The Book Of Judith And The Jewish Cannon

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The exclusion of the Book of Judith from the Jewish canon suggests that the Jewish canon excludes stories that that do not deal with Yahweh directly, or are not from Yahweh himself (Gabel, Wheeler and York 196). The Book of Judith, like many of the other books in the Apocrypha, a Greek work applied by Jerome meaning "hidden"� (Gabel, Wheeler and York 202), does not have Yahweh contacting any of the characters in the story, nor does the story in any direct way pay homage to Yahweh. Instead, the Book of Judith focuses on the courage and wit of the protagonist, Judith, as she saves her people from a siege by the Assyrians by cutting off the head of the general, Holferenes (Gabel, Wheeler and York 201).

The Book of Judith fits into the literary genre of the romance (Gabel, Wheeler and York 201). A romance tends to be more allegorical than realist fiction, and will tend to dramatize elemental forces, psychological undercurrents, and conflicts of the human heart and soul.

It is also more subversive, revolutionary, bipolar (good/evil, etc.), symbolic, evocative, open to magic as well as the effects of atmosphere, and the strange than other genres of literature (Lye 1).

The Book of Judith follows the expectations of a romance. Judith portrays the romantic heroine well, being both "beautiful in [her] countenance, and witty in [her] words"� (Judith 11:23, KJV Apocrypha). With Judea under siege and her people with no water, Judith sets out to save them. She "put off the garments of her widowhood"� (Judith 10:3) and bathed before anointing herself with oils and donning bracelets and jewels, making herself look very beautiful. Judith then goes to the camp of Holferenes and he is quite smitten by her charms and beauty. She stays with them for days, and on each day she leaves the camp to pray. The guards get used to this and one night, after Holferenes had drunk himself into a stupor with wine, "she smote twice upon his neck with all her might, and she took away his head from him"� (Judith 13:8). Then she left the camp to "pray"� as she usually did, and walked unheeded back to her town where she ordered the men of the town to attack. The men did and the Assyrians, not expecting the attack, went to summon Holferenes, and fled upon the horror of finding him dead.

The Book of Judith was left outside of the Jewish cannon as it was compiled. There was no "final cut"� of literature in the canon where all of the stories were reviewed by a group of Jewish religious authorities and the canon was decided. The book of Judith, like many other stories (Tobit, Susanna and the Elders, Bel and the Snake, and more), was simply left out along the way (Gabel, Wheeler and York 197) as the Jewish canon was compiled over the centuries. The literature that was left in the Jewish canon was the literature that "was discovered to be sacred"� (Gabel, Wheeler and York 201) through employment in ritual, services, discussion and preaching. Most of the stories employed in this manner dealt directly with the influence of Yahweh in one way or the other. Judith, and many of the other stories left out of the Jewish canon, did not. Although there are references at several points in the story of Judith to Yahweh as "The Lord their God"� (Judith 7:19), "God"� (Judith 17:24), "Lord God"� (Judith 7:29), and "God and Lord of our fathers"� (Judith 7:28), Yahweh himself never directly speaks to Judith or any other character in the story. The reader assumes that Yahweh is omnipresent, but Yahweh does not seem to take direct intervention in the action of the story. At no point in the story does Yahweh speak to Judith or perform a miraculous action such as he did to Moses in Exodus with both the burning bush and the parting of the Red Sea. This, again, reinforces the idea that works that had direct contact with Yahweh or his actions were more likely to make the cut for the Jewish canon.

The exclusion of the Book of Judith from the Jewish canon is unfortunate and it will never be considered for re-entry. Unlike other canons "the biblical canon is strengthened and upheld by age"� (Gabel, Wheeler and York 99) and will most likely never be re-opened. The Book of Judith does deserve to be in the canon for a few reasons, but the majority of the reasons that it deserves to be included derive from the seeming unfairness by which it was excluded. The Book of Judith shows one of the many struggles that the followers of Yahweh faced to keep the land that was promised to them, so it has important historical information. Through the details expressed about the "widow's apparel"� (Judith 8:5) Judith wears and her transformation from that garb, the reader is given important cultural information about the practices that widows were expected to follow, both in dress and in the fact that they could never remarry. The Book of Judith seems to have been excluded for the very things that set it apart from other biblical works. The main character is a female, and while this is not unusual in biblical works, the fact that Judith was directed to perform her actions by neither Yahweh nor her culture, is. Judith does not ask the "ancients of the city"� (Judith 8:10) to allow her to go to the Assyrian camp, but tells them that she is going to save the city and that "the Lord will visit Israel by [her] hand"� (Judith 8:33). She does not even tell them how she plans to do it. For a woman of the time to be so direct and vague to her superiors was unusual. Also for a woman to be so violent is noteworthy. There are many biblical works about the slaughter that the Jewish men do, but for a female to plan that a man's desire for her would provide her the opportunity to kill him, is unusual as well.

The Book of Judith suggests that the works included in the Jewish canon are more likely to have direct contact or intervention from Yahweh and that the Book of Judith was left out of the Jewish canon for the things that set it apart from the other biblical works, even though it is a worthy and entertaining tale.

WORKS CITED The Bible, King James Version, Apocrypha. Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library. <> Gabel, John B., Wheeler, Charles, B., and York, Anthony D. The Bible as Literature: An Introduction. New York: Oxford, 2000.

Lye, Jon. "Romance as a Genre: Some Notes"�. Brock University. 11 Jun. 1998.