1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Judith, The Book of

JUDITH, THE BOOK OF, one of the apocryphal books of the Old Testament. It takes its name from the heroine Judith (Ἰουδίθ, Ἰουδήθ, i.e. יְהוּדִית, Jewess), to whom the last nine of its sixteen chapters relate. In the Septuagint and Vulgate it immediately precedes Esther, and along with Tobit comes after Nehemiah; in the English Apocrypha it is placed between Tobit and the apocryphal additions to Esther.

Argument.—In the twelfth year of his reign Nebuchadrezzar, who is described as king of Assyria, having his capital in Nineveh, makes war against Arphaxad, king of Media, and overcomes him in his seventeenth year. He then despatches his chief general Holofernes to take vengeance on the nations of the west who had withheld their assistance. This expedition has already succeeded in its main objects when Holofernes proceeds to attack Judaea. The children of Israel, who are described as having newly returned from captivity, are apprehensive of a desecration of their sanctuary, and resolve on resistance to the uttermost. The inhabitants of Bethulia (Betylūa) and Betomestham in particular (neither place can be identified), directed by Joachim the high priest, guard the mountain passes near Dothaim, and place themselves under God’s protection. Holofernes now inquires of the chiefs who are with him about the Israelites, and is answered by Achior the leader of the Ammonites, who enters upon a long historical narrative showing the Israelites to be invincible except when they have offended God. For this Achior is punished by being handed over to the Israelites, who lead him to the governor of Bethulia. Next day the siege begins, and after forty days the famished inhabitants urge the governor Ozias to surrender, which he consents to do unless relieved in five days. Judith, a beautiful and pious widow of the tribe of Simeon, now appears on the scene with a plan of deliverance. Wearing her rich attire, and accompanied by her maid, who carries a bag of provisions, she goes over to the hostile camp, where she is at once conducted to the general, whose suspicions are disarmed by the tales she invents. After four days Holofernes, smitten with her charms, at the close of a sumptuous entertainment invites her to remain within his tent over night. No sooner is he overcome with sleep than Judith, seizing his sword, strikes off his head and gives it to her maid; both now leave the camp (as they had previously been accustomed to do, ostensibly for prayer) and return to Bethulia, where the trophy is displayed amid great rejoicings and thanksgivings. Achior now publicly professes Judaism, and at the instance of Judith the Israelites make a sudden victorious onslaught on the enemy. Judith now sings a song of praise, and all go up to Jerusalem to worship with sacrifice and rejoicing. The book concludes with a brief notice of the closing years of the heroine.

Versions.—Judith was written originally in Hebrew. This is shown not only by the numerous Hebraisms, but also by mistranslations of the Greek translation, as in ii. 2, iii. 9, and other passages (see Fritzsche and Ball in loc.), despite the statement of Origen (Ep. ad Afric. 13) that the book was not received by the Jews among their apocryphal writings. In his preface to Judith, Jerome says that he based his Latin version on the Chaldee, which the Jews reckoned among their Hagiographa. Ball (Speaker’s Apocrypha, i. 243) holds that the Chaldee text used by Jerome was a free translation or adaptation of the Hebrew. The book exists in two forms: the shorter, which is preserved only in Hebrew (see under Hebrew Midrashim below), is, according to Scholz, Lipsius, Ball and Gaster, the older; the longer form is that contained in the versions.

Greek Version.—This is found in three recensions: (1) in A B, א‎; (2) in codices 19, 108 (Lucian’s text); (3) in codex 58, the source of the old Latin and Syriac.

Syriac and Latin Versions.—Two Syriac versions were made from the Greek—the first, that of the Peshito; and the second, that of Paul of Tella, the so-called Hexaplaric. The Old Latin was derived from the Greek, as we have remarked above, and Jerome’s from the Old Latin, under the control of a Chaldee version.

Later Hebrew Midrashim.—These are printed in Jellinek’s Bet ha-Midrasch, i. 130–131; ii. 12–22; and by Gaster in Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archæology (1894), pp. 156–163.

Date.—The book in its fuller form was most probably written in the 2nd century B.C. The writer places his romance two centuries earlier, in the time of Ochus, as we may reasonably infer from the attack made by Holofernes and Bagoas on Judaea; for Artaxerxes Ochus made an expedition against Phoenicia and Egypt in 350 B.C., in which his chief generals were Holofernes and Bagoas.

Recent Literature.—Ball, Speaker’s Apocrypha (1888), an excellent piece of work; Scholz, Das Buch Judith (1896); Löhr, Apok. und Pseud. (1900), ii. 147–164; Porter in Hastings’s Dict. Bible, ii. 822–824; Gaster, Ency. Bib., ii. 2642–2646. See Ball, pp. 260–261, and Schürer in loc., for a full bibliography.  (R. H. C.)