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

Language and Culture.

1.

Best preserved in two of the three major uncial Greek codices, Vaticanus and Alexandrinus, as well as in the uncial Basiliano-Vaticanus (the third major codex, Sinaiticus, shows signs of later editing), Judith may have an Aramaic or Hebrew original (Moore 1985 ); scholars have argued that in preparing his translation of the book into Latin for his Vulgate, the Christian author Jerome utilized an Aramaic source: he speaks of translating only the texts found in ‘Chaldean’. However, one could equally argue that the author of Judith wrote in an elegant, Hebraicized Greek (Craven 1983 ).

2.

Other ancient versions rely either upon the Septuagint (e.g. the Old Latin) or upon the Vulgate (e.g. various Hebrew versions as well as, from the Middle Ages, midrashic iterations).

3.

Whether Second-Temple Aramaic or Greek, the book of Judith is permeated by Hellenistic motifs. In the wake of Alexander the Great (d. 323), Jewish communities in both Israel and the Diaspora developed new forms of self-definition under pressures to assimilate and acculturate. Such struggles are noticeable in the OT Apocrypha; the volumes reflect intense concerns for Jewish practices (e.g. dietary observances, circumcision, conversion), relationship to the Gentile world, and personal piety. Yet the books are also preserved in the Greek language and reflect Greek culture. For example, in the book of Judith, Greek culture underlies the wearing of olive wreaths ( 15:13 ) and the custom of reclining to dine ( 12:15 ). The thyrsus Judith carries recollects Bacchantes, who, like Judith, confound gender roles, take heads from unwitting men, and celebrate their god, despite threats against their practice, through dancing and prayer. Scholars have even found allusions in the book to Herodotus' account of the Persian invasions of Greece in the fifth century BCE (Camponigro 1992 ).

4.

The location of composition is, like the date, debated. Most scholars argue for a Palestinian provenance; if the original version were in Aramaic rather than Greek, this argument would be strengthened. However, just as the fictional nature of the tale foils any secure attempt at dating, so its fictional depictions of geography undermine any secure attempt at establishing provenance.

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