Book of Judit

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: Deuterocanonical (Catholic and Orthodox) or Apocrypha (Protestant)

Judit and servant with the head of Holofernes - Sixtina - Michelangelo

The Book of Judith ( Hebrew יְהוּדִית Jəhūdīt , German 'Judäerin, Jüdin' ) is an early Jewish script that appears for the first time in the Greek Septuagint ( LXX ) and probably in the Hellenistic 1st century BC. . BC was written. Since a Hebrew original was not known, the book of Judith is not included in the Jewish Bible ( Tanakh ). In the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, it counts as a deuterocanonical book of the Old Testament. In the Protestant churches , however, it is not regarded as part of the biblical canon and can therefore only be found in some Bible editions under the " Apocrypha " between the Old and New Testaments .

Content: The beautiful and god-fearing widow Judit goes unarmed into the army camp of the Assyrian general Holofernes and beheads him with his own sword. She indirectly takes on the role of Moses and saves the people of Israel.


The book is not considered a historical report, but an instructive, wisdom novel . Much of the information in the text is unhistorical and would have been noticed as such by contemporary readers. Such was Nebuchadnezzar not as described in the book king of Assyria , but of Babylon ( 2 Kings 24.1  EU , 2 Chr 36.6  EU ). He also conquered Judea, as in 2 Kings 24 : 1, 11-17  EU ; 25.1–10 EU , 2 Chr 36.6f.17  EU , while this fails in the book of Judith.

The book was not included in the Jewish canon . It became part of the Greek Old Testament and is still considered part of the Christian Bible by Catholics and Orthodox , but not by Protestant Christians . The book has survived in a probably not original Hebrew version as well as in Greek versions, an Aramaic and a Latin translation . In the latter case, Jerome left only half of the original text. He emphasizes Judit as chaste - the word does not appear in the Greek text or in other Latin translations. In the original text, Judit acts without God's help - Hieronymus lets God intervene in the action.

The history

The siege

Angry because of a lack of support in a - victoriously ended - war, the Assyrian king Nebuchadnezzar sends his commander-in-chief Holofernes with a huge army against all countries of the West. They should be conquered and punished; all who resist should be relentlessly exposed to death and pillage. Holofernes wreaked havoc through part of Asia Minor and Syria and thus also came to the northern border of Palestine (Chapters 1–3 EU ).

The Israelites gathered to give the high priest once defenses and closed the mountain passes , but also turned to repentance and prayer to God the Lord, ch. 4 EU . Accordingly, Holofernes found himself stopped in front of the small mountain fortress Betulia , which formed the key to northern Palestine. In anger about it, he inquired of the Moabite and Ammonite princes in his army, which people it was that dared to oppose him. The answer was given by the Ammonite prince Achior in a complete outline of Jewish history, as a result of which he stated that the Israelites are invincible as long as they do not offend their God the One, chap. 5 EU . Hereby Achior incurred the displeasure of all the Assyrian greats, especially because the Assyrian king laid claim to the highest divine veneration and wanted to destroy every foreign religion. As a result, Holofernes had the Ammonite prince bound and led to Betulia so that when he took the festival he could convince himself of the folly of his assertion and the omnipotence of the Assyrians and then perish miserably with the Jews.

Accepted by the Israelites, he aroused great horror by his story; but the Israelites regained their trust in Almighty God, chap. 6 EU . But when Holofernes enclosed Betulia with 182,000 men and cut off the water pipe, the besieged lost their courage. When the water supply ran out, on the 34th day of the siege, the besieged asked the colonel Uziya to surrender the fortress. Uzziah promised to give in to them if there was no rescue in five days, chap. 7 EU .

Judit saves the people of God

Judit beheads Holofernes - Artemisia Gentileschi

The pious widow Judit, Merari's daughter of Betulia, heard about this agreement. Her husband, Manasse, had died of heat stroke three years earlier while the barley was being harvested. It is described in the following words in the Book of Judith:

“She was beautiful in shape and blooming in appearance. Her husband Manasseh had left her gold and silver, servants and maidservants, cattle and fields that she held in her possession. Nobody could say anything bad about her, because she was very godly. "

- Judit 8.7-8

She took a completely different view, reproached the elders of the city for their lack of trust in God and asked for free passage through the city gate, chap. 8 EU . After her that had been promised, she threw herself into fervent prayer before God down to implore the blessing to her bold plan, chap. 9 EU , then adorned herself splendidly and went to the Assyrian camp with her maid. When she arrived here she caused a sensation with her beauty and was immediately taken to Holofernes, chap. 10 EU . She succeeded in enchanting him with clever speech, chap. 11 EU , so that it was given the freedom to go in and out of the Assyrian camp. At a meal on the 40th day of the siege, which was given in her honor, Holofernes got so very drunk, chap. 12 EU that Judit, who had been left alone with him, could cut off his head with his own sword. The latter brought her back with her to Betulia to the joyful shock of all those there, chap. 13 EU .

This made such an impression on Achior that he professed the Jewish religion. But after Judit's advice, the besieged made a sortie, and so the Assyrians became aware of what had happened, chap. 14 EU . Terrified, they ran wildly in search of their salvation, and the whole camp was a prey to the Hebrews . Highly celebrated above, chap. 15 EU , Judit expressed her gratitude to God in a wonderful song of praise and then withdrew again into the quiet of the widow's life. As long as Judit lived, and long after her death, there was no longer anyone to frighten Israel, chap. 16 EU .

On the history of the impact in art, music and literature

Judit - August Riedel

The scene of the beheading of Holofernes was a very popular subject in Western art and was - to name just the most famous examples - by Donatello , Caravaggio , Botticelli , Lucas Cranach , Paolo Veronese , Bartolomeo Manfredi , Peter Paul Rubens and Gustav Klimt , among others shown. She plays a particularly important role in the work of Artemisia Gentileschi .

The figure of Judit also appears in pictorial representations of the Nine Good Heroines , she is a representative of Judaism in this iconographic series .

Judit also found its way into the visual arts of the 20th century. The feminist artist Judy Chicago made her role in the history of women clear: In The Dinner Party, she dedicated one of the 39 place settings to her .

David Wark Griffith realized the first cinematic adaptation of the material in 1914 with Judith von Bethulien .

In 2011, the Jewish artist Moran Haynal realized the entire book Judit as contemporary calligraphy in one of his works.

The subject was dealt with dramatically by Friedrich Hebbel , among others , whose drama Judith was parodied by Johann Nestroy as Judith and Holofernes .

The baroque composer Alessandro Scarlatti designed the opera-friendly material twice as an oratorio ( La Giuditta ) in his Roman times, when operas were prohibited there by papal decree. Antonio Vivaldi set the material to music in Latin for his oratorio Juditha triumphans . Pietro Metastasio processed the theme in his oratorio libretto La Betulia liberata , which was set to music by around 50 composers, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (→ La Betulia liberata ).

See also


  • Benedikt Eckhardt: Reclaiming Tradition: The Book of Judith and Hasmonean Politics , JSP 18 2000, pp. 243-263.
  • Robert Hanhart: Text and text history of the book Judith. Communications of the Septuagint company XIV. Göttingen 1979, ISBN 3-525-82392-4 .
  • Barbara Schmitz: History of Israel (utb 3547). 2nd Edition. Paderborn 2014, ISBN 3-8252-4358-3 .
  • Barbara Schmitz: Trickster, scribe or femme fatale? The Judit figure between biblical narrative and art-historical reception. In: Biblical Forum 2004 ( excerpt as PDF ).
  • Barbara Schmitz / Helmut Engel: Judit (HThK AT). Freiburg i.Br./Basel/Wien 2014, ISBN 3-451-26820-5 .
  • Bettina Uppenkamp: Judith and Holofernes in Italian Baroque painting. Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-496-01304-4 .
  • Erich Zenger: The Book of Judit. Jewish writings from the Hellenistic-Roman period I, 6. Gütersloh 1981, ISBN 3-579-03916-4 .

Web links

Commons : Book of Judith  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files


  1. ↑ Plead for a drafting in Greek and probably in Alexandria u. a. Jan Joosten: The Original Language and Historical Milieu of the Book of Judith. In: Meghillot V – VI (2007), * 159– * 176 and Barbara Schmitz / Helmut Engel: Judit (HThK AT). Freiburg i.Br./Basel/Wien 2014, pp. 42–43; 61-63.
  2. Lange, Lydia: The Judit figure in the Vulgate. A Theological Study of the Latin Bible. Verlag De Gruyter, 2016, 456 pages, ISBN 978-3-11-048823-4 .
  3. Brooklyn Museum page on the artwork, accessed April 15, 2014.