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The Book of Judith is a component of the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical scripture and is found in the form of an old essential evidence of Catholic Bibles. This essay intends to explore “The book of Judith”, as per which Judith is considered to be the female protagonist living in the town of Bethulia. Another character of the story is Holofernes, the villain, who is a dedicated soldier of Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Assyrians. He possessed pride over his power and hence desired to conquer the whole world. Besides, the Persian character of Bagoas has been portrayed as an official of Holofernes, who was the first witness of his leader’s beheading. Achior on the other hand, was the ammonite ruler in the court of Nebuchadnezzar and was the first to view Judith bringing Holofernes’ head in Israel. The active rulers of the city were found to be Oziah along with the Cabri as well as Carmi (Catholic Online, “Judith Chapters”).
Thesis statement. This objective of the essay is to evaluate “The Book of Judith” and interpret its associated theological perspectives, thereby depicting the impact of artistic skills in bringing about changes in the book with the passage of time.
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Biblical. The Book of Judith is considered a story on “God’s deliverance of the Jewish people”. Although might have been written during 100 B.C, it can be attributed as an extraordinary range of history. Besides, it needs to be noted that the study highlights the fixed motif of being attained “by the hand of a female” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Judith-Introduction”). The Book of Judith has been revised four times with the passage of time as per the Greek editions and they had been named as, “Septuagint codices Vaticanus”, “Alexandrinus”, “Sinaiticus” and “Basiliano-Vaticanus”. The book had also been translated in four different languages, which were Old Latin, Ethiopic, Sahidic and Syriac (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Judith-Introduction”).
The book describes Nebuchadrezzar, the king of Assyria who wishes to spread his empire over the entire world. He sent his devout solider, Holofernes, on a mission against the land of Israelis’ that is Palestine and gave him an order to spread his armed forces throughout the Jewish city of Bethulia. The thought of Holofernes frightened the entire population therein. At a point of time, Achior was stated to have warned Holofernes about the danger he would face on attacking the Jewish city but he completely ignored him. Even after innumerable attempts, the Jewish people failed to defend themselves and hence surrendered in front of Holofernes, but Judith, the beautiful widow of Manasseh, did not lose hope and left the city with the rage of revenge. She later on met Holofernes, “struck his neck twice and cut off his head” (United States Conference of Catholic, ”Judith, Chapter 13”). Judith then carried his head in a food bag to Bethulia as a symbol of victory over the leaderless Assyrian forces. Finally, the Jewish population thanked their Lord and stated that he has never abandoned Israel from his mercy (United States Conference of Catholic, ”Judith, Chapter 13”).
Social. The Book of Judith has been described by different scholars in varied styles during the late twentieth century. A majority of them focused on the story being stimulated by feminist power in early decades. The book portrays that Judith had to follow certain rules as a widow for living within the society such as delivering services at the temple in Jerusalem, putting on sackcloth, and wearing widow’s cloth. The book presented in minute details the facts on Christianity, Jewish religious practices and the condition of women in that period of time along with the their faith on God (Catholic Online, “Judith Chapters”).
Archaeological. The first Jewish books were written in the Hellenistic era in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. This is the story about a Jewish feminist, who lived in the period of the second temple hen the people of Jewish community had come back from Babylonia and established Jerusalem as their holy place. Judith was then considered the idol of Judaism (Brine, Ciletti and Lähnemann 14-15). This book is esteemed for its symbolical and ethical content as it describes in minute details about that time period, when king Nebuchadnezzar ruled over the Assyrians. The central theme of the book entails the event, when the Judith, a Jewish widow defeated Holofernes, the general of a powerful army and a devout soldier to his king. She had freed her city and the people residing therein from the problems being posed by the cruel general. The book further states about the culture of Christianity, its traditional beliefs, the Jewish textual tradition and their unbreakable faith on lord. (Brine, Ciletti and Lähnemann, “The Sword of Judith: Judith Studies Across the Disciplines”).
Theological Aspect. The passage in the book shows the faith of Jewish on God, when they were surrounded by the enemies and had no way of escaping. At this point of time, the Jewish were found praying to their Lord for mercy with the belief that their prayers would surely be answered (United States Conference of Catholic, “Judith, Chapter 4”). Moreover, when Judith realized that soldiers of her city will not be able to fight against Holofernes and that they have started losing hope upon God, she prayed to the Almighty that to provide her with enough strength and strong will-power to execute her plan. She then decided to end the cruelty of Holofernes and her king once and for all, thereby making it clear that God exists and will always do so to safeguard the people of Israel in the good as well as bad times. After the prayer, she felt herself strong enough to face Holofernes in his tent and still prayed to her Lord to direct her in the correct path. As a result, she came out successfully from the tent with the general’s head cut-off, which she took back to Israel and displayed it in front of her people. She then mentioned that it’s all because of their God and his constant shower of mercy and blessings upon them that she could free Israel from the grips of Holofernes (United States Conference of Catholic, “Judith, Chapter 13”).
History of Interpretation. The story of Judith is a multidisciplinary collection of instances related to the overall life of the protagonist, Judith with the passage of time. It was initially written in the Greek version as the Hebrew Bible and was accepted by the Roman canon. Later on, the Italian Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi brought the Judith theme as a new cultural prestige, which contributed largely in cinema, drama and novels (Brine, Ciletti and Lähnemann 4). Toni Craven in the article “The Book of Judith in the Context of Twentieth Century Studies of the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books” has provided a review of Judith scholarship over the span of 100 years. It comprises traditional studies from the bible in the form of translations and commentaries. Judith studies with the passage of time started including the Jewish studies, history of the society, art, religion as well as of musicology (Brine Ciletti and Lähnemann 4).
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Adaptation of story in various artistic formats. The Book of Judith was adopted by the various forms of artists over the time of period. Judith has also been portrayed as an iconography in the art of Mirror of Virgins, as displayed in the British Library. The “figure of Judith” had been combined with the “personification of Humilitas” in Brides Of Christ. Besides, the plays on Judith that had been staged in Italy during the 16th and 17th centuries had a thing in common and it was presentation of some or the other music form. The music in the plays during this period mostly comprised of moral message. In the plays of Judith, the music primarily focused on , the manner in which she defeated Holofernes with her believe in God (Brine, Ciletti and Lähnemann 19). In 1860, melodrama and dramatic musicals started being portrayed with the help of artists conveying messages on Judith story and symbolizing her individual strength (Brine, Ciletti & Lähnemann 20). Moreover, the attributes of Judith such as her loyalty, faith on God and her sacrifice for the safety of her people along with the representation of women power convey these messages through cinema (Brine, Ciletti and Lähnemann 20).
The book of Judith explains the victory of individual women on powerful Holofernes, the Army general. It represents Christian culture, Jewish textual tradition and Christian textual tradition. The story showcases bravery, strength of individual women her belief on God. Her trust on God throughout every phase of life further directs the story towards the track, where good wins over evil through the death of the cruel general in the hands of a pure hearted widow.
- Brine, Kevin R., Elena Ciletti and Henrike Lähnemann. The Sword of Judith: Judith Studies Across the Disciplines. Open Book Publisher Review, 2010. Web 21 Jun. 2017.
- Brine, Kevin R., Elena Ciletti and Henrike Lähnemann. The Sword of Judith. Cambridge: Open Book Publisher, 2010. Print.
- Catholic Online. Judith chapters. Bible Review, 2017. Web. 20 Jun. 2017.
- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Judith-Introduction. The Book of Judith, 2017. Web 20 Jun. 2017.
- United States Conference of Catholic. Judith, Chapter 13. The Book of Judith, 2017. Web 20 Jun. 2017.
- United States Conference of Catholic. Judith, Chapter 4. The Book of Judith, 2017. Web 20 Jun. 2017.