The Book of Tobit

The Book of Tobit is a 3rd century or early 2nd century BCE Jewish work which describes the way in which God examines the faithful, responds to prayers, and safeguards the covenant community (i.e. the Israelites). It tells the story about two Jewish families one for the blind Tobit of Nineveh as well as one for the unclaimed Sarah of Ecbatana. ( Tobit’s son Tobias travels to Rages, Media, to recover ten silver talents Tobit had left behind. Raphael guides him and assists him in arriving at Ecbatana. Sarah is his first lover. Asmodeus, a demon, is in love with Sarah and killed the person she planned to marry. Raphael helps Tobias and Sarah to get married , and after that they return to Nineveh to be married. Tobit is healed of his blindness.

It is listed in the Orthodox as well as Catholic canons. It is not listed in the Jewish. According to Protestant tradition, it is found in the Apocrypha. Anabaptists Lutherans Anglicans, Methodists, Anabaptists Lutherans and Anglicans acknowledge it as an element of the Bible and are able to utilize it for liturgy and edification reasons, but it’s not canonical. The book is a fictional work with historical references, which the majority of scholars have accepted.

Summary and structure

The book has 14 chapters. the book. They comprise three narrative sections. They are set in the context of an epilogue or a prologue.

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

The intro introduces the reader to the fact that this is the story about Tobit the Naphtali tribe, who was exiled by the Assyrians from Tishbe in Galilee and then taken to Nineveh. He remained loyal to the rules of Moses and made sacrifices for the Temple in Jerusalem in the years prior to the Assyrian conquest. The story focuses on his marriage to Anna, and they have an infant son named Tobias.

Tobit is a religious man who is known for his burial of dead Jews. However, one night when he’s sleeping, he is blinded when bird feces is seen in his eyes. He becomes dependent on his wife, but accuses her of stealing and prays for death. His relative Sarah lives in the distant Ecbatana, prays for his death as Asmodeus killed her suitors on their wedding celebration. She is also accused of having caused their deaths.

God will answer their prayers and the angel Raphael is sent to aid them. Raphael disguised as a human is willing to go with Tobias to assist him in obtaining the money of a relative. While on the way, they capture a fish on the Tigris and Raphael advises Tobias that a burnt liver and heart could drive out demons and the gall can treat blindness. Raphael predicts that the demon will be eradicated once they arrive at Ecbatana. Sarah is also there.

Tobias and Sarah marry Sarah and Tobias get married. Tobias is rich. They move back to Nineveh (Assyria), where Tobit, Anna, and their children live. Tobit is healed from blindness, and Raphael departs after exhorting Tobit and Tobias to thank God and declare his good deeds before the people (the Jews), and to fast and pray and also to give alms. Tobit praises God who has sent his people into exile, but will give them mercy and help them rebuild their Temple should they come back to the Lord.

Tobit In the epilogue, Tobit informs Tobias In the epilogue, that Nineveh would be destroyed because it is a symbol of evil. Israel too will be devastated and its Temple destroyed. Israel and the Temple however, will be restored. Tobias should then leave Nineveh and be able to live with his children in righteousness.


Tobit is regarded as a fiction work with some historical references. It blends prayers, ethical exhortation, humor, and adventure. It also includes elements drawn from folklore, travel stories, wisdom tales, romance and comedy. It gave the diaspora (the Jews in exile) instructions on how to maintain their Jewish identity. The message was that God tests his people’s faith and responds to their prayers and then saves the covenant community (i.e. that is, the Jews).

Latin Rite readings are based on the book. Since the book is a praising source for the purity of marriage it is typically read at weddings at all rites. Doctrinally, the book’s teachings concerning angelic intercession as well as filial piety and reverence for people who have died are quoted. Chapter 5 of 1 Meqabyan also includes a reference to Tobit, which is considered canonical by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

The manuscript and composition

Leaf taken from a vellum manuscript, circa 1240.

The tale in the Book of Tobit is set in the 8th century BC however, the text is written between 175 and 225 BC. The site of its writing is not determined by experts (“almost all the ancient regions seem to be candidates”); a Mesopotamian basis is likely given the location of the story in Persia/Assyria. It also mentions the Persian demon “aeshma dareva” which is rendered “Asmodeus”, but there are significant mistakes in the details of geography (such the distance between Ecbatana as Rhages and their topography). There are argument for as well as for Judean and Egyptian composition.

Tobit can be found in two Greek versions: Sinaiticus (longer) and Alexandrinus (shorter). 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 placed in the Vulgate after the historical writings (after Nehemiah). Some manuscripts of Greek versions put them in the context of the wisdom writings.

Canonical status

Those Jewish books that are found in the Septuagint but not in the traditional Masoretic canon of the Jewish Bible are called the deuterocanon which translates to “second canon”. Because Protestants follow the Masoretic canon, they therefore don’t include Tobit in their traditional canon however, they do recognize it in the category of deuterocanonical texts, which are referred to as the apocry.

The Council of Rome (A.D. 382) includes the Book of Tobit as a canonical work. This includes the Council of Hippo (393), Council of Carthage (397) and Council of Carthage (419) as well as the Council of Florence (1422) and finally the Council of Trent (1546). It is part of the canon of Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Catholics refer to it as deuterocanonical.

Augustine (c. A.D. 397) and Augustine (c. A.D. 397) and Pope Innocent I (A.D. 405) Innocent I (A.D. 405) confirmed Tobit as a part of the Old Testament Canon. Athanasius (A.D. 367) noted that some other books, including the book of Tobit which, though not part of the Canon, “were appointed by the Fathers to be read”.

Rufinus of Aquileia (c. A.D.400) declared that the book of Tobit as well as other works deuterocanonical to the Torah, were not Canonical but Ecclesiastical.

Protestant tradition places the book of Tobit in an intertestamental area called Apocrypha. Anabaptism contains the book Of Tobit in a chapter referred to as Apocrypha. This is where the marriage sermons of Amish Amish couples is inspired by the Tobit book. Tobit. The Luther Bible holds Tobit as one of the “Apocrypha which means, books that are not in the same way as the holy Scriptures, and nevertheless are valuable to be read”. [5Article VI of The Thirty-Nine Articles of Church of England declares it one of the “Apocrypha”. The Sunday Service of the Methodists, the first Methodist liturgical text, incorporates passages from Tobit for its Eucharistic ceremony. The lectionaries for the Lutheran Churches as well the Anglican churches contain readings from the Bible from Apocrypha. Alternate Old Testament readings are also included. The Anglican, Methodist and Catholic congregations offer Holy Matrimony with a Scripture reading of the Book of Tobit.

Tobit offers interesting evidence that demonstrates the early development of the Jewish canon. This is in reference to two, not three, divisions The Law of Moses, (i.e. the Torah) as well as the prophets. The Torah is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible for unknown reasons. Possible explanations are its time of origin (now thought 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 that was written by her father rather than her husband. The document is found in the Greek Jewish writings (the Septuagint) from which it was accepted into the Christian canon towards the close of the 4th century.


Tobit’s role within the Christian canon enabled it to influence theology and art as well as culture in Europe. It was often debated by the early Church fathers. The theme of Tobias (a symbol of Christ) was extremely popular in art as well as theology. [36] Rembrandt’s paintings and drawings that depicted episodes from the book are particularly noteworthy.