The Book of Tobit

The Book of Tobit (or 3rd or early 2-nd century BCE) is the name of a Jewish work that outlines God’s test for the faithful, His response to prayers and the ways He guards the covenant group (i.e. Israeltes). It tells the story of two Jewish families, the one of the blind Tobit in Nineveh and the abandoned Sarah in Ecbatana. ( Tobit’s son Tobias is sent to retrieve ten silver talents that Tobit had left behind in Rages, a town in Media; guided and aided by the angel Raphael he arrives in Ecbatana, where he encounters Sarah. Asmodeus is a demon who has a wicked agenda loves Sarah and destroys all her plans to wed. Raphael assists Tobias to get rid of the demon. Tobias and Sarah are wed. Tobit is then cured of his blindness.

It is mentioned in both the Orthodox as well as Catholic canons. However, it is not included in the Jewish. According to Protestant tradition, it is found in the Apocrypha. Anabaptists Lutherans Anglicans, Methodists, Anabaptists, Lutherans and Anglicans acknowledge it as part of Scripture and are able to use it in liturgy or edification for purposes, even though it’s not canonical. The majority of scholars consider it to be an untrue work with certain historical and historical references.

Summary and structure

The book has fourteen chapters. The chapters are composed of three major narrative segments, which are then which are followed by a prologue and epilogue:

  • Prologue (1:1-2)
  • Situation in Nineveh and Ecbatana (1:3-3:17)
  • Tobias’s journey (4:1-12:22)
  • Tobit’s song of praise and his demise (13:1-14:2)
  • Epilogue (14:3-15)
  • (Summarised from Benedikt Otzen “Tobit and Judith”).

The introduction informs the reader that this is the tale about Tobit the tribe of Naphtali who was deported by Assyrians from Tishbe in Galilee and then taken to Nineveh. Tobit has always followed the laws of Moses and has offered offerings to the Temple in Jerusalem prior to the Assyrian defeat. He was married to Anna and had a son named Tobias.

The Book of Tobit
Book of Tobit

Tobit is a religious man who tobit, a religious man, burys dead Jews However, one night when he’s asleep, he’s blinded by a bird that defecates within his eyes. He becomes dependent on his wife, but accuses her of stealing and prays for death. His sister Sarah is a resident of distant Ecbatana, prays for his death , just as Asmodeus killed her suitors on their wedding night. She is also accused for causing their deaths.

God will listen to their prayers, and Raphael the archangel is sent to aid them. Raphael disguised as a human is willing to accompany Tobias in his quest to get money from a family member. Raphael disguised as a human, is willing to join Tobias during the journey. He tells him that the burned liver or heart can eliminate demons and the gall cures blindness. Raphael predicts that the demon will be driven out as they arrive at Ecbatana. Sarah is also there.

Tobias and Sarah have a wedding, Tobias is rich and they return home to Nineveh, Assyria, where Tobit (and Anna) await Anna and Tobit. Tobit’s blindness is healed, and Raphael departs , admonishing Tobit and Tobias to praise God and to declare his acts to the populace (the Jews), to pray and fast, as well as give alms. Tobit praises God for his mercy, having the people of his nation with exile, but who will show them mercy and restore the Temple when they return to him.

Tobit informs Tobias in the final epilogue that Nineveh will be soon destroyed as an example of sin. Israel will also be desolate, and the Temple destroyed. But Israel and the Temple could be restored. Tobias should therefore leave Nineveh and be a righteous man with his family.


Tobit could be described as a fiction work with historical references. It includes prayers moral exhortation, adventures and humour, also elements of folklore. It provided the diaspora (the Jews in exile) guidance on how to retain Jewish identity. Its message was that God is a test for his people’s faith and hears their prayers and redeems the covenant community (i.e. that is, the Jews).

The Latin Rite uses readings from the book. The book is frequently used by the Latin Rite to read from the book in weddings. The book is mentioned for its teaching on the intercession of angels, filial piety, almsgiving and tithing as well as reverence for the deceased. In chapter five of 1 Meqabyan (a book that is considered to be canonical in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church), Tobit is mentioned as well.

Texts and composition

Leaf taken from a vellum manuscript dating to 1240.

The tale in the Book of Tobit is set in the 8th century BC, but the book is written between 225 and 175 BC. The place of writing is not determined by scholars (“almost all of the regions that were once inhabited appear to be suitable candidates”); a Mesopotamian basis is likely given the fact that the story’s setting is in Assyria/Pers. The book also refers to the Persian demon “aeshma dareva” as well as the name “Asmodeus”, but there are numerous mistakes in the geography (such the distance to Ecbatana as Rhages and their topography). There are also arguments for and against Judean as well as Egyptian composition.

Tobit exists in two Greek versions The first (Sinaiticus) longer 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.

The Vulgate places Tobit, Judith and Esther following the books of the Bible (after Nehemiah). Certain manuscripts from Greek versions place them after the wisdom writings.

Status of Canonical

The deuterocanon is a term used to describe the is used to refer to the Jewish books in the Septuagint, but not in the Masoretic canon. Because Protestants follow the Masoretic canon, they therefore do not include Tobit in their standard canon but they do include it in the category of deuterocanonical texts, which are referred to as the apocry.

The Council of Rome (A.D.382) as well as the Council of Hippo, (A.D. 393) and (A.D. 409) and (A.D. 409), respectively as well as the Council of Carthage (397), (A.D. 419), and the Council of Florence (419) have listed the Book of Tobit (canonical) and are part of the Catholic Churches and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Catholics refer to it as deuterocanonical.

Augustine (c. A.D. 397) and Pope Innocent I(A.D. 405) both confirmed the inclusion of Tobit in the Old Testament Canon. Athanasius (A.D.367) stated that Tobit was not part of the Canon however, other works, such as the book of Tobit were “appointed by the Fathers for being read”.

Rufinus of Aquileia (c. A.D.400) said that the work of Tobit together with other deuterocanonical works, weren’t Canonical however, they were Ecclesiastical.

According to Protestant custom according to Protestant tradition, the Tobit book Tobit is regarded as an intertestamental area called Apocrypha. Anabaptism employs the book of Tobit in the liturgy used at Amish weddings. The “book of Tobit” is utilized to provide the basis for the wedding sermon. Tobit is included in the Luther Bible as part of the “Apocrypha”, which refers to books that aren’t equivalent to sacred Scriptures but are nevertheless useful to be read. [5Article VI of The Thirty-Nine Articles of Church of England describes it as an item belonging to the “Apocrypha”. The Sunday Service of the Methodists was the first Methodist publication of the liturgy. It incorporates Tobit verses in the Eucharistic liturgy. The lectionaries of the Lutheran Churches , as well as the Anglican churches contain readings from the Bible taken from Apocrypha. Alternate Old Testament readings are also included. The Anglican, Methodist and Catholic churches offer Holy Matrimony with a Scripture Reading from the Book of Tobit.

Tobit gives fascinating evidence of the early development of the Jewish canon. It is a reference to three divisions rather than two of the Torah: the Law of Moses (i.e. The torah and the prophets. The Torah is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible for unknown reasons. Possible explanations are its time of origin (now being considered to be to be unlikely), Samaritan origin or an unintentional violation of ritual law because it portrays the marriage contract between Tobias and his bride written by her father and not her husband. It can be found in the Greek Jewish writings (the Septuagint) from which it was incorporated into the Christian canon towards the end of the 4th century.


The inclusion of Tobit in the Christian canon allowed it to influence theology as well as the art and culture in Europe. The early Church fathers frequently spoke about it, and the theme of Tobias with the fish (the fish being the symbol of Christ) was extremely well-known in art and theology. Rembrandt’s painting and drawings that illustrated the events of the book are notable.