The book of Judith.
Counted among the apocrypha.
None on site.
Swete LXX (Greek only).
HTML Bible: Judith
(Latin Vulgate only).
Humanities Text Initiative:
Judith (English only).
Kata Pi LXX: Judith (Greek and English).
Sacred Texts: Judith (polyglot).
Judith in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
EJW (Peter Kirby).
Judith and the
apocryphal books in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Judith at Kata Pi (Oesterly and Robinson).
The book of Judith is counted among the apocryphal books
of the Old Testament.
The book is not extant among the Hebrew scriptures, but rather in
the Septuagint, abbreviated LXX.
Peter Kirby (Early Jewish Writings).
Peter Kirby surveys scholars writing on the book of Judith:
J. Alberto Soggin writes: "The most obvious inaccuracies and inconstistencies
in the historical sphere seem to be as follows (we indicate them following the
basic study made by A.-M. Dubarle). First of all, there is the question of Nebuchadnezzar
of Assyria and Arphaxad of Media in 1.1, then the presentation of the Babylonian
exile as a past event in 4.3 and 5.19; the claims to divine honours made by
these monarchs in 3.8 and 6.2 bring down the date of the work quite considerably,
so that it cannot be before the time of the Diadochi (end of the fourth century).
One explanation has been sought in a little-konwn episode of Persian history:
towards 521, during the disorders which followed the death of Cambyses, a certain
Arakha seized the throne of Babylon and on occupying it took the name of Nebuchadnezzar;
for a short time he sought to reconquer the territories which belonged to the
Babylonian empire, but was then swept away, along with many others, by Darius
I Hystaspes. However, to associate the book with these somewhat obscure facts
is a feeble basis for affirming its historicity. The Israeli scholar Y. M. Grintz
has pointed out the parallels between the theme of the book and an episode which
took place during the siege of Lindus, on the island of Rhodes, but here again
the comparison is extremely weak. A more probably theory is that according to
which the generals Holofernes and Bagoas are to be identified with the two generals
sent against Phoenicia, Palestine and Egypt by Artaxerxes III towards 350. The
names are certainly Persian, and are attested frequently, but there are many
difficulties, unless we accept that Judith is a fictional account of one of
the episodes in this campaign. Holofernes' itinerary in ch. 2 also seems impossible:
he covers almost 300 miles in three days, passing through places which are either
unknown or absurd when they are known. No account is taken of the fact that
an average of 100 miles a day is in any case excessive for an army consisting
of infanty as well as cavalry. As we have seen, the identity of Bethulia is
also unknown." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 436-437)
James King West writes: "Perhaps the suggestion that, as in Daniel, Nebuchadrezzar
and his campaigns here actually represent the wars and persecutions of Antiochus
Epiphanes provides not only a clue to the story's meaning but also to the date
of its composition, which would therefore fall sometime after 168 B.C. Other
elements of the book tend to support such an impression. The name Judith itself
actually means 'Jewess'; and Judith's city, Bethulia, is not only otherwise
unknown, but is placed in the geographically and historically impossible position
of being a Judean fortress in the valley of Esdraelon in the period immediately
after the Exile (4:1-7). Similarly, such names as the commander Holofernes and
the high priest Joakim are as impossible to harmonize chronologically as Holophernes'
incredible march of three hundred miles in three days is to take seriously."
(Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 462)
David A. deSilva writes: "A postexilic date is necessitated by Achior's
discourse (5:17-19; cf. 4:3). The names Holofernes and Bagoas, moreover, are
otherwise attested only in the Persian period, as are the loan words 'satrap'
(5:2), 'turban' (4:15), and 'sword' (akinakes, 13:6), as well as the
practice of 'preparing earth and water' (2:7). Together, these clues point to
the influence of knowledge that entered Israel during the Persian period (Moore
1985: 50). Moreover, it is highly probable that the book came into being after
the Maccabean Revolt. Holofernes' plan to destroy native sanctuaries and religions
in favor of the worship of the Gentile king Nebuchadnezzar (3:8) resembles the
depiction of Antiochus IV's unprecedented imposition of a foreign cult on the
people of Judea (especially on 1 Maccabees). The description of the threat to
the temple as profanation and of the desecration of the temple 'to the malicious
joy of the Gentiles' also reflects the events of 167-165 B.C.E. (4:12). That
the temple, altar, and vessels are remembered as having recently been polluted
and reconsecrated (4:1-3), rather than destroyed and rebuilt, also suggests
that the events of 164 B.C.E. are more firmly inscribed on the author's mind
than those of the postexilic period. In addition, the power of the high priest
as military commander and the prominence of the senate (gerousia) reflects
a Hasmonean date, since this body, though perhaps constituted already under
Antiochus III (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 12.119-124), rises to prominence
during the period of Judas and his brothers (Pfeiffer 1949: 295; Moore 1985:
50). Finally, the denouement of the tale is full of reminiscences of the rout
of Nicanor's army after the death of their commander (see 1 Macc. 7:43-50),
including the hanging of the enemy commander's head on the wall (Jdt. 14:11),
the flight of the enemy in terror (15:1-3), the outpouring of Jewish soldiers
from the surrounding area to join the pursuit and outflanking of the enemy (15:4-5),
and the plunder of the enemy camp (15:6-7) (Moore 1985: 50-51)." (Introducing
the Apocrypha, pp. 91-92)
Benedikt Otzen writes (Tobit and Judith, pp. 133-134):
Delcor mentions the obvious Persian expressions in the book: 'God of heaven'
(5.8), 'to prepare earth and water' (2.7), akinakes for 'sword' (13.6;
16.9), and the Persian names Holofernes and Bagoas. It would not, however,
be surprising if a few Persian elements were retained in the Greek era, and
ancient personal names would contribute to the period-colour (1967: 151).
Delcor meticulously examines various titles of officials, partly used in
the Persian and partly in the Greek era: satrapes, strategos,
hegoumenos, archon, and so on. He concludes that even if these
designations reach back to Persian times, there is no objection to surmising
that they were used in the Seleucid period as well (1967: 153-57).
Similarly the appearances of the Jewish gerousia or senate (4.8; 11.14;
15.8) are scrutinized. The term is first mentioned in the charter of Antiochus
III (c. 200 BCE) and it continued in use until, under the Romans, it was replaced
by boule. This material thus unambiguously points to the Maccabean
and Hasmonean era (1967: 157-61).
When in Jdt. 3.7 the cities of the Mediterranean coast welcomed Holofernes
with 'garlands and dances and tambourines', the meaning is not that the citizens
were decorated with garlands (meta stephanon) but that they presented
Holofernes with 'crowns' as a token of victory. This habit is documented in
several reports on Seleucid kings (Delcor 1967: 161-63).
. . .
This [prayer in Judith 9.8-13] does not in any way apply to the Persian rulers,
nor either to Alexander the Great or to the Ptolemies. Even the Seleucids
are generally tolerant to the religion of subdued peoples. Antiochus IV is
the remarkable exception, not only as we know him from the books of Maccabees
and Daniel, but also as he is depicted in pagan sources. He pillaged and desecrated
temples, and he identified himself with Zeus; his coins from the 160s BCE
bear inscriptions like 'Theos Epiphanes' added to his name. As a matter of
fact he is the only king who has some resemblance to Nebuchadnezzar of the
book of Judith (Delcor 1967: 168-74). Finally Delcor observes connecting lines
from the book of Daniel to the book of Judith (1967: 174-177), and he mentions,
as many commentators do, that according to Jdt. 2.28 Jamnia and Azotus (Ashdod)
do not seem to have come under Jewish suzerainty. This happened during the
reign of Alexander Jannai, which means that the author writes not later than
about 100 BCE (1967: 179).
Demetrius R. Dumm writes: "An unknown Jewish author composed this work
about 150 BC, probably in Palestine. The author's knowledge of Gk customs (3:7;
15:13) and the strong emphasis on legal prescriptions suggest this late date
of composition." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 624)
Luis Alonso Schökel writes: "The book of Judith is a literary innovation,
although not in its narrative motifs, which are traditional. The proud and aggressive
ruler depicted in Judith is the successor of the character of Sennacherib in
Isaiah 36-38. Over against him, the heroine is, in literary terms, a direct
descendant of Jael, who slays the defeated general Sisera (Judg. 4-5). She also
has some of the traits of the wise woman of 2 Samuel 20, who saves the inhabitants
of the city by tossing the rebel's head to the besiegers. The alien Achior,
who sings the praises of Israel in Judith 5, has his antecedents in Rahab of
Jericho (Josh. 2) and in Balaam (Num. 22-24). The theme of seduction is already
insinuated in the story of Jael. The head cut off and used to create confusion
among the enemy is an obvious offshoot of the story of David and Goliath, except
that the weak and beautiful woman takes the place of the handsome and almost
weaponless shepherd boy. And the victory of a weak people through divine intervention
is as traditional as one can imaginealthough this time it is accomplished
without an angel of death, pestilence in the enemy camp, or miracles (see 2
Kings 6-7; Isa. 38)." (Harper's Bible Commentary, pp. 804-805)
Daniel J. Harrington writes: "What are we to make of the moral insensitivity
displayed by Judith and so by the author? Judith flirts with Holofernes and
leads him on by flattery. She lies to him about Israel's plan to eat forbidden
foods and so commit sin in God's eyes, thus insuring its defeat by the Assyrians.
And she cuts off Holofernes' head when he is too drunk to know what is happening.
Two obvious responses are, 'It's only a story' and 'All's fair in war.' Nevertheless,
Judith is celebrated in the story as the Mother of Israel and as the model for
pious widowhood. And while desparate wartime conditions often force good people
to take desparate measures and do bad things, there is a particularly gruesome
dimension to beheading Holofernes, putting his head into the food bag, and then
displaying it at the highest point on the city wall. Moreover, the author has
the people revel in plundering the Assyrian camp, where there was so much spoil
that the process took thirty days. The book of Judith is 'only a story,' but
it does raise disturbing moral questions (especially when it is regarded as
canonical Scripture)." (Invitation to the Apocrypha, p. 42)