Book of Tobit


{toh' - bit}

A book in the Old Testament Apocrypha

General Information

Tobit, or Tobias, is a book in the Old Testament Apocrypha, written (c.200 - 170 BC) in Hebrew or Aramaic and constructed as a didactic romance. It became popular among Hellenistic Jews and Christians in its Greek translation. The book relates how Tobit, a devout Jew in exile in Assyria, and his son Tobias were rewarded for their piety and good deeds. Tobit buried the bodies of executed Jews in Nineveh. Despite this and other good works, he was blinded. As he prayed for God to end his life, Sarah, a widow whose seven husbands have each been killed by the demon Asmodeus on their wedding night, also entreats God to end her misery.

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In answer to these prayers, God sends the angel Raphael to Earth to help them. Tobias marries Sarah and, with Raphael's help, overcomes the demon and restores his father's sight. The demonology, magic, and folklore motifs in the story show affinities with ancient Near Eastern stories from 500 BC on.

Norman K Gottwald

L H Brockington, A Critical Introduction to the Apocrypha (1961); S Zeitlin, ed., Jewish Apocryphal Literature (1958).

Book of Tobit, Tobias

General Information

Tobit is a book of the Old Testament in those versions of the Bible following the Greek Septuagint (generally Roman Catholic and Orthodox versions). It does not appear in the Hebrew Bible and is placed with the Apocrypha in Protestant versions of the Bible.

The narrative is set in the ancient Assyrian capital of Nineveh sometime between the latter part of the 8th century BC, after the defeat of the kingdom of Israel by Assyria, and the destruction of Nineveh in 612BC. Modern scholars generally agree, however, that Tobit reflects little that can be considered genuine history, except perhaps the names of some of the characters. A type of wisdom literature, the book was probably written as late as the 2nd or even the 1st century BC in Palestine. The author is unknown. The language of the original was either Aramaic or Hebrew; the oldest surviving complete text is, however, in Greek. In 1955 fragments of the book in Aramaic and in Hebrew were recovered at Qumrn (see Dead Sea Scrolls).

The narrative begins with Tobit, a pious Israelite of the tribe of Naphtali, who has become blind in Nineveh despite his good works and uprightness. Sorely afflicted, he asks God to let him die (see 1:1-3:6). On the very day of Tobit's prayer, Sarah, a young relative of Tobit living in the Median capital, Ecbatana, also prays for death. She has been married seven times, and every one of her husbands has been killed on their wedding night by the jealous demon Asmodeus. The prayers of both are heard, and the archangel Raphael is sent to help them (see 3:7-17). At this point, Tobit decides to send his son Tobias to the Median city of Rages (now Shahr-e Rey, near Tehrn, Iran) to recover money left there in trust with a friend. Raphael (disguised as Azarias, another of Tobit's relatives) appears, to accompany and guide Tobias. En route, Tobias catches a large fish in the Tigris River and is advised by his heavenly guide to keep its heart, liver, and gall because of their magical healing properties (see 6:1-8). When they reach Ecbatana, the archangel persuades Tobias to marry Sarah. On the wedding night, Tobias, using the heart and liver of the fish as instructed by the archangel, routs Asmodeus (see 6:9-8:21). The next four chapters relate Raphael's journey to Rages, to recover the money held in trust. Tobias, Sarah, and Raphael return to Nineveh, where Tobias uses the gall of the fish to restore his father's sight. Raphael then reveals his identity and departs. Immediately afterward, inspired by the archangel's final exhortation, Tobit composes and recites a hymn of praise to God (chap. 13). In chapter 14, the last, Tobit lives 100 years more in great happiness and, before dying, predicts the destruction of Nineveh. Tobias departs with Sarah for Ecbatana, where they eventually hear of and rejoice over the fall of Nineveh before Tobias dies at the age of 127.


Catholic Information

We shall first enumerate the various Biblical persons and then treat the book of this name.


A. Tobias (2 Chronicles 17:8).

Hebrew tobyyahu "Yahweh is good"; Septuagint Tobias - one of the Levites whom Josaphat sent to teach in the cities of Juda. The name is omitted in the Vatican and Alexandrian codices, but given in the other important Greek manuscripts and the Vulgate.

B. Tobias (Zechariah 6:10).

Hebrew tobyyahu, qeri tobyyah which is the reading also of verse 14; Septuagint chresimon (verse 10), tois chresimois autes (verse 14), which infers the reading tobeha; Vulgate Tobia - one of the party of Jews who came from Babylon to Jerusalem, in the time of Zorobabel, with silver and gold wherewith to make a crown for the head of Jesus, son of Josedec.

C. Tobia (Ezra 2:60).

Hebrew tobyyah, "Jah is my good"; Septuagint Tobeia (Vatican), Tobias (Alexandrian), the same name occurring in Nehemiah 7:62, as Tobia and in the apocryphal III Esdras 5:37 as baenan (Vatican) or ban (Alexandrian) - one of the families that, on their return from exile, could show no written proof of their genealogy.

D. Tobias (Nehemiah 2:10).

An Ammonite who together with Sanaballat the Horonite opposed the fortification of Jerusalem by Nehemias (Nehemiah 2:19; 4:3; 6:17; 13:4, 8). He is called "the servant"; we can only conjecture what that means. Cheyne (Encyclopedia Biblica, s.v.) thinks that haebed, servant, is a mistake for ha arbi, the Arab.

E. Tobias (2 Maccabees 3:11).

The father of Hircanus.

F. Tobias (Tobit 1:29, and passim).

The son of the following.

G. Tobias the elder.

The chief character in the book that bears his name.


A canonical book of the Old Testament.

A. Name

In Codex Alexandrinus, biblos logon Tobit; in Vaticanus, Tobeit; in Sinaiticus, Tobeith; in Latin manuscripts Liber Tobiae, Liber Tobit et Tobiae, Liber utriusque Tobiae. In the Vulgate and Hebrew Fagii both father and son have the same name, Tobias, tobyyah. In other texts and versions, the name of the father varies: tobi, "my good" is Jahweh; in Hebrew Munster; Tobit or Tobeit in the Septuagint; Tobis, or Tobit, standing for tobith "goodness" of Jahweh, in the Old Latin.

B. Text and Versions

The original text, supposed to have been Hebrew, is lost; the reasons assigned for an Aramaic original warrant only a probable opinion that an Aramaic translation influenced our present Greek versions.

(1) Vulgate Versions

St. Jerome had not yet learned Aramaic, when, with the aid of a rabbi who knew both Aramaic and Hebrew, he made the Vulgate version. The rabbi expressed in Hebrew the thought of the Aramaic manuscripts and St. Jerome straightway put the same into Latin. It was the work of only a day (cf. Praef. in Tobiam). The Old Latin certainly influenced this hurried version. The Vulgate recension of the Aramaic version tells the story in the third person throughout, as do the Aramaic of Neubauer and the two Hebrew texts of Gaster (HL and HG), whereas all the other texts make Tobias speak in the first person up to 3:15. The following passages occur in the Vulgate alone: the wagging of the dog's tail (11:9); the comparison of the coating on Tobias's eye to the membrane of an egg (11:14); the wit of half an hour while the gall of the fish effected its cure (11:14); Tobias closing of the eyes of Raguel and Edna in death; also 2:12, 2:18, 3:19, 3:24, 6:16-18, 6:20-21, 8:4-5, 9:12b. Some parts of the Vulgate, such as the continence of Tobias (6:18; 7:4), were looked upon at times as Christian interpolations of Jerome until they were found in one of Gaster's Hebrew texts (HL). Lastly, the Vulgate and HL omit all mention of Ahikhar; Achior of Vulgate 11:20, is probably an addition to the text.

(2) Aramaic Versions

Besides the Aramaic version used by Jerome and now lost, there is the extant Aramaic text recently found in an Aramaic commentary on Genesis, "Midrash Bereshit Rabba". The writing of this midrash is fifteenth-century work; it contains the Book of Tobias as a haggada on the promise Jacob makes to give tithes to God (Genesis 28:22). Neubauer edited the text, "The Book of Tobit, a Chaldee Text from a unique manuscript in the Bodleian Library" (Oxford, 1878). He thinks that it is a briefer form of Jerome's Aramaic text. This is not likely. The language is at times a transliteration of Greek and gives evidence of being a transliteration of one or other of the Greek texts. It agrees with the Vulgate in that from the outset the tale of Tobias is told in the third person; otherwise it is closer to Codex Vaticanus and closer still to Codex Sinaiticus.

(3) Greek versions

There are three Greek recensions of Tobias. We shall refer to them by the numbers given to the Vatican and Sinaitic codices in Vigouroux, "La sainte bible polyglote", III (Paris, 1902).

(a) AB, the text of the Alexandrian (fifth century) and Vatican (fourth century) codices. This recension is found in many other codices of the Greek text, has been used for centuries by the Greek Church, is incorporated into the Sixtine edition of the Septuagint, and has been translated into Armenian as the authentic text of that rite. AB is preferred to the Sinaitic recension by Nöldeke, Grumm, and others, and yet rated by Nestle, Ewald, and Haris as a compendium rather than as a version of the entire original text. It condenses Edna's Prayer (x, 13), omits the blessing of Gabael (9:6), and has three or four unique readings (3:16; 14:8-10; 11:8).

(b) Aleph, the text of the Sinaitic (fourth-century) Codex. Its style is very much more diffuse than that of AB, which seems to have omitted of set purpose many stichoi of Aleph -- cf. 2:12, "on the seventh of Dustros she cut the web"; 5:3, the incident of the bond divided into two parts, one for Tobias and the other for Raguel; 5:5, the long conversation between Raphael and young Tobias; 6:8; 10:10; 12:8, etc. Aleph omits 4:7-19, and 13:6b-9, of AB.

(c) The text of Codices 44, 106, 107 for 6:9-13:8.-The first portion (1:1-6:8) and the last (13:9 to end) are identical with AB; the remainder seems to be an attempt at a better version of the original text. Independent work is shown by 6:9 to 7:17; 8:1 to 12:6, is very close to the Syriac and nearer to Aleph than to AB; 12:7-13:8 resembles each text in various small details. Distinctive readings of these cursives are Edna's Gnostic prayer, "Let all the Æons praise thee" (8:15); and the fact that Anna saw the dog running before Tobias (11:5). (d) What seems to be a third recension of the second chapter is presented in Grenfell and Hunt, "Oxyrhyneus Papyri" (Oxford, 1911), part viii. The text differs from both AB and Aleph and consequently the Greek cursives.

(4) Old Latin Versions

Previous to the Latin Vulgate translation of the Aramaic recension (see above) there existed at least three Old Latin versions of a Greek text which was substantially Aleph; (a) the recension of Codex Regius Parisiensis 3654 and Codex 4 of the Library of St-Germain; (b) the recension of Cod. Vat. 7, containing 1-6:12; (c) the recension of the "Speculum" of St. Augustine.

(5) Syriac Version

Down to 7:9, it is a translation of AB; thereafter, it agrees with the Greek cursive text, save that 13:9-18, is omitted. This second part is clearly a second recension; its proper names are not spelled as in the first part. Ahikhar (14:10) is Achior (2:10); 'Edna (7:14) is 'Edna (7:2) 'Arag (9:2) is Raga (4:1, 4:20).

(6) Hebrew Versions

There are four Hebrew versions of this deuterocanonical story:

(a) HL, Hebrew Londinii, a thirteenth-century manuscript, found by Gaster in the British Museum, and translated by him in the "Proceedings of the Soc. of the Bibl. Archaeology" (xvii and xx). Besides a cento of Scriptural exhortations, this manuscript contains the narrative portion of Tobias, translated, Gaster thinks, from a text that stood in closest relation to the Aramaic used by St. Jerome. It is just possible, though not in the least probable, that the thirteenth-century Jewish author of HL made use of the Vulgate.

(b) HG, Hebrew Gasteri, a text copied by Gaster from a midrash on the Pentateuch and published in the "Proc. of the Soc. of Bib. Arch." (xix). This manuscript, now lost, agreed with the Aramaic of Neubauer and was in a compact style like that of the Vulgate recension.

(c) HF, Hebrew Fagii, a very free translation of AB, done in the twelfth century by a Jewish scholar: it is found in Walton's "Polyglot".

(d) HM, Hebrew Munsteri, published by Munster in Basle A.D. 1542, found in Walton's "Polyglot". This text agrees as a rule with Neubauer's Aramaic, even when the latter is at variance with AB. It is, according to Ginsburg, of fifth-century origin. The Hebrew versions together with the Aramaic omit reference to the dog, which plays a prominent part in the other versions. The foregoing review of the various and diverse recensions of the Book of Tobias shows how hard it would be to reconstruct the original text and how easily textual errors may have crept into our Vulgate or the Aramaic on which it depends.

C. Contents

Unless otherwise stated, these references are to the Vulgate recension, whereof the Douay is a translation. The story naturally divides itself into two parts:

(1) The fidelity of Tobias the elder and of Sara to the Lord (1:1-3:25)

The fidelity of Tobias (1:1-3:6) shown by his acts of mercy to fellow captives (1:11-17) and especially to the dead (1:18-25), acts that resulted in his blindness (2:1-18), the taunts of his wife (2:19-23), and the recourse of Tobias to God in prayer (3:1-6).

The fidelity of Sara, daughter of Raguel and Edna (3:7-23). The very day that Tobias in Ninive was taunted by his wife and turned to God, Sara in Ecbatana was taunted by her maid as the murderess of seven husbands (3:7-10), and turned to God in prayer (3:11-23). The prayers of both were heard (3:24-25).

(2) The fidelity of the Lord to Tobias and to Sara through the ministrations of the angel Raphael (4:1-12:22).

Raphael cares for the young Tobias on his journey to Gabael in Rages of Media to obtain the ten talents of silver left in bond by his father (4:1-9:12). The young man set out, after long instruction by his father (4:1-23); Raphael joins him as guide (5:1-28); Tobias while bathing in the Tigris is attacked by a large fish, catches it, and, at the advice of Raphael, keeps its heart, liver, and gall (6:1-22); they pass through Ecbatana, stop at Raguel's; Tobias asks Sara for wife and receives her (7:1-20); by continence and exorcism and the odor of the burning liver of the fish and the aid of Raphael, he conquers the devil who had slain the seven previous husbands of Sara (8:1-24); Raphael gets the money of Gabael in Rages, and brings him to Ecbatana to the marriage celebration of young Tobias (9:1-23).

Raphael cures the blindness of the elder Tobias, on the return of his son, and manifests the truth that he is an angel (10:2-12:31). Conclusion: the hymn of thanksgiving of Tobias the elder, and the subsequent history of both father and son (13:1-14:7).

D. Purpose

To show that God is faithful to those that are faithful to Him is evidently the chief purpose of the book, Neubauer (op. cit., p. xvi) makes out the burial of the dead to be the chief lesson; but the lesson of almsgiving is more prominent. Ewald, "Gesch. des Volkes Israel", IV, 233, sets fidelity to the Mosaic code as the main drift of the author, who writes for Jews of the Dispersion; but the book is meant for all Jews, and clearly inculcates for them many secondary lessons and one that is fundamental to the rest -- God is true to those who are true to Him.

E. Canonicity

(1) In Judaism

The Book of Tobias is deuterocanonical, i.e. contained not in the Canon of Palestine but in that of Alexandria. That the Jews of the Dispersion accepted the book as canonical Scripture is clear from its place in the Septuagint. That the Palestinian Jews reverenced Tobias as a sacred book may be argued from the existence of the Aramaic translation used by St. Jerome and that published by Neubauer, as also from the four extant Hebrew translators. Then, most of these Semitic version were found as Midrashim, or hagganda, of the Pentateuch.

(2) Among Christians

Despite the rejection of Tobias from the Protestant Canon, its place in the Christian Canon of Holy Writ is undoubted. The Catholic Church has ever esteemed it as inspired.

St. Polycarp (A.D. 117), "Ad Philippenses", x, urges almsgiving, and cites Tobit 4:10, and 12:9, as authority for his urging. Deutero-Clement (A.D. 150), "Ad Corinthios", xvi, has praises of almsgiving that are an echo of Tobit 12:8-9.

St. Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 190-210), in "Stromata", vi, 12 (P.G., IX, 324), cites as the words of Holy Writ "Fasting is good with prayer" (Tobit 12:9); and in "Stromata", i, 21, ii, 23 (P.G., VIII, 853, 1089), "What thou hatest, do not unto another" (Tobit 4:16).

Origen (about A.D. 230) cites as Scripture Tobit 3:24 and 12:12-15, in "De oratione", II; Tobit 2:1, in sec. 14; Tobit 12:12, in sec. 31 (cf. P.G., XI, 448, 461, 553); and writing to Africanus (P.G., XI, 80) he explains that, although the Hebrews do not use Tobias, yet the Church does.

St. Athanasius (A.D. 350) uses Tobit 12:7 and 4:19, with the distinctive phrase "as it is written", cf. "Apol. contra arianos", II, and "Apol. ad Imper. Constantium" (P.G., XXV, 268, 616).

In the Western Church, St. Cyprian (about A.D. 248) very often refers to Tobias as of Divine authority just as he refers to other books of Holy Writ; cf. "De mortalitate", x; "De opere et eleemosynis", v, xx; "De patientia", xviii (P.G., IV, 588, 606, 634); "Ad Quirinum", i, 20 for Tobit 12; iii, 1 for Tobit 2:2; and iv, 5-11; ii, 62 for Tobit 4:12 (P.G., IV, 689, 728, 729, 767).

St. Ambrose (about A.D. 370) wrote a book entitled "De Tobia" against usury (P.L., XIV, 759), and introduced it by referring to the Biblical work of that name as "a prophetic book", "Scripture".

In the entire Western Church, however, the canonicity of Tobias is clearest from its presence in the Old Latin Version, the authentic text of Scripture for the Latin Church from about A.D. 150 until St. Jerome's Vulgate replaced it.

The canonical use of Tobias in that part of the Byzantine Church whose language was Syriac is seen in the writings of St. Ephraem (about A.D. 362) and of St. Archelaus (about A.D. 278).

The earliest canonical lists all contain the Book of Tobias; they are those of the Council of Hippo (A.D. 393), the Councils of Carthage (A.D. 397 and 419), St. Innocent I (A.D. 405), St. Augustine (A.D. 397).

Moreover, the great fourth- and fifth- century manuscripts of the Septuagint are proof that not only the Jews but the Christians used Tobias as canonical. For the Catholic the question of the canonicity of Tobias was infallibly settled by the decisions of the Councils of Trent, Session IV (8 April, 1546) and of the Vatican, Session III, ch. 2 (24 April, 1870).

Against the canonicity of Tobias are urged several rather trivial objections which would at first sight seem to impugn the inspiration of the narrative.

(a) Raphael told an untruth when he said he was "Azarias the son of the great Ananias" (5:18). There is no untruth in this. The angel was in appearance just what he said he was. Besides, he may have meant by azaryah, "the healer of Jah"; and by ananyah, "the goodness of Jah". In this event he only told the young Tobias that he was God's helper and the offspring of the great goodness of God; in this there would be no falsehood.

(b) A second objection is that the angelology of Tobias is taken over from that of the Avesta either directly by Iranian influence or indirectly by the inroad of Syriac or Grecian folk-lore. For Raphael says: "I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven who stand before the Lord" (12:15). These seven are the Amesha Spentas of Zoroastrianism: cf. Fritzsche, "Exegetisches Handbuch zu den Apocr.", II (Leipzig, 1853), 61. The answer is that the reading seven is doubtful; it is in Aleph, AB, Old Latin, and Vulgate; it is wanting in the Greek cursive text, Syriac, and HM. Still, admitting the reading of the Vulgate, the Amesha Spentas have infiltrated into Avestic religion from the seven Angels of Hebraistic Revelation and not vice versa. Moreover, there are not seven Amesha Spentas in the angelology of the Avesta, but only six. They are subordinated to Ahura Mazda, the first principle of good. True, he is, at times, grouped with the six lower spirits as seven Amesha Spentas; but in this grouping we have not by any means seven angels standing before the Deity.

F. Historical Worth

(1) To Protestants

The destructive criticism which, among Protestants, has striven to do away with the canonical books of the Old Testament have quite naturally had no respect for those books the critics call apocryphal. The Book of Tobias is to them no more than are the Testament of Job, the Book of Jubilees, and the story of Ahikhar. From the standpoint of historical criticism it is to be grouped with these three apocryphal (J.T. Marshall, Principal of the Baptist College, Manchester, in Hasting's "Dict. of the Bible", s.v.). Simrock in "Der gute Gerhard und die dankbaren Todten" (Bonn, 1858) reduces the story to the folk-lore theme of the gratitude of the departed spirit; the yarn is spun out of this slim thread of fancy that the souls of the dead, whose remains Tobias buried, did not forget his benevolence. Erbt (Encycl. Biblica, s.v.) finds traces of Iranian legend in the name of the demon Asmodeus (Tobit 3:8) which is the Persian Aeshma daeva; as also in the dog -- "with the Persians a certain power over evil spirits was assigned to the dog." And again: "the Jewish nation takes up a foreign legend, goes on repeating it until it has got it into fixed oral form, in order next to pass it on to some story-writer who is able to shape it into an edifying household tale, capable of ministering comfort to many succeeding generations." Moulton, "The Iranian background of Tobit" (Expository Time, 1900, p. 257), considers the book to be Median folk-lore, in which the Semitic and Iranian elements meet.

On the Ahikhar story, cf. "The Story of Ahikhar from the Syriac, Arabic, Armenian, Ethiopic, Greek, and Slavonic versions" by Conybeare, Harris, and Mrs. Smith, a work which will be brought back to 407 B.C. in a new edition soon to appear (Expositor, March 1912, p. 212).

(2) To Catholics

Until recently there never was question among Catholics in regard to the historicity of Tobias. It was among the historical books of the Old Testament, the Fathers had always referred to both elder and younger Tobias and to the other personages of the narratives as to facts and not to fancies. The stories of almsgiving, burial of the dead, angelophany, exorcism, marriage of Sara with Tobias the younger, cure of the elder Tobias -- all these incidents were taken for granted as fact-narrative; nor was there ever any question of likening them to the tales of "The Arabian Nights" and the "Fables of Æsop". Jahn, "Introductio in libros sacros", 2nd ed. (Vienna, 1814), 452, gives the stock objections to the historicity of Tobias, and suggests that either the entire composition is a parable to teach that the prayers of the upright are heard or at most only the main outline is fact-narrative. His book was put on the Index (26 Aug., 1822). Anton Scholz, "Die heilige Schrift", II, iii, p. 12, and Movers in "Kirchenlexicon" (first ed., I, p. 481) hold that Tobias is a poetic fiction. Cosquin, in "Revue biblique" (1899, pp. 50-82), tries to show that the sacred writer of Tobias had before his eyes a form of the Ahikhar story and worked it over rather freely as a vehicle to carry the inspired thought of the moral he wished to convey to his readers. Barry, "The Tradition of Scripture" (New York, 1906), p. 128, says: "Its relation to other stories, such as The Grateful Dead and the tale of Ahichar, has been used in illustration of the romantic nature ascribed to it by modern readers; so, too, the symbolical names of its personages, and the borrowings, as they say, from Persian mythology of Asmodeus, etc." Gigot, "Special introduction to the study of the Old Testament", I (New York, 1901), 343-7, gives at length the arguments in favour of the non-historical character of the book and attempts no refutation of the same.

With these and a few other exceptions, Catholic exegetes are unanimous in clearly defending the historicity of Tobias. Cf. Welte in "Kirchenlexikon" (first ed., s.v. Tobias); Reusch, "Das Buch Tobias", p. vi; Vigouroux, "Manuel biblique", II (Paris, 1883), 134; Cornely, "Introd. in utriusque testamenti libros sacros", II (Paris, 1887), i, 378; Danko, "Hist. revelationis v.t.", 369; Haneburg, "Gesch. der bibl. Offenbarung" (3rd ed., Ratisbon, 1863), 489; Kaulen, "Einleitung in die heilige Schrift" (Freiburg, 1890), 215; Zschokke, "Hist. sacra A.T.", 245; Seisenberger, "Practical Handbook for the Study of the Bible" (New York, 1911), 343. This almost unanimity among Catholic exegetes is quite in keeping with the decision of the Biblical Commission (23 June, 1905). By this Decree Catholics are forbidden to hold that a book of the Holy Writ, which has generally been looked upon as historical, is either entirely or in part not history properly so called, unless it be proven by solid arguments that the sacred writer did not wish to write history; and the solidity of the arguments against the historicity of an historical book of the Bible we are not to admit either readily or rashly. Now the arguments against the historical worth of Tobias are not at all solid; they are mere conjectures, which it would be most rash to admit. We shall examine some of these conjectures.

(a) The Ahikhar story is not in the Vulgate at all. As it is in AB, Aleph, and the Old Latin, St. Jerome undoubtedly knew it. Why did he follow the Aramaic text to the exclusion of this episode? He may have looked upon it as an interpolation, which was not written by the inspired author. Even though it were not an interpolation, the Ahikhar episode of Tobias has not been proven to be a legend drawn from a non-canonical source.

(b) The angelic apparition and all incidents connected therewith are no more difficult to explain than the angelophanies of Genesis 18:19 and Acts 12:6. (c) The demonology is not unlike to that of the New Testament. The name "Asmodeus" need not be of Iranian origin; but may just as readily be explained as Semitic. The Aramaic word ashmeday is cognate with the Hebrew hashmed, "destruction". And even though it be a mutilated form of some Iranian ancestor of the Persian Aeshma daeva, what more natural than a Median name for a demon whose obsession was accomplished upon Median soil? The slaying of the seven husbands was allowed by God in punishment of their lust (Vulgate, v. 16); it is the youth Tobias, not the sacred writer, that suggests (according to AB, Aleph, and Old Latin) the demon's lust as the motive of his killing all rivals. The binding of the devil in the desert of Upper Egypt, the farthest end of the then known world (8:3), has the same figurative meaning as the binding of Satan for a thousand years (Revelation 20:2).

(d) The unlikelihood of the many coincidences in the Book of Tobias is mere conjecture (cf. Gigot, op. cit., 345). Divine Providence may have brought about these siimilarities of incident, with a view to the use of them in an inspired book.

(e) Certain historical difficulties are due to the very imperfect condition in whch the text has reached us.

It was Theglathphalasar III who led Nephthali (2 Kings 15:29) into captivity (734 B.C.), and not, as Tobias says (1:2), Salmanasar. Yet this reading of the Vulgate, Old Latin, and Aramaic is to be corrected by the name Enemesar of AB and Aleph. The latter reading would be equivalent to the Hebrew transliteration of the Assyrian kenum sar. As the appellative sar "king", may precede or follow a personal name, kenum sar is sar kenum, that is Gargon (sarru-kenu II, B.C. 722). It can readily be that, twelve years after Theglath-phalasar III began the deportation of Israel out of Samaria, Sardon's scouts completed the work and routed some of the tribe of Nephthali from their fastnesses.

A like solution is to be given to the difficulty that Sennacherib is said to have been the son of Salmanasar (1:18), whereas he was the son of the usurper Sargon. The Vulgate reading here, as in 1:2, should be that of AB and Aleph, to wit, Enemesar; and this stands for Sargon.

In B, 14:15, Ninive is said to have been captured by Ahasuerus (Asoueros) and Nabuchodonosor. This is a mistake of the scribe. Aleph reads that Achiacharos took Ninive and adds that "he praised God for all He had done against the children of Ninive and Assyria". The word for Assyria is Athoureias, Hebrew asshur, Aramaic ahur: This Greek word mislead the scribe to write Lsyeros for the name of the king, Achiacharos, i.e. the Median King Cyaxares. According to Berossus, Cyaxares was, in his campaign against Ninive, allied to the Babylonian King Nabopalassar, the father of Nabuchodonosor; the scribe of V has written the name for the son for that of the father, as Nabopalassar was unknown to him.

Rages is a Seleucid town and hence an anachronism. Not at all; it is an ancient Median town, which the Seleucids restored.

G. Origin

It is likely that the elder Tobias wrote at least that part of the original work in which he uses the first person singular, cf. 1:1-3:6, in all texts except the Vulgate and Aramaic. As the entire narrative is historical, this part is probably autobiographical. After revealing his angelic nature, Raphael bade both father and son to tell all the wonders that God had done them (Vulgate, 12:20) and to write in a book all the incidents of his stay with them (cf. same verse in AB, Aleph, Old Latin, HF, and HM). If we accept the story as fact-narrative, we naturally conclude that it was written originally during the Babylonian Exile, in the early portion of the seventh century B.C.; and that all save the last chapter was the work of the elder and younger Tobias. Almost all Protestant scholars consider the book post-Exilic. Ewald assigns it to 350 B.C.; Hgen, the bulk to 280 B.C.; Gratz, to A.D. 130; Kohut, to A.D. 226.

Publication information Written by Walter Drum. Transcribed by Michael T. Barrett. Dedicated to Sr. Anne Marie The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV. Published 1912. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York


The introductions of CORNELY, KAULEN, DANKO, GIGOT, SEISENBERGER. Although the Fathers use Tobias, only BEDE (P.L., XCI, 923-38) and WALAFRID STRABO (P.L., CXIII, 725) have left us commentaries thereon. During the Middle Ages, HUGH OF ST. VICTOR, Allegoriarum in Vetus Testamentum, IX (P.L., CLXXV, 725), and NICHOLAS OF LYRA, DENIS THE CARTHUSIAN, HUGH DE S. CARO, in their commentaries on all Scripture, interpreted the Book of Tobias. Later Commentators are SERRARI (Monza, 1599); SANCTIUS (Lyons, 1628); MAUSCHBERGER (Olmutz, 1758); JUSTINIANI (Rome, 1620); DE CELADA (Lyons, 1644); DREXEL (Antwerp, 1652); NEUVILLE (Paris, 1723); GUTBERLET (Munster, 1854); REUSCH (Freiburg, 1857); GILLET DE MOOR, Tobie et Akhiahar (Louvain, 1902); VETTER, Das Buch Tobias und die Achikar-Sage in Theol. Quartalschrift (Tubingen, 1904). The principal Protestant authorities have been cited in the body of the article.

Book of Tobit

Jewish Perspective Information


Outline of the Story.

Text and Original Language.

Time and Place.

A late Jewish work, never received into the Jewish canon, and included in the Apocrypha by Protestants, although it was pronounced canonical by the Council of Carthage (397) and the Council of Trent (1546). It takes its name from the central figure, called Τωβείτ (Τωβείτ, Τωβείθ) in Greek, and Ṭobi () in a late Hebrew manuscript.

Outline of the Story.

The story of the book is as follows: Tobit, a pious man of the tribe of Naphtali, who remained faithful to Jerusalem when his tribe fell away to Jeroboam's cult of the bull, was carried captive to Nineveh in the time of Enemessar (Shalmaneser), King of Assyria. There, together with his wife, Anna, and his son Tobias, he gave alms to the needy, and buried the outcast bodies of the slain, keeping himself pure, moreover, from the food of the Gentiles. He was in favor with the king, however, and so prosperous that he was able to deposit ten talents of silver in trust with a friend in Media. With the accession of Sennacherib (the successor of Enemessar) the situation changed. Accused of burying the dead slain by the king, he had to flee, and his property was confiscated; but when Sarchedonus (Esarhaddon) came to the throne Tobit was allowed to return to Nineveh at the intercession of his nephew Achiacharus (Aḥiḳar), the king's chancellor. Here he continued his works of mercy; but, accidentally losing his eyesight, he fell into great poverty, so that in his dire distress he prayed that he might die. On that same day a similar prayer was offered by Sarah, the daughter of Raguel of Ecbatana (in Media), in despair because she had been married to seven husbands who had each been slain by a demon on the wedding night. The same day Tobit, remembering his deposit of money in Media, determined to send his son for it. A companion and guide (who turns out to be the angel Raphael) being found for him, the two proceeded on their journey. At the river Tigris, Tobit caught a fish and was instructed by his companion to preserve its heart, liver, and gall. Conducted to Raguel's house, he asked Sarah's hand in marriage, drove away the demon by burning the heart and liver of the fish in the bridal chamber, sent Raphael (whose assumed name was Azarias) for the money, and returned, with him and Sarah, to Nineveh, where Tobit's eyesight was restored by smearing his eyes with the fish's gall. Father, mother, and son reached a good old age (Tobias living to rejoice over the destruction of Nineveh), and died in peace. This brief outline does not do justice to the artistic construction of the story, or to the fine touches in its descriptions of family life, social customs, and individual experiences. It may be reckoned among the most delightful of short stories.

Text and Original Language.

The text exists in Greek, Latin, Syriac, and Judæo-Aramaic, besides two late Hebrew translations. Of the Greek there are three versions: one given in the Vatican and Alexandrian manuscripts of the Septuagint; one in the Sinaitic; and one in Codices 44, 106, 107 of Holmes and Parsons. Of the Latin there are two recensions: the Old Latin, which agrees substantially with the Sinaitic Septuagint; and the Vulgate, made by Jerome from an Aramaic text, which often agrees with it, although it presents many divergencies. The Syriac follows the Vatican in general, although it is by no means lit-eral, while Codices 44, 106, 107 agree sometimes with this text, sometimes with that of the Sinaitic. The Aramaic text (published by Neubauer) also represents the Sinaitic recension in a general way, but is late, and can scarcely be considered the descendant of Jerome's original. The Hebrew copies are late and of no authority. The two chief Greek recensions are the earliest sources for the text of Tobit, though suggestions may be gained from the Latin and the Syriac. Of the Greek forms the Vatican is the shortest (except in ch. iv.); its style is rough and often incorrect, and it has many errors, frequently clerical in nature. The Sinaitic text is diffuse, but frequently gives the better readings. Both of them may depend on an earlier form which has been corrupted in the Vatican and expanded in the Sinaitic, although the question is a difficult one. Equally problematical is the determination of the original language of the book. The forms of the proper names, and such an expression as χάριν καὶ μορφήν (i. 13), which suggests (Esth. ii. 17), may be held to point to Hebrew, as may also the type of piety portrayed, although it must be noted that there is no mention in early times of a Hebrew text, which Jerome would doubtless have used had he known of its existence. The Sinaitic forms "Ather" for "Asur" (xiv. 4) and "Athoureias" for "Asureias" (xiv. 15), on the other hand, are Aramaic. The excellent Greek style of the Sinaitic may suggest a Greek original. In view of the conflicting character of the data, it is best to reserve opinion as to the original language; the text appears to have suffered a number of revisions and misreadings.

Time and Place.

The picture of religious life given in Tobit (especially the devotion to ritual details) indicates a post-Ezran date for the book. The special significance attached to almsgiving (iv. 10; xii. 8, 9) is identical with the idea in Ecclus. (Sirach) iii. 30 (comp. also Prov. x. 2), and the injunction in iv. 17, "Pour out thy bread on the burial of the just, but give nothing to the wicked," is repeated in import in Ecclus. (Sirach) xii. 4-5. The prediction in xiv. 5 implies a period after the building of the Second Temple, and, apparently, before the commencement of Herod's Temple. The prominence given to the duty of burying the outcast slain (the survival of a very ancient conception) seems to point to a time when the Jews were slaughtered by foreign enemies, as, for example, by Antiochus or by Hadrian. The necessity of marrying within the kin was recognized during a long period and does not define the date precisely. Polycarp's saying ("Ad Phil." x.), "Almsgiving delivers from death," does not prove that he was acquainted with Tobit, since Prov. x. 2 may have been so understood by him. There is no Messianic hope expressed in the book. The more probable view is that it was composed between 200 and 50 B.C. If the original language was Hebrew, the place was Palestine; if Greek, it was Egypt; but this point, too, must be left undecided.

The reference in xiv. 10 to Achiacharus introduces new perplexities into the question of the origin of the book (see Aḥiḳar). Here it need only be remarked that the reference is merely an illustration, showing acquaintance with an Aḥiḳar story; the allusion is scarcely organically connected with the story of Tobit.

The original form of the book may have told simply how a pious man, doing his duty, came safe out of trouble. The episode of Sarah and Asmodeus appears to be a separate story, here skilfully combined with the other. The advisory discourses in iv. (much shortened in the Sinaitic text) and xii. look like the insertions of an editor. For the ethical tone see especially iv. 15, 16, and for the religious ideas, xii. 8. The book is to be compared with Proverbs, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), Daniel, and Ecclesiastes.

Crawford Howell Toy

Jewish Encyclopedia, published between 1901-1906.

Bibliography: Swete, The Old Testament in Greek (texts of the Vatican, Alexandrian, and Sinaitic codices); Fritzsche, in Handbuch zu den Apokryphen; Neubauer, The Book of Tobit (Old Latin, Aramaic, and modern Hebrew texts); Schürer, in Herzog-Hauck, Real-Encyc. i.; Robertson Smith, in Encyc. Brit.; Erbt, in Cheyne and Black, Encyc. Bibl.; Marshall, in Hastings, Dict. Bible; Schenkel, Bibel-Lexikon; Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., iii.; Andrée, Les Apocryphes de l'Ancien Testament; Nöldeke, in Monatsberichte der Berliner Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1879; Kohut, in Geiger's Jüd. Zeit.; Grätz, Gesch. iv.; Plath, in Theologische Studien und Kritiken, 1901; Israel Lévi, in R. E. J. 1902; Abrahams, in J. Q. R. i.; Bissell, The Apocrypha of the Old Testament (Lange series); Fuller, in Wace, Apocrypha.T.

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