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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Date and Provenance.

1.

The earliest possible date is that of the final form of the Hebrew version, probably the early Hellenistic period, though earlier versions may have gone back to the late Persian period. The latest possible date is c.93–4 CE, when Josephus used Additions B, C, D, and E in his paraphrase. LXX Esther, however, ends with a colophon, which, if authentic, provides the basis for a more precise dating. The colophon attributes the translation to one Lysimachus son of Ptolemy, in Jerusalem, and claims that it was brought to Egypt by a priest and Levite named Dositheus in the fourth year of the reign of Ptolemy and Cleopatra. Questions have been raised about the authenticity of the colophon, based on its content. How can Dositheus be both priest and Levite? Why would the translation have been done in Jerusalem and for whom (Enslin 1972: 19)? Many scholars, however, accept the colophon as authentic. Moore (ibid. 161), for example, argues that the body of the story as well as all the Additions were translated by Lysimachus except B and E, whose original language is Greek. Because Greek was present in Graeco-Roman Palestine, notes Bickerman (1944: 357), LXX Esther is a remarkable and unusual example of Palestinian Greek.

2.

If the colophon is authentic, then identifying the reigning Ptolemy provides a date for the Greek translation as a whole. Several Ptolemies had a reign of at least four years and wives named Cleopatra, including Ptolemy XII (77 BCE), favoured by Bickerman (1944 ), Ptolemy XIV (around 48 BCE), and Ptolemy VIII Soter II, who lived in around 114 BCE, favoured by Moore (1977: 250). In general terms, therefore, LXX Esther may be dated to the late second or early first century BCE.

3.

Provenance is difficult to determine, and is directly related to the assessment of the text's purpose. Moore (ibid. 167) suggests that the royal edicts, Additions B and E, may have originated in some sophisticated non-Palestinian centre such as Alexandria, whereas the others may have originated in Palestine, since their theological content is compatible with that of other Palestinian texts of this period such as Daniel, Judith, and some of the Qumran material. Linda Day (1995: 231–2) suggests that the AT, which does not emphasize the Purim festival, may be the product of a Hellenized Jewish community in a diaspora setting, facing the challenge of living Jewishly among a Gentile (i.e. non-Jewish, polytheistic) majority. In contrast, LXX Esther, which retains the MT's emphasis on the aetiology and celebration of Purim, may have been shaped by a Jewish community in Palestine itself or, alternatively, a traditionally observant diaspora Jewish community experiencing increased tension or discrimination at the hands of non-Jews. Such tension would account for the anti-Gentile sentiments expressed in Additions A, C, and F. If so, the story's intent may have been to underscore the necessity of, and dangers inherent in, working with the Gentile power structure while maintaining a primary allegiance to the Jewish people (Wills 1995: 120).

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