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THE BOOK OF TOBIT

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Originally appearing in Volume V26, Page 1042 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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THE BOOK OF TOBIT, one of the books of the Old Testament Apocrypha. It is a good specimen of the religious novel, a form of literature invented by the Jews. The romance may be read in a beautiful dress in the Revised Version of the English Apocrypha. It was never admitted into the Jewish canon, but it was admitted into the Christian Canon at the Council of Carthage (A.D. 397). In the Roman Church it still forms a part of the Bible, but by the Church of England it is relegated to the position of those other books which " the Church cloth read for example of life and instruction of manners, but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine " (art. vi.). Some verses (Tob. iv. 7-9), however, are read in the offertory; and Tobias and Sarah once occupied the position now held by Abraham and Sarah in the marriage service. The Book of Tobit has reached us in Greek, Latin, Syriac, Aramaic and Hebrew versions; of these the Hebrew are the latest, and need not be considered. Of the Greek there are three forms. One is in the Vatican and Alexandrian MSS.; another is in the Sinaitic. Both these texts are to be found in Swete's Septuagint, the former denoted by B, and the latter by a. B is the common text, which is followed in the English Apocrypha. Nevertheless s is fuller, except in ch. iv., and more intelligible; it is also more Semitic than B. The two must have behind them a common original, for they throw light upon one another, and the full meaning of a passage is sometimes only to be got from a combination of both. The fullness of a often runs into superfluities, which are' retrenched in B. The third Greek text is only a partial one (vi. 9-xiii. 8). It may be derived from a study of Codices 44, 1o6, 107 in Holmes and Parsons, which diverge from the Vatican text throughout the part indicated. Of the Latin there are two chief forms, the old translation, sometimes called the Itala, and that of Jerome in the Vulgate. The Itala was published by Pierre Sabatier at Paris in 1751, and is reproduced in the Book of Tobit by Neubauer (Clarendon Press, 1878). It agrees very fairly with a, except in the matter of proper names. Jerome's version is from the Aramaic, or, as it used to be called, the Chaldee. It cost the saint one day's work. He describes in his preface the method of its production. He procured the services of a man who was familiar with Chaldee and Hebrew. This man translated to him out of Chaldee into Hebrew, while Jerome dictated to a shorthand writer his own translation into Latin. The workwas done at the request of two Christian bishops, Chromatius and Heliodorus. Jerome does not mention the Itala, but it is plain that he was indebted to it. The Syriac text is said to be based on a Greek version. It was only in 1878 that the Aramaic version was brought to light, being published by Adolph Neubauer from a unique MS. in the Bodleian Library. It agrees with ti and the Itala, but resembles the Vulgate in having nothing in the first person. According to Neubauer, it is the very text which was used by Jerome, after allowance has been made for the arbitrary methods of the Rabbis and of Jerome himself. But the Aramaic version has Greek birthmarks (see especially p. 7, line 18), which other scholars than its editor have thought decisive against its originality. It was held by Robertson Smith (after Noldeke) to be " in the highest degree probable that the Greek text is original." But the Greek text appears to be itself a translation from some Semitic source. Was this source Hebrew or Aramaic? The forms 'AOilP and 'AOoupeias in xiv. 4, 15 of show that, at least, that chapter is drawn from Aramaic, not from Hebrew. But that chapter does not appear in all the versions, and so may be later than the rest. With regard to the date of composition there is the widest difference of opinion. Ewald refers it to the end of the Persian period, about 350 B.C. (an opinion which Westcott declared to be " almost certainly correct ") ; Kohut thinks that the book was composed in Persia under the Sassanid Dynasty, about A.D. 250. But Tobit is already quoted as " scripture " by Clement of Alexandria (Strom. ii. 139, p. 503 Pott). The words of Tobit (xii. 8, 9) seem almost to have been present to the writer of ii. Clement (xvi. 4). The date of this document is uncertain; but in Irenaeus (i. 28, § 5) in his refutation of the Kabbalistic heresy of the Ophites, we find Tobias figuring as a prophet, on the same level as Haggai. Earlier still the Book of Tobit is quoted, though not by name, in the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians (x. 2; Tob. iv. ro. Cf. Prov. xii. 2; Ecclus. xxix. 12). Now the martyrdom of Polycarp is assigned by C. H. Turner to the year A.D. 156. We seem to have even a quotation by St Paul from the Book of Tobit (I Tim. vi. 19; Tob. iv. 9), in which the identity amid difference seems to show that the Apostle is drawing, not from the Greek, but from the Semitic original. Josephus displays no knowledge of the work, but he may have been animated by the same prejudice as the Pharisees of St Jerome's day, whose displeasure, that father tells us, he had to face in giving to Latin readers a book which was against their canon. (Preface to Tobit.) Internal evidence shows that the writer of the 14th chapter lived after the building of the Second Temple, which was " not as the first." In vv. 5 and 6 of that chapter Tobit is made to predict a glorious building of Jerusalem and the Temple, which was to be followed by the conversion of all the Gentiles. Such a passage might well have been penned when the idea of Herod's Temple was already in the air. If so, this chapter may be supposed to have been written a little before 19 B.C., while the bulk of the work may have been indefinitely earlier. As to the place of composition Persia, Egypt and Palestine have each had advocates. One thing only appears fairly certain, namely, that the Greek versions were composed in Egypt. This conclusion could, we think, be established by an examination of the language, especially of some technical terms of administration. But the tale itself carries us back to Persia. It has what Moulton called an " Iranian background." The evil demon Asmodeus (q.v.) is the Persian Aeshma Daeva. Raphael, " one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and go in before the glory of the Holy One," resembles the protecting spirit Sraosha. And the dog, the companion of Sraosha, is there too. For Tobit differs from all other books of the Bible in containing the only polite reference to the dog. Tobias's dog indeed does nothing but accompany his young master on his journey to Ecbatana and back. But he is there as the companion and friend of man, which is Aryan and not Semitic. So alien indeed is this from the Semitic mind that in the Aramaic and Hebrew versions the dog does not appear. Even in s, the more Semitic of the two Greek versions, the dog has evidently been found an offence. Mention of him is suppressed in v. 17, while in xi. 4, 6 Kbptos is made to go behind Tobias, instead of 6 Kbcov! The motive of the story has been variously regarded as a desire to insist upon the duty of tithe-paying, upon that of alms-giving, and upon that of burying the dead. The Midrash given by Neubauer has no doubts on this point, as the story is immediately followed by the remark—" Behold we learn how great is the power of alms and tithes!" But the third motive is equally apparent. Accordingly some have insisted that the story must have been composed at some period when Jewish dead were left unburied, either in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes (2 Macc. v. ro), or in that of Hadrian, after the revolt of Bar-Cochebas. If our choice were limited to these two periods, we should certainly prefer the former. For the book carries within itself signs of early date. It contains no Messianic expectation nor any reference to a future life. The last fact is obscured by the Vulgate. Even in the Itala the word aelerna is added in xii. 9 after saturabuntur vita. A new interest has been added recently to the study of Tobit by the publication of the Wisdom of Ahikar (Ahigar). In the Book of Tobit Ahikar is represented as the prime minister of Sennacherib and his son Esar-Haddon, and is claimed by Tobit as his nephew. There is a desire manifested to bring in Ahikar wherever possible (i. 21, 22; ii. 10; xi. 18; xiv. ro). The intention evidently is to bestow authority upon the fiction by connecting it with a story already known. See K. D. Ilgen, Die' Geschichte Tobias nach drei verschiedenen Originalen (Jena, 1800); Fritzsche, Handbuch zu den Apocryphen (Leipzig, 1853); F. H. Reusch, Das Buch Tobias (Freiburg, 1857); Scharer, Geschichte, 3rd edition; Ad. Neubauer, The Book of Tobit (Ox;ord, 1878); Fuller in Speaker's Commentary (1888); E. J. Dillon, Contemporary Review (March 1898); The Story of Ahikar, by Conybeare, Harris and Lewis (Cambridge, 1898) ; J. Rendel Harris, " The Double Text of Tobit," American Journal of Theology (July 1899), PP- 541–554; Moulton, " The Iranian Background of Tobit," Expository Times (March 1900), pp. 257–260; B. F. Westcott in Smith's Dict. Bible; I. T. Marshall in Hastings's Dict. Bible; W. Erbt in Ency. Bib.; Toy in Jewish Encyclopedia; Johannes Muller, Beitrage zur Erklarung and Kritik des Buches Tobit; and in the same volume Alter and Herkunft des Achicar-Romans and sein Verhdltniss zu Aesop, by Rudolf Smend. (ST G. S.)
End of Article: THE BOOK OF TOBIT
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