Thoughts on the Apocrypha So Far

I've been enjoying my reading of the Apocrypha thus far. It has been quite interesting, and I thought I'd post a few more or less random things that have occurred to me while reading.

Tobit: An excellent story. I enjoyed it very much.

Judith: An extremely entertaining story, but historically atrocious. I was baffled when Nebuchadnezzar was introduced as an Assyrian king ruling from Nineveh as opposed to a Babylonian king ruling from Babylon. I was even more confused when I realized the story was taking place after the exile, and thus during what ought to be Persian rule. In addition, the footnotes told me that few of the places mentioned were actual cities and towns. So, as a work of fiction, Judith is wonderful and holds up very nicely, but it shouldn't be taken as historically accurate in any way.

Esther (with Greek additions): This one was very problematic for me. For the most part the additions to Esther are not wholly detrimental to the story, but there are several places where the additions blatantly contradict the Hebrew story. For example, one of the Greek additions says that Haman's sons were hanged with him, but a few verses later in the original Hebrew story, we see Haman's sons being killed in battle. The additions also tend to do away with some of the subtlety and humor of the original. The biggest problem by far, however, is in the treatment of Mordecai. The additions tend to try to justify Mordecai in every possible way and make him a supremely devout character. However, the text in Hebrew doesn't bear this out. We see this particularly in his refusal to bow to Haman. There is no law prohibiting Israelites from doing obeisance to dignitaries and rulers. They may not worship them, but we see several examples throughout the Old Testament of honor being shown by bowing. Mordecai's failure to bow to Haman was not piety but rather pride. The story is dumbed down and simplified by making Mordecai an example of a perfect Jew and making Haman the perfectly evil bad guy.

The Wisdom of Solomon: This was a good book overall, and in keeping with the spirit of the Proverbs. It is clear also that the author was very familiar with Greek literature and philosophy. The strangest thing is that the book emphasizes the Greek idea of the immortality of the soul rather than the more Hebrew idea of bodily resurrection. Also there is some hint of the preexistence of souls, which is quite problematic for a Biblical worldview.

Well that's about is for my observations so far. I'm about to read Ecclesiasticus (a.k.a. Sirach). I'll probably post more rambling thoughts then.

Comments

Chris said…
I appreciate your insights. I hope you continue to post as you progress.