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The Book of Tobit

The Book of Tobit is a 3rd century or early 2nd century BCE Jewish work which describes how God examines the faithful and responds to prayers and guards the covenant group (i.e., the Israelites). The story is about two Jewish families, one for the blind Tobit of Nineveh and the other for the not yet claimed Sarah of Ecbatana. ( Tobit’s son Tobias is assigned by Raphael to find the 10 silver talents Tobit left behind in Rages in Rages, a town in Media. He arrives in Ecbatana where Tobias encounters Sarah. Asmodeus, a demon, has fallen in love and killed anyone she intended to marry. Raphael helps Tobias and Sarah to get married , and the couple return to Nineveh in Nineveh, where Tobit is healed of his blindness.

It is mentioned in the Orthodox and Catholic canons. However, it’s not in the Jewish. According to Protestant theology, it is included in the Apocrypha. Anabaptists Lutherans Anglicans, Methodists, Anabaptists Lutherans and Anglicans recognize it as an element of the Bible and are permitted to use it for liturgy or edification reasons, but it’s not canonical. The book is a fictional work that contains historical references, which the majority of scholars have accepted.

Summary and structure

The book is divided into 14 chapters. There are three main narrative sections, each having a an opening and an epilogue.

  • Prologue (1:1-2)
  • Situation in Nineveh, Ecbatana (1.3-3.17)
  • The journey of Tobias (4.1-12.22).
  • Tobit’s hymn of praise and his demise (13:1-14.2)
  • Epilogue (14:3-15)
  • (Resumed by Benedikt Ottzen from “Tobit and Judith”)

The prologue informs the reader that this is a story about Tobit, the tribe of Naphtali who was exiled by Assyrians from Tishbe in Galilee and brought to Nineveh. He was a devoted follower of the law of Moses and offered sacrifices to the Temple in Jerusalem prior to the Assyrian conquest. The story highlights his marriage to Anna and they share one son, named Tobias.

Tobit is a religious man who has buried dead Jews. In the night, while he’s sleeping, he is blinded when bird feces is seen in his eyes of Tobit. He becomes dependent on his wife, but accuses her of stealing and prays for death. In the meantime, his cousin Sarah who lives in faraway Ecbatana, also prays for her death, as the demon Asmodeus has killed her suitors at their weddings and she is accused of being the one to cause the deaths of their loved ones.

God will answer their prayers and Raphael Archangel Raphael, who was sent by God to help them, is sent. Raphael disguised as a human, is willing to join Tobias to assist him in obtaining the money of a relative. They catch a fish in Tigris. Raphael informs Tobias that the burned liver and liver are able to drive away demons and that the gall is able to cure blindness. They arrive at Ecbatana and are greeted by Sarah and just as Raphael has predicted the demon is driven out.

Tobias and Sarah are married, Tobias is rich and they go back to Nineveh (Assyria) in Assyria, where Tobit and Anna await their guests. Tobit is healed of blindness and Raphael goes away after exhorting Tobit and Tobias to praise God, declare his deeds before the community (the Jews), and to pray and fast and to offer alms. Tobit is awed by God for the punishment he has imposed on his people through exile, but will show mercy on them and rebuild the Temple If their hearts change to God.

In the final epilogue Tobit informs Tobias that Nineveh will be destroyed as an example of wickedness; likewise Israel will be degraded and the Temple will be destroyed but Israel and the Temple will be restored. consequently Tobias should go to Nineveh and his children will live in morality.


Tobit is considered a fiction work with some historical references. It blends prayers, moral exhortation, humor, and adventure. It also includes elements drawn from folklore, travel tales, wisdom tales romantic comedy, and. It offered the diaspora (the Jews in exile) guidance on how to retain Jewish identity. The message was that God tests his people’s faith and listens to their prayers and then redeems the covenant community (i.e. the Jews).

The Latin Rite uses readings from the book. The book is usually read at weddingsand in a variety of rites, because of its praise for purity of wedding ceremonies. The book is frequently cited for its lessons on angelic intercessions as well as filial penitence and almsgiving and tithingas well as reverence to the dead. Tobit is also alluded to in chapter 5 of 1 Meqabyan, a book considered canonical in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

Manuscripts and compositions

Leaf from a manuscript on vellum dating to c. 1240.

While the Book of Tobit was written in the 8th century BC The actual text was written between 225 and 125 BC. There is no consensus on the place of its creation (almost all regions of the ancient world are thought to be candidates”); a Mesopotamian source is plausible since the story takes place in Assyria, Persia, and includes the Persian demon “aeshma Daeva” as well as the mythological demon “Asmodeus”. However the text is filled with significant geographical errors (such as the distance between Ecbatana and Rhages and their topography) and arguments in favor or against Judean or Egyptian composition.

Tobit is available in two Greek versions There are two Greek versions of Tobit, one (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.

Tobit and Judith are described in the Vulgate as historical books following Nehemiah. Certain manuscripts from Greek versions set them up as the wisdom writings.

Status Canonical

The deuterocanon is a term used to describe the refers to the Jewish books found in Septuagint however, they are not included in the Masoretic canon. Since Protestants adhere to the Masoretic canon, they don’t include Tobit in their standard canon however, they do recognize it in the category of deuterocanonical works, also known as the apocrypha.

The Council of Rome (A.D.382) The Council of Rome (A.D. 382), the Council of Hippo, (A.D. 393) and (A.D. 409), respectively as well as the Council of Carthage (397), (A.D. 419) and the Council of Florence (419) has listed the Book of Tobit (canonical) and are part of both the Catholic Churches as well as 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, also affirmed Tobit in the Old Testament Canon. Athanasius (A.D.367) declared that Tobit was not part of the Canon however other books like the one of Tobit were “appointed by the Fathers to be read”.

According to Rufinus of Aquileia (c. A.D. 400) the book of Tobit as well as other deuterocanonical works weren’t considered Canonical however they were Ecclesiastical books.

Protestant traditions place the book of Tobit within an intertestamental part called Apocrypha. Anabaptism includes the book of Tobit in a section referred to as Apocrypha. This is why 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 equal to the sacred Scriptures however are interesting to read”. [5Article VI of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Church of England declares it an item belonging to the “Apocrypha”. The first Methodist liturgical book, The Sunday Service of the Methodists uses passages taken from Tobit within the Eucharistic ceremony. The Scripture readings from the Apocrypha are included in the lectionaries of the Lutheran Churches as well as the Anglican Churches, in addition to other denominations who use the Revised Common Lectionary, though alternate Old Testament readings are provided. The Anglican, Methodist and Catholic congregations offer Holy Matrimony with a Scripture Reading from the Book of Tobit.

Tobit offers some interesting evidence that demonstrates the early development of the Jewish canon. This is in reference to two, not three, divisions, the Law of Moses, (i.e. the Torah) as well as the prophets. It is for unknown reasons not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible; proposed explanations include its date of birth (this is now considered to be unlikely), a supposed Samaritan origin or a breach of the law of rituals, in that it depicts the marriage contract between Tobias and his bride as it was written by her father than the groom. It can however be found in the Septuagint Greek Jewish writings. The Septuagint was used to introduce it into the Christian canon at the end of the 4th century.


The inclusion of Tobit in the Christian canon enabled it to have an impact on theology art, culture, and theology throughout Europe. The early Church fathers often addressed it, and the motif of Tobias with the fish (the fish is the symbol of Christ) was extremely well-known in theology and art. Rembrandt’s painting and drawings that depicted episodes from the story are of particular note.