Book of Judith

{joo' - dith}

A book in the Old Testament Apocrypha

General Information

A book of the Old Testament in versions of the Bible based on the Greek Septuagint, Judith is included with the Apocrypha in the Authorized and Revised Standard versions; it does not appear at all in the Hebrew Bible. The work of an unknown author, the book is a fictitious account of the deliverance of Israel from a foreign army by Judith, the devout and beautiful heroine who first beguiled and then beheaded the Assyrian commander Holofernes. The book is dated to the Maccabean period in the 2d century BC.

Although the besieged city of Bethulia is described as being in Samaria, Samaritans are curiously unmentioned. Deliberate anachronisms, such as calling the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar "king of the Assyrians," were probably intended to signal readers that Judith is not exact history but a call to celebrate recent victories of the Maccabees and to inspire further resistance to Hellenizing enemies. The ritual scrupulosity of the heroine suggests an early pharisaic origin for the book.

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T Craven, Artistry and Faith in the Book of Judith (1983).

Book of Judith

General Information

Judith is the fourth book of the Old Testament Apocrypha in those versions of the Bible following the Greek Septuagint (generally Roman Catholic and Orthodox versions). Judith is included with the Apocrypha in the King James Version; it does not appear in the Hebrew Bible. The work of an unknown author, the book falls into two roughly equal parts. In the first part (chapters 1-7), King Nebuchadnezzar, "who reigned over the Assyrians in the great city of Nineveh" (Judith 1:1), sends his general Holofernes to punish the western nations because they have refused to join him in a war against Media. Holofernes marches against them, and all except the Israelites submit. At this point in the narrative Achior, leader of the Ammonites, warns Holofernes that God will defend the Israelites so long as they remain faithful. Holofernes, however, disregarding the warning, surrounds the Israelites in the ancient Palestinian town of Bethulia, near Jerusalem.

In the second part of the book (chapters 8-16), the pious and beautiful widow Judith (Hebrew, "Jewess") volunteers to deliver the Israelites after rebuking them for losing faith in God when under siege. She goes to the Assyrian camp, pretending to be an informer against her people, and charms Holofernes, who invites her to a banquet in his tent. At the banquet, Holofernes becomes drunk and falls asleep. Judith seizes a sword, beheads him, wraps the severed head in a bag, and returns with it to her people. The jubilant Israelites then attack the leaderless Assyrians, who flee in panic. Judith leads the people in a song of celebration and praise, and then all go to Jerusalem to offer thanksgiving.

Most modern scholars recognize that Judith is a historical romance written for didactic purposes. The author appears to have deliberately ignored historical fact in order to focus attention exclusively on the religious message. Nebuchadnezzar II, for example, was king of Babylon, but he was never styled "king of Assyria," nor did he have his capital at the Assyrian capital Nineveh, which was destroyed in 612BC by his father, Nabopolassar. Indeed, any participation by the historical Nebuchadnezzar in the story of Judith is a chronological impossibility: Nebuchadnezzar died in 562BC, while the action of Judith is said to take place after the end of the Babylonian Captivity in 538 (4:3; 5:19). The geography of Judith is similarly open to question. The itinerary of Holofernes and his army (2:21-28) is geographically impossible, and the site of Bethulia - the town around which the action revolves - resists identification, despite the presence of topographical details in the text that should fix its location with precision.

Judith betrays affinities with Ezekiel and Joel, as well as with Daniel and other apocalyptic writings. Both the apocalyptic element in the book and certain details of the narrative suggest that it dates from the period of the Maccabees. Nebuchadnezzar, for example, is said to have wanted "to destroy all local gods so that the nations should worship Nebuchadnezzar alone and people of every language and nationality should hail him as a god" (3:8). Yet it was the Seleucids, not the Assyrians or Babylonians, whose kings first insisted on divine honors. In that case, "Nebuchadnezzar" might represent Antiochus IV, while "Holofernes" may stand for his general Nicanor, "Assyrians" for the Seleucid Syrians, and "Nineveh" for Antiochus's capital Antioch. This interpretation is supported by the existence of a Hebrew Midrash that tells the story of Judith in an abbreviated form, explicitly assigning it to the period of Seleucid oppression.


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(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)

Book of Judith

Catholic Information


Nabuchodonosor, King of Nineveh, sends his general Holofernes to subdue the Jews. The latter besieges them in Bethulia, a city on the southern verge of the Plain of Esdrelon. Achior, the Ammonite, who speaks in defense of the Jews, is maltreated by him and sent into the besieged city to await his punishment when Holofernes shall have taken it. Famine undermines the courage of the besieged and they contemplate surrender, but Judith, a widow, upbraids them and says that she will deliver the city. She goes into the camp of the Assyrians and captivates Holofernes by her beauty, and finally takes advantage of the general's intoxication to cut off his head. She returns inviolate to the city with his head as a trophy, and a sally on the part of the Jews results in the rout of the Assyrians. The book closes with a hymn to the Almighty by Judith to celebrate her victory.


The book exists in distinct Greek and Latin versions, of which the former contains at least eighty-four verses more than the later. St. Jerome (Praef. in Lib.) says that he translated it from the Chaldaic in one night, "magis sensum e sensu, quam ex verbo verbum transferens" (aiming at giving sense for sense rather than adhering closely to the wording). He adds that his codices differed much, and that he expresses in Latin only what he could clearly understand of the Chaldaic.

Two Hebrew versions are known at present, a long one practically identical with the Greek text, and a short one which is entirely different; we shall return to the latter when discussing the origin of the book. The Chaldaic, from which St. Jerome made our present Vulgate version, is not recoverable unless it be identified with the longer Hebrew version mentioned above. If this be the case we can gauge the value of St. Jerome's work by comparing the Vulgate with the Greek text. We at once find that St. Jerome did not exaggerate when he said that he made his translation hurriedly. Thus a comparison between vi, 11, and viii, 9 shows us a certain confusion relative to the names of the elders of Bethulia -- a confusion which does not exist in the Septuagint, where also x, 6, should be compared. Again in iv, 5, the high priest is Eliachim, which name is later changed into Joachim (xv, 9) -- an allowable change but somewhat misleading: the Septuagint is consistent in using the form Joachim. Some of the historical statements in the Septuagint directly conflict with those of the Vulgate; for example, the thirteenth year (Vulgate) of Nabuchodonosor becomes the eighteenth in the Septuagint, which also adds a long address of the king to Holofernes. St. Jerome has also frequently condensed the original-always on the supposition that the Septuagint and the longer Hebrew version do really represent the original.

To give but one instance:

Septuagint (2:27): "And he came down into the plain of Damascus at the time of the wheat harvest, and burnt up all their fields, their flocks and their herds he delivered to destruction, their cities he ravaged, and the fruits of their fertile plains he scattered like chaff, and he struck all their young men with the edge of the sword."

Vulgate (2:17): "And after these things he went down into the plains in the days of the harvest, and he set all the corn on fire, and he caused all the trees and vineyards to be cut down."

With regard to the Septuagint version of the Book of Judith it should be noted that it has come down to us in two recensions: Codex B or Vaticanus on the one hand, and Codex Alexandrinus with Codex Sinaiticus on the other.


Catholics with very few exceptions accept the book of Judith as a narrative of facts, not as an allegory. Even Jahn considers that the genealogy of Judith is inexplicable on the hypothesis that the story is a mere fiction ("Introductio", Vienna, 1814, p. 461). Why carry out the genealogy of a fictitious person through fifteen generations? The Fathers have ever looked upon the book as historical. St. Jerome, who excluded Judith from the Canon, nonetheless accepted the person of the valiant woman as historical (Ep. lxv, 1).

Against this traditional view there are, it must be confessed, very serious difficulties, due, as Calmet insists, to the doubtful and disputed condition of the text. The historical and geographical statements in the book, as we now have it, are difficult to understand: thus

Nabuchodonosor was apparently never King of Nineveh, for he came to the throne in 605, whereas Nineveh was destroyed certainly not later than 606, and after that the Assyrians ceased to exist as a people;

the allusion in i, 6, to Erioch, King of the Elicians, is suspicious; we are reminded of the Arioch of Gen., xiv, i. The Septuagint makes him King of the Elumaens, presumably the Elamites,

the character of Nabuchodonosor is hardly that portrayed for us on the monuments: in the India House Inscription, for example, his sentiments are remarkable for the modesty of their tone. On the other hand, we must remember that, as Sayce says, the "Assyrian kings were most brazen-faces liars on their monuments";

the name Vagao, or the Septuagint Bagoas, for the eunuch of Holofernes is suggestive of the Bagoses, who, according to Josephus (Antiquities, XI, vii, 1), polluted the temple and to whom apparently we have a reference in the recently discovered papyri from Assuan;

the mixture of Babylonian, Greek, and Persian names in the book should be noted;

the genealogy of Judith as given in the Vulgate is a medley: that given in the three principal Greek codices is perhaps better but varies in every one. Still it is an historical genealogy, though ill-conserved;

a geographical puzzle is presented by the Vulgate of ii, 12-16; the Septuagint is much superior, and it should be noted that throughout this version, especially in Codex B, we have the most interesting details furnished us (cf. particularly i, 9; ii, 13, 28-9). The Septuagint also gives us information about Achior which is wanting in the Vulgate; it is apparently hinted in vi, 2, 5, that he was an Ephraimite and a mercenary hired by Moad;

Bethulia itself is a mystery: according to the Septuagint it was large, had streets and towers (vii, 22, 32), and withstood a long siege at the hands of a vast army. Its position, too, is stated with minuteness; it stood on the edge of the Plain of Esdrelon and guarded the pass to Jerusalem; yet no trace of the existence of such a place is to be found (unless we accept the theory of Conder, "Handbook", 5th ed., p. 239);

the names, Judith (Jewess), Achior (brother of light), and Bethulia (?Bethel, i.e. ?Jerusalem, or perhaps from the Hebrew meaning "virgin" -- in the shorter Hebrew version Judith is called not "the widow" but "the virgin", i.e. Bethulia), sound rather like symbolic names than those of historical places or persons;

in Judith's speech to Holofernes there is (xi, 12, 15) some apparent confusion between Bethulia and Jerusalem;

while the events are referred to the time of Nabuchodonosor, and therefore to the close of the Hebrew monarchy, we seem to have in v, 22, and viii, 18-19, an allusion to the time subsequent to the Restoration; there is no king in Palestine (iv, 5), but only a high priest, Joachim or Eliachim; and in iv, 8; xi, 14; xv, 8 (Sept.), the Sanhedrin is apparently mentioned;

the book has a Persian and even a Greek colouring, as is evidenced by the recurrence of such names as Bagoas and Holofernes.

These are serious difficulties, and a Catholic student must be prepared to meet them. There are two ways of doing so.

(a) According to what we may term "conservative" criticism, these apparent difficulties can every one be harmonized with the view that the book is perfectly historical and deals with facts which actually took place. Thus, the geographical errors may be ascribed to the translators of the original text or to copyists living long after the book was composed, and consequently ignorant of the details referred to. Calmet insists that the Biblical Nabuchodonosor is meant, while in Arphaxad he sees Phraortes whose name, as Vigoroux (Les Livres Saints et La Critique Rationaliste, iv, 4th ed.) shows, could easily have been thus perverted.

Vigoroux, however, in accordance with recent Assyrian discoveries, identifies Nabuchodonosor with Assur-bani-pal, the contemporary of Phraortes. This enables him to refer the events to the time of the captivity of Manasses under Assur-bani-pal (2 Chronicles 33:11; cf. Sayce, "Higher Criticism and the Verdict of the Monuments", 4th ed., p. 458). It is further maintained that the campaign conducted by Holofernes is well illustrated in the records of Assur-bani-pal which have come down to us. And these facts will undoubtedly afford an explanation of the apparent allusion to the captivity; it was indeed a Restoration, but that of Manasses, not that under Esdras. The reference, too, to the Sanhedrin is doubtful; the term gerousia is used of the "ancients" in Lev., ix, 3, etc. Lastly, Conder's identification of Bethulia with Mithilia (loc. cit. supra) is highly probable. Moreover, the writer who described the strategical position in iv, 1-6, knew the geography of Palestine thoroughly. And we are given details about the death of Judith's husband which (viii, 2-4) can hardly be attributed to art, but are rather indications that Judith represents a really existing heroine. With regard to the state of the text it should be noted that the extraordinary variants presented in the various versions are themselves a proof that the versions were derived from a copy dating from a period long antecedent to the time of its translators (cf. Calmet, "Introd. in Lib. Judith").

(b) Some few Catholic writers are not satisfied with Calmet's solution of the difficulties of the Book of Judith; they deem the errors of translators and of scribes to be no sufficient explanation in this matter. These few Catholics, together with the non-Catholics that do not care to throw the book over entirely into the realm of fiction, assure us that the Book of Judith has a solid historical foundation. Judith is no mythical personage, she and her heroic deed lived in the memory of the people; but the difficulties enumerated above seem to show that the story as we now have it was committed to writing at a period long subsequent to the facts. The history, so it is maintained, is vague; the style of composition, the speeches, etc., remind us of the Books of Machabees. A remarkable knowledge of the Psalter is evinced (cf. 7:19 and Psalm 105:6; 7:21, and Psalm 78:10, 93:2; 9:6, 9, and Psalm 19:8; 9:16, and Psalm 146:10; 13:21, and Psalm 105:1). Some of these psalms must almost certainly be referred to the period of the Second Temple. Again, the High Priest Joachim must presumably be identified with the father of Eliashib, and must therefore have lived in the time of Artaxerxes the Great (464-424 B.C. Cf. Josephus, "Antiquities", XI, vi-vii). We referred above to a shorter Hebrew version of the book; Dr. Gaster, its discoverer, assigns this manuscript to the tenth or eleventh century A.D. (Proceedings of Soc. of Bibl. Archaeol., XVI, pp. 156 sqq.). It is exceedingly brief, some forty lines, and gives us only the gist of the story. Yet it seems to offer a solution to many of the difficulties suggested above. Thus Holofernes, Bethulia, and Achior, all disappear; there is a very natural explanation of the purification in xii, 7; and, most noticeable of all, the enemy is no longer an Assyrian, but Seleucus, and his attack is on Jerusalem, not on Bethulia.

If it could be maintained that we have in this manuscript the story in its original form, and that our canonical book is an amplification of it, we should then be in a position to explain the existence of the numerous divergent versions. The mention of Seleucus brings us down to Machabean times, the title of Judith, now no longer the "widow" but the "virgin", may explain the mysterious city; the Machabean colouring of the story becomes intelligible, and the theme is the efficacy of prayer (cf. 6:14-21; 7:4; 2 Maccabees 15:12-16).


The Book of Judith does not exist in the Hebrew Bible, and is consequently excluded from the Protestant Canon of Holy Scripture. But the Church has always maintained its canonicity.

St. Jerome, while rejecting in theory those books which he did not find in his Hebrew manuscript, yet consented to translate Judith because "the Synod of Nicaea is said to have accounted it as Sacred Scripture" (Praef. in Lib.). It is true that no such declaration is to be found in the Canons of Nicaea, and it is uncertain whether St. Jerome is referring to the use made of the book in the discussions of the council, or whether he was misled by some spurious canons attributed to that council, but it is certain that the Fathers of the earliest times have reckoned Judith among the canonical books; thus St. Paul seems to quote the Greek text of Judith, viii, 14, in I Cor., ii, 10 (cf. also 1 Corinthians 10:10, with Judith 8:25). In the early Christian Church we find it quoted as part of Scripture in the writing of St. Clement of Rome (First Epistle ot the Corinthians, lv), Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Tertullian.

Publication information Written by Hugh T. Pope. Transcribed by Michael T. Barrett. Dedicated to Judy Van Horn The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York


Consult the various Biblical dictionaries and introductions; also Civilta Cattolica (1887). The best summary of the various view and arguments on the question is in GIGOT, Special Introd., I; cf. also especially SCHURER, The Jewish People in the Time of Christ, div. II, vol. III; VIGOUROUX, La Bible et les Decouvertes Modernes, IV (5th ed.), 275-305; BRUENGO, Il Nabucodonosor di Giuditta (Rome, 1888).

Book of Judith

Jewish Perspective Information



General Character and Contents.

Historical Setting.

The City Bethulia.

Identity of Bethulia.

Literary and Religious Importance.

Original Language; Versions.

Author and Date.

Possible Date of Composition.


An Apocryphal book in sixteen chapters. The book receives its title from the name of its principal character, Judith ( = "Jewess"; in the Greek transliteration, Ἰουδείθ), a name found also in Gen. xxvi. 34 (comp. the corresponding masculine proper name in Jer. xxxvi. 14, 21, 23).

The Book of Judith is a story written for house-hold reading, While it may properly be classed as didactic, yet it is one of those popular tales in which the chief concern of the writer is with the telling of the story rather than with the pointing of a moral, and in which the wish to interest takes precedence even of the desire to instruct. What gained for the book its high esteem in early times, in both the Jewish and the Christian world, was its intrinsic merit as a story, rather than its religious teaching or its patriotism.

General Character and Contents.

It is, furthermore, a historical novel; that is, its scenes are definitely located as to place and time and connected with important personages of history, with the purpose of adding life to the narrative. This feature it has in common with such stories as those of Ruth, Esther, Daniel, and especially with the Book of Tobit, the work most nearly akin to it. But in Judith the names of persons and localities are introduced in such profusion and with such minuteness of detail as have no parallel in the other old Jewish compositions of this class.

The events of the narrative are represented as taking place on the occasion of the hostile advance of an "Assyrian" army into Palestine. The inhabitants of a certain Jewish city called "Bethulia," (properly "Betylua") can check the advance of the enemy, because their city occupies the narrow and important pass through which is the entrance into Judea (Judith iv. 7 et seq., viii. 21-24). But the Assyrians, instead of attempting to force the pass, blockade the city and cut off its water-supply. In the distress which follows, Judith, a woman of Bethulia, works deliverance for her city-and thus for all Judea and Jerusalem-by bewitching the Assyrian captain, Holofernes, and cutting off his head.

Historical Setting.

The book begins with a date, "the twelfth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar," and everything moves with the air of a precise account of actual events. But the way in which the narrative at once makes open sport of chronology and history is very striking. Nebuchadnezzar is the king of Assyria, and reigns in Nineveh(!). The Jews, who have "newly returned from the captivity" (iv. 3, v. 19), are in no sense his subjects; indeed, his chief captain has apparently never heard of them (v. 3). Yet the writer of this story was a well-informed man, familiar with foreign geography (i. 6-10, ii. 21-28), and well acquainted with the Hebrew Scriptures (i. 1; ii. 23; v. 6-19; viii. 1, 26; ix. 2 et seq.). It must therefore be concluded either that the principal names of the story are a mere disguise, or that they were chosen with a purely literary purpose, and with the intent to disclaim at the outset any historical verity for the tale. The former supposition is not rendered plausible by any consideration, and fails utterly to account for the peculiarities of the narrative; the latter, on the contrary, gives a satisfactory explanation of all the facts. That is, with the very first words of the tale, "In the twelfth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned over the Assyrians in Nineveh," the narrator gives his hearers a solemn wink. They are to understand that this is fiction, not history. It did not take place in this or that definite period of Jewish history, but simply "once upon a time," the real vagueness of the date being transparently disguised in the manner which has become familiar in the folk-tales of other parts of the world.

The City Bethulia.

Both the name and the site of the city in which the scene of the story is laid have been the subject of much debate. It is beyond all question that the narrator in describing Bethulia is describing a real place with which he is personally familiar. The plain requirements of the description are these: a large city in the hill-country of Samaria, on the direct road from Jezreel to Jerusalem, lying in the path of the enemy, at the head of an important pass, a few hours (vi. 11, vii. 1-3) south of Geba. This Geba is the of the Talmud, the modern Jeba', two or three hours northeast of Samaria, at the point where the ascent into the mountainous country begins. Between this point and the plain of Jezreel there is nothing resembling a pass. Holofernes, with the division of his army which had just chastised the coast cities (iii. 6 et seq.), was in the van. A considerable body now joined him from the east (Moab, Ammon, Edom, etc.; v. 2, vii. 8). The statement that his vast army "encamped between Geba and Seythopolis" (iii. 10) suits all the conditions perfectly.

Identity of Bethulia.

As Torrey first pointed out, in the "Journal of the American Oriental Society," xx. 160-172, there is one city, and only one, which perfectly satisfies all the above-mentioned requirements, namely, Shechem. A great army, with its baggage-trains, breaking camp at Geba in the morning (vii. 1), would arrive in the afternoon at the springs in the broad valley (ib. 3) just under Shechem. This, moreover, is the city which occupies the all-important pass on this route, the pass by which "was the entrance into Judea" (iv. 7). Furthermore, each one of the details of topography, which the writer introduces in great number, finds its unmistakable counterpart in the surroundings of Shechem. The valley below the city is on the west side (vii. 18; comp. ib. verses 13, 20). The "fountain of water in the camp" (xii. 7) is the modern Bait al-Ma, fifteen minutes from Shechem. The ascent to the city was through a narrowing valley (xiii. 10; comp. x. 10). Whether the words "for two men at the most" (iv. 7) are an exaggeration for the sake of the story, or whether they truly describe the old fortifications of the city, it is impossible to say with certainty. At the head of this ascent, a short distance back from the brow of the bill, stood the city (xiv. 11). Rising above it and overlooking it were mountains (vii. 13, 18; xv. 3). The "fountain" from which came thewater-supply of the city (vii. 12 et seq.) is the great spring Ras el-'Ain, in the valley (ἐν τῷ αὐλῶνι, ib. 17) just above Shechem, "at the foot" of Mount Gerizim. The abundant water-supply of the modern city is probably due to a system of ancient underground conduits from this one spring; see Robinson, "Physical Geography of the Holy Land," p. 247, and Guérin, "Samarie," i. 401 et seq. Further corroborative evidence is given by the account of the blockade of Bethulia in vii. 13-20. "Ekrebel" is 'Aḳrabah, three hours southeast of Shechem, on the road to the Jordan; "Chusi" is Ḳuza (so G. A. Smith and others), two hours south, on the road to Jerusalem. The identity of Bethulia with Shechem is thus beyond all question.

The reason for the pseudonym is obvious. Because of the feeling of the Jews toward the Samaritans, the name "Shechem" could not be repeatedly used in a popular tale of this character for the city whose people wrought deliverance for Jerusalem and for the sanctuary of the Jews. The original form of "Betylua" (Greek, Βαιτουλουα, etc.; Latin, "Bethulia," whence the modern usage) is quite uncertain. The favorite = "House of God," is not improbable.

Literary and Religious Importance.

Judith is certainly one of the very best extant specimens of old Jewish story-telling, and forms a worthy companion-piece to Tobit, which it surpasses in vividness of style. Its author introduces a considerable variety of material, but all in due proportion; everything is subordinated to the main action, and the interest never flags. The principal scenes are painted very vigorously, and a striking picture is often sketched in a few words (comp. x. 10, 18; xiii. 13; xiv. 6). The poem in the closing chapter is a fine composition, plainly the work of no ordinary writer. The book has a distinctly religious trend, and is well calculated to inspire both patriotism and piety. For the history of the Jewish religion, however, it contributes little of importance. Views and doctrines which have nothing to do with the progress of the story are not introduced.

Original Language; Versions.

As most students of the book have recognized, it was originally written in Hebrew. The standard Greek version bears the unmistakable marks of a translation from this language. The idioms are those of classical Hebrew; and yet the dialect in which the book is composed is plainly a living one. The diction is fresh and vigorous, and not noticeably reminiscent of the canonical Old Testament.

The wide-spread popularity of the story is attested, as in the case of Tobit, by the existence of a number of separate recensions; these do not, however, diverge very widely from one another. Three Greek forms have been preserved: (1) the standard text, found in most manuscripts (including the principal uncials) and given in all the printed editions; in all probability the recension which most nearly represents the original form of the story; (2) a somewhat corrected and "improved" recension, represented by Codex 58 (Holmes and Parsons) and by the Old Latin and Syriac versions; and (3) a text closely related to the preceding, found in Codices 19 and 108. The Old Latin translation exists in several divergent forms. The Vulgate version was made by Jerome (according to his own testimony hastily and with considerable freedom) from an Aramaic text. It gives the narrative in a form which is both much abridged and plainly secondary.

The several Hebrew versions of Judith are all comparatively recent, and are quite worthless for the criticism of the book. Two of these are given in Jellinek, "B. H." i. 130-141, ii. 12-22; another is published by Gaster in "Proc. Soc. Bibl. Arch." xvi. 156-163. These are all free adaptations of the story, very much abridged.

Author and Date.

The author of Judith beyond question lived and wrote in Palestine. He was a Jew, not a Samaritan, and probably dwelt near Shechem. From the manner and frequency of the mention of Dothan (iii. 9 [?]; "Dothaim," iv. 6; vii. 3, 18; viii. 3)-if the Greek text can be trusted-it might perhaps be conjectured that his home was there. From the prominence given in the book to the ceremonial law, many have drawn the conclusion that its author was a Pharisee; but this is hardly a safe conclusion. All that can be inferred with certainty is, that the punctilious performance of rites and ceremonies was popularly recognized at that time as characteristic of the extreme type of "holiness" demanded by the story for its heroine. There is nowhere in the story any hint that its writer would have recommended such punctiliousness as desirable for the Jews in general, any more than the admiring Christian biographers of Simeon Stylites appear to think that it would be well for the people to follow his example. As for the tale invented to deceive Holofernes (xi. 12-16), it is of course not necessary to suppose that even such a saint as Judith would have regarded this transgression of the Law, in a time of distress, as a grievous sin.

Possible Date of Composition.

The tale of Judith, as has already been observed, is not given any genuine historical setting; nor is it likely that its author himself connected it with any particular time. The names, Jewish and Persian, of his principal characters he selected with the freedom which belongs to any popular narrator. There is nothing in the book which gives any direct clew to its date, or any precise indication of the circumstances of the Jews at the time when it was written. The passage iii. 8 is plainly a reminiscence of the measures taken by Antiochus Epiphanes. It may also fairly be urged that the glorification of Shechem in this transparent way is much more easily conceivable after 120 B.C., when John Hyrcanus took and humbled the city, than before that date, when it was a perpetual thorn in the side of the Jews. On the other hand, the character of the Hebrew in which the book is written (see above) favors a comparatively early date. One would probably not be far out of the way in placing it near the beginning of the first century B.C. The book is first quoted by Clement of Rome (Ep. I. ad Corinth., c. 55), near the end of the first century of the common era.

Crawford Howell Toy, Charles C. Torrey

Jewish Encyclopedia, published between 1901-1906.


The principal commentaries are those by Fritzsche, 1853, Ball in the Speaker's Commentary, 1888, and Scholz. 2d ed., 1896; Löhr translates the book in Kautzsch's Apokryphen; Nestle contributes helpful notes on the text in his Marginalien und Materialien, 1893; see also Gaster, in Hastings, Dict. Bible; Porter, in Cheyne and Black, Encyc. Bibl.T. C. C. T.

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

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