere (e.g., The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 2.3 [1998]: 56-77). Charles D. Harvey begins with a basic assumption: "As a work of literature, it [the book of Esther] has always been pleasing, its moral content, however, has often been suspect." He raises questions such as why so many readers have been troubled, both historically (as far back as the Essene community at Qumram) and especially more recendy, by moral issues in the book of Esther? Why this discomfort? Is anxiety justified when reading this text? Is moral uneasiness to be expected when reading this narrative? He claims that reading communities deal with the difficulties, ambiguities, and troublesome moral issues by transforming the material in order to ease tension via clarification, definition, expansion, amplification, and alteration.

Harvey discusses the issues of moral character found in three different text versions of the book of Esther -- the Hebrew Masoretic Text, the Greek Septuagint, and the Greek Alpha-Text -- all of which are considered "primary" by most recent scholars dealing with the narrative. Although the author discusses modern scholarly works as commentaries, he does not consider translations and paraphrases of the Esther story such as those found in the Peshitta, the Old Latin, the Vulgate, Josephus, Targum Rishon, or Targum Sheni. …

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