Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A biblical burlesque?

I've been learning about the Old Testament book of Esther this week.

It's a wicked story. Readable, gripping. Famous for making no mention of God at all. I knew it quite well already, but guiding me through this time is a commentary by Professor Carol Bechtel. Among my discoveries so far, according to Bechtel, are:

1. The story is probably mostly fictional (not that the author or readers of its time would have understood a distinction between history and fiction in the way we do today.) The author uses dramatic irony, exaggeration, suspense, to create tension and entertainment. Comic 'burlesque', occasionally veering on the edge of tragedy, is how Bechtel describes the genre. The question is, does one attempt to pose to an evangelical Baptist audience the theory that part of the Old Testament is most likely fictional?Hmmmm....

2. The existing Jewish festival of Purim is all about Esther's story. Traditionally, at Purim, the book is read aloud in its entirety, with the audience booing and hissing at the mention of the baddies and cheering when Esther's in the picture. It is also customary for everyone to, quite deliberately, get very drunk. It's the only festival where that's an official part of the proceedings. Think it's ok to mention this fact, as long as I don't advocate it as a way forward for the Baptists.

It is also an inspirational tale for anyone who feels vulnerable, at the mercy of life's circumstances. Esther was essentially a refugee who became a sex-slave. Yet in her most vulnerable position, she made decisions that saved the Jews from annihilation. Think such strength in weakness is seen elswhere in the bible, too.......

1 comment:

Steve Tilley said...

I think there are bits of the Bible which lose their credibility if they are supposed to have happened.

Dod God really have a bet with satan in Job? Did Jonah really watch the Ninevah people clothe their animals in sackcloth. Did the lions eat fresh meat on the ark? Was there a snake in a paradise garden?

Keep on blogging.