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The Inter-Testamental Jewish Literature and the Deity of the Lord Jesus Pt. 3

Examining Christ’s Divinity in light of the Greek Additions to Esther

Sam Shamoun

It is time, once again (*; *), to examine specific Jewish writings composed during the inter-Testamental period (e.g., the period between the Old and New Testament writings) to see what these sources have to say concerning God and how they impact our understanding of the NT depiction of Christ. In this article we will be looking at the additions to the Greek version of the canonical book of Esther which are found in the Septuagint.


According to several sources these particular additions to Esther were composed anywhere between the 2nd and 1st BC. As the following scholars note:

David J. A. Clines writes: "The Additions are found only in the Greek Bible, and not in the Hebrew, but some of them seem to have existed earlier in a Hebrew or Aramaic form. This is the case with Additions A, C, D, and F, where traces of a Semitic original are still visible. Additions B and E (the royal letters), on the other hand, are obvious examples of flowery Greek rhetorical style and must have been composed originally in Greek. All the Additions are most probably Jewish in origin, especially Additions A and F, which breathe an anti-Gentile spirit. The Semitic Additions are quite likely Palestinian in origin, while the Greek Additions more probably come from a Jewish community outside Palestine, such as that in Alexandria, Egypt where the LXX version of the Bible was made. The date of the Additions is witnessed to by the unusual colophon or concluding bibliographic notice attached to the book at 11:1 (omitted by NAB). This librarian's note records that the Greek Esther, including the Additions, was brought from Jerusalem, where it had been translated, to Egypt in the fourth year of Ptolemy and Cleopatra. The date is therefore ca. 114 B.C. (but ca. 77 or ca. 48 B.C. are also possibilities, since there was more than one Ptolemy with a wife named Cleopatra)." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 815)

David A. deSilva writes: "The date, however, helpfully records the year in which Dositheus brought the scroll to Alexandria. Unfortunately, every successor of Ptolemy I took the name Ptolemy, and several were married to a Cleopatra. Bickerman (1944: 346-47) determined that the translation was accomplished in 78-77 B.C.E., the fourth year of the reign of Ptolemy XII Auletes and Cleopatra V. The other popular date is 114-113 B.C.E., the fourth year of the reign of Ptolemy VIII Soter II and an earlier Cleopatra (Moore 1977: 250; Jacob 1890: 279-80). Bickerman rejects this possibility—as well as a third, Ptolemy XIII, the brother and husband of the famous Cleopatra—since the queen was acting in both cases as a regent for a younger Ptolemy in the fourth years of those reigns, and official documents listed Cleopatra first in those cases, unlike the colophon of Esther. In addition to two lively possibilities for the date of the translation, the colophon also preserves a name, Lysimachus—a resident of Jerusalem, probably with an Egyptian Jewish background (his father's name, Ptolemy, suggests this), thus perhaps explaining why the book should speak so well to the Egyptian Jewish situation, whither it was sent (Pfeiffer 1949: 311)." (Introducing the Apocrypha, p. 117) (Early Jewish Writings – Additions to Esther; underline emphasis ours)

The online Jewish Encyclopedia writes:

The canonical Book of Esther undoubtedly presents the oldest extant form of the Esther story. In times of oppression the Jews found comfort in this narrative, for it presented an example of sudden divine salvation in the days of distress (Esth. ix. 22, 28), and it strengthened their hope of being liberated from their desperate condition, especially in the days of the Maccabees. Naturally, the Jews' well-known skill in transforming and enriching traditional narratives was applied especially to those incidents which were touched but lightly in the Biblical Book of Esther. Such variations and additions have been preserved in Greek, but the assumption that they were based on a Hebrew original has been proved erroneous (comp. Scholz, "Kommentar über das Buch Esther mit Seinen Zusätzen," 1892, pp. 21 et seq.), the difficulty of translating many of these additions into Hebrew being especially significant (Fritzsche, "Kurzgefasstes Exegetisches Handbuch zu den Apokryphen des Alten Testaments," 1851, p. 71; Wace, "The Apocrypha," in "The Speaker's Commentary," i. 361-365). The additions were probably made in the time of the Maccabees, when the people were hoping for another sudden liberation by divine intervention. They aimed chiefly to supply the religious element signally lacking in the canonical book (comp. Reuss, "Geschichte der Heiligen Schriften des Alten Testaments," 2d ed., §§ 470 et seq.; Bleek-Wellhausen, "Einleitung in das Alte Testament," 5th ed., § 120; J. S. Bloch, "Hellenistische Bestandtheile im Bibl. Schriftum," 2d ed., p. 8; Ryssel, in Kautzsch, "Die Apocryphen und Pseudepigraphen des Alten Testaments," i. 197). Fritzsche (l.c. p. 73) has pointed out linguistic similarities between the additions and the second Book of the Maccabees.

Editions and Critical Helps.

The latest date that can be given to the additions is the year 30 B.C., when the Ptolemaic rule came to an end (comp. B. Jacob in Stade's "Zeitschrift," 1890, p. 290). These additions are contained in the uncial manuscript of the Codex Sinaiticus (Sin.), Codex Vaticanus (B), and Codex Alexandrinus (A). Among the printed editions may be mentioned those of R. Holmes and J. Parsons, Oxford, 1798-1827; E. Nestle, "Vet. Test. Græce Juxta LXX. Interpretum," Leipsic, 1850; H. B., Swete, "The Old Testament in Greek," 2d ed., Cambridge, 1895-99; O. F. Fritzsche, "Libr. Apoc. V. T. Græce," 1871. The text of the additions has been preserved in two forms, namely, that of the Septuagint, and that revised by Lucian, the martyr of Antioch (comp. B. Jacob, l.c. pp. 258-262). Lagarde has published both texts with complete critical annotations in his "Librorum Veteris Testamenti Canonicorum," 1883, i. 504-541; and later on A. Scholz ("Kommentar über das Buch Esther," pp. 2-99, Würzburg and Vienna, 1892) published a small edition in four parallel columns, showing side by side the Hebrew text of the canonical book, the two Greek texts, and Josephus' text (comp. Ryssel in Kautzsch, l.c. pp. 198, 199). (Jewish Encyclopedia; underline emphasis ours)

Thus, even though these additions became part of the Greek version of Esther, a canonical OT writing, they still fall within the inter-Testamental period since they were composed sometime during the 2nd-1st century BC.

With that said we now proceed to our examination.

The Reference

The Greek version of Esther records an alleged prayer of Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, which gives us an idea of what certain Jews thought of God’s relationship to Israel as well as to the world: 

“Then Mordecai prayed to the Lord, calling to remembrance all the works of the Lord. He said, ‘O Lord, Lord, you rule as King over all things: for the whole cosmos is in your power, and there is no one who can oppose you when it is your will to save Israel, for you have made heaven and earth, and every wonderful thing under heaven. You are Lord of all, and there is no man who can resist you, the Lord. You know all things; you know, O Lord, that it was not in insolence or pride or for any love of glory that I did this, and refused to bow down to this proud Haman; for I would have been willing to kiss the soles of his feet to save Israel! But I did this so that I might not prefer the glory of man above the glory of God, and I will not worship/bow down to any but you, who are my Lord; and I will not do these things in pride. And now, O Lord God and King, God of Abraham, spare your people: for the eyes of our foes are upon us to annihilate us, and they desire to destroy the inheritance that has been yours from the beginning. Do not neglect your portion, which you redeemed for yourself out of Egypt. Hear my prayer, and have mercy upon your inheritance: turn our mourning into feasting that we may live and sing praise to your name, O Lord; do not destroy the lips of those who praise you.’ All Israel in like manner cried most earnestly unto the Lord, because their death was before their eyes.” 13:8-18

The preceding prayer shows us that the Jew(s) who wrote this specific chapter believed the following about Israel’s God:

  1. Yahweh is the Lord. The text even repeats the phrase, “Lord, Lord,” seemingly to emphasize this point.
  2. Yahweh is the Lord of all.
  3. Yahweh rules as King over all creation.
  4. Yahweh made and sustains all creation.
  5. Yahweh knows all things.
  6. All true believers are to worship Yahweh alone and they are to sing praises to his name.
  7. There is no one who can prevent or oppose Yahweh from saving his people Israel.

As we shall now see the NT applies all of these affirmations to Christ!  

The NT teaching concerning Christ

Interestingly, the inspired Christian writings call Jesus “Lord, Lord.”

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Matthew 7:21-23

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” Luke 6:46

These same scriptures also attest that Christ is the Lord of all, being Lord of lords and King of kings.

“You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.” Acts 10:36

“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Romans 10:9-13

“For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.” Romans 14:9

“They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.” Revelation 17:14 – cf. 19:16

They further assert that, as the Sovereign King of all creation, every creature must worship Christ and sing to him!

“When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’” Matthew 28:17-18

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:18-21

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

“After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven… And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God's angels worship him.’ In speaking of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire.’ But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.’ … To which of the angels did God ever say, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’? Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” Hebrews 1:3b, 6-9, 13-14

“Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the Ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” Revelation 1:4-6

“Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’ Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’ Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’ Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:  ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!’ The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.” Revelation 5:5-14

The NT even depicts Jesus as the Heir of all creation, claiming that he is the Divine Agent of the Father through and for whom the entire cosmos was made and the One who sustains all things by his powerful word:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men… He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-4, 10-11, 14

“So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” 1 Corinthians 8:4-6

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:15-17

“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful wordIn the beginning, O Lord [the Son], you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” Hebrews 1:1-3, 8, 10-12

That’s not all. The NT writers refer to Christ as the One who knows all things:

“‘Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.’ ‘You believe at last!’ Jesus answered.” John 16:30-31

“The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.’” John 21:17

The inspired authors even go so far as to say that Jesus actually saved Israel out of Egypt!

“For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.’ We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.” 1 Corinthians 10:1-10 ESV

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” Jude 1:4-5 ESV

In fact, the canonical Christian Greek Scriptures state that Jesus goes forth to save his people from their sins, ransoming individuals to be his very own holy and cherished possession:

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

“while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:13-14

The authors of the NT further proclaim that no one is capable of stopping Christ from perfectly saving and preserving his people forever:

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one. Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’ ‘We are not stoning you for any of these,’ replied the Jews, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.’” John 10:27-33

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39


Our brief examination once again shows that the NT writers have taken the very language which both the Hebrew Bible and specific Jewish sources use in speaking of the uniqueness and majesty of Yahweh and have unashamedly applied it to Christ! It is, thus, clear that the earliest Christians (most of whom were monotheistic Jews) affirmed and proclaimed that Jesus Christ is Yahweh God in the flesh (yet not the Father or the Holy Spirit)!

Amen! Come Lord Jesus, come! We acknowledge and confess that you are Lord, the Lord who rules as King over all things. The the whole cosmos is in your power, and there is no one who can oppose you when it is your will to save your people, spiritual Israel. We believe and affirm that you, Lord Jesus, have made heaven and earth, and every wonderful thing under heaven. You are Lord of all, and there is no man who can resist you, O sovereign Lord Christ, and you know all things. To you alone do we bow down and it is your name alone we sing praises to! By your sovereign and perfect grace we will continue to love and reverence you forever and ever, O Risen Son of God and eternal Lord of glory! Amen.

Lord Jesus willing, more articles to follow shortly.