The Book of Judith – What is it?
The Book of Judith is a book found in the collection of writings called the Apochrypha or Deuterocanonical Books, which the Catholic and Orthodox Churches accept as inspired Scriptures, though most Protestant groups do not. It was also not considered part of the Jewish Scriptures, though it appears in the collection of writings in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament books).
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The original language of the Book of Judith was Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. When Jerome translated the Latin Vulgate he recorded that his translation of the Book of Judith was from an Aramaic version. It was likely written in the late second to early first century BC.
The contents of the Book of Judith include 16 chapters covering two main sections. The first half, chapters one through seven, covers the threat against Israel by King Nebuchadnezzar. The second half shares the account of Judith and her valiant efforts to save the Jewish people.
The story includes Nebuchadnezzar's powerful military takeover of the nations. When his army approaches Israel, the nation shakes in fear. His Babylonian commander Holofernes eventually comes to the village of Bethulia where the Jewish leader Achoir has failed and the people want to surrender to Babylon.
Chapter eight then introduces Judith and her plans to save Israel. A widow once married to a man named Manasses, she leaves the village with her maid to befriend Holofernes. Judith befriends this enemy leader and promises to provide him information regarding the Israelites. However, after he becomes drunk in his tent, Judith is permitted to visit and beheads him when he passes out. She returns to her village with his head and is celebrated by the Jewish people. The enemies flee in defeat. Many seek Judith for marriage, but she remains unmarried.
Though a noble story in many regards, concerns are often expressed due to certain statements. For example, Nebuchadnezzar was said to have ruled over Assyria from Nineveh (he was actually King of Babylon). The time of the story's events also took place when Nineveh would have already been destroyed. As a result, some suggest the account is fictional, while others accept the basic story while disputing certain historical weaknesses.
While not part of the inspired words of the Old or New Testaments, the Book of Judith includes many positive aspects regarding biblical principles. The theme of trusting God in times of hopelessness is a noble one repeated in many biblical accounts, ranging from Moses and the Exodus to Joshua at the Battle of Jericho, Gideon's army, David and Goliath, and Esther and Haman's plot.
What are the Catholic Apocrypha / Deuterocanonical books?
What is the canon of the Bible and how did we get it?
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The Book of Tobit – What is it?
The books of 1 and 2 Maccabees – What are they?
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