The Little Pope

Perhaps you’ve heard of Mark Driscoll, the tough-talking young Calvinist in the Pacific Northwest, the one who preaches with his shirt untucked and likes to be called “Pastor Mark” and writes about the righteousness of blow jobs.

In a recent blog post, Driscoll announces that he will be preaching on the book of Esther next Sunday, and offers a little preview. It promises to be appalling. Esther was, one may surmise from Driscoll’s preface, a typical slut who God nonetheless used to accomplish His foreordained plan.

In part, this kind of nonsense is just baked into the Protestant cake. Pick up any Protestant derivation of the Old Testament, and you’ll find confirmation of Driscoll’s claim that Esther is “a godless book.” This is because these versions rely on Masoretic (Hebrew) texts, which greatly abbreviate Esther, unlike the text widely used by the early Church (and quoted by Christ Himself), the Septuagint. The latter has long, beautiful prayers by Mordecai and Esther, entreating God for guidance and salvation. The Hebrew texts do not.

Setting that aside, however, there is Driscoll’s unfounded assumption that Esther secured her position as the king’s wife by pleasing him sexually during a trial run in bed. These are the moments when Protestants abandon sola scriptura and just wing it for the glory of God. The King James Bible says simply:

“So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti” (2:16-17)

We don’t know if the king slept with each woman. We don’t know if he slept with every woman but Esther. We don’t know if they played Twister and did each other’s hair. We don’t know if they had sex that was really, really bad, but Esther was so charming that the king fell in love with her anyway.

The Bible tells us nothing about what happened that night, but Mark Driscoll is certain that it involved Esther’s panties. Perhaps that’s the only way Driscoll imagines a woman can win over a man.

It’s astounding how theologians who can decry icons and incense because they “aren’t Biblical” can crap out exegesis that imposes their 20th-century Americanized assumptions onto a 5th-century B.C. middle-eastern culture.

Wait! I come not to bury Pastor Mark, but to praise him. Because in the midst of his convoluted, self-congratulatory, deeply misguided missive, he admits to planting himself at the root of heresy, which is this:

“What’s the truth? We will see, as I’m still studying and praying.”

Want the truth? Want the Truth? Well it doesn’t come from the Church any more. It comes only from select churches nowadays, little centers of tax-exemption and self-appointed expertise.

You want the truth? Well you’ll have to wait until next Sunday, when the little pope of Mars Hill emerges from his study with it.


  1. Cordeiro

    Great! I’ve been waiting all my life for the Mars Hill Pope to come forth from his study to impart the truth hidden in the Book of Esther. I sure hope “Pastor” Mark studies and prays enough so the revelation comes prior to Sunday so I can…


    Wait…what was I so excited about again? A Mars candy bar! Yeah. That must’ve been it.

  2. Pawelek

    Jim Henderson wrote:

    Driscolls fixation with sexualizing and demeaning women rears its semi annual ugly head again in this unbelievably bad exegesis of the book of Esther. Hey John Piper and Timothy J. Keller why dont you guys take your neo fundamentalist reformer rock star to school about how to properly interpret scripture allows men to tend to her needs and make her decisions? I dont even want to dignify this as bible teaching by pointing out the obvious…

    “Esther’s behavior is sinful and she spends around a year in the spa getting dolled up to lose her virginity”

    also see:

  3. Briana

    My husband and I were just marveling last night on how some wet behind the ears guy could become so popular. We tried listening a couple ‘sermons’ and were totally turned off by his rantings, attacks, and bizarrely focused tirades. It feels like he is trying out for a spot in Anger Management. Hopefully, soon, whether through prayer, therapy, or some Divine Intervention he’ll discover and resolve whatever the deep-seated sexual issue he seems to be so obviously struggling with and move on with his life.

  4. Marc V

    Thanks for the heads-up on Mars Hill. Wish Driscoll had a different first name 😉 .

    I would not be surprised if they rise to the forefront of the gay “rights” movement for the church condoning (blessing?) homosexual marriage.

  5. Abel Winn

    I understand that the Orthodox Church uses the Septuagint (LXX) for its OT. Can you explain (here or in a separate post) why they favor the LXX, and why Protestants have adopted the Masoretic Text?

  6. Pingback: Sand in the Gears » Blog Archive » More on the little pope of Mars Hill

  7. Post


    My understanding is that the Orthodox Church uses the Septuagint because it used it from the beginning. In other words, Orthodox scholars believe that this is the text Christ quotes in various places in the New Testament.

    As for why Protestants chose the other, I don’t know. I know they set about improving on the early Church councils by deleting various books from the Bible, but the extent to which that was doctrinally or ideologically motivated (an example of the latter can be found in Luther’s changing Junia to Junias, in Romans 16:7, for fear St. Paul’s naming her “outstanding among the apostles” would inspire parishioners to give women authority in churches), is beyond my ken.

  8. Shannon

    “These are the moments when Protestants abandon sola scriptura and just wing it for the glory of God.” I think that’s a big jump, Tony. And unfounded one at that. I’m a regular reader of your blog and think you make some great observations but I think you’re wrong on this one. As fate would have it, I’ve been studying Esther in my own times in the Word recently and it’s just not a huge jump to assume that the thing Xerxes was most interested in was beauty and sex. And since the young virgins (who were all chosen as far as we can tell for their beauty, not their character) on trial for the queenship went into him in the evening (according to vs 14) and came out in the morning, sex may very well have been one of the criteria. You might not like Driscoll much – fine. He’s a man with flaws. I don’t always like what he says either. But to accuse Protestants of winging it for the glory of God because one pastor/scholar is drawing some valid points from history, trying to study in order to better understand how a book of Scripture fits into that context and then phrase it in a way that would wake his listeners out of their sleepy way of viewing the Bible; I think that’s just sort of rude. Perhaps I was naive to think you were above the straw man thing.

  9. Post

    I’m sorry if you took what I wrote to mean that I think all Protestants wing it at all times in their exegesis. There is a very fine tradition of Protestant exegesis (e.g., Haddon Robinson) focused on teaching parishioners what the Bible says, and avoiding speculation otherwise. And Protestants—above all other sects— deserve credit for ensuring that people of all tongues and tribes even have Bibles.

    What I meant, in the sentence you quote, is that some Protestants (and now I wish I’d written “some Protestants,” to make that clear) are willing to diverge from sola scriptura when it suits them. I understand how you can come to your assumptions about Esther’s conduct with King Artaxerxes, and you may well be right. What’s frustrating to me is that so many Protestants (and I was once one of them, and in my own exegetical predilections probably still am) are willing to make assumptions like that with little understanding of the ancient cultures they’re considering, yet turn their noses up at the notion that Mary remained a virgin her entire life, for example, or that all children should receive communion — despite scriptural backing that makes those understandings just as reasonable. They cry “Sola scriptura!” in response to those abominable (to many Protestants) interpretations, but then some newbie in Seattle calls Esther a slut, and people buy it hook, line, and sinker.

    This selectivity about what evidence to admit is precisely how Esther can come to be so drastically misinterpreted. Protestants settle on a version of the book of Esther that is radically denuded, even though the very institution that gave us the Bible — the early Christian Church — widely used the Greek translation that Christ Himself quoted, and which contains a fuller version of Esther, which in turn gives lie to Driscoll’s notion that Esther was just some bimbo from the Sex in the City set.

    I encourage you to read that fuller version. Even if you stick with your conclusion that she won the king’s hand through sexual performance, you’ll see that calling the book godless, and her ungodly, as Driscoll does, is utterly mistaken.

  10. Shannon

    Thanks for the response and clarification, Tony. To clarify, I haven’t developed a conclusion about Esther’s conduct. I just think that it’s within the pale to consider it.

    Since I’ve been studying the book since early August, I listened to the entirety of Driscoll’s first sermon on Esther and thought he made some very cogent points about the culture and Xerxes – it didn’t seem as “sensationalized” as it was originally portrayed in the soundbites. But, to be fair, I am married to a grittier type of man so maybe I just take Driscoll with a grain of salt too much and should be a bit more shocked/offended by him. Or maybe I’ll keep taking the good with the bad… like Jesus does with me. Perhaps some of both.

    As to the fuller Greek texts, I’ll take a look into them as I study… I guess I’m skeptical because they weren’t a part of the original Hebrew texts and it is a commonly (though not universally) held view by many in the Church (Protestants and Catholics) that they were later Greek additions and therefore even moved to the end of the book by Jerome instead of incorporated in.

    Either way, I still think there was more to Esther than bimbo – for sure. (My daughter’s middle name is Esther after this woman and her bravery in the face of grave times.)

  11. Shannon

    Oh, and touche about Protestants not being very consistent with Sola Scriptura. I know many who try (myself included) but I know I am influenced by other sources in my interpretation. Perhaps standing on Sola Gratia is a little safer – at least for me.

  12. Shannon

    BTW, interacted with Rachel on her blog today. She thinks Driscoll’s sermon series has been quite good and only had a problem with the intro advertising he did leading up to the series. Not the actual series itself. Just wanted to clarify since so many are quick to get the noose when it comes to Driscoll.

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