The Book of Tobit

The Book of Tobit, a 3rd or early 2nd Century BCE Jewish work, describes how God tests faithful, responds prayers, and safeguards the covenant community (i.e. the Israelites). It is the story of two Jewish families: the one from the blind Tobit and the other family of Ecbatana abandoned Sarah. ( Tobit’s son Tobias is given by Raphael to retrieve the ten silver talents Tobit left behind in Rages, a town located in Media. He is sent to Ecbatana where Tobias meets Sarah. Asmodeus is a demon that has fallen in love with Sarah and killed her intended bridesmaids. marry. Raphael helps Tobias and Sarah to get married and the couple return to Nineveh, where Tobit is healed of his blindness.

It is mentioned in both the Orthodox and Catholic canons. However, it is not in the Jewish. According to Protestant custom, it appears included in the Apocrypha. Anabaptists Lutherans Anglicans, Methodists, Anabaptists Lutherans and Anglicans acknowledge it as an element of the Bible and are permitted to use it for liturgy and edification purposes, although it’s non-canonical. It is a novel with historical references, which most scholars agree with.

Summary and structure

The book is split into fourteen chapters. There are three main narrative sections. Each has a the prologue and an epilogue.

  • Prologue (1:1-2)
  • Situation in Nineveh & Ecbatana (1.3-3.17)
  • Tobias’s story (4.1-12.22).
  • Tobit’s song of praise and his death (13:1-14:2)
  • Epilogue (14:3-15)
  • (Resumed by Benedikt Ottzen from “Tobit and Judith”)

The introduction informs the reader that this is a story about Tobit, the Naphtali tribe that was exiled by the Assyrians from Tishbe in Galilee and then taken to Nineveh. He was faithful to the law of Moses and performed sacrifices to the Temple in Jerusalem prior to the Assyrian victory. The story focuses on his marriage to Anna and they share a son named Tobias.

Tobit is a religious man who has buried dead Jews. In the night, while he’s sleeping, he is blinded when birds feces in his eyes of Tobit. He becomes dependent on his wife, but accuses her of stealing and prays for death. His cousin Sarah who lives in the distant Ecbatana is praying for his demise as Asmodeus killed her lovers on their wedding ceremony. The woman is also accused for causing their deaths.

God listens to their prayers, and the angel Raphael is sent to assist them. Tobias is sent to collect money from a relative and Raphael, in human disguise will accompany him. They catch a fish in Tigris. Raphael informs Tobias that the burned liver and liver are able to rid the demons of their homes and that the gall can treat blindness. They reach Ecbatana and are greeted by Sarah who, like Raphael has predicted , the demon is driven away.

Tobias and Sarah have a wedding, Tobias is wealthy and they go back to Nineveh, Assyria, where Tobit (and Anna) await them. Tobit’s blindness is cured, and Raphael goes away after warning Tobit and Tobias to thank God and announce his actions before the populace (the Jews), to pray and fast, as well as offer alms. Tobit praises God for his mercy, having been punishing his people through exile, but promises to show them mercy and rebuild the Temple in the event that they seek him.

Tobit tells Tobias in the end of the epilogue that Nineveh will soon be destroyed , as an example of wickedness. Israel will also be devastated, and the Temple destroyed. But Israel and the Temple can be restored. Tobias should therefore leave Nineveh and be a righteous man with his family.


Tobit is classified as fiction with some historical references. It blends prayer, moral exhortation, and adventure along with elements from stories of wisdom and folklore such as travel stories, romance, comedy, and even love. It offered advice to diaspora Jews who were living in exile about how to preserve their Jewish identity.

The book’s readings are utilized in the Latin Rite. It is commonplace in the Latin Rite to read the book during weddings. The book’s doctrines on intercession of angels and reverence and filial piety for people who have died are quoted. In chapter 5 of 1 Meqabyan (a book considered to be canonical in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church), Tobit is also mentioned.

Texts and composition

Leaf taken from a manuscript on Vellum, around. 1240.

The Book of Tobit’s tale is set in 8th century BC. However the story was written between 225 BC between 175 and 225 BC. The location of the book’s writing is not determined by experts (“almost all of the regions of ancient times appear to be possible candidates”); a Mesopotamian source is plausible considering the place of the story’s origins in Persia/Assy. The story also refers to the Persian demon “aeshma dareva” as well as the name “Asmodeus” however there are some serious errors in the geographic details (such the distance from Ecbatana as Rhages and their topography). There are arguments in favor as well as for Judean as well as Egyptian composition.

Tobit is found in two Greek versions, one (Sinaiticus) more extensive 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, Judith, and Esther are put in the Vulgate after the historical books (after Nehemiah). Certain manuscripts of Greek versions put them in the context of wisdom writings.

Status of Canonical

The deuterocanon is a term used to describe the is used to refer to the Jewish books found in Septuagint however, they are not included in the Masoretic canon. Since Protestants adhere to the Masoretic canon, they do not include Tobit in their traditional canon however they do recognize it as a part of the deuterocanonical texts, which are referred to as the apocry.

The Book of Tobit is listed as a canonical text by the Council of Rome (A.D. 382), the Council of Hippo (A.D. 393) as well as the Council of Carthage (397) and (A.D. 419) as well as the Council of Florence (1442) and finally the Council of Trent (1546) It is part of the canons of both the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Catholics refer to it as deuterocanonical.

Augustine (c. A.D. 397) and Augustine (c. AD 397) and Innocent I (A.D. 405) affirmed Tobit as part of the Old Testament Canon. Athanasius (A.D. 367) mentioned that certain other books, including the Tobit book Tobit even though they were not part of the Canon, “were appointed by the Fathers to be read”.

Rufinus of Aquileia (c. A.D.400) said that the work of Tobit as well as other works of the deuterocanon, weren’t Canonical but Ecclesiastical.

According to Protestant tradition According to the Protestant faith, the book of Tobit is regarded as an intertestamental zone known as Apocrypha. Anabaptism also includes the book of Tobit in a section called Apocrypha. This is why the marriage sermon of Amish Amish couples is inspired by the book of Tobit. The Luther Bible holds Tobit as part of the “Apocrypha, that is, books that are not considered in the same way as the holy Scriptures, and nevertheless are useful to read”. [5Article VI of The Thirty-Nine Articles of Church of England refers to it as one of the “Apocrypha”. The first Methodist liturgical text, The Sunday Service of the Methodists incorporates passages from Tobit in the Eucharistic celebration of the liturgy. Readings from the Scriptures from the Apocrypha are found in the lectionaries of the Lutheran Churches and Anglican Churches as well as other denominations using the Revised Common Lectionary, though alternate Old Testament readings are provided. For liturgy, the Catholic, Methodist and Anglican churches offer a Scripture reading from the Book of Tobit in services of Holy Matrimony.

Tobit offers interesting proof that demonstrates the early development of Jewish canon. This refers to two, not three divisions, the Law of Moses, (i.e. The torah and the prophets. There are a myriad of reasons why it is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible; proposed explanations include its age (this is now considered to be unlikely), a supposed Samaritan origin or an infraction of the ritual law in that it portrays the wedding contract between Tobias and his bride written by her father rather than the groom. However, it is found in the Septuagint Greek Jewish writings. This Septuagint was used to introduce it into the Christian canon at end of the fourth century.


Tobit’s inclusion in the Christian canon enabled it to influence theology, art, and culture throughout Europe. The Church fathers of the early days often mentioned it, and its motif of Tobias with the fish (the fish representing the image of Christ) was very popular in art and theology. [36] Rembrandt’s works are particularly notable due to the fact that, despite being a member of the Dutch Reformed Church he was responsible for a variety of drawings and paintings that depict some of the stories in the book.