The Authorship of the Book of Esther -- An Interesting Theory

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Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
Greetings all,

I found this quote from G. C. Morgan that made me wonder about something I have always believed. Please look at what Morgan says, particularly the parts I underlined. Then read the scripture below. (2 Peter 1:20-22).

The Analyzed Bible
G. Campbell Morgan​

THE events recorded in the book of Esther occurred between the completion of the Temple and the mission of Ezra (between Ezra 6 and 7). In all likelihood, the narrative, as we have it, was taken directly from the Persian records. This would account for much that has created difficulty in the minds of some as to the presence of this book in the canon of Scripture. The fact that the name of God is not mentioned would be perfectly natural if the historian were a Persian. That many things are chronicled without apology, which are the customs of a godless nation, would also be explained thereby.

All this, however, makes the persons and teaching of the book more valuable. It is a fragment of profane history captured for sacred purposes. The story reveals, to such as have eyes to see, that same principle of the overruling of God on behalf of His people, which marks all their history. Here, however, it is seen operating on their behalf in a foreign land.

2 Peter 1:20‭-‬21 KJV​
knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

Note: the phrase in the King James, "holy men of God," is not included in this verse in either the ESV or the NASB 1995.

So what do you think? Do you think it's possible we have a heathen author of one of the books of the Bible? A man who was not filled with the Holy Spirit.
Interesting question, I’ll look in to this some after church. I’ll be eager to see what others think.
Hi Ed,
There are really two separate questions here.
1) Is it possible that we have "fragments of profane history captured for sacred purposes"?
2) Is it likely that this explains some puzzling features about the Book of Esther as a whole?

As far as the first question goes, the answer is probably a qualified "yes". The letters to and from the Persian court in the Book of Ezra-Nehemiah have a distinctly Persian ring to them and they are transcribed in Aramaic in these books, unlike the surrounding Hebrew. These may plausibly have been taken from Persian records - but they were transcribed by an inspired author as part of a larger text. The same could possibly be true of some of the lists of names of those who returned to Judah in the same book.

The second question seems to me to be unlikely to be answered positively. First, to those familiar with Persian court archives, the Book of Esther sounds nothing like them and it is written in Hebrew, not Aramaic. Second, the "puzzling features" can easily be explained in other ways. The absence of any reference to God, even where the author has to work really hard not to mention him, is in my view (and that of many others) a deliberate literary ploy to show God saving his people behind the scenes. God is present and active in the world, even when the newspapers (and even his own people) don't recognize him. The carefully structured chiasm that focuses attention on the king's sleepless night as the turning point of the whole narrative makes no sense as part of a pagan court record, but perfectly fits its theological message.

Finally, I would note the source. Campbell Morgan was a fine preacher, but he is not remembered as an influential OT scholar. I'm not familiar with any scholar, conservative or liberal, who has argued this (though it is always a bit risky to say that in today's world). Certainly, this is not a widely held view among contemporary OT scholars of any stripe. It's not clear to me what advantages it has. Are we more likely to believe something is true history if it is recorded by a pagan? Surely, even if we had "proof" that it was lifted straight from the Persian court archives (e.g. manuscript evidence), we would want to argue that Mordechai might have installed a believing court reporter? It seems to me what is driving this is a desire to explain the explicit absence of references to God in the book, which as I have explained can better be accounted for on other grounds.
Iain has given what I'm sure is the correct answer. However, I think it's worth thinking about the question as a hypothetical thought experiment: if one or more books of the Bible was written by someone who lacked the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, what implications would that have for our faith? I think it wouldn't ultimately make much difference. After all, how did it end up in our Bibles? Presumably a faithful Jew at least excerpted it, and perhaps made some finishing touches. I think we could presume that such a person did his redaction under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
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