The Book of Tobit

The Book of Tobit, a 3rd to early 2nd Century BCE Jewish work describes the way God examines faithfulness, answers prayers and defends covenant communities (i.e. the Israelites). It tells the story of two Jewish families: the one from the blind Tobit and another family from Ecbatana abandoned Sarah. ( Tobit’s son Tobias is given by Raphael to collect the ten silver talents Tobit left behind in Rages which is a town in Media. Tobias arrives in Ecbatana where he is introduced to Sarah. Asmodeus is a demon that has fallen for Sarah and killed anyone she intended to marry. Raphael helps Tobias and Sarah to be married and the couple return to Nineveh in Nineveh, where Tobit is healed of his blindness.

It’s in the Orthodox as well as Catholic canons, but not the Jewish. The Protestant tradition places it within the Apocrypha. Anabaptists Lutherans Anglicans and Methodists consider it part of the Bible, which is useful for edification purposes, liturgyy, as well as non-canonical. The work is fiction with historical references, which the majority of scholars accept.

Structure and summary

There are 14 chapters within the book that form three main narrative segments. They are preceded by an epilogue or a prologue.

  • Prologue (1:1-2)
  • Situation in Nineveh and Ecbatana (1:3-3:17)
  • Tobias’s Journey (4:1-12.22)
  • Tobit’s hymn of praise and to mourn his loss (13:1-14.2)
  • Epilogue (14:3-15)
  • (Summarized from BenediktOtzen’s “Tobit and Judith”)

The prologue informs the reader that this is the tale of Tobit from Naphtali’s tribe, deported from Tishbe in Galilee to Nineveh by the Assyrians. He has always kept the laws of Moses, and brought offerings to the Temple in Jerusalem prior to the Assyrian conquerors. His union with Anna is emphasized in the account, and they had an infant son named Tobias.

Tobit, a pious man is a pious man who burys dead Jews But one night in his sleep, he is blinded by a bird that is able to feces inside his eyes. He becomes dependent on his wife, but accuses her of stealing and prays for death. His sister Sarah is a resident of the distant Ecbatana is praying for his death as Asmodeus killed her suitors during their wedding night. She is also accused of having caused their deaths.

God responds to prayers and Raphael Archangel Raphael is sent to assist them. Raphael disguised as a human, is willing to join Tobias to help him recover money from a family member. On the way they take a catch of a fish from the Tigris and Raphael advises Tobias that a burned liver and heart could rid the demons of the world and the gall is able to cure blindness. Raphael predicts that the demon will be eliminated as they arrive at Ecbatana. Sarah is also there.

Tobias and Sarah marry Sarah and Tobias get married. Tobias becomes wealthy. They then return to Nineveh (Assyria), where Tobit, Anna, and their children live. Tobit’s blindness is cured, and Raphael goes away after warning Tobit and Tobias to praise God and to declare his acts before the people (the Jews), to pray and fast, as well as offer alms. Tobit praises God for having taken his people’s punishment by exile, but promises to show mercy to them and rebuild the Temple if they turn to him.

Tobit tells Tobias in the final epilogue that Nineveh will soon be destroyed as an example of evil. Israel will also be desolate, and the Temple destroyed. But, Israel as well as the Temple could 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 combines prayer, moral exhortation, and adventure, with elements of stories of wisdom and folklore, travel stories or romance, comedy and even love. It gave guidance to diaspora Jews who were living in exile about how to retain their Jewish identity.

Latin Rite readings are based on the book. The book is used at weddings, and in a variety of rites, because of its praise for the purity of marriage. Doctrinally, the book is noted for its teaching concerning the intercessions of angels, filial piety almsgiving and tithing as well as reverence for the dead. Tobit is also mentioned to in chapter 5 of 1 Meqabyan The book is that is considered canonical by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

Manuscripts and composition

Leaf from a Vellum Manuscript, circa. 1240.

The story told in the Book of Tobit is set in the 8th century BC however, the text itself is written between 175 and 225 BC. The location of the book’s composition has not been determined by scholars (“almost all of the regions of ancient times appear to be possible candidates”); a Mesopotamian origin is possible given the fact that the story’s setting is in Assyria/Pers. The book also refers to the Persian demon “aeshma dareva” and is rendered “Asmodeus” however there are numerous errors in the geographic details (such the distance between Ecbatana as Rhages and their topography). There are also arguments in favor as well as for Judean as well as Egyptian composition.

Tobit is found 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.

Tobit and Judith are named in the Vulgate as historical works following Nehemiah. Some manuscripts from the Greek version place them after the wisdom writings.

Canonical status

The Jewish books found in the Septuagint but not included in the traditional Masoretic canon of the Jewish Bible are called the deuterocanon that is, in essence, the “second canon”. Protestants do not adhere to the Masoretic Canon and , therefore, don’t include Tobit in the standard Masoretic Canon. However, they do recognize it in the category of deuterocanonical books known as the apocrypha.

The Council of Rome (A.D. 382) declares the Book of Tobit as a canonical work. This includes the Council of Hippo (393), Council of Carthage (397) and Council of Carthage (419), the Council of Florence (1422) and lastly the Council of Trent (1546). It is part of the canon of 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) A.D. 405) both affirmed Tobit as a part of the Old Testament Canon. Athanasius (A.D. 367) mentioned that Tobit was part of the Canon. However Tobit wasn’t part the Canon.

Rufinus The Roman Emperor Rufinus. A.D. 403, stated that Tobit and the other texts of the deuterocanon were not Canonical texts but Ecclesiastical.

The Tobit book Tobit is typically placed in the intertestamental section called Apocrypha in accordance with Protestant tradition. Anabaptism makes use of the book of Tobit for liturgy during Amish weddings. The “book of Tobit” is used as the basis for the wedding sermon. Tobit is included in the Luther Bible as part of the “Apocrypha” that refers to books that are not equal to the sacred Scriptures but are nevertheless useful to read. [5] Article VI of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England defines it as a book of the “Apocrypha”. The Sunday Service of the Methodists, the first Methodist liturgical publication, employs verses from Tobit to provide its Eucharistic ceremony. Readings from the Scriptures from the Apocrypha are found in the Lectionary of the Lutheran Churches and Anglican Churches, among other denominations who use the Revised Common Lectionary, though alternate Old Testament readings are provided. In the liturgy, Catholic, Methodist and Anglican churches offer a Scripture reading from the Book of Tobit in services of Holy Matrimony.

Tobit provides interesting evidence of the early evolution of the Jewish canon. It refers to three divisions rather than two that include the Law of Moses (i.e. The torah as well as the prophets. For unknown reasons it is not included in the Hebrew Bible; proposed explanations have included its date of birth (this is now considered to be unlikely) as well as a rumored Samaritan origin or an infraction of the ritual law in that it depicts the marriage contract between Tobias and his bride recorded by her father rather than the groom. It is found in the Septuagint the Greek Jewish writings, which was adopted by the Christian canon near the end of the 4th century.


Tobit’s place within the Christian canon has allowed it to influence culture, art and theology in Europe. It was often discussed by early Church fathers. The motif of Tobias (a symbol of Christ) was extremely well-known in both theology and art. [36] Rembrandt’s works are particularly notable due to the fact that, despite being a member of the Dutch Reformed Church he was the creator of several drawings and paintings which illustrate some of the stories in the book.