In a gallery at Palazzo Barberino just beyond the gallery that houses Caravaggio’s Judith, hangs another and less familiar painting of Judith and the beheading of Holofernes.

She is the daughter of Merari, a Simeonite, and widow of a certain Manasses. It is not clear whether the Book of Judith was originally written in Hebrew or in Greek. ( Log Out /  [4][5], The Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible does not contain it, nor was it found among the Dead Sea Scrolls or referred to in any early Rabbinic literature.

"[5], Although the text itself does not mention Hanukkah, it became customary for a Hebrew midrashic variant of the Judith story to be read on the Shabbat of Hanukkah as the story of Hanukkah takes place during the time of the Hasmonean dynasty. The book relates that Nebuchadrezzar, king of Assyria, sent his general Holofernes on an expedition against Palestine. Judith's courage and charm occasion his death. At the siege of the Jewish city of Bethulia, a general named Achior warned Holofernes of the danger of attacking the Jews. Within the next three centuries Judith would be treated by such major figures as Heinrich Frauenlob, Dante, and Geoffrey Chaucer. How old is too old? Barker later expanded the scene into a short play Judith. The story also inspired oratorios by Antonio Vivaldi, W. A. Mozart and Hubert Parry, and an operetta by Jacob Pavlovitch Adler. [35], As argued by Vigouroux, the two battles mentioned in the Septuagint version of the Book of Judith are a reference to the clash of the two empires in 658–657 and to Phraortes' death in battle in 653, after which Ashurbanipal continued his military actions with a large campaign starting with the Battle of the Ulaya River (652 BC) on the 18th year of this Assyrian king. As a work of literature, Judith maintains a constant dramatic tension, and its popularity in antiquity is attested by its preservation in several Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, and Latin editions. In 1840, Friedrich Hebbel's play Judith was performed in Berlin. Croatian poet and humanist Marko Marulić also wrote an epic on Judith's story in 1501, the Judita. She uses her charm to become an intimate friend of Holofernes, but finally beheads him allowing Israel to counter-attack the Assyrians. She enters the book bearing her name when the Assyrians have cut off the water supply of Bethulia, the town at the entrance of the narrow corridor leading to Jerusalem (Judith 7:7, 4:7).

[citation needed], The character of Judith is larger than life, and she has won a place in Jewish and Christian lore, art, poetry and drama. The fictional nature "is evident from its blending of history and fiction, beginning in the very first verse, and is too prevalent thereafter to be considered as the result of mere historical mistakes. [40], Like Judith, the Queen had to face the menace of a foreign king who had a tendency to destroy the temples of other religions. For Oliver, the sensationalized media coverage of stories like the Abu Ghraib scandal insure that we no longer see the woman herself, or make sense of the story that unfolded, but instead see a demonized version of scary female sexuality. Both women were widows whose strategical and diplomatic skills helped in the defeat of the invader. He is the first one to recognize Holofernes' head brought by Judith in the city, and also the first one to praise God. Oziah, governor of Bethulia; together with Cabri and Carmi, he rules over Judith's city. The text is equally clear that it was Holofernes who chose, out of greed and excitement, to drink excessively; he was not seduced or persuaded into doing so. Some scholars have suggested that the existence of similar accounts in the Bible (e.g., Jael in the Book of Judges) and in the interpretive stories of the Midrash point to an early, common source (perhaps from the 6th century bce) now lost. The Italian Renaissance poet Lucrezia Tornabuoni chose Judith as one of the five subjects of her poetry on biblical figures. [27] Judith's village, Bethulia (literally "virginity") is unknown and otherwise unattested to in any ancient writing. And as Kevin Brine points out in The Sword of Judith: Judith Studies Across the Disciplines, in the Judith story, in early Christianity, Judith was seen as the heroine of her people. The French composer Jean Guillou wrote his Judith-Symphonie for Mezzo and Orchestra in 1970, premiered in Paris in 1972 and published by Schott-Music. The surviving Greek manuscripts contain several historical anachronisms, which is why some scholars now consider the book non-historical: a parable, a theological novel, or perhaps the first historical novel.[2]. The Caravaggio painting at Palazzo Barberini. In this version, Judith herself, more accurately her bare breasts, are the centerpiece and focal point of the composition; her expression, directed at the viewer is coquettish, seductive. Details of vocabulary and phrasing point to a Greek text written in a language modeled on the Greek developed through translating the other books in the Septuagint.

The book of Judith is similar to the biblical Book of Esther in that it also describes how a woman saved her people from impending massacre... Get exclusive access to content from our 1768 First Edition with your subscription. "[27], Thus, the great villain is "Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled over the Assyrians" (1:1), yet the historical Nebuchadnezzar II was the king of Babylonia. Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: You are commenting using your account. Modern scholars argue in favor of a 2nd–1st century context for the Book of Judith, understanding it as a sort of roman à clef, i.e. [37] As a typical policy of the time, all leadership was thus transferred in the hands of the High Priest of Israel in charge, which was Joakim in this case (Judith 4:6). ( Log Out /  [47] In 1981, the play "Judith among the Lepers" by the Israeli (Hebrew) playwright Moshe Shamir was performed in Israel. My Judith is paralyzed by her deed, frozen by the thought that she might give birth to Holofernes' son; she knows that she has passed her boundaries, that she has, at the very least, done the right thing for the wrong reasons.[46]. The Assyrians, having lost their leader, disperse, and Israel is saved. Judith, the heroine of the book. [7], However, after disappearing from circulation among Jews for over a millennium, references to the Book of Judith, and the figure of Judith herself, resurfaced in the religious literature of crypto-Jews who escaped capitulation by the Caliphate of Córdoba. [27], In the Christian West from the patristic period on, Judith was invoked in a wide variety of texts as a multi-faceted allegorical figure. Change ), You are commenting using your Facebook account. Also, the reasons for the name changes are difficult to understand, unless the text was transmitted without character names before they were added by the Greek translator, who lived centuries later. The Book of Judith is a deuterocanonical book, included in the Septuagint and the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christian Old Testament of the Bible, but excluded from the Hebrew canon and assigned by Protestants to their apocrypha. She decapitates him, then takes his head back to her fearful countrymen. [27], The first extant commentary on The Book of Judith is by Hrabanus Maurus (9th century). I’ve seen the paintings too, and am as fascinated by them as you. He is so proud that he wants to affirm his strength as a sort of divine power. Das ist gemein; eine solche Natur ist ihres Erfolgs gar nicht würdig [...]. "The opening of the poem is lost (scholars estimate that 100 lines were lost) but the remainder of the poem, as can be seen, the poet reshaped the biblical source and set the poem's narrative to an Anglo-Saxon audience. But I am still left to ponder the story of Judith, of whom Jerome says: “Accipite Judith viduam, castitatus exemplum, et triumphali laude perpetuis eam praeconiis declarate” [Receive the widow Judith, paradigm of chastity, and with triumphant laud make her known in perpetual praises]. a literary fiction whose characters stand for some real historical figure, generally contemporary to the author.

Campaign against disobedient nations; the people surrender (1:1–2:13), A'. If I had been her, I’d have been feeding him drinks as quickly as possible, by the way.

Thenceforth her presence in medieval European literature is robust: in homilies, biblical paraphrases, histories and poetry. [39], Under this theory, the story, although fictional, would be set in the time of Queen Salome Alexandra, the only Jewish regnant queen, who reigned over Judea from 76 to 67 BC. [27], Nevertheless, there have been various attempts by both scholars and clergy to understand the characters and events in the Book as allegorical representations of actual personages and historical events. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). Invited into his tent, she cut off his head as he lay in drunken sleep and brought it in a bag to Bethulia.

In the case of the Book of Judith, Biblical scholar Gabriele Boccaccini,[38] identified Nebuchadnezzar with Tigranes the Great (140–56 BC), a powerful King of Armenia who, according to Josephus and Strabo, conquered all of the lands identified by the Biblical author in Judith. "[29] Other scholars note that Judith fits within and even incorporates the genre of "salvation traditions" from the Old Testament, particularly the story of Deborah and Jael (Judges 4–5), who seduced and inebriated the Canaanite commander Sisera before hammering a tent-peg into his forehead. But what I find so perplexing is this particular choice of subject–Judith–given the biblical story itself, and her role in early and medieval Christianity. [43], A similar dynamic was created in the 16th century by the confessional strife of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Change ), You are commenting using your Google account. Much of this work has focused on linking Nebuchadnezzar with various conquerors of Judea from different time periods and, more recently, linking Judith herself with historical female leaders, including Queen Salome Alexandra, Judea's only female monarch (76–67 BC) and its last ruler to die while Judea remained an independent kingdom.


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