Book Of Judith

From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [1]

one of the most interesting of the apocryphal books, which has called forth a greater variety of opinions among interpreters since the days of the Reformation than almost any other of the Deutero-canonical productions. Its historical bearings are especially important. I. Title And Position Of The Book . The book is named after its heroine, יְהוּדַית =Jewess. St. Jerome's opinion, that it is so called because Judith was the authoress of it ( Comment In Agg. 1 , 6), is rightly rejected by every scholar. In the MSS. of the Alexandrine version, the Vulgate, and in Wycliffe's translation, Judith is placed between Tobit and Esther. This is followed by Coverdale, the Geneva version, the Bishops' Bible, and the A.V. , where, from the nature of the division, it is put between Tobit and The apocryphal Esther. In the Vatican copies it is placed between Tobit and the Wisdom of Solomon; in the Zurich Bible, between Baruch and the apocryphal Esther; while Luther puts it at the head of the apocryphal books.

II. Design And Contents Of The Book. The object of this book evidently is to show that as long as God's people walk in his commandments blamelessly, no matter how distressing the circumstances in which they may temporarily be placed, the Lord will not suffer the enemy to triumph over them, but will in due time appear for their deliverance, and cause even those who are not Jews to acknowledge that the God of Israel is the only true God. In its external form this book bears the character of the record of a historical event, describing the complete defeat of the Assyrians by the Jews through the prowess of a woman.

In the twelfth year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar, or, as he is called in the Greek, Nabuchodonosor, king of Assyria in Nineveh, assisted by the nations who dwelt in the hill country, by Euphrates, Tigris, Hydaspes, and by the plain of Arioch, king of the Elyrmeans, made war against Arphaxad, king of Media, who had fortified himself in Ecbatana ( Judith 1:1-7); and, despite the inhabitants of the countries of the west, Persia, Libanus, anti-Libanus, Carmel, Galaad, Galilee, Esdraelon, Samaria, etc., refusing their aid ( Judith 1:8-12), conquered Arphaxad, and returned home. to Nineveh in the seventeenth year of his reign ( Judith 1:13-16). The following year, determined to carry out his resolution to wreak his vengeance on those nations who refused their aid, he dispatched his chief general Holofernes, at the head of 120,000 infantry and 12,000 cavalry ( Judith 2:1-22), who soon subdued Mesopotamia, Syria, Libya, Cilicia, and Idumsma ( Judith 2:23;  Judith 3:8), and marched on Judaea ( Judith 3:8-10). The inhabitants of the seacoast made a voluntary submissions, which, however, did not prevent their territories from being laid waste, their sacred groves burned, and their idols destroyed, in order that divine honors should be paid only to Nebuchadnezzar. Holofernes, having finally encamped in the plain of Esdraelon ( Judith 1:3), remained inactive for a whole month or two, according to the Latin version. But the children of Israel, who had newly returned from the captivity, having heard of Holofernes' atrocities, and being afraid of his despoiling the Temple, determined to resist the enemy, and prepared for war under the direction of their high priest Joachim, or Eiiakim, and the senate. They at once took possession of the high mountains arid fortified villages ( Judith 4:1-5). while the inhabitants of Beth-llia and Betomestham, according to the colimand of the high priest Joachim, guarded the passes of the mountains near Dothlaim ( Judith 4:6-8); and, having made all the necessary preparations, they held a solemn fast and prayed to God for protection ( Judith 4:9-15). Enraged, as well as astonished at their audacity in preparing to fight against him, Holofernes made inquiries of the chiefs of Ammon and Moab who this people was ( Judith 5:1-4). Achior, the leader of the Ammonites, then gives him the history of the Jews, and tells him that no. power could vanquish them unless they sin against their God ( Judith 5:5-21).

The proud army, however, becomes exceedingly angry with this statement ( Judith 6:1-9), and Holofernes orders Achior to be thrown into the Jewish camp, in order that he may be destroyed in the general destruction which was impending over the people whom he described as invincible ( Judith 6:10-13). The Jews pick him up, and lead him to the governor of Bethulia, to whom he relates this, and who comforts him ( Judith 6:14-21). The next day Holofernes marches against Bethulia, takes the mountain passes, seizes all the supplies of water ( Judith 7:1-7), and lays siege to the city ( Judith 7:8-19), which lasts forty days, when the famishing people urge upon the governor Ozias to surrender it, and he decides to do so unless relieved within five days ( Judith 7:20-32). The pious widow Judith, however, denounces. this decision as tempting the Almighty ( Judith 8:1-31), and conceives a plan for delivering the people ( Judith 8:32-36). With this view she entreats the governor and elders to give up all idea of surrender, and to permit the gates of the city to be opened for her. Having prayed to the God of her fathers for the overthrow of the enemy ( Judith 9:1-14), she arrays herself in rich attire, an, a accompanied by her maid, who carries a bag of provision, goes to the camp of Holofernes ( Judith 10:1-11).,The guards, seeing this beautiful woman, and hearing her story, conduct her to the general ( Judith 10:12-23), whom she tells that the Jews would now be vanquished, because they had sinned against God in eating the victuals consecrated to the Temple ( Judith 11:1-15); that she had fled from the impending destruction, and would show him the access to the city, only requesting that she should be permitted to go out of the camp to pray in the night ( Judith 11:16-19). Holofernes, smitten with her charms, gives her a sumptuous entertainment, and invites her to remain alone with him within the tent that night ( Judith 12:1-20). When heavily asleep in consequence of having drunk too freely, Judith seizes his falchion, strikes off his head, gives it to her maid outside, who puts it in the bag which contained the provisions; they both leave the camp as usual under the pretence of devotion, and return to Bethulia, displaying the head of Holofernes, amidst the rejoicings and thanksgivings of the people ( Judith 13:1-20). Achior, hearing of this wonderful deliverance, is at once converted to, Judaism, while Judith counsels the Israelites to surprise the enemy next morning ( Judith 14:1-10), who,. being panic stricken at the loss of their general, are soon discomfited, leaving immense spoil in the hands of the Jews ( Judith 14:11 to  Judith 15:11). The women of Israel then express their gratitude to their sister ( Judith 15:12-13), while Judith bursts forth in a sublime song of praise to the God of their salvation ( Judith 16:1-17), whereupon all of them go up to Jerusalem to worship the Lord with sacrifices and feastings ( Judith 16:18-20). Judith afterwards returns to her native place, Bethulia, manumits her maid, and dies at the advanced age of 105 years, greatly lamented by all the nation, whose peace no enemy dared to disturb for a long time ( Judith 16:21-25). The Jews enjoying a profound and happy peace, a yearly festival (according to the Vulgate) is instituted in honor of the victory.

III. Original Language, Versions, Condition Of The Texts, Etc . That this book was originally written in Hebrew or Syro-Chaldaic is distinctly declared by St. Jerome, who says that "Judith is read by the Jews among the Hagiographa... and, Being Written In Chaldee (Chaldaeo sermone conscriptus), is reckoned among the histories," and that he had used a Chaldee codex to correct thereby the vitiated readings of the MSS. (Proef. ad Jud.). This is, moreover, corroborated by the byzantine historian John Malalas (fl. circa A.D. 880), who, having embodied the contents of Judith in his Chronographia, remarks, Ταῦτα Δὲ Ἐν Ταῖς ῾Εβραϊκαῖς Ἐμφέρεται Γραφαῖς (1, 203, ed. Oxon. 1691). Besides, the Greek contains unmistakable indications that it was made from a Hebrew or Aramaean original, e.g. giving the Hebrew use of the relative Ἐν Διέτριβεν Ἐν Αὐτῷ ( Judith 10:2), Ων Τὸπλῆθος Αὐτῶν ( Judith 16:4), the literal rendering of במחנה , Ἐν Τῇ Παρεμβολῇ ( Judith 12:7), which has occasioned so much difficulty to interpreters, but which is easy enough when it is borne in mind that the Hebrew preposition ב signifies At, By, Near; the many Hebraisms ( Judith 1:7;  Judith 1:16;  Judith 2:5;  Judith 2:7;  Judith 2:18;  Judith 2:23;  Judith 3:3;  Judith 3:10;  Judith 4:2;  Judith 4:6;  Judith 4:11;  Judith 4:13;  Judith 5:9;  Judith 5:12;  Judith 5:14;  Judith 5:16;  Judith 5:18;  Judith 7:15;  Judith 7:18;  Judith 9:8;  Judith 10:7;  Judith 10:23;  Judith 11:5;  Judith 11:16;  Judith 12:13;  Judith 12:20;  Judith 14:19); and the mistranslations of the Hebrew ( Judith 1:8;  Judith 2:2;  Judith 3:1;  Judith 3:9-10;  Judith 5:15;  Judith 5:18;  Judith 8:27;  Judith 15:11). Gesenius, and especially Movers, have been very successful in their efforts to correct the present geographical errors by the supposition of a Hebrew original. Betani ( Judith 1:9) the latter conceives to be Beth-anoth (Joshua 15), and the Two Seas ( Judith 1:12) the two arms of the Nile. For Χαλλαίων he reads Χαλδαίων , and considers Rasses to be an oversight for Tarshish. Origen was therefore misinformed when he was told that Judith did not exist in the Hebrew ( Περὶ Τωβία Ἡμᾶς Ἐχρῆν Ἐγνωκέναι Ὅτι Τῷ Τωβίᾷ Οὐ Χρῶνται Οὐδέ Τῇ Ι᾿Ουδίθ , Οὐδέ Γὰρ Ἔχουσι Αὐτὰ Καὶ Ἐν Ἀποκρύφοις ῾Εβραϊσταί , Ὠς Ἀπ᾿ Αὐτῶν Μαθόντες Ἐν Ἐγνώκαμεν , Ep. ad Afric., sec. 13). The Old Latin and the Syriac versions were made from the Septuagint, which, however, does not represent a fixed Hebrew or Aramaean original text, as may be seen from the various recensions of it differing greatly from each other. This is, moreover, corroborated by the fact that the Old Latin, the MSS. of which also deviated greatly from each other, and which St. Jerome corrected according to an Aramaean codex, differs materially from the Sept., sometimes having more than the latter (comp. Vulg.  Judith 4:8-15 with Sept.  Judith 4:10; Vulg.  Judith 5:11-12 with Sept.  Judith 5:11-16; Vulg. Judith 5:26-29 with Septuag. 5, 23-25; Vulg.  Judith 6:15-19 with Sept.  Judith 6:19; Vulg.  Judith 7:18-20 with Sept.  Judith 7:29), sometimes less (comp. Vulg.  Judith 7:9 sq., with Sept.  Judith 7:8-15; Vulg.  Judith 5:11 sq., with Sept. 5,:17-22; Vulg.  Judith 9:5-7;  Judith 9:11 sq., with Sept.  Judith 9:7;  Judith 9:10). Sometimes the names are different (comp.  Judith 1:6;  Judith 1:8-9;  Judith 4:5;  Judith 8:1), and sometimes the numbers ( Judith 1:2;  Judith 2:1;  Judith 7:2, etc.). A very minute collation of the variations between the Vulgate and the Sept.' is given by Capellus, Commentarii et Notoe Criticoe in V. T. (Amstel. 1689), p. 574, etc.; and Eichhorn, Einleitung in die apokryphischen Schriften, p. 318, etc. There are also extant several Hebrew recensions of Judith. Three of these have been published by Jellinek in his Beth Ha-Midrash, vols. 1 and 2, Leipzig, 1853, and the one which comes nearest to the Greek and Latin versions certainly removes all the difficulties against the historical character of the book contained in those versions. They are called מעשה יהודית מדרש לחנוכה ( Beth Ha - Midrash, 1 , 130-136), and מעשה יהודית ( Judith 2:12-22). Other Hebrew editions ( מִעֲשֵׂה יְהוּדַית ) have been published at Berlin (1766, 8vo), Venice (s.a. 8vo), and Frankfort-on-the-Main (ed. S., London, 1715, 8vo). Coverdale and the Bishops' Bible, following Luther and the Zurich Bible, have translated from the Vulgate, while the Geneva version, which is followed by the A.V. has a translation of the Greek text. IV. Historical Character Of The Book. There are three theories about the nature of this book:

a. Up to the time of the Reformation, the view that this book records actual history was universally entertained among Christians. The difference of opinion which obtained during those fifteen centuries, and which still exists among the defenders of its historical character, is about the precise time when these events occurred, involving as a necessary consequence the identification of the principal characters, etc. The limits of the range of time within which they have alternately been placed are B.C. 784-AD 117. The most ancient opinion, however, is, that the circumstances here described occurred after the Babylonian captivity, which is supported by the book itself (comp.  Judith 4:3;  Judith 5:18-19, Sept.;  Judith 5:22-23,Vulg.). Still, as it does not tell who this Nebuchadnezzar was, the advocates of this view have tried to identify him with every Persian monarch in succession. Thus, St. Augustine (De Civ. Dei, 18, 16), and others, take him to be Cambyses; Julius Africanus and Georgius. Syncellus regard him as Xerxes: Mercator, Estius, etc., make him to be Darius Hystaspis; while Sulpicius Severus and others identify him with Artaxerxes Ochus (comp. Suidas, s.v. Judith; Bellarmine, De Verb. Dei, 1, 12; Scholz, Einleitung in die Heiligen Schriften, 2, 588 sq.). Against this view, however, is to be urged, that,

1. All these monarchs Inherited the provinces which are described in this book as having been Conquered For Them by Holofernes, thus precluding the identity of any one of them with Nebuchadnezzar.

2. Nineveh, which is here mentioned as the capital of Nebuchadnezzar's, or the Assyrian empire, was destroyed before the Babylonian captivity, and no Assyrian or Median kingdom existed during the post-exilian period.

3. The Persians, Syrianis, Phoenicians, Cilicians, and Egyptians are described as subject to the Assyrians, which could not have been the case after the captivity of Judah, when the Assyrian empire was wholly extinguished, and the Persians, instead of being subject to the Assyrians, had made themselves lords over them, and all the other nations of the East, from the Hellespont to the River Indus.

4. There is no point of time except the Maccabaean period when the events here recorded could possibly have occurred, since the Jews were subject to the Persians for 207 years, then were under the dominion of Alexander the Great, and finally under the Ptolemies and the kings of Syria till they obtained their independence through Judas Maccabaeus, B.C. 164. The only time to which they could possibly be referred is that of Antiochus Epiphanes, but this supposition is inconsistent with the fact that the Jews had but recently returned from captivity, and restored the worship of God in the Temple. The geographical inconsistencies are equally embarrassing.

To escape these difficulties, and more especially to obtain a point of time suitable for these events, Usher, Lloyd, Calmet, Montfaucon, Prideaux, Whiston, Wolff, etc., maintain that they occurred before the exile, either in the reign of Zedekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, or Jehoiakim. The general opinion, however, is, that the story is to be placed under Manasseh, and, as Calmet, Montfaucon, Prideaux, Whiston, and others will have it, after this monarch's return from Babylon. According to them, the events recorded in the book of Judith, and the collateral circumstances, occurred in the following order of time



Birth of Judith



Manasseh begins to rein



He is taken prisoner to Babylon and sent back to Judaea



War between Nebuchadnezzar and Arphaxad



Victory of Nebuchadnezzar over Arphaxad



Expedition of Holofernes and siege of Bethulia



Death of Manasseh



Amon, his son, begins to reign



Amon is murdered for his wickedness



Josiah, his son, succeeds him, being eight years old



Death of Judith, aged 105 years



Battle of Megiddo and death of King Josiah



The last siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar



Destruction of Jerusalem and captivity of the Jews



The Nebuchadnezzar of this book is, according to this theory, Saosduchinus, who succeeded his father Esarhaddon in the kingdom of Assyria and Babylon in the 31st year of Manasseh's reign, and Arphaxad is Deioces, king of Media. But this pre-exilian view again incurs the following objections:

(1.) It makes Judith to be Sixty-Three years old at the time when she is described as "a fair damsel" ( Παιδίσκη Καλή ) captivating Holofernes ( Judith 12:13) and ravishing the hearts of many who desired to marry her ( Judith 16:22). Calmet, however, is not disconcerted by supposing that Judith might in this case be sixty-three or sixty years old, "being then what we call a fine woman, and having an engaging air and person," "likely," adds Du Pin, "to charm an old general."

(2.) It is absolutely inconsistent with chap.  Judith 16:23, where we are expressly told that "there was none that made the children of Israel afraid in the days of Judith, nor a long time after her death." For even if we take the words "a long time after her death" to mean no more than twenty years, this would bring Judith's death to Twenty years before the disastrous battle of Megiddo, wherein Josiah was mortally wounded, whereas this hypothesis places her death only four years before that calamitous event. This inconsistency is still more glaring according to the calculations of Prideaux, who maintains that Judith could not have been more than forty-five years of age when she captivated Holofernes, as this carries down her death to the 4th year of Zedekiah, when the state of the Jews had been exceedingly disturbed for several years by the Babylonians; and actually brings the period involved in the "long time after her death" beyond the total subversion of the Jewish state.

(3.) Judith affirms that there was no Jew to be found in any. city who worshipped idolatry ( Judith 8:17-18), which is incompatible with the reign of Manasseh, Amon, and the first eight years of Josiah (comp.  2 Chronicles 33:14-17).

(4.) Holofernes, the chief officer of the Assyrian army, who had only recently invaded. Judaea and taken Manasseh prisoner, must surely have known something about the Jews, yet he is described as being utterly ignorant of the very name of this Jewish: monarch, as not knowing the people and the city of Jerusalem, and being obliged to ask for some information about them from the Amoritish chief ( Judith 5:1-3).

(5.) The Jewish state is represented as being under the government of a high priest and a kind of Sanhedrim ( Judith 6:6-14;  Judith 15:8), which is only compatible with The Post - Exilian period, when the Jews had no king

(6.) The book itself distinctly tells us in chap. 4:3, and 5:18, that the events transpired After the captivity, as is rightly interpreted by the compilers of the marginal references of the A.V. who, on this passage, refer to  2 Kings 25:9-11, and  Ezra 1:1-3.

b. The difficulty of taking the book to record either pre-exilian or post- exilian history made Luther view it as " A Religious Fiction or Poem, written by a holy and ingenious man, who depicts therein the victory of the Jewish people over all their enemies, which God at all times most wonderfully vouchsafes.... Judith is the Jewish people, represented as a chaste and holy widow, which is always the character of God's people. Holofernes is the heathen, the godless or unchristian lord of all ages, while the city of Bethulia denotes a virgin indicating that the believing Jews of those days were the pure virgins" (Vorrede aufs Buch Judith). Some of, the names can scarcely have been chosen without regard to their derivation (e.g. Achior = Brother of Light; Bethulia = בתוליה , The Virgin Of Jehovah ) , and the historical difficulties of the person of Nebuchadnezzar disappear when he is regarded as the scriptural type of worldly power. Grotius, elaborating upon this idea, regards it as a parabolic description of Antiochus. Epiphanes' assault on Judaea "Judith is The Jewish People ( יהודית ); Bethulia is The Temple ( בית אליה ); the sword which went out of it, The Prayers Of The Saints; Nebuchadnezzar signifies The Devil; Assyria is Pride, The Devil ' S Kingdom; Holofernes is The Devil ' S Instrument; ( הלפר נחש lictor serpentis, minister diaboli); the widow is the helplessness of the Jewish people under the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes; Joachim or Eliakim signifies God will arise ( אל יקוםיהוה קום ) to defend Judaea and cut off the instrument of the devil who would have her corrupted." Many of the modern writers who regard it as containing pure fiction call it either drama (Buddeus), epopee (Artropaeus, Moreus, Von Niebuhr, etc.), apologue (Babor), didactic poem (Jahn), moral fiction (Bauer), or romance (Berthold). Among the Roman Catholics this notion of an allegory is favored by Jahn, who maintains that the difficulties are otherwise insuperable. De Wette, however, considers that the fact of Holofernes being a historical name (together with other reasons) militates against the notion of an, allegory, as maintained by Grotius. The name Holofernes is found in Appian ( In Syriac. c. 47) and in Polybius (10:11). The latter, historian states that Holofernes, having conquered Cappadocia; lost it by endeavoring to change the customs of the country, and to introduce the drunken rites of Bacchus; and Casaubon (Ad - Athen. ) conjectures that this was the Holofernes of Judith. From its termination the name is supposed to be of Persian extraction (compare Orophernes, Polybius, 33, 12); as Tisaphernes, Artaphernes, etc.

c. As the book itself, however, gives no intimation whatever that it is A Fiction Or An Allegory, but, on the contrary, purports to be real history, as is evident from its minute geographical (1:7; 2:21.sq.; 3:9 sq.; 4:4, 6 sq.), historical (1:5 sq.), and chronological (1:13, 16; 8:4; 16:23) descriptions, Gutmann, Herzfeld, Keil, and others take it to contain a substance of truth embellished with fiction. This view is supported by the following facts:

1. Notwithstanding the arbitrary and uncritical manner in which the deutero-canonical historians dispose of their materials, they have always a certain amount of truth, around which they cluster the traditional embellishments.

2. A summary of the contents of Judith is given in the ancient Jewish prayers for the first and second Sabbaths of The Feast Of Dedication beginning with אודאִנפת בי ותשב and אין מושיע וגואל among the events which occurred in the times of Antiochus Epiphanes, and it cannot be supposed that the Jews would make it the basis of thanksgiving when the deliverance was never wrought, and the whole of it was nothing but a fiction.

3. There are ancient Midrashim which record the facts independently of the book of Judith. There is one, in particular, which gives a better recension of this book than either the Septuagint or the Vulgate, bears as much resemblance to the Septuagint and Vulgate as these two versions bear to each other, and removes many of the difficulties against its historical truthfulness, inasmuch as it begins with ch. 5:5, and thus shows that the Septuagint, from which the other versions were made, has put together two different records.

Those, however, who understand the book to be an allegorical representation of the Jewish people, widowed as to earthly resources, yet, by favor with God and man, prevailing over the powers of the world, do not thus relieve the fable from grave moral objections. An intelligent Jew, well read in the Hebrew Scriptures, could not have thought. of setting up Judith as a proper embodiment of female heroism and Virtue. Her plan of procedure is marred throughout by hypocrisy and deceit; she even prays to God that he would prosper her deceit (9:12), and praises the cruelty of Simeon in slaying the Shechemites, as if his deed bore on it the sanction of heaven, though Jacob; the father of Simeon, had consigned it in the name of God to eternal reprobation. The spirit of vengeance, resolute in its aim, unscrupulous in the means taken to accomplish it, is the pervading animus of the story a spirit certainly opposed to the general teaching of Old as well as New Testament Scripture, and incapable of being embodied in a heroic story except by one who had much more regard for the political than the moral and religious elements in Judaism.

V. Author And Date . The difference of opinion upon this subject is as great as it is upon the character of the book. It is not named either by Philo or Josephus; nor have we any indication whatever by which to form a conjecture respecting its author. But it has been supposed by some that it. could not have been written by a contemporary, from the circumstance of the family of Achior being mentioned as still in existence, and of the festival of Judith being still celebrated. If this festival ever took place, it must have been of temporary duration, for, as Calmet observes, no record of it can be traced since the exile. Professor Alber, of Pesth, however, maintains that it is still recorded in the Jewish calendars. Jahn, after Grotius, refers the date of the book to the Maccabaean period, and derives an argument for its late composition from the fact of the feast of the New Moon being mentioned (8:6, comp. with  Mark 15:42). De Wette (Einleitung) conceives that the whole composition bespeaks an author who was a native of Palestine, who could not have lived beyond the end of the 1st century of the Christian era (the date assigned to it by Eichhorn), inasmuch as it is then cited by Clement of Rome, but that the probability is that it was much earlier written. Movers, a Roman Catholic professor at Bonn, a man of great penetration in similar investigations respecting the canonical books of the Old Testament, endeavors to fix the date; of its composition in the year B.C. 104. "The author," he observes, "who has transferred the geographical relations of his own time to a former period [see, however, Foster, Geography of Arabia, 1844, 1, 185], makes the Jewish territory commence at Scythopolis (2:10), and makes Bethulia, against which Holofernes directed his attack, the first. Jewish city at the entrance into Judaea (4:7), reckoning the territory intervening between this and Samaria as tributary to the Jewish high priest. This state of affairs continued from the time of John Hyrcanus to Pompey's invasion of Judaea. Hyrcanus had seized upon Samaria, and wrested Scythopolis, with the surrounding territory, from Epicrates, the general of Ptolemy Lathurus (Josephus, Ant. 13, 10, 3), B.C. 110, according to Usher. But Samaria and Scythopolis, with other acquisitions of the Maccabees, were lost forever to the Jewish nation when Pompey; B.C. 48, reduced Judaea to its ancient limits. The seacoast (3:1), independent of the Jews, continued, since the last years of the reign of Alexander Jannaeus, to be a Jewish possession; but Carmel, which (1:8) was inhabited by the Gentiles, was still independent in the beginning of his reign, and he first seized it after the war with Ptolemy Lathyrus (13:15, 4)." It is to this war that Movers considers the book of Judith to refer, and he supposes it to have been written after the unfortunate battle at Asochis, in Galilee (or, rather, Asophen on the Jordan) (Movers, Ueber die Ursprache der Deuteroksn. Bucher, in the Bonner Zeitschrift, 13, 36 sq.). De Wette conceives that this hypothesis is opposed by the following geographical combinations:

1. Galilee belonged to the Asmonaeans, the proof of which, indeed, is by no means certain, while the following indications thereof present themselves:

(a) Asochis seems to have belonged to Alexander Jannaeus, as it received Ptolemy Lathyrus (Josephus, Ant. 13, 12, 4, comp. with 15, 4).

(b) Hyrcanus had his son Alexander Jannaeus brought up in Galilee (13:12, 1).

(c) Antigonus returned from Galilee ( War, 1 , 3, 3).

(d) Aristobulus seized upon Ituraea ( Ant. 13, 11, 3), which presupposes the possession of Galilee.

(e) Even after the limits of Galilee were circumscribed by Pompey, it still belonged to the Jewish high priest ( War, 1 , 10 4).

2. Idumaea belonged to the Jewish state, but the sons of Esau came to Holofernes (7:8, 18).

3. If the author had the war with Ptolemy Lathyrus in view, the irruption of Holofernes would rather correspond with the movements of the Cyprian army, which proceeded from Asochis to Sepphoris, and thence to Asophen ( Einleitung, § 307).

Wolff and others ascribe the authorship to Achior, B.C. 636-629; Huetius (in Proep. Evang. p. 217), Calmet (Dissert. Proelim. p. 142), etc., to Joshua, the son of Josedech, the companion of Zerubbabel, B.C. 536-515; St. Jerome, etc., to Judith herself; Ewald, Vaihinger, etc., to the time of John Hyrcanus, B.C. 130-128; Volkmar, who takes it to be an allegorical description of the victory of the Parthians and Jews over Quietus, the delegate of Trajan, maintains (originally in the Theol. Jahrbuch. 1856, p. 362; and 1857, p. 448 sq.; afterwards in Handb. d. Einl. in d. Apokr. Tub. 1860) that it was written for the twelfth of Adar, A.D. 117-118, to commemorate this day ( יוםטוריינוס ). He makes Nebuchadnezzar stand for Trajan, Nineveh for Antioch, Assyria for Syria, Arphaxad for the Parthians, Ecbatana for Nisibis, Holofernes for Lucius Quietus, and Judith for Judaea. This explanation assumes the spuriousness of the reference in the First Epistle of Clement ( § 6), which is too early for the date assigned. It has been adopted by Baur, Hitzig (in Hilgenfeld's Zeitschr. 1860, p. 240 sq.), and Schenkel; but it is opposed by Hilgenfeld. ( Ibid. p. 270 sq.; 1861, p. 335 sq.), Lipsius ( Ibid. 1859, p. 39), and Ewald.

The fact, however, that, there are several records or recensions of the events contained in the book of Judith proceeding from different authors, and deviating materially from each other, precludes the possibility of ascertaining whose productions they are. All that can be said with certainty is that they all emanated from a Palestinian source. As the circumstances recorded are most plainly declared by the more trustworthy Hebrew copies, and in the Jewish prayers, to have occurred in the Maccabaean struggles for independence (circa B.C. 170-160), the first and shortest record of them which was used for liturgical purposes must be contemporary with the events themselves. The poetical genius of the nation, however, soon embellished the facts in various ways, and hence the different recensions. The Greek version contained in the Septuagint must have been made at a much later period, since the author of it was already ignorant of the time when these circumstances occurred, and, as we have seen, mixed up two totally different. records narrating events of different periods of the Jewish history.

VI. Canonicity Of The Book . Though the events recorded in Judith are incorporated in the hymnal service of the Jews called יוצרות , yet the book itself was, never in the Jewish canon. The distinction, however, which the Jewish synagogue kept up between treating the book with respect and putting it into the canon could not be preserved in the Christian Church. Hence Judith, which was at first quoted with approbation by Clemens Romanus (Ep. c. 55), was gradually cited on an equality with other Scripture by Clemenis Alexandrinus (Strom. 4), Tertullian (De Monog. c. 17), Ambrose (De Offi. Minist. 3, 13), and Augustine (De Doctrinea Christianas, 2,8), and finally was canonized, in the councils of Carthage, by Innocent I of Rome, under Gelasius and of Trent. Some will have it that this book is quoted in the N.T. (comp.  Judith 8:4 sq., with  1 Corinthians 2:10 sq.;  Judith 9:12 with  Acts 4:24;  Judith 16:17 with  Matthew 12:42). Judith, with the other deutero-canonical books, has been at all times read in the Church, and lessons are taken from it in the Church of England in course.

VII. Literature . The three Midrashim in Jellinek's Beth Ha - Midrash, vols. 1 and 2 (Leipzig, 1853), Montfaucon, La Verite De L ' Histoire De Judith (Paris, 1690) Hartmann, Utrum Judditha Contineat Historiam (Regiom. 1671); De Bonacasa, Juditha Ficta (Veron. 1614) Artopoeus Juditha Epopoea (Strasb; 1694); Capellius, Comment . Et Notoe Crit. In V.T. p. 459; Arnald, The Apocrypha in Patrick, Lowth, and Whitby's: Comment .; Du Pin, History Of The Canon (Lond. 1699), 1, 10 sq., 90 sq.; Eichhorn, Einleitung. In Die Apokryphischen Schriften Des Alten Testaments (Leipzig, 1795), p. 291 sq.; Prideaux, The. Old And New Testaments Connected (ed. 1815), 1, 60 sq.; Whiston, Sacred History Of The Old And New Testament, 1 , 202; Reuss, in Ersch und Gruber's Encyklopadie, sec. 2, vol. 28, p. 98 sq.; Fritzsche, Kurzgefasstes Exegetisches Handbuch Zu Den Apokryphen Des Alten Test. (Lpzg. 1853), 2, 113 sq.; Journal of Sacred Literature, 1856, p. 342 sq.; 1861, p. 421 sq.; Vaihinger, in Herzog, Real-Encyklopadie, 7, 135 sq.; Keil, Einleitung in d. A.T. (ed. 1859), p. 698; Diestel in the Jahrb. f. d. Theol. 1862, p. 781 sq.; Lipsius, in Hilgenfeld's Zeitschr. 1867, p. 337 sq.

Express commentaries on this book alone have been written by Jos. Conzio, שַׁיר יְהוּדַית (Asti, 1628, 16mo); Jeh. Low ben-Seeb, מְגַלִּת יְהוּדַית (Vienna, 1799, 1819, 8vo); Frankel, יְהבּוּדַיה (Lpzg. 1830, 8vo); Is. Siebenberger, יְגַלִּת יְהוּדַית (Warsaw, 1840, 8vo); Volkmar, Das Busch Judith (Tubing. 1860, 8vo); Wolff, Das Buch Judith (Leipzig, 1861, 8vo). (See Apocrypha).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [2]

I. Name

II. Canonicity

III. Contents

IV. Fact Or Fiction ?

V. Date

1. Probably during the Maccabean Age

2. Other Opinions

(1) Invasion of Pompey

(2) Insurrection under Bar Cochba

VI. Original Language

VII. Versions

1. Greek

2. Syriac

3. Latin

4. Hebrew


I. Name.

This apocryphal book is called after the name of its principal character Judith ( יהוּדית , yehūdhı̄th , "a Jewess"; Ἰουδίθ , Ioudı́th , Ἰουδήθ , Ioudḗth ). The name occurs in   Genesis 26:34 and the corresponding masculine form ( יהוּדי , yehudhi], "a Jew") in  Jeremiah 36:14 ,  Jeremiah 36:21 ,  Jeremiah 36:23 (name of a scribe). In other great crises in Hebrew history women have played a great part (compare Deborah, Jdg 5, and Esther). The Books of Ruth, Esther, Judith and Susannah are the only ones in the Bible (including the Apocrypha) called by the names of women, these women being the principal characters in each case.

II. Canonicity.

Though a tale of Jewish patriotism written originally in Hebrew, this book was never admitted into the Hebrew Canon, and the same applies to the Book of Tobit. But both Judith and Tobit were recognized as canonical by the Council of Carthage (397 AD) and by the Council of Trent (1545 AD). Though, however, all Romanists include these books in their Bible (the Vulgate), Protestant versions of the Bible, with very few exceptions, exclude the whole of the Apocrypha (see Apocrypha ). In the Septuagint and Vulgate, Tobit and Judith (in that order) follow Nehemiah and precede Esther. In the English Versions of the Bible of the Apocrypha, which unfortunately for its understanding stands alone, 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Tobit and Judith occupy the first place and in the order named. In his translation of the Apocrypha, Luther, for some unexplained reason, puts Judith at the head of the apocryphal books, Wisdom taking the next place.

III. Contents.

The book opens with an account of the immense power of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Assyria, whose capital was Nineveh. (In the days of the real Nebuchadnezzar, Assyria had ceased to be, and its capital was destroyed.) He calls upon the peoples living in the western country, including Palestine, to help him to subdue a rival king whose power he feared - A rphaxad, king of the Medes (otherwise quite unknown). But as they refused the help he demanded, he first conquered his rival, annexing his territory, and then sent his general Holofernes to subdue the western nations and to punish them for their defiance of his authority. The Assyrian general marched at the head of an army 132,000 strong and soon took possession of the lands North and East of Palestine, demolishing their idols and sanctuaries that Nebuchadnezzar alone might be worshipped as god ( Judith 1 through 3). He now directed his forces against the Jews who had recently returned from exile and newly rebuilt and rededicated their temple. Having heard of the ruin of other temples caused by the invading foe, the Jews became greatly alarmed for the safety of their own, and fortified the mountains and villages in the south, providing themselves with food to meet their needs in the event of war. At the urgent request of Joakim ("Eliakim" in the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) and Peshitta), the inhabitants of Bethulia (so the Latin, English, and other Vss , but Βετυλούα , Betuloúa is more correct according to the Greek) and of Betomestham (both places otherwise unknown) defended the adjoining mountain passes which commanded the way to Jerusalem. Holofernes at once laid siege to Bethulia, and by cutting off the water supply aimed at starving the people to submission. But he knows little of the people he is seeking to conquer, and asks the chiefs who are with him who and what these Jews are. Achior, the Ammonite chief, gives an account of the Israelites, cluding that when faithful to their God they were invincible, but that when they disobeyed Him they were easily overcome. Achior is for this saying expelled and handed over to the Jews. After holding out for some days, the besieged people insisted that Onias their governor should surrender. This he promises to do if no relief comes in the course of five days. A rich, devout and beautiful widow called Judith (daughter of Merari, of the tribe of Simeon (  Judith 8:1 )), hearing of these things, rebukes the murmurers for their lack of faith and exhorts them to trust in God. As Onias abides by his promise to the people, she resolves to attempt another mode of deliverance. She obtains consent to leave the fortress in the dead of night, accompanied by her maidservant, in order to join the Assyrian camp. First of all she prays earnestly for guidance and success; then doffing her mourning garb, she puts on her most gorgeous attire together with jewels and other ornaments. She takes with her food allowed by Jewish law, that she might have no necessity to eat the forbidden meats of the Gentiles. Passing through the gates, she soon reaches the Assyrians. First of all, the soldiers on watch take her captive, but on her assuring them that she is a fugitive from the Hebrews and desires to put Holofernes in the way of achieving a cheap and easy victory over her fellow-countrymen, she is warmly welcomed and made much of. She reiterates to Holofernes the doctrine taught by Achior that these Jews can easily be conquered when they break the laws of their Deity, and she knows the necessities of their situation would lead them to eat food prohibited in their sacred laws, and when this takes place she informs him that he might at once attack them. Holofernes listens, applauds, and is at once captured by her personal charms. He agrees to her proposal and consents that she and her maid should be allowed each night to say their prayers out in the valley near the Hebrew fortress. On the 4th night after her arrival, Holofernes arranges a banquet to which only his household servants and the two Jewesses are invited. When all is over, by a preconcerted plan the Assyrian general and the beautiful Jewish widow are left alone. He, however, is dead drunk and heavily asleep. With his own scimitar she cuts off his head, calls her maid who puts it into the provision bag, and together they leave the camp as if for their usual prayers and join their Hebrew compatriots, still frantic about the immediate future. But the sight of the head of their arch foe puts new heart into them, and next day they march upon the enemy now in panic at what had happened, and win an easy victory. Judith became ever after a heroine in Jewish romance and poetry, a Hebrew Joan of Arc, and the tale of the deliverance she wrought for her people has been told in many languages. For later and shorter forms of the tale see VII, 4 (Hebrew Midrashes).

IV. Fact or Fiction?

The majority of theologians down to the 19th century regarded the story of Judith as pure history; but with the exception of O. Wolf (1861) and yon Gumpach, Protestant scholars in recent times are practically agreed that the Book of Judith is a historical novel with a purpose similar to Daniel, Esther and Tobit. Schurer classes it with "parenetic narratives" ( paranetische Erzahlung ). The Hebrew novel is perhaps the earliest of all novels, but it is always a didactic novel written to enforce some principle or principles. Roman Catholic scholars defend the literal historicity of the book, though they allow that the proper names are more or less disguised. But the book abounds with anachronisms, inconsistencies and impossibilities, and was evidently written for the lesson it teaches: obey God and trust Him, and all will be well. The author had no intention to teach history. Torrey, however, goes too far when he says (see Jewish Encyclopedia , "Book of Judith") that the writer aimed at nothing more than to write a tale that would amuse. A tone of religious fervor and of intense patriotism runs through the narrative, and no opportunity of enforcing the claims of the Jewish law is lost. Note especially what is taught in the speeches of Achior (  Judith 5:12-21 ) and Judith (8:17-24; compare 11:10), that, trusting in God and keeping His commandments, the nation is invulnerable.

According to the narrative Nebuchadnezzar has been for 12 years king of Assyria and has his capital at Nineveh, though we know he never was or could be king of Assyria. He became king of Babylon in 604 BC, upon the death of his father Nabopolassar, who in 608 had destroyed Assyria. The Jews had but recently returned from exile ( Judith 4:3;  5:19 ), but were independent, and Holofernes knew nothing about them ( Judith 5:3 ). Nebuchadnezzar died in 561 Bc and the Jews returned under Cyrus in 538. Bethulia to which Holofernes lay siege was otherwise quite unknown: it is probably a disguised form of Bēth 'Ēlōhı̄m or Bēth ‛Elōah , "house of God," and means the place where God is with His people. The detailed description of the site is but part of the writer's art; it was the place which every army must pass on its way to Jerusalem. As a matter of fact, there is no such position in Palestine, and least of all Shechem, which Torrey identified with Bethulia. We know nothing besides what   Judith 1 tells us of "Arphaxad who reigned over the Medes in Ecbatana"; on the contrary, in every other mention of the name it stands for a country or a race (see   Genesis 10:22 ,  Genesis 10:24;  Genesis 11:10-13 ).

V. Date.

1. Probably During the Maccabean Age:

It is evident that this religious romance was prompted by some severe persecution in which the faith of the Jews was sorely tried, and the writer's dominant aim is identical with that of the author of Daniel, namely, to encourage those suffering for their religion by giving instances of Divine deliverance in the darkest hour. "Only trust and keep the law; then deliverance will unfailingly come" - that is the teaching. Judith might well have been written during the persecution of the Maccabean age, as was almost certainly the Book of Daniel. We have in this book that zeal for orthodox Judaism which marked the age of the Maccabees, and the same strong belief that the war in which the nation was engaged was a holy one. The high priest is head of the state (see Jth  Daniel 4:6 ), as suiting a period when the religious interest is uppermost and politics are merged in religion, though some say wrongly that John Hyrcanus (135-106 BC) was the first to combine priestly and princely dignities. We have another support for a Maccabean date in the fact that Onias was high priest during the siege of Bethulia (Jth  John 4:6 ), the name being suggested almost certainly by Onias III, who became high priest in 195 (or 198) BC, and who died in 171 after consistently opposing the Hellenizing policy of the Syrians and their Jewish allies.

That the persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 BC) supply as good a background for this book as any other event in Jewish history is the least that can be said; but one may not be dogmatic on the matter, as similar conditions recurred in the nation's history, and there is no external or internal evidence that fixes the date definitely. The following scholars decide for a date in the Maccabean age: Fritzsche, Ewald, Hilgenfeld, Schurer, Ball, Cornill and Lohr. The author was certainly a resident in Palestine, as his local knowledge and interests show; and from his punctilious regard for the law one may judge that he belonged to the Hasidean ( hăṣı̄dhı̄m ) party. Since he so often mentions Dothan (Greek Dothae, Dothaim) (  Judith 3:9;  4:6;  7:3,18;  8:3 ), it is probable that he belonged to that neighborhood. Though, however, the author wrote in the time of the Maccabees, he seems to set his history in a framework that is some 200 years earlier, as Noldeke ( Die alttest . Lit., 1868,96; Aufsatze zur persischen Geschichte , 1887,78) and Schurer ( Gjv , III, 323 ff) show. In 350 BC, Artaxerxes Ochus (361-338 BC) invaded Phoenicia and Egypt, his chief generals being Holofernes ( Judith 2:4 , etc.) and Bagoas ( Judith 12:11 ), both of whom are in Judith officials of King Nebuchadnezzar and take part in the expedition against the Jews. This was intended probably to disarm the criticism of enemies who might resent any writing in which they were painted in unfavorable colors.

2. Other Opinions:

(1) Invasion of Pompey.

That it was the invasion of Pompey which gave rise to the book is the opinion held by Gaster. If this were so, Judith and the Psalms of Solomon arose under the pressure of the same circumstances (see Ryle and James, The Psalms of Solomon , XL, and J. Rendel Harris, The Odes and Psalms of Solomon , Xiii ) But in the Psalms of Solomon the supreme ruler is a king (17:22), not a high priest ( Judith 4:6 ). Besides, anyone who reads the Psalm of Solomon and Judith will feel that in the former he has to do with a different and later age.

(2) Insurrection Under Bar Cochba.

Hitzig (who held that the insurrection under Bar Cochba, 132 AD, is the event referred to), Volkmar and Graetz date this book in the days of the emperor Trajan (or Hadrian?). Volkmar gives himself much trouble in his attempt to prove that the campaigns of Nebuchadnezzar stand really for those of Trajan. But it is a sufficient refutation of this opinion that the book is quoted by Clement of Rome (55), who died in 100 AD, and whose reference to the book shows that it was regarded in his day as authoritative and even as canonical, so that it must have been written long before.

VI. Original Language.

That a Hebrew or (less likely) an Aramaic original once existed is the opinion of almost all modern scholars, and the evidence for this seems conclusive. There are many Hebraisms in the book, e.g. ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις , en taı̄s hēmérais ("in the days of,"   Judith 1:7 , and 9 t besides); the frequent use of σφόδρα , sphódra , in the sense of the Hebrew מאד , me'ōdh , and even its repetition (also a Hebraism,   Judith 4:8 ); compare ἐπὶ τολὺ σφόδρα , epı̄ polū sphódra (  Judith 5:18 ) and, πλῆθος πολὺ σφόδρα , plḗthos polū sphódra (  Judith 2:17 ). Note further the following: "Let not thy eye spare" etc. ( Judith 2:11; compare  Ezekiel 5:11 , etc.); "as I live" (in an oath, Judith 2:12); "God of heaven" (Judith 5:8; 11:17); "son of man," parallel with "man," and in the same sense (Judith 8:16); "and it came to pass when she had ceased crying," etc. (Judith 10:1); "the priests who serve in Jerusalem before the face of our God" (Judith 11:13). In Judith 16:3 we have the words: "For a god that shatters battle is (the) Lord." Now "Lord" without the article can be only the Hebrew "Yahweh," read always 'ǎdhōnāy , "Lord." But the phrase, "to shatter battle," is not good Greek or good sense. The Hebrew words shābhath ("to rest"; compare shabbāth , "Sabbath") and shābhar ("to break") are written much alike, and in the original Hebrew we must have had the causative form of the first vb.: "A God that makes war cease is (the) Lord" (see  Psalm 46:9 ). Moreover, the Hebrew idiom which strengthens a finite verb by placing a cognate (absolute) infinitive before it is represented in the Greek of this book in the usual form in which it occurs in the Septuagint (and in Welsh), namely, a participle followed by a finite verb (see Judith 2:13). The present writer has noted other examples, but is prevented by lack of space from adding them here. That the original book was Hebrew and not Aramaic is made extremely likely by the fact that the above examples of Hebrew idiom are peculiar to this language. Note especially the idiom, "and it came to pass that," etc. (Judith 2:4), with the implied "waw consecutive," and what is said above about Judith 11:13, where the senseless Greek arose through the confusion of two similarly written Hebrew (not Aramaic) words. There are cases also of mistakes in the Greek text due to wrong translation from the Hebrew, as in Judith 1:8 (where for "nations" read "cities" or "mountains"); Judith 2:2 (where for "concluded," Hebrew ייכל , wa - yekhal , read "revealed," ייגל , wa - ye - ghal ); Judith 3:1, 9, 10 (see Fritzsche, under the word), etc.

VII. Versions.

1. Greek:

The Greek text appears in three forms: (1) that of the principal Greek uncials (A, B, agreeing closely), which is followed in printed editions of the Septuagint (Septuagint); (2) that of codices 19,108 (Lucian's text), an evident revision of (1); (3) codex 58 which closely resembles (2) and with which the Old Latin and Peshitta agree in most points.

2. Syriac:

There are two extant Syriac Vss , both of them dependent on the Greek text (3) noted above. The Peshitta is given in Walton's Polyglot and in a critically revised form in Lagarde, Lib. Vet. Test Apocrypha Syriac , 104-26. The so-called Hexaplar Syriac text was made by Paul of Tella in the 6th century.

3. Latin:

(1) The Old Latin seems to have been made from the Greek text, codex 58 (see above). (2) Jerome made his Latin version (with which the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) is identical) from a lost Chaldee version. That this last is not the original text of the book is certain, because neither Origen nor his Jewish teachers knew anything of a Hebrew or Aramaic text of Judith.

4. Hebrew:

Several late Hebrew versions of the book have been found, no one of them with strong claims to be considered the original text, though Caster (see Eb , II,  Colossians 2,642 ) does make such a claim for the manuscript found, edited and translated by him (see Psba , Xvi , 156-63). The Heb midrashes were made to be read in Jewish homes and vary according to the circumstances of their origin. But they agree in these points: Proper names are often omitted. Jerusalem is the scene of action, the wars being those of the Maccabees. Judith is a Jewish maiden and daughter of Ahitah, according to the Gaster MS, and she belongs apparently to the Maccabean family. It is Nicanor who is beheaded, the occasion being the Feast of Dedication; in the Gaster manuscript it is the king who is killed. Translations of these midrashes may be seen in Jellinck, Beth Hammidrash , I, 130-41; II, 12 f; Lepsius, Zeitschr. fur wiss. Theologie , 1867,337 ff; Ball, Speaker's Apocrypha , I, 25 ff; Scholz, Comm.2 , Anhange I and 2  ; Gaster, in the work quoted Gaster argues that the much shorter form of the tale in his manuscript is older than the longer version. But if a writer were to expand a short story, he would hardly be likely to invent several proper names and to change others. It is probable that Judith came to be represented as a pure maiden (a virgin) under the influence of the low conception of marriage fostered in the medieval Christian church.


For the editions of the Greek text and for commentaries on the Apocrypha, see under Apocryphal Literature . But on Judith note in particular the commentaries by Fritzsche and Ball, the latter containing elaborate bibliography. But the following must in addition be mentioned: Scholz, Commentar uber das Buch Judith und uber Bel und Drache , 1896; a 2nd edition has appeared; A.S. Weissmann, Das Buch Judith historisch-kritisch beleuchtet , Wien, 1891; Schurer, Gjv 4 , III, 230-37, with full bibliography; compare Hjp , II, iii, 32-37; Pentin, The Apocrypha in English Lit ., Judith, 1908; and the relevant articles in the Bible dicts., especially that by F. C. Porter in Hdb .