[b-hebrew] question about Ashtarte/ Asharah and Book of Ester

CS Bartholomew jacksonpollock at earthlink.net
Tue Oct 14 16:36:58 EDT 2003

From: "Dora Smith" 

> The book of Ester places Ester in a role that looks startlingly like that of
> Ashtarte ...


In the history of narrative we find common plots, themes, actors and roles
in stories from cultures geographically and historically isolated from one
another, e.g., Aztec and Babylonian. There have been proponents of the view
that cultural elements (language, stories, etc.) have been transferred from
the ANE to far away places by ancient sea peoples. I am not one to reject
out of hand the possibility of cultural transfer in this manner. However, it
seems more probable that human cultures include what might be called
narrative universals. Stories common to all cultures which do not need to
travel in space and time from one culture to another.

When it comes to linking two stories, postulating that one is directly
dependent on another I think we should look for some hard evidence. The
parallels you have pointed out between Esther and Ashtarte/ Asharah could
also be used to suggest that some Victorian gothic romance novels "borrowed"
plot and character elements from Canaanite sources. This is not impossible,
but narrative universals is a simpler explanation.

What kind of hard evidence is sufficient? The following example is modern,
but it illustrates the issue well.

It is 1980, a winter Sunday afternoon, you are sitting in a theater watching
a war movie. A certain US Army Col. of questionable sanity, Col. Walter E.
Kurtz, is reading a poem by T.S. Eliot called "The Hollow Men." After the
movie you go home and have dinner and then pull out T.S. Eliot to read the
poem again. Under the title but set above the body of the poem is the
enigmatic "Mistah Kurtz - He dead."  You are intrigued but puzzled.

Two years later you are reading Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" and you
come across the line "Mistah Kurtz - He dead."

This is hard evidence of narrative borrowing, the movie borrows both plot
and characters from the novella, the poem is thrown in to alert audience of
this fact. 

Clay Bartholomew 

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