It is generally accepted that the Book of Judith is ahistorical.
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The fictional nature "is evident from its blending of history and fiction, beginning in the very first verse, and is too prevalent thereafter to be considered as the result of mere historical mistakes. Thus, the great villain is "Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled over the Assyrians " 1: Nevertheless, there have been various attempts by both scholars and clergy to understand the characters and events in the Book as allegorical representations of actual personages and historical events. Much of this work has focused on linking Nebuchadnezzar with various conquerors of Judea from different time periods and, more recently, linking Judith herself with historical female leaders, including Queen Salome Alexandra , Judea's only female monarch BCE and its last ruler to die while Judea remained an independent kingdom.
The identity of Nebuchadnezzar was unknown to the Church Fathers, but some of them attempted an improbable identification with Artaxerxes III Ochus — BC , not on the basis of the character of the two rulers, but due to the presence of a "Holofernes" and a "Bagoas" in Ochus' army. In his comparison between the Book of Judith and Assyrian history, Catholic priest and scholar Fulcran Vigouroux — attempts an identification of Nabuchodonosor king of Assyria with Ashurbanipal — BC and his rival Arphaxad king of the Medes with Phraortes — BC , the son of Deioces , founder of Ecbatana.
As argued by Vigouroux, the two battles mentioned in the Septuagint version of the Book of Judith are a reference to the clash of the two empires in — and to Phraortes' death in battle in , after which Ashurbanipal continued his military actions with a large campaign starting with the Battle of the Ulaya River BC on the 18th year of this Assyrian king.
Contemporary sources make reference to the many allies of Chaldea governed by Ashurbanipal's rebel brother Shamash-shum-ukin , including the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah , which were subjects of Assyria and are mentioned in the Book of Judith as victims of Ashurbanipal's Western campaign. During that period, as in the Book of Judith, there was no king in Judah since the legitimate sovereign, Manasseh of Judah , was being held captive in Nineveh at this time.
The profanation of the temple Judith 4: Although Judith and Ashurbanipal's campaigns show direct parallels, the main incident of Judith's intervention has never been recorded in official history. Also, the reasons for the name changes are difficult to understand, unless the text was transmitted without character names before they were added by the Greek translator, who lived centuries later.
Moreover, Ashurbanipal is never referenced by name in the Bible, except perhaps for the corrupt form " Asenappar " in 2 Chronicles and Ezra 4: Under this theory, the story, although fictional, would be set in the time of Queen Salome Alexandra , the only Jewish regnant queen, who reigned over Judea from 76 to 67 BC. Like Judith, the Queen had to face the menace of a foreign king who had a tendency to destroy the temples of other religions. Both women were widows whose strategical and diplomatic skills helped in the defeat of the invader.
The territory of Judean occupation includes the territory of Samaria , something which was possible in Maccabean times only after John Hyrcanus reconquered those territories. Thus, the presumed Sadducee author of Judith would desire to honor the great Pharisee Queen who tried to keep both Sadducees and Pharisees united against the common menace. The character of Judith is larger than life, and she has won a place in Jewish and Christian lore, art, poetry and drama.
Her name, which means "she will be praised" or "woman of Judea", suggests that she represents the heroic spirit of the Jewish people, and that same spirit, as well as her chastity, have endeared her to Christianity.
Book of Judith
Owing to her unwavering religious devotion, she is able to step outside of her widow's role, and dress and act in a sexually provocative manner while clearly remaining true to her ideals in the reader's mind, and her seduction and beheading of the wicked Holofernes while playing this role has been rich fodder for artists of various genres. Thenceforth her presence in medieval European literature is robust: An Old English poetic version is found together with Beowulf their epics appear both in the Nowell Codex.
The two conceptual poles represented by these works will inform much of Judith's subsequent history. In the epic, she is the brave warrior, forceful and active; in the homily she is an exemplar of pious chastity for cloistered nuns. In both cases, her narrative gained relevance from the Viking invasions of the period. Within the next three centuries Judith would be treated by such major figures as Heinrich Frauenlob , Dante , and Geoffrey Chaucer. In medieval Christian art, the predominance of church patronage assured that Judith's patristic valences as "Mulier Sancta" and Virgin Mary prototype would prevail: Gothic cathedrals often featured Judith, most impressively in the series of 40 stained glass panels at the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris s.
The Problem of the “Nebuchadnezzar” in Book of Judith
In Renaissance literature and visual arts, all of these trends were continued, often in updated forms, and developed. The already well established notion of Judith as an exemplum of the courage of local people against tyrannical rule from afar was given new urgency by the Assyrian nationality of Holofernes, which made him an inevitable symbol of the threatening Turks.
The Italian Renaissance poet Lucrezia Tornabuoni chose Judith as one of the five subjects of her poetry on biblical figures. A similar dynamic was created in the 16th century by the confessional strife of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Both Protestants and Catholics draped themselves in the protective mantle of Judith and cast their "heretical" enemies as Holofernes.
This was interpreted by the English Protestant authorities at the time as incitement to slay Queen Elizabeth I. The subject is one of the most commonly shown in the Power of Women topos. Also, Michelangelo depicts the scene in multiple aspects in one of the Pendentives, or four spandrels on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The famous voice motet Spem in alium by English composer Thomas Tallis , is a setting of a text from the Book of Judith. The story also inspired oratorios by Antonio Vivaldi , W.
In , Friedrich Hebbel 's play Judith was performed in Berlin. He deliberately departs from the biblical text:. I have no use for the biblical Judith. There, Judith is a widow who lures Holofernes into her web with wiles, when she has his head in her bag she sings and jubilates with all of Israel for three months. That is mean, such a nature is not worthy of her success [ My Judith is paralyzed by her deed, frozen by the thought that she might give birth to Holofernes' son; she knows that she has passed her boundaries, that she has, at the very least, done the right thing for the wrong reasons.
The story of Judith has been a favourite of latter-day playwrights; it was brought alive in by Abraham Goldfaden , who worked in Eastern Europe. A full hour in length, it was one of the earliest feature films made in the United States.
Nebuchadnezzar I King of Babylonia active 12th century B.C. [WorldCat Identities]
English writer Arnold Bennett in tried his hand at dramaturgy with Judith , a faithful reproduction in three acts; it premiered in spring at Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne. Shamir examines the question why the story of Judith was excluded from the Jewish Hebrew Bible and thus banned from Jewish history. In putting her story on stage he tries to reintegrate Judith's story into Jewish history. English playwright Howard Barker examined the Judith story and its aftermath, first in the scene "The Unforeseen Consequences of a Patriotic Act", as part of his collection of vignettes, The Possibilities.
Barker later expanded the scene into a short play Judith. The artwork The Dinner Party features a place setting for Judith. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Judith disambiguation. Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy. Development of the Christian biblical canon and Jewish canon.
The Age of Insight. The Sword of Judith. Judith Studies across the Disciplines. The Sword of Judith: Judith Studies Across the Disciplines. Judith Studies Across the Disciplines, pg. Nosson Scherman, The Torah: It is true that no such declaration is to be found in the Canons of Nicaea, and it is uncertain whether St.
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Judith was someone to lose one's head over
The Walters Art Museum. Retrieved 8 November But the historical Nabuchodonosor was king of the Neo-babylonian empire from to B. The Assyrian empire had then ceased to exist and so also had Nineveh which was destroyed in B. Moreover other passages e. The author, writing resistance literature under the rule of a foreign power, has used the Assyrians as types of the Greeks and used Nebuchadnezzar as a coded symbol for Antiochus the Illustrious, the Greek Seleucid king who persecuted the Jews.
Book of Judith Not a Maccabean Product. To say that the book is a fictional account where historical and geographical details serve a literary purpose, while somewhat helpful, is not precise enough. In other words, exactly what kind of fiction is it? While these two sections of the Judith-story are sometimes thought to reflect the same historical period, more often scholars have thought otherwise, especially those scholars who view the story of Judith itself as being essentially fictitious. According to Leahy, on the other hand, there is a very long tradition of historicity associated with the Book of Judith:.
And Pope thinks that the variants in the present text indicate a most ancient original: Moore continues on with certain arguments in favour of the Book of Judith historicity, beginning with this general remark: Substantially, the details in the Book of Judith find their place, as I have argued, in the era of king Hezekiah of Judah c. This last is not just an excuse. In the light of such explanations, let us try to restore to pristine condition that extremely problematical beginning to the Book of Judith, whilst locating it to what I believe to be its proper historical setting 1: It was the twelfth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled over the Assyrians in the great city of Nineveh.
In those days Arphaxad ruled over the Medes in Ecbatana. Sennacherib in fact began to rule Babylon even before his rule over Assyria had commenced. And that is confirmed by what we are told in verse 6: And this seems to be underlined by the fact that verse 6 identifies his army as Chaldean, without any mention here of the Medes.
It was the twelfth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar [Nebuchednezzar I], who ruled over the Assyrians in the great city of Nineveh. I think Ashurbanipal fits better, a similar even involving a Statue of Marduk being returned happened then.