Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Books of Tobit and Judith

Originally I was going to do this on my Revised Chronology blog.  But the theories about these books relevant to that are mainly the ones I'm going to be the most critical of.

I don't consider them Canon, as I already explained in my post on the Deutercanonical Books.  But they can be historically interesting to contemplate.

These books have in common being clearly mainly fictional narratives, that at least in the forms we have them contain some difficult to explain geographical errors.  And much more so with Judith apparent historical anachronisms.

Damien F Mackey attempts to explain the geographical issues in Tobit by saying Media is actually regions in Arabia, (Midian, Medan, Medina).  However this ignores the context of it clearly being about the deported Israelites.  II Kings is clear, many were taken to Media and all of then to east of the Euphrates.

 I've mentioned before about how Tobit as we know it is the product of a time where First Cousin marriages were strongly encouraged.  But I also have reasons to suspect Tobias's bride maybe wasn't his cousin originally before it was revised.

With the references to Ahikar we are told exactly how he fits into Tobit's genealogy, even though that character is only someone refereed to and not really part of the story (like the Author of Tobit wanted to create a Shared Apocryphal Universe).  However we're not told how Sarah or her father Raguel fit into it, just that she is Tobias' cousin somehow.  That could be consistent with her being a cousin being a detail added to the text later.

Sarah is the Hebrew word for Princess.  According to Herodotus it was around the time frame depicted in this book that the first King of Media lived.  And she is living in Ecbatane the capital of Media.  Could the original narrative have been about Tobias marrying a Median Princess?  And maybe the book of Judith calls the king of Media Arphaxad because they descended from Arphaxad via deported Northern Israelites?

The last verse of the book refers to the fall of Nineveh to "Nabuchodonosor and Assuerus".  A lot of people assume Ahasuerus here is another name for Cyaxares I of Media.  But there is evidence his son and future successor Astyages was also involved in the taking of Nineveh.  And Nebuchadnezzar was also at that time the Crown Prince of his father Nabopolassar.  Ahasuerus being a name for Astyages would agree with Josephus calling the Darius son of Ahasuerus of Daniel 5 a son of Astyages.  Which in turn agrees with that Darius being the same as Cyaxares II of Xenophon's Cyropedia.

Damien F Mackey's theory about The Book of Judith is that the "Nebuchadnezzar" of that book is really Sennacherib under his Babylonian Throne Name.  And that this is the same attempted invasion of Judah recorded in 2 Kings and Isaiah 36-39.  My main problem with that theory is Judith doesn't record an Angel destroying Assyria's Army.

His argument for this largely begins with theorizing that the Ahikar of Tobit and the Story of Ahikar is the same person as.Achior of the Book of Judith.  I see why those names seem kind of similar, but not enough to be a smoking gun.

The revised Chronology comes into it via saying Sennacherib is the same as Nebuchadnezzar I of Babylon, conventionally dated to the end of the 12th century BC.  And if I were still inclined to agree with that theory, I'd consider identifying Holofernes, a name often said to seem Egyptian, with Horemheb based on Velikvosky's view of Horemheb.  But I'm not.

Three major mainstream theories about what historical context might have inspired Judith are Nebuchadnezzar as Artaxerxes III, as Ashurbanipal and as Tigranes The Great of Armenia.  Of those three the Ashurbanipal one is the main one I want to talk about here briefly.

It speculates the lack of a King in Judah is because it's while King Manasseh was being held in Babylon.  Which makes it interesting that Judith is called the Widow of a Manasseh.  But the only wife of King Manasseh mentioned in Scripture is Meshullemeth the mother of King Amon.  But the Kings of Judah frequently practiced Polygamy.  And some have speculated the name of Judith itself to be a symbol or code, as a feminine from of the name of the Southern Kingdom.

And since Tobit lived to see the fall of Nineveh, Ahikar could likewise have lived into the reign of Ashurbanipal.

Even if I were willing to consider changing when Nebuchadnezzar I lived.  He actually fits the time of Ashurbanipal better.  Ashurbanipal's brother Shamam-shum-ukin was King of Babylon during his reign.  A similar event involving a statue of Marduk being returned to Babylon transpires during his reign.  Nebuchadnezzar I celebrated a victory over Elam that seems similar to Ashurbanipal's.  And Nebuchadnezzar I conquered the "land of the Amorites" which could well refer to Canaan, where the Amorites originally came from, even Jerusalem was sometimes linked to the Amorites.

However my own revised chronology theories generally leave the Mesopotamian Kings Lists unaltered, as supported by Vellikvosky's own writing about Hamurabi and the 12th Dynasty of Egypt.

The city or village refereed to as Bethulia, which is not otherwise known to have existed, but seems to be near Jerusalem, I think is possibly meant to be Bethlehem.  Both names begin with a Beth. Bethulia seems to come from a Hebrew word for Virgin, Micah 4-5 tells us Bethlehem is where The Messiah will be born.  And in the context of my argument that Bethlehem is Zion which is the City of David, three Bible verses refer to the Bethulah daughter of Zion, (2 Kings 19:21, Isaiah 37:22 and Lamentations 2:13).  Micah 4-5 also refers to the Daughter of Zion giving birth in Bethlehem.  And if Judith was a wife of King Manasseh, it ties into the element of Bethlehem remaining a city linked to the house of David all through the Kingdom Period.

Now for my own personal theory.

Today a Jewish tradition has developed to read the Book of Judith during Hanukkah.  And to identify the character of Holofernes with Nicanor, both wind up beheaded for example.  I haven't yet however read any theory that the Maccabees were the original inspiration for the book.  But Judith 4:3 seems to allude to The Temple being recently rededicated following a desecration.

Who is Judith in this context?  Well in II Maccabees in particular in 14:24, Nicanor seems to be attracted to Judas Maccabeus.  Judith is the feminine form of the name Judah, which often becomes Judas in Greek Texts.

Did the author(s) of the book of Judith swap out a woman for Judas because of heteronormativity?  Or is it the product of some tradition the more mainstream historians who wrote the books of Maccabees and whatever other sources Josephus used would have ignored, that Judas Maccabeus was a Trans-woman?

Of course a potential Queer subtext for the Book of Judith on it's own is Judith and her unnamed maid.  If I made a film based on the story, I'd rename the city of Bethulia as Bethlehem, and give the name Bethulia to this character.