The New International Encyclopædia/Tobit, Book of

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TO′BIT, Book of (Gk. Τωβείτ, Tōbeit, Τωβείθ, Tōbeith, from Heb. Tōbīyāh, Yahweh is good). One of the books of the Old Testament Apocrypha. The Catholic Church regards it as in the canon and historical. The personage around whom the story of the book centres is Tobit of the tribe of Naphtali, who was carried away to Assyria by Shalmaneser. Here he obtains an official position with the King, but loses it under Sennacherib, and because he has buried certain Jews killed by order of the King, he flees from Nineveh. His nephew, Achiacharus, pleads with the successor of Sennacherib, and under Esarhaddon Tobit returns to Nineveh. Again he buries the dead, and while in an ‘unclean’ condition he sleeps outside the wall of his courtyard and loses his eyesight. In his misfortune he is supported by his nephew Achiacharus, but, taunted by his wife, Anna, he sends his son Tobias to collect an outstanding debt in Ragæ in Media. Tobias takes with him as guide one Azarias (in reality Raphael, the angel). On the way Tobias is attacked by a fish, whose heart, liver, and gall he takes at the command of Raphael. They come to the house of Raguel, a kinsman of his, and Tobias marries Sarah, the only daughter of Raguel. By burning the heart and liver of the fish in the bridal chamber the evil spirit, Asmodeus (q.v.), who has already killed seven husbands of Sarah, is driven away. The debt collected, the three return to Nineveh, and Tobias applies the gall of the fish to his father's eyes and their sight is restored. Tobit dies at Nineveh and is buried there; Tobias dies at Ecbatana, yet not before he has heard of the destruction of Nineveh by Nebuchadnezzar. The date of the composition of the book is variously given as the fourth century B.C. (Ewald), third century (Reuss), and second century (Schürer, Nöldeke). The latter is probably correct. The story is a pure romance, and the vividness of the descriptions is but a proof of the artistic ability of the writer. The book exists at present in Greek, Latin, Syriac, Aramaic, and Hebrew manuscripts, the texts of which differ considerably. The oldest and most valuable text is that contained in the Alexandrine codex of the Septuagint and probably represents the original text. The Hebrew versions, of which there are three, are late and based on the Greek text. The purpose of the book is to emphasize God's Providence toward pious Jews who remain faithful to their religion with all its ceremonial obligations. Consult: Kautsch, Apokryphen (Tübingen, 1900); Wace, Apocrypha (London, 1888); Neubauer, The Book of Tobit (Oxford, 1878); and for the text, Nestle, Septuaginta-Studien (Leipzig, 1899).