The book of Judith.

Counted among the apocrypha.

Attributed author(s).

Text(s) available.
None on site.
Swete LXX (Greek only).
HTML Bible: Judith 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 (Latin Vulgate only).
Humanities Text Initiative: Judith (English only).
Kata Pi LXX: Judith 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 (Greek and English).
Sacred Texts: Judith 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 (polyglot).

Useful links.
Judith in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
EJW (Peter Kirby).
Judith and the apocryphal books in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Judith at Kata Pi (Oesterly and Robinson).

The book of Judith is counted among the apocryphal books of the Old Testament.

The book is not extant among the Hebrew scriptures, but rather in the Septuagint, abbreviated LXX.

Peter Kirby (Early Jewish Writings).

Peter Kirby surveys scholars writing on the book of Judith:

J. Alberto Soggin writes: "The most obvious inaccuracies and inconstistencies in the historical sphere seem to be as follows (we indicate them following the basic study made by A.-M. Dubarle). First of all, there is the question of Nebuchadnezzar of Assyria and Arphaxad of Media in 1.1, then the presentation of the Babylonian exile as a past event in 4.3 and 5.19; the claims to divine honours made by these monarchs in 3.8 and 6.2 bring down the date of the work quite considerably, so that it cannot be before the time of the Diadochi (end of the fourth century). One explanation has been sought in a little-konwn episode of Persian history: towards 521, during the disorders which followed the death of Cambyses, a certain Arakha seized the throne of Babylon and on occupying it took the name of Nebuchadnezzar; for a short time he sought to reconquer the territories which belonged to the Babylonian empire, but was then swept away, along with many others, by Darius I Hystaspes. However, to associate the book with these somewhat obscure facts is a feeble basis for affirming its historicity. The Israeli scholar Y. M. Grintz has pointed out the parallels between the theme of the book and an episode which took place during the siege of Lindus, on the island of Rhodes, but here again the comparison is extremely weak. A more probably theory is that according to which the generals Holofernes and Bagoas are to be identified with the two generals sent against Phoenicia, Palestine and Egypt by Artaxerxes III towards 350. The names are certainly Persian, and are attested frequently, but there are many difficulties, unless we accept that Judith is a fictional account of one of the episodes in this campaign. Holofernes' itinerary in ch. 2 also seems impossible: he covers almost 300 miles in three days, passing through places which are either unknown or absurd when they are known. No account is taken of the fact that an average of 100 miles a day is in any case excessive for an army consisting of infanty as well as cavalry. As we have seen, the identity of Bethulia is also unknown." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 436-437)

James King West writes: "Perhaps the suggestion that, as in Daniel, Nebuchadrezzar and his campaigns here actually represent the wars and persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes provides not only a clue to the story's meaning but also to the date of its composition, which would therefore fall sometime after 168 B.C. Other elements of the book tend to support such an impression. The name Judith itself actually means 'Jewess'; and Judith's city, Bethulia, is not only otherwise unknown, but is placed in the geographically and historically impossible position of being a Judean fortress in the valley of Esdraelon in the period immediately after the Exile (4:1-7). Similarly, such names as the commander Holofernes and the high priest Joakim are as impossible to harmonize chronologically as Holophernes' incredible march of three hundred miles in three days is to take seriously." (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 462)

David A. deSilva writes: "A postexilic date is necessitated by Achior's discourse (5:17-19; cf. 4:3). The names Holofernes and Bagoas, moreover, are otherwise attested only in the Persian period, as are the loan words 'satrap' (5:2), 'turban' (4:15), and 'sword' (akinakes, 13:6), as well as the practice of 'preparing earth and water' (2:7). Together, these clues point to the influence of knowledge that entered Israel during the Persian period (Moore 1985: 50). Moreover, it is highly probable that the book came into being after the Maccabean Revolt. Holofernes' plan to destroy native sanctuaries and religions in favor of the worship of the Gentile king Nebuchadnezzar (3:8) resembles the depiction of Antiochus IV's unprecedented imposition of a foreign cult on the people of Judea (especially on 1 Maccabees). The description of the threat to the temple as profanation and of the desecration of the temple 'to the malicious joy of the Gentiles' also reflects the events of 167-165 B.C.E. (4:12). That the temple, altar, and vessels are remembered as having recently been polluted and reconsecrated (4:1-3), rather than destroyed and rebuilt, also suggests that the events of 164 B.C.E. are more firmly inscribed on the author's mind than those of the postexilic period. In addition, the power of the high priest as military commander and the prominence of the senate (gerousia) reflects a Hasmonean date, since this body, though perhaps constituted already under Antiochus III (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 12.119-124), rises to prominence during the period of Judas and his brothers (Pfeiffer 1949: 295; Moore 1985: 50). Finally, the denouement of the tale is full of reminiscences of the rout of Nicanor's army after the death of their commander (see 1 Macc. 7:43-50), including the hanging of the enemy commander's head on the wall (Jdt. 14:11), the flight of the enemy in terror (15:1-3), the outpouring of Jewish soldiers from the surrounding area to join the pursuit and outflanking of the enemy (15:4-5), and the plunder of the enemy camp (15:6-7) (Moore 1985: 50-51)." (Introducing the Apocrypha, pp. 91-92)

Benedikt Otzen writes (Tobit and Judith, pp. 133-134):

Delcor mentions the obvious Persian expressions in the book: 'God of heaven' (5.8), 'to prepare earth and water' (2.7), akinakes for 'sword' (13.6; 16.9), and the Persian names Holofernes and Bagoas. It would not, however, be surprising if a few Persian elements were retained in the Greek era, and ancient personal names would contribute to the period-colour (1967: 151).

Delcor meticulously examines various titles of officials, partly used in the Persian and partly in the Greek era: satrapes, strategos, hegoumenos, archon, and so on. He concludes that even if these designations reach back to Persian times, there is no objection to surmising that they were used in the Seleucid period as well (1967: 153-57).

Similarly the appearances of the Jewish gerousia or senate (4.8; 11.14; 15.8) are scrutinized. The term is first mentioned in the charter of Antiochus III (c. 200 BCE) and it continued in use until, under the Romans, it was replaced by boule. This material thus unambiguously points to the Maccabean and Hasmonean era (1967: 157-61).

When in Jdt. 3.7 the cities of the Mediterranean coast welcomed Holofernes with 'garlands and dances and tambourines', the meaning is not that the citizens were decorated with garlands (meta stephanon) but that they presented Holofernes with 'crowns' as a token of victory. This habit is documented in several reports on Seleucid kings (Delcor 1967: 161-63).

. . .

This [prayer in Judith 9.8-13] does not in any way apply to the Persian rulers, nor either to Alexander the Great or to the Ptolemies. Even the Seleucids are generally tolerant to the religion of subdued peoples. Antiochus IV is the remarkable exception, not only as we know him from the books of Maccabees and Daniel, but also as he is depicted in pagan sources. He pillaged and desecrated temples, and he identified himself with Zeus; his coins from the 160s BCE bear inscriptions like 'Theos Epiphanes' added to his name. As a matter of fact he is the only king who has some resemblance to Nebuchadnezzar of the book of Judith (Delcor 1967: 168-74). Finally Delcor observes connecting lines from the book of Daniel to the book of Judith (1967: 174-177), and he mentions, as many commentators do, that according to Jdt. 2.28 Jamnia and Azotus (Ashdod) do not seem to have come under Jewish suzerainty. This happened during the reign of Alexander Jannai, which means that the author writes not later than about 100 BCE (1967: 179).

Demetrius R. Dumm writes: "An unknown Jewish author composed this work about 150 BC, probably in Palestine. The author's knowledge of Gk customs (3:7; 15:13) and the strong emphasis on legal prescriptions suggest this late date of composition." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 624)

Luis Alonso Schökel writes: "The book of Judith is a literary innovation, although not in its narrative motifs, which are traditional. The proud and aggressive ruler depicted in Judith is the successor of the character of Sennacherib in Isaiah 36-38. Over against him, the heroine is, in literary terms, a direct descendant of Jael, who slays the defeated general Sisera (Judg. 4-5). She also has some of the traits of the wise woman of 2 Samuel 20, who saves the inhabitants of the city by tossing the rebel's head to the besiegers. The alien Achior, who sings the praises of Israel in Judith 5, has his antecedents in Rahab of Jericho (Josh. 2) and in Balaam (Num. 22-24). The theme of seduction is already insinuated in the story of Jael. The head cut off and used to create confusion among the enemy is an obvious offshoot of the story of David and Goliath, except that the weak and beautiful woman takes the place of the handsome and almost weaponless shepherd boy. And the victory of a weak people through divine intervention is as traditional as one can imagine—although this time it is accomplished without an angel of death, pestilence in the enemy camp, or miracles (see 2 Kings 6-7; Isa. 38)." (Harper's Bible Commentary, pp. 804-805)

Daniel J. Harrington writes: "What are we to make of the moral insensitivity displayed by Judith and so by the author? Judith flirts with Holofernes and leads him on by flattery. She lies to him about Israel's plan to eat forbidden foods and so commit sin in God's eyes, thus insuring its defeat by the Assyrians. And she cuts off Holofernes' head when he is too drunk to know what is happening. Two obvious responses are, 'It's only a story' and 'All's fair in war.' Nevertheless, Judith is celebrated in the story as the Mother of Israel and as the model for pious widowhood. And while desparate wartime conditions often force good people to take desparate measures and do bad things, there is a particularly gruesome dimension to beheading Holofernes, putting his head into the food bag, and then displaying it at the highest point on the city wall. Moreover, the author has the people revel in plundering the Assyrian camp, where there was so much spoil that the process took thirty days. The book of Judith is 'only a story,' but it does raise disturbing moral questions (especially when it is regarded as canonical Scripture)." (Invitation to the Apocrypha, p. 42)