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INTRODUCTION xl add

by Adele Berlin
INTRODUCTION xl add, in other carnival celebrations as well, there is not a complete breakdown or reversal of norms ( as many discussions of carnival would have it), but a symbolic or partial reversal of norms. To me this signifi es the miming of a reversal, imitating or pretending to turn society’s norms on their head, knowing all the while that it is just pretend. In carnival the world of make- believe takes the place of the real world. Costumes and masks, excessive drink, noise, rowdiness, and even ( mock) violence are some of the common manifestations that symbolize both the aura of make- believe and the permissible reversing of the rules of society. It may not be unreasonable to suggest that the manner in which dat, “ rule, law, custom,” is constantly being called upon in the Book of Esther is another sign of the carnivalesque spirit of the book, for the rules are themselves capricious and silly, their publication is exaggerated, and immutable laws are easily changed. True, the motif of law is at home in all types of storytelling about Persia, but it is additionally useful here, in the world of carnival, where law is disregarded and custom is fl outed. It is not the Persians that are being made fun of; it is the rule of law. Inscribed in the book is the idea that rules are meant to be broken. The type of psychological release that is accomplished by carnival and that is embodied in Esther and in Purim, as well as the plot of the book in which the Jews overcome their enemies, lends itself to other occasions when a celebration of community survival was called for. Various Jewish communities during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period instituted a Purim katan, “ a minor Purim,” imitating  the observance of Purim on a date that commemorates their deliverance from destruction. 61 The Greek Versions and Josephus Esther presents us with an unusual opportunity to study the early growth and interpretation of a biblical story. In addition to the Masoretic Text ( the accepted Hebrew text of the Bible), two Greek versions of the story survive: the version preserved in the Septuagint, also known as the B- text, and a shorter Greek version, known as the Alphatext or A- text ( sometimes referred to as the Lucianic recension, or L). Current scholarly interest in Jewish literature of the Greco- Roman period and in the history of biblical interpretation has spurred a number of recent studies of the Greek versions  and compari-sons of the two Greek versions with each other and with the Masoretic Text. 62  These studies shed light on what the basic outlines of the earliest form of the story might have been before it reached the form in which we have it in the Masoretic Text, and how the story was reshaped in its different textual versions. The complicated textual development that produced the three extant versions need not occupy us here. Our concern is the Masoretic Text, so we need to understand that this text was probably based on a Hebrew story that has not been preserved but that was similar to our Hebrew Esther. In its pre- Masoretic form, it was not the story of the origin of Purim; the emphasis on Purim was added by the author of the Masoretic Text, who reshaped the story as an etiology for Purim. We do not know whether the original Hebrew story contained religious language. Some people think that it did, and that the author of the Masoretic Text took out the references to God and religious observance. Others think that the original story lacked religious language and that it was added only later, by the author of the Septuagint. In either case, the absence of religious language in the Masoretic Text is completely appropriate, if not absolutely necessary, given that it is a farce associated with a carnivalesque occasion. The major differences between the Masoretic Text and the Greek versions are the six Additions. These Additions were once an integral part of the Septuagint but when Jerome ( fourth century C. E.) translated the Greek Bible into Latin ( the Vulgate), he observed that these passages had no equivalent in the Hebrew text of his time. Doubting their authenticity as divinely inspired scripture, he relegated them to the end of his translation. They remain canonical for the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Protestants declared them uncanonical and placed them in the Apocrypha, under the tide “ Additions to Esther.” The Additions make little sense at the end of the book since they are out of context, so some modern Christian Bibles have reinstated them into their appropriate positions within the story.          C    h  a  p  t e  r   Home  |      T  O   C   

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INTRODUCTION xl add, in other carnival celebrations as well, there is not a complete breakdown or reversal of norms ( as many discussions of carnival would have it), but a symbolic or partial reversal of norms. To me this signifi es the miming of a reversal, imitating or pretending to turn society’s norms on their head, knowing all the while that it is just pretend. In carnival the world of make- believe takes the place of the real world. Costumes and masks, excessive drink, noise, rowdiness, and even ( mock) violence are some of the common manifestations that symbolize both the aura of make- believe and the permissible reversing of the rules of society. It may not be unreasonable to suggest that the manner in which dat, “ rule, law, custom,” is constantly being called upon in the Book of Esther is another sign of the carnivalesque spirit of the book, for the rules are themselves capricious and silly, their publication is exaggerated, and immutable laws are easily changed. True, the motif of law is at home in all types of storytelling about Persia, but it is additionally useful here, in the world of carnival, where law is disregarded and custom is fl outed. It is not the Persians that are being made fun of; it is the rule of law. Inscribed in the book is the idea that rules are meant to be broken. The type of psychological release that is accomplished by carnival and that is embodied in Esther and in Purim, as well as the plot of the book in which the Jews overcome their enemies, lends itself to other occasions when a celebration of community survival was called for. Various Jewish communities during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period instituted a Purim katan, “ a minor Purim,” imitating the observance of Purim on a date that commemorates their deliverance from destruction. 61 The Greek Versions and Josephus Esther presents us with an unusual opportunity to study the early growth and interpretation of a biblical story. In addition to the Masoretic Text ( the accepted Hebrew text of the Bible), two Greek versions of the story survive: the version preserved in the Septuagint, also known as the B- text, and a shorter Greek version, known as the Alphatext or A- text ( sometimes referred to as the Lucianic recension, or L). Current scholarly interest in Jewish literature of the Greco- Roman period and in the history of biblical interpretation has spurred a number of recent studies of the Greek versions and compari-sons of the two Greek versions with each other and with the Masoretic Text. 62 These studies shed light on what the basic outlines of the earliest form of the story might have been before it reached the form in which we have it in the Masoretic Text, and how the story was reshaped in its different textual versions. The complicated textual development that produced the three extant versions need not occupy us here. Our concern is the Masoretic Text, so we need to understand that this text was probably based on a Hebrew story that has not been preserved but that was similar to our Hebrew Esther. In its pre- Masoretic form, it was not the story of the origin of Purim; the emphasis on Purim was added by the author of the Masoretic Text, who reshaped the story as an etiology for Purim. We do not know whether the original Hebrew story contained religious language. Some people think that it did, and that the author of the Masoretic Text took out the references to God and religious observance. Others think that the original story lacked religious language and that it was added only later, by the author of the Septuagint. In either case, the absence of religious language in the Masoretic Text is completely appropriate, if not absolutely necessary, given that it is a farce associated with a carnivalesque occasion. The major differences between the Masoretic Text and the Greek versions are the six Additions. These Additions were once an integral part of the Septuagint but when Jerome ( fourth century C. E.) translated the Greek Bible into Latin ( the Vulgate), he observed that these passages had no equivalent in the Hebrew text of his time. Doubting their authenticity as divinely inspired scripture, he relegated them to the end of his translation. They remain canonical for the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Protestants declared them uncanonical and placed them in the Apocrypha, under the tide “ Additions to Esther.” The Additions make little sense at the end of the book since they are out of context, so some modern Christian Bibles have reinstated them into their appropriate positions within the story. <    <      C   h  a  p  t e  r  >> Home |      T  O   C   
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