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Title page for ETD etd-03202013-115004

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Whitcomb, Kelly Ann
URN etd-03202013-115004
Title Religious and communal practices in three traditions of Esther: practices in texts and contexts
Degree PhD
Department Religion
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Douglas A. Knight Committee Chair
Annalisa Azzoni Committee Member
Herbert Marbury Committee Member
Jack M. Sasson Committee Member
Kathy L. Gaca Committee Member
Ted A. Smith Committee Member
  • gender
  • Hellenism
  • genre
  • textual criticism
Date of Defense 2012-04-25
Availability unrestricted
Dissertation under the direction of Professor Douglas A. Knight

The story of Esther has a complex history of transmission and interpretation. This project examines the Hebrew (Masoretic Text) and Greek versions (Septuagint and Alpha Text) in order to understand how and why the texts depict the practices of fasting, prayer and circumcision differently. The lenses of historical criticism, literary criticism and Pierre Bourdieu's theory of practice shed light on the relationship of the texts both to one another and to their ancient socio-historical contexts. Both practices and religious texts play important roles in an individual's and group's identity and relationship to others, and the versions of Esther indicate different understandings of Judean/Jewish identity in the Diaspora.

Each main body chapter highlights a particular practice related to Judean/Jewish identity and religion: fasting, prayer and circumcision. After engaging historical criticism in order to understand how the versions relate to each other developmentally, investigations of ideology and identity point to different perspectives associated with positions and power relations within the empires of the Hellenistic and Roman periods. In general, the history of redaction of each version is complex, so that the Masoretic Text, for example, is more developed than the Greek versions in some places in the text and less developed in others. Concerning ideology and identity, the Masoretic Text displays an interest in allegiance within the empire, making no explicit claims about God or Torah. In contrast, the Greek versions retain an interest in this allegiance, but observance of Torah is also vital to Judean/Jewish identity. Yet, each Greek version developed in different times and places, so they also differ with regard to allegiance and the roles the practices play.

Ultimately, each version makes different claims about fasting, prayer and circumcision within larger narrative complexes espousing different notions of Judean/Jewish identity which developed out of different socio-historical contexts in the Second Temple period.

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