Classics and Religious Studies


Date of this Version



Published in Catholic Biblical Quarterly 62:3 (July 2000), pp. 510–511. Copyright © 2000 Catholic Biblical Association of America.


These two recent books on the Book of Esther by young scholars illustrate the vitality of new methods of interpretation of the biblical text; at the same time, they raise questions about the limits of these new methods. Laniak, approaching the Book of Esther from an anthropological perspective, uses its categories of honor and shame. Beal uses postmodern critical theory to illuminate the shifting meanings of “self” and “other” in Esther. The two books have several things in common—rather surprisingly, given their very different orientations. Neither author gives much attention to the historical value of the Book of Esther; both approach it purely as a literary text, although Laniak (p. 3 n. 5) states that he does not count himself “among those who reject the book of Esther as a source of history.” Both authors use the MT as their primary text, with only passing reference to the LXX and the Greek alpha text, and both share an interest in later rabbinic interpretation of Esther. There, however, the similarities end.

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