Looney has a good post today on Herodotus and Esther.
There are many biblical scholars who have argued that Esther is not historically accurate because it contradicts Herodotus on certain issues. For example, in Herodotus, we read that Persian queens could only be chosen from seven royal families. Because Esther was not from one of those families, the argument runs, the Book of Esther is inaccurate to say that the Persian king chose her to be his queen.
When I wrote about this in my post here, Looney astutely responded:
“Herodotus lived a very long way from the Persian Empire and had no direct inside knowledge. For example, there is no mention of Persepolis in his writings or any other Greek writings until Alexander the Great, yet this was the main Persian capital. The claim that ‘Persian queens had to come from one of the seven noble Persian families’ is a story in Herodotus involving seven conspirators who decide to kill the impostor king. The footnote preceding this section by Rawlinson notes that this really looks like a Greek interpolation. In fact, Darius marries Atossa who isn’t a daughter of one of the seven noble Persian families (i.e. the seven conspirators). Thus, Herodotus isn’t even internally consistent on this matter.”
In his post this morning, Looney looks at a story in Herodotus’ work that appears to have some of the same themes as the Book of Esther: an exchange of messages, and a woman doing her duty even though it may cost her life. Looney is not suggesting that Herodotus is talking about Esther in his story, for the topic of Herodotus’ story is quite different. But it’s interesting to see some of the overlapping themes between Herodotus’ story and the Book of Esther. I can envision more liberal biblical scholars saying that there were stock themes in certain stories back then, and the Book of Esther was drawing from those themes.