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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Tobit - Introduction

The book of Tobit is preserved in four fragmentary Aramaic texts (pap4QToba ar, 4QTobb ar, 4QTobc ar, 4QTobd ar) and in one fragmentary Hebrew text (4QTobe), which together preserve about one-fifth of the book. These copies date roughly from mid-first century BCE to mid-first century CE. The full form of the book is preserved mainly in Greek and Latin versions, but also in various derivative versions (Arabic, Armenian, Coptic (Sahidic), Ethiopic, and Syriac). Derivative forms are also found in medieval Aramaic and Hebrew versions of the book.

The Qumran fragmentary Aramaic and Hebrew texts have been published in DJD 19. In general, these Semitic forms of the book are related to the long recension of the Greek and Latin versions.

The Greek version of Tobit is known in three forms: (a) The Long Recension (G11), preserved in the fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus (discovered in 1844), and part of it in both the eleventh-century MS 319 (Vatopedi 513), and sixth-century MS 910 (Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 1076). Sinaiticus has two major lacunae, 4:7–19b and 13:6i–10b , the first of which is covered by MS 319; also a number of minor omissions of phrases or clauses, which sometimes make the comprehension of its context difficult, but which can be supplied from other Greek forms or the Old Latin version. This recension is used in the NRSV; the numbering of verses here follows that of this recension in the critical text of Hanhart (1983 ). (b) The Short Recension (G1), preserved mainly in the fourth-century Codex Vaticanus, the fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus, and the eighth-century Codex Venetus, and also in a host of minuscule MSS. This form of the Greek text was used before the discovery of Sinaiticus. (c) The Intermediate Recension (G111), preserved in MSS 44,106, 107. It may have some pertinence for Tob 6:9–13:8 ; for the rest it reproduces the text of Vaticanus.

The Latin version is likewise known in two forms: (a) The Long Recension, preserved in the Vetus Latina (VL), for which there is no modern critical text. One must use the eighteenth-century text of P. Sabatier and supplement it with readings from MSS that have subsequently been published or come to light. This long recension is related to G11, but sometimes it is closer to the Qumran Aramaic and Hebrew texts than that Greek recension. (b) The Short Recension, preserved in the Vulgate (Vg) and found in the critical edition of the Monks of San Girolamo (1950 ). The relation of this form of the book, long used in the Roman Catholic tradition, to a Greek version is problematic; at times it differs considerably from the VL and Greek recensions. Jerome admitted that he dashed off the translation of it in one day (unius diei laborem arripui), having found a Jewish interpreter who could read Aramaic and translate it for him into Hebrew, which he then rendered in Latin (Ep. ad Chromatium et Heliodorum; PL 29. 23–6). As a result it differs notably from the Qumran Aramaic form known today and from G11.

Other versions of Tobit and the medieval Aramaic and Hebrew forms are considered secondary because they seem to be derived from G1.

The book was probably composed originally in Aramaic, because the Qumran Hebrew form now known has peculiarities relating it to a late post-exilic form of the language and contains words and syntagmemes that argue for an Aramaic substratum. This issue is debated, and some have been trying to maintain that the original was Hebrew. The matter is still unresolved.

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