The Book of Tobit

The Book of Tobit (or 3rd or early 2-nd century BCE) is an ancient Jewish work that describes God’s test for the faithful, the way in which He responds to prayers , and how He safeguards the covenant community (i.e. Israeltes). The story is told through two Jewish families, one of blind Tobit in Nineveh and of the secluded Sarah in Ecbatana. ( Tobit’s son Tobias is given by Raphael to recover the ten silver talents Tobit left behind in Rages in Rages, a town in Media. He is sent to Ecbatana where he is introduced to Sarah. Asmodeus the demon, who is evil has a crush on Sarah and kills all her plans to wed. Raphael assists Tobias to remove the demon, and Sarah is wed. Tobit is then cured of his blindness.

The text is part of the Catholic and Orthodox canons, however it is not included in the Jewish canon; the Protestant tradition puts it in the Apocrypha which includes Anabaptists Lutherans, Anglicans and Methodists acknowledging it as part of the Bible and useful for purposes of edification and liturgy, though it is not canonical in its status. Many scholars view it as a fictional work, with some historical references.

Summary and structure

The book has 14 chapters, forming three major narrative segments, which are then that are framed by a prologue as well as an epilogue.

  • Prologue (1:1-2)
  • Situation in Nineveh & Ecbatana (1.3-3.17)
  • Tobias’s Journey (4:1-12.22)
  • Tobit’s song of praise and his death (13:1-14:2)
  • Epilogue (14:3-15)
  • (Summarized from BenediktOtzen’s “Tobit and Judith”)

The prologue explains to the reader that this is the story of Tobit of Naphtali’s tribe who was who was exiled from Tishbe in Galilee to Nineveh by the Assyrians. He remained loyal to the laws of Moses and performed sacrifices to the Temple at Jerusalem during the time before the Assyrian defeat. The story focuses on his marriage to Anna, and they have an infant son named Tobias.

Tobit is a religious man who tobit, a religious man, burys dead Jews But one night when he’s asleep, he’s blinded when a bird is able to feces inside his eyes. He becomes dependent on his wife, but accuses her of stealing and prays for death. His cousin Sarah living in distant Ecbatana is also praying for death, for the demon Asmodeus has killed her lovers on their wedding nights and is accused of having caused their deaths.

God responds to their prayers, and Raphael, the archangel sent by God to assist them, is to help them. Tobias is sent to recover funds from a family member, and Raphael, in human disguise invites him to join him. They catch a fish in Tigris. Raphael informs Tobias that the burned liver and liver are able to drive away demons and that the gall can treat blindness. Raphael predicts that the demon will be slain when they reach Ecbatana. Sarah is also there.

Tobias and Sarah get married Sarah and Tobias get married. Tobias becomes wealthy. They return to Nineveh (Assyria) which is where Tobit, Anna, and their children. Tobit is healed of blindness and Raphael departs, telling Tobit and Tobias to praise God and to declare their acts before the people (the Jews), and to pray and fast in addition to giving alms. Tobit praises God who has taken his people’s punishment by exile, but promises to show mercy to them and rebuild the Temple if they turn to him.

Tobit informs Tobias in the conclusion that Nineveh will be soon destroyed as an example of sin. Israel will also be desolated, with the Temple destroyed. But, Israel and the Temple are able to be rebuilt. Tobias should therefore leave Nineveh and be a righteous man with his family.


Tobit is considered fiction, with a few historical references. It blends prayer, moral exhortation, and adventure with elements from stories of wisdom and folklore or travel tales as well as comedy, romance and even love. It also gave advice to diaspora Jews who were living in exile about how to preserve their Jewish identity.

Latin Rite readings are based on the book. It is commonly used by the Latin Rite to read from the book in weddings. The book is noted for its teaching on the intercession of angels, filial piety, almsgiving and tithing, and reverence for the deceased. In the chapter five of 1 Meqabyan (a book considered canonical within the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church) Tobit is also mentioned.

Texts and composition

Leaf from a manuscript made of vellum, c. 1240.

While the Book of Tobit was written in the 8th Century BC but the actual manuscript was written between 225 and 125 BC. There isn’t a consensus regarding the exact location of the composition (almost all regions of the ancient world appear to be suitable”); a Mesopotamian origin is logical considering that the tale is set in Assyria, Persia, and refers to the Persian demon “aeshma Daeva” that is “Asmodeus”. But the book has a number of geographic errors (such as the distance between Ecbatana and Rhages and their topography) and arguments for or against Judean or Egyptian composition.

Tobit exists in two Greek translations. One is Sinaiticus longer than the other (Vaticanus or 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 in the context of the historical works (after Nehemiah). Some manuscripts from Greek versions put them in the context of the wisdom writings.

Status of Canonical

They are Jewish books found in the Septuagint but not included in the traditional Masoretic canon of the Jewish Bible are called the deuterocanon, meaning “second canon”. Protestants stick to the Masoretic canon. Tobit is therefore not included in their canon of standard. However they do recognize it in the deuterocanonical books category , which is known as the apocrypha.

The Council of Rome (A.D. 382) lists 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 then, the Council of Trent (1546). It is both part of the canons of the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Catholics refer to it as deuterocanonical.

Augustine (c. A.D. 397) and Pope Innocent I(A.D. 405) both confirmed Tobit’s inclusion within the Old Testament Canon. Athanasius (A.D. 367) stated that other books, including the Tobit book Tobit although not part of the Canon, “were appointed by the Fathers to be read”.

Rufinus of Aquileia (c. A.D.400) stated that the book of Tobit, along with other works deuterocanonical to the Torah, weren’t Canonical but Ecclesiastical.

According to Protestant custom according to Protestant tradition, the Tobit book Tobit is placed in an intertestamental zone known as Apocrypha. Anabaptism employs the book of Tobit in the liturgy used at Amish weddings. The “book of Tobit” is often used as the basis for the wedding sermon. Tobit is included in the Luther Bible’s “Apocrypha,” which means books that are not as being equivalent to the holy Scriptures however, they are usefully used for reading. [5] Article VI of The Thirty-Nine Articles of Church of England refers to it as an book that is part of “Apocrypha”. The Sunday Service of the Methodists the first Methodist liturgical book uses verses from Tobit for its Eucharistic celebration. The lectionaries for the Lutheran churches as well as the Anglican churches have readings from Scripture from Apocrypha. Alternate Old Testament readings are also included. The Anglican, Methodist and Catholic churches have Holy Matrimony with a Scripture Reading from the Book of Tobit.

Tobit gives fascinating evidence of the early evolution of the Jewish canon. It is in reference to two rather than three divisions that include 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 include its age (now being considered to be highly unlikely), Samaritan origin or an unintentional violation of ritual law in that it depicts the marriage contract of Tobias and his bride in the form of her father, rather than her husband. However, it is located in Septuagint Greek Jewish writings. This Septuagint was used to incorporate it into the Christian canon at the end of the 4th century.


Tobit’s position in the Christian canon has allowed it to influence culture, art and theology throughout Europe. The Church fathers of the early days often spoke about it, and the theme of Tobias with the fish (the fish being the symbol of Christ) was extremely popular in art and theology. [36] Particularly noteworthy for this are the work of Rembrandt who, though a member of the Dutch Reformed Church, was responsible for a number of drawings and paintings that illustrated episodes of the book.