Mon. Oct 18th, 2021

The Book of Tobit

The Book of Tobit, a 3rd or early 2nd Century BCE Jewish work, describes the way God is testing faithfulness, responds to prayers, and guards covenant community (i.e. the Israelites). The story is about two Jewish families that are dedicated to blind Tobit of Nineveh and one for the undeclared Sarah from Ecbatana. ( Tobit’s son Tobias is assigned by Raphael to retrieve the 10 silver talents Tobit left behind in Rages in Rages, a town in Media. Tobias is brought to Ecbatana where Tobias is introduced to Sarah. Asmodeus, an evil demon, falls in love with Sarah and kills plans for her wedding. Raphael assists Tobias to remove the demon, and Sarah is to wed. Tobit is then cured of his blindness.

It is mentioned in the Orthodox as well as Catholic canons. However, it’s not included in the Jewish. According to Protestant tradition, it is found in the Apocrypha. Anabaptists Lutherans Anglicans, Methodists, Anabaptists, Lutherans and Anglicans recognize it as part of Scripture and are able to use it in liturgy or edification but it is not canonical. It is a novel that has historical references, and most scholars agree with.

Summary and structure

The book contains 14 chaptersthat form three main narrative sections, with a prologue and epilogue.

  • Prologue (1:1-2)
  • Situation in Nineveh and Ecbatana (1:3-3:17)
  • Tobias’s Adventure (4:1-12.22)
  • Tobit’s song of praise for death (13.1-14.2)
  • Epilogue (14:3-15)
  • (Summarized by BenediktOtzen “Tobit and Judith”)

The prologue explains to the reader that this is the story of Tobit of Naphtali’s tribe, exiled from Tishbe in Galilee to Nineveh by the Assyrians. He remained loyal to the law of Moses and made sacrifices for the Temple in Jerusalem prior to the Assyrian victory. The narrative focuses on his wedding to Anna and they share one son, named Tobias.

Tobit is a religious man who, buries dead Jews, but one evening when he’s asleep, he’s blinded when a bird defecates in his eyes. He becomes dependent on his wife, but accuses her of stealing and prays for death. Meanwhile, Sarah, his relative is far away in Ecbatana and prays for his death. Asmodeus, a demon who has killed her potential suitors on the night of their wedding.

God will answer their prayers and Raphael the archangel who has been sent by God to assist them, is sent. Raphael disguised in human form offers to join Tobias as he seeks money from a relative. They catch a fish in Tigris. Raphael informs Tobias that the burned liver and liver could remove demons, and the gall is able to cure blindness. They arrive in Ecbatana and meet Sarah and as Raphael has predicted , the demon is driven out.

Tobias and Sarah marry, Tobias is wealthy , and they go back to Nineveh, Assyria, where Tobit (and Anna) await Anna and Tobit. Tobit’s blindness is treated , and Raphael continues his journey after telling Tobit, Tobias and Tobit to praise God and proclaim his good deeds (the Jews), that they should be fasting, pray and offer alms. Tobit praises God for taking his people’s exile, but he will show mercy to them and rebuild the Temple if their hearts turn towards him.

Tobit informs Tobias in the end of the epilogue that Nineveh will soon be destroyed , as an example of wickedness. Israel will also be empty, and the Temple destroyed. However, Israel as well as the Temple could be restored. Tobias should therefore leave Nineveh and live in righteousness with his family.


Tobit is often regarded as fiction, with a few historical references. It blends prayers, moral edification and adventure, with elements of stories of wisdom and folklore such as travel stories and comedy and even love. It also gave advice to diaspora Jews living in exile on how to retain their Jewish identity.

The Latin Rite uses readings from the book. Since the book is a praising source for the sacredness of marriage, it is often read during wedding ceremonies in a variety of rites. In terms of doctrine, the book is cited for its teaching regarding the intercession of angels, filial devotion, tithing and almsgiving, and reverence for the deceased. Chapter 5 of 1 Meqabyan also discusses the book Tobit which is considered to be canonical by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

Manuscripts and composition

Leaf was taken from a manuscript of vellum dating to 1240.

The story of the Book of Tobit is set in 8th century BC. But the text was composed between about 225 BC and 175 BC. There isn’t a consensus in the field of scholarly research on the place of composition (“almost every part of the ancient world appears to be a candidate”); a Mesopotamian source is logical considering that the story is set in Assyria and Persia and also mentions the Persian demon “aeshma daeva” and is translated as “Asmodeus” however, it has some significant mistakes in geographical particulars (such as the distance between Ecbatana to Rhages and their topography), and arguments against and in favour of Judean or Egyptian composition are also present.

Tobit exists in two Greek versions One version (Sinaiticus) longer than the other (Vaticanus and Alexandrinus). Aramaic and Hebrew fragments of Tobit (four Aramaic, one Hebrew – it is not clear which was the original language) found among the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran tend to align more closely with the longer or Sinaiticus version, which has formed the basis of most English translations in recent times.

The Vulgate places Tobit, Judith and Esther after the historical writings (after Nehemiah). Some manuscripts of Greek versions set them up as wisdom writings.

Canonical status

The deuterocanon is a term that refers to the Jewish books found in Septuagint but not in the Masoretic canon. Protestants don’t adhere to the Masoretic Canon and , therefore, do not include Tobit in the standard Masoretic Canon. However, they recognize it as a deuterocanonical books, also known as the Apocrypha.

The Council of Rome (A.D. 382) declares the Book of Tobit as a canonical work. This includes the Council of Hippo (393), Council of Carthage (397), and Council of Carthage (419), the Council of Florence (1422) and lastly the Council of Trent (1546). It is a part of the canons of the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Catholics refer to it as deuterocanonical.

Augustine (c. A.D. 397) and Augustine (c. A.D. 397) and Pope Innocent I, A.D. 405, confirmed Tobit in the Old Testament Canon. Athanasius (A.D. 367) noted that some other works, such as the book of Tobit even though they were not part of the Canon, “were appointed by the Fathers to be read”.

Rufinus of Aquileia (c. A.D.400) said that the work of Tobit together with other deuterocanonical works, weren’t Canonical however, they were Ecclesiastical.

According to Protestant tradition The Tobit book Tobit is regarded as an intertestamental space known as Apocrypha. Anabaptism includes the book Of Tobit in a chapter referred to as Apocrypha. This is where the marriage sermon of Amish Amish couples is built on the Tobit book. Tobit. The Luther Bible holds Tobit as one of the “Apocrypha, that is, books that are not considered equal to the sacred Scriptures but are valuable to study”. [5] Article VI of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Church of England declares Tobit to be an Apocrypha book. The first Methodist liturgical work, The Sunday Service of the Methodists, employs verses taken from Tobit within the Eucharistic ceremony. Scripture readings from the Apocrypha are found in the lectionaries of the Lutheran Churches and the Anglican Churches, in addition to other denominations that use the Revised Common Lectionary, though alternative Old Testament readings are provided. The Anglican, Methodist and Catholic churches have Holy Matrimony with a Scripture Reading of the Book of Tobit.

Tobit contains some interesting evidence of the early development of the Jewish canon, referring to two rather than three divisions including the Law of Moses (i.e. The torah as well as the prophets. The reason for this is that it’s not found in the Hebrew Bible; proposed explanations include its date of birth (this is now considered to be unlikely) or a claimed Samaritan origin or an infraction of ritual law, given that it depicts the marriage contract between Tobias and his bride written by her father rather than the groom. It is in the Septuagint as a Greek Jewish writings, which was adopted by the Christian canon near the end of 4th century.


Tobit’s inclusion in the Christian canon gave it the ability to influence theology, art and culture in Europe. It was often discussed by the Church fathers of the early days and the motif of Tobias and the fish (the fish as a symbol of Christ) was extremely popular in both art and theology. [36] Particularly noteworthy in this regard are the work of Rembrandt, who, even though he was a member of the Dutch Reformed Church, was responsible for a collection of drawings and paintings that illustrated chapters of the book.