HISTORICAL BOOKS: Judith
Judith replied, “Listen to me, I intend to do something, the memory of which will be handed down to the children of our race from age to age.”
Judith, whose name means “Jewess,” may be one of the most interesting women in the Bible. In the story that bears her name, she saves Judah from invasion by seducing the Assyrian army general, making him drunk with wine, and beheading him with his own sword. Even if you’re not familiar with this heroic tale, you may have seen Michelangelo’s vivid rendition of it, in which Judith’s maidservant holds the general down while Judith lops his head off.
Oddly, Judith was written around 150 B.C., when Judah and the surrounding area were under Greek (not Assyrian) rule. The story makes no reference to this time period, and its setting is unclear. Its inexact use of both historical and geographical details (for instance, the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar is described as the king of Assyria) have led many scholars to peg Judith as a fictitious tale. Likely the book’s authors did not intend it to be historical, but rather a dramatic tale of the triumph of faithful Jews over the forces of evil.
Judith is one of the seven books known as deutero-canonical or the apocrypha.