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Online Text for Tobit

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Information on Tobit

Demetrius R. Dumm writes: "The discovery at Qumran of both Hebr and Aram fragments of Tb confirms the conjecture that the original language was Semitic, and, more probably, Aramaic. The best complete texts are in Greek and follow two rather divergent traditions, one represented by the Sinaiticus codex and OL (which seems preferable) and another found in the codices Vaticanus and Alexandrinus. Although Jerome did not consider Tb canonical, Augustine and Ambrose supported it. Hence it was accepted by the council of Hippo (393) and succeeding councils." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 620)

J. Alberto Soggin describes the three Greek recensions of the text (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 429):

(a) That attested by codex א (or Sinaiticus) of the LXX, compiled in the fourth or fifth century AD and probably the best; it has been confirmed by the surviving fragments of the Old Latin. It served as a basis for the Vulgate translation and for retrotranslations into Hebrew and Aramaic;

(b) That attested by codex B (or Vaticanus) and A (or Alexandrinus) of the LXX before the discovery of Sinaiticus. The Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopian and Armenian translations are dependent on this, as is another retrotranslation into Hebrew. There are some scholars who continue to regard it as better than Sinaiticus;

(c) A third recension is attested by some fragments of a Syriac translation and some papyri from Oxyrhynchus; it is certainly later than the two preceding texts, from which it seems to have been compiled. We cannot go into the complex problem of the variants here, for which we refer the reader to the critical text.

David A. deSilva writes: "Since the law is known as 'the book of Moses' or 'the law of Moses' (6:13; 7:11-13), the work must certainly postdate the fifth century, when the formation of the Pentateuch was nearly complete. It seems reasonable to set the earliest date of composition as sometime during the third century B.C.E. The book reflects the same ethos as in Ben Sira and Judith with regard to dietary laws, burial of the dead, endogamy, and piety. Formerly, the use of the book in 2 Clement, Polycarp, and Clement of Alexandria had established this terminus ad quem (the latest date) as 100 C.E. This endpoint has been now set with much greater precision based on the discovery of the fragments of Tobit at Qumran, the earliest of which dates from 100 B.C.E. Tobit's failure to reflect any knowledge of the issues surrounding the Hellenization crisis and Maccabean Revolt suggests that the book was written sometime between 250 and 175 B.C.E." (Introducing the Apocrypha, p. 69)

Benedikt Otzen writes: "Nowadays a date immediately before the Maccabean crisis is preferred. Only Zimmermann, I think, stands alone: he is of the opinion that the Maccabean upheaval is the background of the book, and he dates it to the latter half of the second century BCE. We saw that he dated chs. 13-14 to the time after 70 CE, so that the references to the new temple are contingent on the fall of the temple in that year (1958: 24-25). Virtually all other scholars think that the violent hatred of the foreigners that is typical for the Maccabean era, is lacking in the book of Tobit. Thus there are good reasons for dating the book in the latter half of the third century or about the year 200 BCE (for a survey of the discussion, see Zimmermann 1958: 21-27; Moore 1996: 40-42)." (Tobit and Judith, p. 57)

George W. E. Nickelsburg writes: "Briefly, this is the plot. In spit of his faithfulness to God and his many deeds of mercy to others, Tobit suffers greatly. When he can no longer believe that God will deliver him, he prays for death. In another city, his relative Sarah also sees death as the only likely solution to her suffering. But when all appears hopeless, God sends healing by means of the angel Raphael. Parallel to the story of Tobit is the uncompleted story of Israel. Tobit's situation is paradigmatic for the exiled nation. As God has chastised Tobit, so Israel, suffering in exile, is being chastised. But God's mercy on Tobit and his family guarantees that this mercy will bring the Israelites back to their land. Since this event, described only in predictions, awaits fulfillment, one level of the double story is incomplete." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 791)

J. Alberto Soggin writes: "To speak of the historicity or even of the legendary character of what is evidently a pious Novelle seems out of place: Raphael himself in 12.19 reveals to Tobit that his presence is only a vision. On the other hand, the author of the book is concerned to establish some historical synchronisms which are an attempt to add verisimilitude to the narrative: in 1.1 we have a reference to the deportation of Naphthali during 734 (II Kings 15.29), but this in fact took place under Tiglath-pileser III and not under Shalmaneser V, as the author supposes. Here we have a confusion of dates: 734, if we accept that the deportation happened under the first of the two kings, 722-21, if we suppose that it happened under the second. The last note contained in the work is that about the fall of Nineveh at the hands of Cyaxares, king of Media, in 612 (two variants have Nabopolassar and Ahasuerus, i.e. Xerxes I, respectively), 14.15. Thus notwithstanding the preoccupations of the author or redactor, the chronology is far from precise and presupposes, among other things, a much longer life for Tobit than that indicated in 14.1. The supernatural and visionary element is another factor of historical uncertainty, but to rob the book of it would be to deprive it of its point, namely, faith in divine providence which intervenes directly whenever it is needed and which brings everything to a good end, despite difficulties of every kind." (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 431)

Daniel J. Harrington writes: "In addition to the Hebrew Bible, the author probably drew on the story or motif of 'the grateful dead.' What initially got Tobit into trouble was his zeal in seeing to the burial of fellow Israelites. He first loses all his property (see 1:20) and then is struck blind after having attended to a burial at Pentecost (see 2:7-10). When Tobit is healed and Raphael reveals himself as the angel of God sent to heal him, a major reason was to repay Tobit's willingness to bury the dead (see 12:13). The plan of Tobit and Tobias to give Raphael half of their possessions contributes to this motif. Another likely source or motif is 'the dangerous bride.' Sarah's seven husbands are killed by a demon before they can consummate their marriages with her. The demon is reserving Sarah for himself. But when Tobias follows Raphael's instructions, the demon loses all power and flees to the farthest reaches of Egypt where he is bound by Raphael (see 8:3). Also the readers are presumed to have some familiarity with the story of Ahikar and his wicked nephew Nadab (see 1:22; 14:10)." (Invitation to the Apocrypha, pp. 12-13)

James King West writes: "The purpose of the work is clearly expressed in Tobit's farewell exhortations to his son in 14:3-11. Along with predictions of the restoration of Israel and the destruction of Nineveh, he exhorts Tobias to 'keep the law and commandments and be merciful and just', as well as to 'consider what almsgiving accomplishes and how righteousness delivers.' The story abounds in examples of a homely Jewish piety nourished by Israel's Scriptures, which reinforce the point that although God may allow misfortune to befall his people, if they continue in faithful dependence upon him, they will be delivered and amply rewarded for their trust in him. The absence of any apparent knowledge of the Syrian persecutions or the Maccabean revolt, on the one hand, and the literary affinities with works such as Ecclesiasticus, on the other, suggest that Tobit was written sometime between 200 and 170 B.C. The lovely story of the marriage of Tobias and Sarah has long been treasured as a model for Christian marriages. In the Roman Rite, the Introit for the Nuptial Mass still recalls their story with the words, 'may he who had mercy on two only children abide with you.'" (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 460)

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