- Book of Judith
The "Book of Judith" is a
deuterocanonicalbook, included in the Septuagintand in the Roman Catholicand Eastern Orthodox Christian Old Testamentof the Bible, but excluded by Jews and Protestants. It has been said that the book contains numerous historical , which is why many scholars now accept it as unreliable history; it has been considered a parableor perhaps the first historical novel. [See, for example, the 1913 "Catholic Encyclopedia", which though committed to the historicity of the book, admits and lists "very serious difficulties": [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08554a.htm] ]
The name Judith (Hebrew Name|יְהוּדִית|Yehudit|Yəhûḏîṯ|"Praised" or "Jewess", _ar. يهوديت "Yahūdīt") is the feminine form of
The "Book of Judith" has a tragic setting that appealed to Jewish patriots and it warned of the urgency of adhering to Mosaic Law, generally speaking, but what accounted for its enduring appeal was the drama of its narrative.
The story revolves around Judith, a daring and beautiful widow, who is upset with her Jewish countrymen for being unwilling to engage their foreign conquerors. She goes with her loyal maid to the camp of the enemy general,
Holofernes, to whom she slowly ingratiates herself, promising him information on the Israelites. Gaining his trust, she is allowed access to his tent one night as he lies in a drunken stupor. She decapitates him, then takes his head back to her fearful countrymen. The Assyrians, having lost their leader, disperse, and Israel is saved. Though she is courted by many, she remains unmarried for the rest of her life.
As a historical tale, its scenes are enlivened and given immediacy by their setting in a definitely characterized (though anachronistic) setting and time, and connected, as all historical novels are, with important personages of history — here "Nebuchadnezzar" as a "King of Assyria" who reigns in
Nineveh— features it shares with the " Book of Esther," the " Book of Daniel" and its continuations, and the " Book of Tobit". Nowhere are the "historical" details introduced in more profusion than in "Judith".
With the very first words of the tale, "In the twelfth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned over the Assyrians in Nineveh," it is argued by the compilers of the "
Jewish Encyclopedia" that the narrator sets his story in " Once upon a time".
The city called "
Bethulia," (properly "Betylua") and the narrow and strategic pass into Judea that it occupies (Judith IV:7ff VIII:21-24) are believed by many to be fictional settings, but some suggest that a city called Meselieh is Bethulia.
The editors of the "Jewish Encyclopedia" identified Holofernes' encampment with
Shechem. The Assyrians, instead of attempting to force the pass, lay siege to the city and cut off its water supply. Although Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah in reality, he is foiled in the narrative of the "Book of Judith".
The "Book of Judith" was originally written in Hebrew. Though its oldest versions have been translated into Greek and have not been preserved in the original language, its Hebrew origin is revealed in details of vocabulary and phrasing. The extant
Hebrew languageversions, whether identical to the Greek, or in the shorter Hebrew version which contradicts the longer version in many specific details of the story, are medieval.
Even though the Book of Judith is not part of the official Jewish religious canon, many within
Orthodox Judaismplace it in the Hellenistic period when Judea battled the Seleucidmonarchs. It is regarded as a story related to the events surrounding the military struggle of that time and is believed to be a true reference to the background events leading up to the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. (See also 1 Maccabeesand 2 Maccabees).
Judith in later artistic renditions
The Anglo-Saxon abbot Aelfric wrote a homily about Judith. A poem "Judith" in Old English also treats the beheading of
Holofernes, as do lines 663 to 686 of Geoffrey Chaucer's " The Monk's Tale" (from " The Canterbury Tales").
In Renaissance literature, painting and sculpture, the story of Judith became an "
exemplum" of the courage of local people against tyrannical rule from afar. The Dalmatian Humanist Marko Marulić(1450-1524) reworked the Judith story in his Renaissance literary work, "Judita". His inspiration came from the contemporary heroic struggle of the Croats against the Ottomansin Europe.
In painting and sculpture
The account of Judith's beheading Holofernes has been treated by several painters and sculptors, most notably Donatello and
Caravaggio, as well as Sandro Botticelli, Andrea Mantegna, Giorgione, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Titian, Horace Vernet, Gustav Klimt, Artemisia Gentileschi, Jan Sanders van Hemessen, and Hermann-Paul. Also, Michelangelo depicts the scene in multiple aspects in one of the Pendentives, or four spandrels on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Oratorio, theatre and opera
The story also inspired a play by
Abraham Goldfaden, oratoriosby Antonio Vivaldi, and W. A. Mozart, and an operettaby Jacob Pavlovitch Adler. Alessandro Scarlattiwrote an oratorio in 1693, "La Giuditta"; " Juditha triumphans" was written in 1716 by Antonio Vivaldi; Mozart composed in 1771 "La Betulia Liberata" (KV 118), to a libretto by Pietro Metastasio. "Judith" is by Russian composer Alexander Serov.
Friedrich Hebbelpublished his closet drama"Judith", but in the English language, blanket censorship of all biblical subjects on the stage set the theme off-limits until the twentieth century,Fact|date=January 2008 when the British playwright Howard Barkerexamined the Judith story and its aftermath, first in the scene "The Unforeseen Consequences of a Patriotic Act," as part of his collection of vignettes, "The Possibilities". Barker later expanded the scene into a short play "Judith".
Philippe Fénelon(French, born in 1952) composed "Judith", an operawith one act and five pictures (monodrama), based on a booklet adaptated from the Friedrich Hebbel's drama, in German (creation on 28/11/07 at the Pleyel Room, Paris, ordered by the Opera National de Paris).
List of women warriors in folklore, literature, and popular culture
* [http://st-takla.org/pub_Deuterocanon/Deuterocanon-Apocrypha_El-Asfar_El-Kanoneya_El-Tanya__2-Judith.html The Book of Judith] Full text (also available in [http://st-takla.org/pub_Deuterocanon/Deuterocanon-Apocrypha_El-Asfar_El-Kanoneya_El-Tanya__2-Judith_.html Arabic] )
* [http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/KjvJudi.html Another text] , this one including a link to download as a single document
* [http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=711&letter=J "Jewish Encyclopedia":] Judith
* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08554a.htm Catholic Encyclopedia: Book of Judith]
* [http://www.ccel.org/wwsb/Judith/index.html World Wide Study Bible: Judith]
* [http://www.specialtyinterests.net/judith.html A Historical Commentary on the Book of Judith]
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