The advent of secularism in the OT in the Book of Esther

The advent of secularism in the OT in the Book of Esther, other advents that took place through women, and how they presaged Christianity.

Back in the month of April I ran across an article interviewing a woman theologian who made passing reference to this implication in the Book of Esther, which promulgated this result. It is my fail that I failed to bookmark it, as all I can find now are moments in the same period where the Book was employed for opposite and distinctly political purpose, aka, war drums employed in the cause of war with Iran. With that in mind, it would seem especially ripe for some rational analysis.

It serves to recognize the context of history. In the time when Esther and her Jewish counterparts had been absconded to Persia after being invaded, the nation/city states of the world had their respective deities and/or pantheons of such, and to be invaded and assimilated inherently meant assimilation and acceptance of the invading nation’s deity and religion; its inherent supremacy was basically automatic because its adherents had been victorious against your own. The Jewish faith transcended borders however, and was maintained whether they were invaded or not, as it contained some tenets that were transcendentally unique, and stood regardless of being invaded, or not. In truth they had transcended what was then the indivisible common identity of church and state as one by virtue of carrying their faith with them, which caught attention of a minister high enough to call for the extermination of the Jewish population in Persia on that basis, for the implication was essentially that of a culture that would not assimilate as expected, and therefore provided a genuine potential cultural threat in the face of this seamless mindset. 

That this situation was reversed in the book of Esther and the Jews were accepted culturally into Persia at that time represents, then, the first documented advent of the separation of Church and state, where the state accepted, for the very first time, a divergent belief system in a different God within its own borders, thanks to the representation of such by (it was discovered) its very own queen. This happened in the Bible because of a woman. It is the documented advent of secularism, the very first advent of the separation of Church and State, via the acceptance and tolerance of more than one faith within the state, that is portrayed by the Book of Esther. And you presumed the Old Testament to be a retrograde backwater. In the existing circumstances of those times, this could not be further from the truth.

This is utterly contrary to the “message” Netanyahu was trying to imply by presenting this Book to Obama to convey Persia/Iran as the same existent potential genocidal threat, and I suspect Obama would be wise enough, if not to be aware of all it implies in opposition, to realize the redundancy of the message itself. (He might not go so far as to realize its reach into the fundamental that the nation of Israel is in fact reinstating the total assimilation of Jewish identity (aka religion) and state in a dysfunctional attempt to incorporate this with democracy (and confers entry into the religion via birth, making religion the crudity of discriminatory eugenics whereby the nation eradicates the indigenous inhabitants via systematic oppression, i.e., an attempt to reinstate tribalism in the modern era); in that sense Israel is very much in keeping with present day Iran’s theocratic identity.) While perhaps not that far-sighted, Obama is wise enough to recognize that the extermination threat to the Jews did not take place in the Bible then, and would be just as ephemeral now if not for the incitement of their very actions combined with those of the US in the reversion to the reinstatement of tribalism as governance and national identity. The outcome in The Book of Esther was the quite the opposite, with the Jews instead being permitted to attack and exterminate their perceived enemies with Persia’s borders, which is much more in keeping with what Netanyahu would bend America to involve itself in and permit.

But The Book of Esther is only one such precedent in the Old Testament, and what is notable about these is that they set the stage for the acceptance of Christianity within Judaism, and that these variables that were trans-formative perceptually inside the religion are all a common thread characterized by women (Jonah being an exception), starting with Rahab at the nation’s very inception, and carrying through the Book of Ruth. (Not just in terms of the literature, for Rahab is recorded to have married a prince of the tribe of Judah and in turn bore Boaz, who in turn married Ruth (great grandmother of King David). So the two became “gentile” ancestresses named in the genealogy that led to Jesus Christ. (Bathsheba was a third.) This flies in the face of the cultural annihilation Israel presently considers to be its God-given mandate, by their own record in the Book of Esther, and should bear implications against Christianity’s genuflect endorsement of that nation without any cursory examination, as it is, per the genealogical record in the New Testament, also precisely what the advent of Christianity rejects, an analysis that is already known.

There is sort of a laughable redundancy to this genealogy in discussing immaculate conception, there being no record whatsoever of a genealogy that arose to mother Mary, nor was it a matter of any record to know the genealogy of women or which women beget, so the mention of four women in the genealogy is rather pointed and colourful at that. In fact this points to the redundancy of genealogy in the face of the prescribed avenue to God being that of Divine Grace, directly repudiating Israel’s entire national identity in terms of it present founding plank to assert itself as a nation almost purely via genealogy as the means of selection that inherently makes them God’s nation (conversion being secondary, via acceptance of the belief system). The message by implication (that of recording a redundant genealogy (of the male) leading to immaculate conception (as Jesus’ Jewish identity in this case can have only sprung from his mother)), is further reinforced by the deliberate inclusion in the genealogy (a true digression from the cultural norm) by including in the listing four women.

Why are these women mentioned in contravention of normal practice? Two were accused of prostitution, one of adultery, and three were gentiles. Ruth is the untarnished stand out who purely exemplifies faith. Mary must be mentioned as it is a matter of immaculate conception, God’s Grace conceived in the womb of a “her”; couldn’t be a “him”.)

It is in the described passages of some of these women that the acceptance into Judaism via faith rather than procreation is developed in the Old Testament, nowhere else. The presence of these “variables” in the genealogy is very significant in the representation, for just by their mention alone they represent the transcendent universal acceptance into faith that is available in Christ, no matter how fallen they may be perceived.

With the story of Rahab we are presented, before the nation of God even established itself, with a woman who entered into the nation purely via her faith and identity in God. Her stature via faith is such that she is referenced by an apostle and by Paul, the primary architect of the Christian faith in his letters to the churches he promulgated and established among the gentile nations. It was Paul who established the arguments that the revelation of Christ’s Grace was for everyone, not just to be preached among the Jews, God’s chosen people. The reference is a natural inference, for her example of entry into God’s “nation” via faith alone existed at the very beginning; and it existed in a “her”, not a him. It is in the template of Rahab that we have the first advent, then, of a potentially universal faith that may prove transcendent of nation/state theism co-identity, a faith potentially without borders, in the glaring exhibit of a woman who would willingly and actively betray her national identity in her own city-state for the God she identifies as the true God. The portrayal here bears the implication of a transcendent morality in the ability to identify God beyond the common imposed cultural constraint, based on the existence of a transcendent truth.

In the story of Ruth we have an assimilation into the nation of God’s chosen people via faith due to filial love, of a woman for a woman, that of Ruth for her mother in law, when they remain as the only two survivors of their family. Her love and identity with the family that she married into is such that she identifies her mother in law’s God as her God, and her people as her own, and forsakes all other identity or ties to the point of immigrating with the mother to her homeland, a foreign country, though both are destitute. While filial in sense, this dedication is purely platonic, and her faith had its root in love for a woman. For such she is redeemed in the context of the culture she adopts and blessed. Here we have faith arising out of transcendent love that exceeds ties or identity to nation/state theism.

What is interesting about these is purely their employ in cultural perception, for either you accept they were deliberately modeled as such and so intentionally defined the Old Testament canon, (as per the name symbolism in the Book of Ruth), or you can recognize how these stories being integrated into the Jewish faith and culture modulated their cultural perception to begin with, opening it in a manner that would permit the acceptance and universal translation of a figure that would be Christ, for integrally within the body of the culture were these testaments of acceptance into great social status in the nation (becoming the genealogy of King David, their most revered king) of these women who were outsiders, who in Rahab’s case, was for all intents an purposes a member of a city state where every inhabitant was supposed to be destroyed (not to mention a harlot), women who were culturally unacceptable and not God’s chosen people. It was her faith to the point of risking her life (faith as action) that permitted her to live, and she married into God’s chosen nation.

With the benefit of hindsight, had these female figures not existed as examples of entry into God’s nation purely via faith, how do you think James’ analysis on faith and works would have fared? How could a doctrine that imputed redemption and faith in that alone as the sole basis of salvation and acceptance into Godliness, have even arisen at all, let alone sunk into perceptions that were aware of this aspect (unless there had been already existing examples to reach for).

It would not have happened in the existing climate of church and state, of national identities that were assimilated in their worship of their respective gods to the point that defeat of that nation equated with defeat of the god, and assimilation into that nation was inherently acceptance of that god. It only happened because the belief system had been broadened in transcendent ways. It was in passages that were laid out and pathways formed in the portrayal of woman, that those potential variables arose. It only happened because Judaism was capable of transcending its own border, with such a potency it provided the pathway for the separation of church and state. It only happened because they’d established the concepts of acceptance unto God via faith, not by virtue of genealogy or national identity, an identity subsumed to the point that the city state or nation state’s god was indivisible from identity in the state itself, or the tribe. (Hence in this subsumed identity, all these gods vanished along with their respective nations as they vanished.) The pathways in Judaism that were the avenues of cultural transformation via perception were laid out in the Old Testament by their portrayal in women. It was these pathways that were potentially universal.

How regressive in its conception is the present religious climate by comparison, not even fathoming its own origins (to the point of being in retreat from them), let alone being capable of recognition of the implication borne out by the choice of messengers?