Book of Judith
The Book of Judith is a deuterocanonical book, included in the Septuagint and the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christian Old Testament of the Bible, but excluded by Jews and assigned by Protestants to the Apocrypha. The book contains numerous historical anachronisms, which is why many scholars now accept it as non-historical; it has been considered a parable or perhaps the first historical novel.
Historical context 
The Book of Judith has a tragic setting that appealed to Jewish patriots and it warned of the urgency of adhering to Mosaic law, generally speaking, but what accounted for its enduring appeal was the drama of its narrative. The story revolves around Judith, a daring and beautiful widow, who is upset with her Jewish countrymen for not trusting God to deliver them from their foreign conquerors. She goes with her loyal maid to the camp of the enemy general, Holofernes, with whom she slowly ingratiates herself, promising him information on the Israelites. Gaining his trust, she is allowed access to his tent one night as he lies in a drunken stupor. She decapitates him, then takes his head back to her fearful countrymen. The Assyrians, having lost their leader, disperse, and Israel is saved. Though she is courted by many, she remains unmarried for the rest of her life.
Original language 
It is not clear whether the Book of Judith was originally written in Hebrew or in Greek. The oldest extant version is the Septuagint and might either be a translation from Hebrew or composed in Greek. Details of vocabulary and phrasing point to a Greek text written in a language modeled on the Greek developed through translating the other books in the Septuagint. The extant Hebrew language versions, whether identical to the Greek, or in the shorter Hebrew version, are medieval. The Hebrew versions name important figures directly such as the Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes, thus placing the events in the Hellenistic period when the Maccabees battled the Seleucid monarchs. The Greek version uses deliberately cryptic and anachronistic references such as "Nebuchadnezzar", a "King of Assyria," who "reigns in Nineveh," for the same king. The adoption of that name, though unhistorical, has been sometimes explained either as a copyist's addition, or a voluntary literary name assigned to the ruler of Babylon.
There is no evidence that the Book of Judith was ever considered canonical by the Jews in Palestine, and the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible does not contain it, nor was it found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Although early Christians, such as Clement of Rome, read and used the book, the oldest Christian canons, including the Bryennios list (1st/2nd century), that of Melito of Sardis (2nd century) and Origines (3rd century), do not include it. Jerome, when he produced his Latin translation, counted it among the apocrypha, as did Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem and Epiphanius of Salamis. However, the influential Church Father Augustine considered Judith sacred scripture, and pope Innocent I declared it part of the canon. It was also accepted by the councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397) and finally dogmatically defined as canonical by the Roman Catholic Church in 1546 in the Council of Trent. The Eastern Orthodox Church also accepts Judith as inspired scripture, as was confirmed in the Synod of Jerusalem in 1672. It is however rejected by Protestants, who accept as the Old Testament only those books that are found in the Jewish canon.
Historicity of Judith 
As far as the historicity of Judith is concerned, many alternative theories have been proposed. The identity of "Nabuchodonosor" was unknown to the Church Fathers, but some of them attempted an improbable identification with Artaxerxes III Ochus, not on the basis of the character of the two rulers, but because of the presence of a "Holofernes" and a "Bagoas" in Ochus' army.
Possible identification of Nebuchadnezzar with Ashurbanipal 
Most traditionalist Catholic exegetes would find in the interpretation of Vigouroux (1837-1915) the most probable alternative. In his comparison between the Book of Judith and Assyrian history, Vigouroux (Les Livres Saints et La Critique Rationaliste, iv, 4th ed.) attempts an identification of Nabuchodonosor king of Assyria with Ashurbanipal (668-627 BC) and his rival Arphaxad king of the Medes with Phraortes (665-653), who was the son of Deioces, founder of Ecbatana, whose completion presumably continued through his son's reign. The two battles mentioned in the Septuagint version of the Book of Judith are a reference to the clash of the two empires in 658-657 and to Phraortes' death in battle in 653, after which Ashurbanipal continued his military actions with a large campaign starting with the Battle of the Ulaya River (652 BC) on the 18th year of this Assyrian king. Contemporary sources make reference to the many allies of Chaldea (governed by Ashurbanipal's rebel brother Shamash-shum-ukin), in particular Aramea, Phoenicia, Israel, Judah, Egypt, Lydia and Elam, all of which were subjects of Assyria and are mentioned in the Book of Judith as victims of Ashurbanipal's Western campaign.
At this time, as it happens in the Book, there was no king in Judah since the legitimate sovereign, Manasseh, was being held captive in Nineveh at this time. As a typical policy of the time, all leadership was thus transferred in the hands of the high priest in charge (Eliachim, in the Book of Judith).
The profanation of the temple (Judith iv,3) might have been that under Hezekiah (2 Chronicles, xxix,18-19).
In this scheme, the identification of Holofernes with the Turtanu is clear and the city of Bethulia is in fact the site of Meselieh, an ancient Jewish city in the Valley of Jezreel (Esdraelon), surrounded by the springs above Jenin and set right at the entry of the strategic pass towards Judea through Samaria, in the neighborhood of cities such as Tell Dothân (Judith: Dothaim), Belma (Judith: Belamon) and el-Yâmûn (Judith: Kyamon). The name "Bethulia" can be explained through the typical transition of the B/W and M sounds between Aramaic and Jewish languages, which can also be verified in alternative spellings of foreign names such as Evil-Merodach (Amel-Marduk) or Berodach-Baladan (Marduk-apla-iddina).
Although Judith and Ashurbanipal's campaigns show direct parallels, the main incident of Judith's intervention has never been recorded in official history. Also, the reasons for the name changes are difficult to understand, unless the text was transmitted without character names before they were added by the Greek translator, who lived centuries later, which means they won't be considered as errors by the inspired author.
After all, Ashurbanipal is never referenced by name in the Bible, except for the corrupt form "Asenappar" in 2 Chronicles or the anonymous title "The King of Assyria" in the 2 Kings, which means his name might have never been recorded by Jewish historians.
Possible identification of Nebuchadnezzar with Tigranes the Great 
Modern scholars argue in favor of a 2nd - 1st century context for the Book of Judith, understanding it as a sort of roman-à-clef, i.e. a literary fiction whose characters stand for some real historical figure, generally contemporary to the author. The authors of a roman-à-clef generally tend to give hints to identify the real counterparts to the fictional characters. In the case of the Book of Judith, Italian-born Biblical scholar Gabriele Boccaccini, in his paper "Tigranes the Great as Nebuchadnezzar in the Book of Judith", tried to offered an identification of Nebuchadnezzar with Tigranes the Great, a powerful Armenian king who, according to Josephus and Strabo, conquered all of the lands identified by the Biblical author. The story, although fictional, is set in the time of Salome Alexandra, who reigned over Judaea at her husband's death from 76 to 67 BC. Like Judith, the Queen had to face the menace of a foreign king who had a tendency to destroy the temples of other religions as he passed with his armies from one country unto another. Both women were widows whose strategical and diplomatic skills helped in the defeat of the invader. Both stories seem to be set at a time when the temple had recently been rededicated, which is the case after Judas Maccabee killed Nicanor and defeated the Seleucids. In this case, the "key" to decipher the novel's historical background lies in the first seven chapters, where the details and dates of Tigranes's campaigns are clearly outlined. Also, Tigranes actually invaded Ecbatana, something which Ashurbanipal presumably didn't. Tigranes was actually defeated thanks to Salome Alexandra's diplomacy, as he lost time and was later forced to flee to stop Lucullus invading Tigranocerta. The presumed Sadducee author of Judith wants to honor the great Queen who tried to keep both Sadducees and Pharisees united against the common menace.
Literary genre 
Most contemporary exegetes, such as Biblical scholar Gianfranco Card. Ravasi, generally tend to ascribe Judith to some other literary genre, reading it as an extended parable in the form of a historical fiction, a propaganda literary work from the days of the Seleucid oppression. Amongst all Christian Churches who recognize this Book as canonical, only the Coptic Church celebrates the title character's memory in the Calendar of Saints on September 17.
Even though the Book of Judith is not considered a part of the official Jewish religious canon, many Jewish scholars regard it as true reference to the background events relating to military struggle leading up to the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. (See also 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees).
Main characters 
Judith, the heroine of the book. She is a widow, once married to a certain Manasses. She uses her charm to become an intimate friend of Holofernes, but finally beheads him allowing Israel to counter-attack the Assyrians.
Holofernes, the villain of the book. He is a devout soldier of his king, whom he wants to see exalted in all lands. He is given the task of destroying the rebels who didn't support the king of Nineveh in his resistance against Cheleud and the king of Media, until Israel also becomes a target of his military campaign. Judith's charm occasions his death.
Nebuchadnezzar, claimed here to be the king of Nineveh and Assyria. He is so proud that he wants to affirm his strength as a sort of divine power. Holofernes, his Turtan, is ordered to take revenge on those who refused to ally themselves with him.
Bagoas, a Persian name denoting an official of Holofernes. He is the first one who discovers Holofernes' beheading.
Achior, an Ammonite king at Nebuchadnezzar's court; he warns the king of Assyria of the power of the God of Israel but is mocked. He is the first one to recognize Holofernes' head brought by Judith in the city, and also the first one to praise Hashem.
Oziah, governor of Bethulia; together with Cabri and Carmi, he rules over Judith's city.
In the Christian West from the patristic period on, Judith was invoked in a wide variety of texts as a multi-faceted allegorical figure. “Mulier sancta,” she personified the Church and many virtues – Humility, Justice, Fortitude, Chastity (the opposite of Holofernes’ vices Pride, Tyranny, Decadence, Lust) – and she was, like the other heroic women of the Hebrew scriptural tradition, made into a typological prefiguration of the Virgin Mary. Her gender made her a natural example of the biblical paradox of “strength in weakness”; she is thus paired with David and her beheading of Holofernes paralleled with that of Goliath – both deeds saved the Covenant People from a militarily superior enemy.
Later artistic renditions 
In literature 
The first extant commentary on The Book of Judith is by Hrabanus Maurus (9th century). Thenceforth her presence in medieval European literature is robust: in homilies, biblical paraphrases, histories and poetry. An Old English poetic version is found together with Beowulf (their epics appear both in the Nowell Codex). At the same time she is the subject of a homily by the Anglo-Saxon abbot Ælfric. The two conceptual poles represented by these works will inform much of Judith’s subsequent history. In the epic, she is the brave warrior, forceful and active; in the homily she is an exemplar of pious chastity for cloistered nuns. In both cases, her narrative gained relevance from the Viking invasions of the period. Within the next three centuries Judith would be treated by such major figures as Frauenlob, Dante, and Geoffrey Chaucer.
In medieval Christian art, the predominance of church patronage assured that Judith’s patristic valences as “Mulier Sancta” and Virgin Mary prototype would prevail: from the 8th-century frescoes in Santa Maria Antigua in Rome through innumerable later bible miniatures. Gothic cathedrals often featured Judith, most impressively in the series of 40 stained glass panels at the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris (1240s).
In Renaissance literature and visual arts, all of these trends were continued, often in updated forms, and developed. The already well established notion of Judith as an exemplum of the courage of local people against tyrannical rule from afar was given new urgency by the Assyrian nationality of Holofernes, which made him an inevitable symbol of the threatening Turks. The Italian Renaissance poet Lucrezia Tornabuoni chose Judith as one of the five subjects of her poetry on biblical ficgures. A key example is the Judita of the Dalmatian humanist Marko Marulić (1450–1524), which inspired by the contemporary struggle of the Croats against the Ottomans.
A similar dynamic was created in the 16th century by the confessional strife of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Both Protestants and Catholics draped themselves in the protective mantle of Judith and cast their “heretical” enemies as Holofernes.
In 16th-century France, writers such as Guillaume Du Bartas, Gabrielle de Coignard and Anne de Marquets composed poems on Judith's triumph over Holofernes. The Catholic tract "A Treatise of Schisme" written in 1578 at Douai by the English scholar Gregory Martin included a paragraph in which Martin expressed confidence that "the Catholic Hope would triumph, and pious Judith would slay Holofernes". This was interpreted by the English Protestant authorities at the time as incitement to slay Queen Elizabeth I. It served as the grounds for the death sentence passed on printer William Carter who had printed Martin's tract and who was executed in 1584.
In painting and sculpture 
The account of Judith's beheading Holofernes has been treated by several painters and sculptors, most notably Donatello and Caravaggio, as well as Sandro Botticelli, Andrea Mantegna, Giorgione, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Titian, Horace Vernet, Gustav Klimt, Artemisia Gentileschi, Jan Sanders van Hemessen, Trophime Bigot, Francisco Goya, Francesco Cairo and Hermann-Paul. Also, Michelangelo depicts the scene in multiple aspects in one of the Pendentives, or four spandrels on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
In music and theatre 
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Alessandro Scarlatti wrote an oratorio in 1693, La Giuditta, as did the Portuguese composer Francisco António de Almeida in 1726; Juditha triumphans was written in 1716 by Antonio Vivaldi; Mozart composed in 1771 La Betulia Liberata (KV 118), to a libretto by Pietro Metastasio. Arthur Honegger composed an oratorio, Judith, in 1925 to a libretto by Rene Morax. Operatic treatments exist by Russian composer Alexander Sernov, Judith, and by German composer Siegfried Matthus.
In 1840, Friedrich Hebbel's play Judith was performed in Berlin. He deliberately departs from the biblical text:
I have no use for the biblical Judith. There, Judith is a widow who lures Holofernes into her web with wiles, when she has his head in her bag she sings and jubilates with all of Israel for three months. That is mean, such a nature is not worthy of her success [...]. My Judith is paralyzed by her deed, frozen by the thought that she might give birth to Holofernes' son; she knows that she has passed her boundaries, that she has, at the very least, done the right thing for the wrong reasons.
English playwright Howard Barker examined the Judith story and its aftermath, first in the scene "The Unforeseen Consequences of a Patriotic Act," as part of his collection of vignettes, The Possibilities. Barker later expanded the scene into a short play Judith.
- See, for example, the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, which though committed to the historicity of the book, admits and lists "very serious difficulties": newadvent.org
- Schmitz, Barbara (2010). "Holofernes's Canopy in the Septuagint". In Kevin R. Brine, Elena Ciletti and Henrike Lähnemann. The Sword of Judith. Judith Studies across the Disciplines. Open Book Publishers. ISBN 978-1-906924-15-7.
- Senior, Donald & Collins, John J., The Catholic Study Bible: The New American Bible, Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 222, 
- Flint, Peter & VanderKam, James, The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Significance For Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus, and Christianity, Continuum International, 2010, p. 160 (Protestant Canon) and p. 209 (Judith not among Dead Sea Scrolls), 
- Clement of Rome, First Episle of Clement, chapter 55, c. 100 AD, translated by Roberts-Donaldson
- Gallagher, Edmon Louis, Hebrew Scripture in Patristic Biblical Theory: Canon, Language, Text, BRILL, 2012, p. 25-26, 
- Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus (Jerome), Preface to the Books of Samuel and Kings, translated by Philip Schaff
- Hartmann, Wilfried, The History of Byzantine and Eastern Canon Law to 1500, Catholic University of America Press, 2012, p. 95 
- Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, iv. 33-37, c. 350 AD, translated by Edward H. Gifford
- Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion viii. 6, c. 385 AD, Translated by Frank Williams
- Pope Innocent I, Letter to Exsuperius, bishop of Toulouse, 405 AD
- Vanhoozer, Kevin J., Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible, Baker Academic, 2005, p. 98 
- Nigosian, S. A., From Ancient Writings to Sacred Texts: The Old Testament and Apocrypha, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004, p. 29, 
- "Beside Sânûr, Mithilîyeh, or Misilîyeh, Tell Kheibar and Beit-Ilfa, which have divided opinion for some time, Haraiq el-Mallah, Khirbet Sheikh Shibel, el-Bârid and Sichem (Bethulia being considered a pseudonym) have recently been proposed as sites of Bethulia", newadvent.org
- A Pious Seductress: Studies in the Book of Judith (Deuterocanonical and Cognate Literature Studies 14), Berlin ; New York: De Gruyter, 2012.
- From an article on Catholic Italian magazine "Famiglia Cristiana", http://www.santiebeati.it/dettaglio/92559
- "Judith Cutting Off the Head of Holofernes". The Walters Art Museum.
- Robin, Larsen and Levin. p. 368. Missing or empty
- "Die Judith der Bibel kann ich nicht brauchen. Dort ist Judith eine Wittwe, die den Holofernes durch List und Schlauheit in’s Netz lockt; sie freut sich, als sie seinen Kopf im Sack hat und singt und jubelt vor und mit ganz Israel drei Monde lang. Das ist gemein; eine solche Natur ist ihres Erfolgs gar nicht würdig [...]. Meine Judith wird durch ihre That paralysirt; sie erstarrt vor der Möglichkeit, einen Sohn des Holofernes zu gebären; es wird ihr klar, daß sie über die Gränzen hinaus gegangen ist, daß sie mindestens das Rechte aus unrechten Gründen gethan hat" (Tagebücher 2:1872)
- Robin, Diana Maury, Larsen, Anne R. and Levin, Carole (2007). Encyclopedia of women in the Renaissance: Italy, France, and England. ABC-CLIO, Inc.
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- The Book of Judith Full text (also available in Arabic)
- Another text, this one including a link to download as a single document
- Jewish Encyclopedia: Judith
- Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia: Judith: Apocrypha
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Book of Judith
- World Wide Study Bible: Judith
- The New York Public Library's Judith Project
- Biblicalaudio.com 2012 Critical Translation & Audio Drama
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