Genre – a fictional novella that makes use of people and places, but not in any real historically accurate way. It doesn’t pretend to (e.g. Nebuchadnezzar was the ruler of Babylon not Assyria). But this is fiction with a purpose – to teach an inspiring lesson of faithfulness to the law and the God of Israel in the midst of foreign domination.
Date – Since there are no clear historical referents it is hard to date. Many scholars believe it dates to the time around or after the Jewish revolt of the Maccabees probably late Second or early First Century BCE.
Content – “The Book of Judith is from beginning to end a moral tale, reinforcing for its hearers the basic theology of the Deuteronomic history, presenting in Judith a model of piety and rigorous observance of God’s covenant, affirming the efficacy of prayer coupled with faithful action, and encouraging confidence in the God of Israel and in the ability of the Torah-observant Jew to become a vehicle through which God may benefit God’s people” (deSilva, 2002). Judith is an archetypal figure combining biblical heroines to inspire faithfulness among the Jewish people. Judithis similar to the Judges who appear to do their work and then retire from view.References to Greek histories also appear, however – e.g. the command of the narrow mountain pass the invader needed to control near Bethulia recalls the brave Spartans who held off the Persian army at the battle of Thermopylae.
Original language – Earliest texts appear only in Greek in manuscripts of the Septuagint (Hebrew Bible in Greek). It may have had a Hebrew original, but it may also have been written in Greek originally.
Questions –What do you think of the use of lies, seduction and murder to achieve a holy end? What stories from the Hebrew Bible are reflected in Judith? Does this book have resonance with your spiritual life?
References – These are two good commentaries for the whole Apocrypha series:
David A. deSilva, Introducing the Apocrypha: Message Context and Significance, Baker Academic, 2002, EBook 2018.
Martin Goodman ed., The Apocrypha, The Oxford Bible Commentary, Oxford University Press, 2001
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