Book of Tobit
The Book of Tobit (Book of Tobias in the Vulgate; from the Greek: τωβιθ, and Hebrew: טובי Tobi "my good", also called the Book of Tobias from the Hebrew טוביה Tobiah "Yahweh is my good") is a book of scripture that is part of the Catholic and Orthodox biblical canon, pronounced canonical by the Council of Carthage of 397 and confirmed for Roman Catholics by the Council of Trent (1546). It is listed as a book of the "Apocrypha" in Article VI of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. Tobit is regarded by Protestants as apocryphal because it has never been included within the Tanakh nor considered canonical by Judaism. However, it is found in the Greek Hebrew Bible (the Septuagint), and Aramaic and Hebrew fragments of the book are in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered in Cave IV at Qumran in 1952. These fragments are in agreement with the Greek text, which exists in three different recensions.
This book tells the story of a righteous Israelite of the Tribe of Naphtali named Tobit living in Nineveh after the deportation of the northern tribes of Israel to Assyria in 721 BC under Sargon II. (The first two and a half chapters are written in the first person.) He is particularly noted for his diligence in attempting to provide proper burials for fallen Israelites who have been slain by Sennacherib, for which the king seizes all his property and exiles him. After Sennacherib's death, he is allowed to return to Nineveh, but buries a man who had been murdered on the street. That night, he sleeps in the open and is blinded by bird droppings that fall in his eyes. This puts a strain on his marriage, and ultimately, he prays for death.
Meanwhile, in faraway Media, a young woman named Sarah prays for death in despair. She has lost seven husbands to the demon of lust, Asmodeus, 'the worst of demons', who abducts and kills every man she marries on their wedding night before the marriage can be consummated. God sends the archangel Raphael, disguised as a human, to heal Tobit and to free Sarah from the demon.
The main narrative is dedicated to Tobit's son, Tobiah or Tobiyah (Greek: Τωβίας/Tobias), who is sent by his father to collect a sum of money that the latter had deposited some time previously in the far off land of Media. Raphael represents himself as Tobit's kinsman Azariah, and offers to aid and protect Tobias on his journey. Under the guidance of Raphael, Tobias makes the journey to Media, accompanied by his dog.
Along the way, while washing his feet in the river Tigris, he is attacked by a fish which tries to swallow his foot. By order of the angel he captures it. The heart, liver and gall bladder are removed to make medicines by order of Raphael.
Upon arriving in Media, Raphael tells Tobias of the beautiful Sarah, whom Tobias has the right to marry, because he is her cousin and closest relative. He instructs the young man to burn the fish's liver and heart to drive away the demon when he attacks on the wedding night.
The two are married, and the fumes of the burning organs drive the demon away to Upper Egypt, while Raphael follows him and binds him. Meanwhile, Sarah's father has been digging a grave to secretly bury Tobias (who he assumes will be dead). Surprised to find his son-in-law alive and well, he orders a double-length wedding feast and has the grave secretly filled. Since he cannot leave because of the feast, Tobias sends Raphael to recover his father's money.
After the feast, Tobias and Sarah return to Nineveh. There, Raphael tells the youth to use the fish's gall to cure his father's blindness. Raphael then reveals his true identity and returns to heaven. Tobit sings a hymn of praise.
He tells his son to leave Nineveh before God destroys it according to prophecy. After the prayer, Tobit dies at an advanced age. After burying his father, Tobias returns to Media with his family.
The book is also closely related to Jewish wisdom literature; nowhere is this more clear than in Tobit's instructions to Tobias before his departure for Media in chapter 4. The value of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving is particularly praised in this instruction; in the Latin rite, readings from this section are often used in the liturgy. Because of the book's praise for the purity of marriage, it is often read during weddings in many rites.
Doctrinally, the book is cited for its teaching on the intercession of angels, filial piety, and reverence for the dead.
Date of composition
It is generally believed that the book was written in the 2nd century BC, on the basis of the scrupulous attention to ritual details and the stress laid upon giving alms. However, neither the date nor location of composition is certain. The setting of the story is the 8th century BC, and it was traditionally thought that it was written at that time.
The book was possibly originally written in one of the forms of the Aramaic language. Jerome described his version for the Vulgate as being made from an Aramaic text available to him. Four fragmentary texts in Aramaic and one in Hebrew were found at Qumran.
The surviving Greek translations are found in two versions. The shorter form, called Greek I by Robert Hanhart in his edition of the Septuagint, is found in Codex Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, Venetus, and most cursive manuscripts. The Greek II version, which is 1700 words longer, is found in Codex Sinaiticus and closely aligns with the Hebrew and Aramaic fragments found at Qumran. Apparently the Old Latin (La) manuscripts are also translated from the longer Greek II version. Most English translations since 1966 have relied on the Greek II version.
- Mary Untier of Knots (painting with Tobias and the Angel)
- Tobias and the Angel (Verrocchio)
- Philosopher in Meditation ("Tobit and Anna in an Interior" by Rembrandt)
- Article VI at episcopalian.org
- Variously given as 127 years old in Greek I, 117 years old in Greek II and the Vetus Latina, and 102 years old in most manuscripts of the Vulgate, 112 years in others
- A.A. Di Lella, New English Translation of the Septuagint.
- Complete text of the Book of Tobit, as published in the 1611 King James version *
- Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) entry
- The Book of Tobit Full text from http://St-Takla.org (also available in Arabic)
- Jewish Encyclopedia: Tobit; gives an overview of the manuscript tradition
- World Wide Study Bible: Tobit
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
Media related to Book of Tobit at Wikimedia Commons
- New English Translation of the Septuagint (Tobit)
- 2012 Critical Translation with Dramatized Audio Version (Tobi)
- Milbank, Alison; Talbert, Andrew. "Tobit". Bibledex Verses. Brady Haran for the University of Nottingham.
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Books of the Bible