Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity
“Apocryphal Judith, Saintly Deceiver” first appeared in the May/June 1998 issue of Touchstone.
Apocryphal Judith, Saintly Deceiver
Judith, Tradition, & the Christian Reader
by Patrick Henry Reardon
Even though the Book of Judith, being relatively short, can be quickly read,1 rather few Christians in America nowadays seem actually to have read it, a circumstance arising mainly, of course, from the fact that most Protestant Bibles published in America, as distinct from those published in England, simply do not contain it.
This situation is rather new. While the Reformers denied Judith’s canonicity, they most certainly read the book and spoke about it. Nowadays, however, except among those who use the standard Roman Catholic translations or otherwise have access to the noncanonical biblical literature,2 the narrative of Judith is not so widely known to Christians as was the case in times past.
I am among those persuaded that this situation is lamentable, and the present article intends, as its chief purpose, to offer some suggestions for a more fruitful Christian reading of Judith’s story. I will do this in three stages: first, examine how Christians in the past have actually read the Book of Judith and see what lessons they learned from it; second, explore plausible reasons why the book failed to gain a more popular following throughout Christian history; and third, indicate what I hope will be some useful avenues to a properly Christian reading of Judith.
Virtuous Judith in the Tradition
I will begin with earlier Christian approaches to Judith. On those occasions when believers during former times appealed to the Book of Judith, it was normally to advance some fairly simple moral or ascetical theme. Almost invariably it was a matter of holding up some edifying aspect of the character of Judith for Christian emulation. That is to say, the book’s interest seems to have been limited almost exclusively to the moral example of its heroine.
Among the virtuous aspects of the character of Judith especially emphasized as ethical, ascetical standards were her courage and self-sacrifice, her prayer and fasting, her sobriety and level-headedness, and the chastity of her consecrated widowhood, all of which features made her a ready instrument in the workings of God’s salvific Providence.
Our earliest Christian reference to Judith’s courage is early indeed. Addressing the church at Corinth about the year 96, Clement of Rome wrote: “Blessed Judith, during the siege of her city, begged of the elders that she might be permitted to go out into the camp of the enemies. So, exposing herself to peril, she went forth out of love for her fatherland and her people in the siege, and the Lord delivered Holofernes into a woman’s hand.”3 Clement then went on to compare Judith to Esther who likewise risked her life for her people. God used both women, said this third bishop of Rome, to deliver the nation from destruction by specific threatening individuals, Haman in the instance of Esther, Holofernes in the case of Judith.
Clement’s ideas on Judith were to become common themes in the traditional exegesis of that book. First, there was the example of Judith’s courage that inspired her to place her life at risk for the sake of others. Other Christians, particularly Ambrose of Milan and Isidore of Seville, picked up this theme: “She did not fear death”; a model of fortitude, she showed herself to be “stronger, by ignoring danger and despising death.” In all of this, Judith was motivated by “an attractive contempt for her own safety.”4
Second, there was Judith’s striking similarity to Esther. Since the heroines in both stories were used by God to overcome cruel enemies in circumstances of great danger, it is not surprising that the two books were almost always named sequentially in the traditional lists of biblical literature, even in those instances where Judith was regarded as uncanonical.5 Both women, after all, defeated and destroyed specific enemies of God’s people; the stories of their exploits were explicitly compared by Clement of Alexandria and others.6
As Ambrose observed several times, a more specific resemblance between Judith and Esther was that both women also took to fasting as an integral component of their fight with evil.7 Along with her own fasting, Judith was likewise remarkable for her abstinence from alcohol, a feature particularly mentioned in the narrative. In this respect Ambrose would speak of her sobrietas and her temperantia.8
Moreover, Judith’s fasting was combined with prayer. Origen early observed that she provided a model for both of these fundamental features of the ascetical life.9 Said an anonymous medieval preacher: “Most holy Judith, whose prayers opened heaven, formed victorious weapons by the art of prayer.”10
In addition, Judith’s prayer was the secret to her chastity, that continence that she carefully preserved inviolate.11 Her chastity was integral to the consecration of her widowhood; it was her continentia vidualis, a celibacy dedicated to the glory of God, inseparable from her holiness.12
Judith became, in short, the very ideal of the Christian widow, giving herself over to asceticism, fasting and a life of consecrated celibacy, praying day and night for the Church.13 As such she was to be compared to the prophetess Anna, who was part of the welcoming committee that received the infant Jesus on his first visit to the Temple. Some Christians commented that the biblical descriptions of both women are, in fact, very similar.14
It is not surprising, then, to find Judith sometimes spoken of as a prophetess. In the venerable Apostolic Constitutions she is listed as such along with Miriam, Deborah, Hulda, Anna and Elizabeth.15 The African writer, Fulgentius of Ruspe, even speculated that she had foreknown the birth of Christ.16 Much later another Western writer, John of the Cross, would take meticulous care to demonstrate and interpret the prophetic insights of Judith, comparing her in this respect to Tobit.17
Thus, Judith embodied the highest ascetical and spiritual ideals of the Christian life; she could serve as a model for all servants of God, but more especially those in monastic life. Hers was manifestly an example for emulation, inspiring the fervent exhortation of Hugh of St. Victor: “Therefore, beloved, let us imitate Judith, by loving chastity, by subduing the flesh through fasting, by praying to God with devotion, by asking his mercy, by humbling our souls to him, so that we may be her imitators, by overcoming the enemy and obtaining the victory.”18
There is another side to this exegetical history, nonetheless; it would be a grand understatement to say that Judith has not enjoyed unquestioned and universal popularity in the Christian Tradition. It is a matter of historical fact that the overwhelming majority of the Fathers of the Church, East or West, never so much as mentioned her, even on occasions when she might have provided them with an excellent illustration of some point or other. As far as I can discern, no Alexandrian authority after the third century ever appealed to her example, while the Antiochians and Cappadocians ignored her story entirely. Even in Latin Africa where the book’s canonical status was not in doubt,19 relatively little use was made of it in extant sermons, treatises, letters, and so forth.
Moreover, no full-length commentary on the Book of Judith appeared in the West until the early ninth century,20 and none ever, as far as I can ascertain, in the East. Indeed, the assiduous reader can study through entire shelves of Migne’s great collection without meeting her name. In spite of the fact that the Book of Judith is contained in the best and earliest Christian manuscripts of the Old Testament,21 one almost has the impression that the great mass of patristic writers had never heard of her, or else were deliberately ignoring her.
Such reluctance to deal with the Book of Judith was doubtless related to the very serious questions raised about its canonicity, especially its tacit or even explicit rejection by weighty authorities in the East.22
Evidently, also, the problem of the book’s canonicity was itself related to the several thorny historical difficulties prompted by certain details of its narrative. Not only did the Book of Judith appear to contradict historical facts clearly taught in Holy Scripture, it also appeared to contradict itself in several places, particularly in points of chronology and political history. Even Judith did not seem sure just whom she was fighting. Was it the Assyrians (11:7), or was it the Medes and Persians (16:10)? The historical questions thus posed by the book’s narrative line were serious and truly insoluble, beyond any other historical problems encountered in biblical literature.
This widespread lack of enthusiasm for the Book of Judith, however, appears not to have resulted solely from its dubious historicity and shaky canonical status. We may note, for instance, that although the work enjoyed widespread canonical authority in the West, even outside of Africa,23 relatively little pastoral use was made of the story among the Latin Fathers. Such massive neglect of the Book of Judith doubtless had more than one cause.
The Problematic Judith
I suggest that Judith herself and the unique circumstances of her vocation may have formed a major source of the problem.
It is not difficult to imagine why this would be the case. Judith’s behavior was—not to put too fine a point on it—a bit unusual. That is to say, there were strict limits as to how far any Christian preacher or writer, using appropriate pastoral discretion, dared to go in holding her up as a moral and ascetical model. While widows and other consecrated women could certainly be exhorted to follow Judith’s standard in chastity, prayer and fasting, for instance, there were certain other aspects of her singular calling that could hardly be presented for general emulation.
For example, the text indicates that Judith had deliberately adorned her body for the express purpose of arousing a sinful man’s lustful interest. However such behavior might have been justified as an individual exception in the circumstances, it was hardly to be recommended for devout Christian women indiscriminately! Thus, while Tertullian succinctly praised Judith’s chaste monogamy and consecrated widowhood, he was careful to avoid the rather risqué details of her story.24
Moreover, brave though she surely was, Judith’s very boldness was a problem. She had taken great risks with her own virtue in going into the camp of Holofernes. Doubtless that risk was both justified and laudable,25 but just how far dared a preacher or writer go in citing it as a model? Even in pointing to the sterling example of Judith’s chastity, then, there was genuine need for caution. Thus, the great Chrysostom, ever quick to appeal to concrete moral examples in his eloquent exhortations to consecrated women, nonetheless avoided even mentioning the story of Judith on such occasions.
Similar ethical hesitations were doubtless felt about Judith’s veracity. The lady appears to have played perhaps a bit fast, loose, and somewhat enterprising with the truth. Christians did not accuse her of actually lying to Holofernes, of course. Indeed, if any sensitive soul should feel uncomfortable that Judith seemed to provide a less than perfect model of absolute honesty, it must also be said that Christians were just as imaginative and resourceful in their efforts to defend her conduct in this respect.26
Still, Judith’s very need for such defense pointed to a pastoral problem. Could one safely hold up her verbal honesty for rigorous moral inspection, to say nothing of emulation by ordinary Christians unskilled in subtle rhetorical distinctions? And if some less-than-scrupulous Christian ever sought some plausible excuse for telling a lie, wouldn’t a superficial reading of the Book of Judith prove very useful?
In short, the Book of Judith has sometimes, and perhaps often, raised practical problems of communication for Christian pastors, who perceived a genuine danger that the story might be badly misunderstood or unwisely applied. Such pastoral considerations, combined with the widespread mistrust of Judith’s canonical authority, served severely to limit the appeal of this book.
The Value of Judith
I happen to like the Book of Judith. Even as an interesting narrative, I enjoy reading it, and I also think that doing so can be spiritually beneficial. While this personal partiality toward Judith may represent only a sort of minority view within the Tradition, it is nonetheless a disposition supported by such not-to-be-trifled-with authorities as Clement of Rome, Methodius of Olympus, Ambrose of Milan and The Apostolic Constitutions.
Fortified with such support, I would like to suggest here a few simple considerations for how Christians may study Judith sensibly and with spiritual profit.
First, leaving aside questions about the lesser authority of Judith and the other “non-canonical” books, I submit that this story should properly be read as an integral component of the total biblical narrative. That is to say, Judith should not be investigated and interpreted in isolation from the scriptural canon in general; its study should be pursued against the backdrop of similar narratives and themes in the canonical Bible itself.
As we have seen, this was the approach of those Fathers of the Church who did make use of Judith. They related various features of her account to other biblical stories that displayed congruities and various similarities, whether literary features or moral and ascetical motifs.
Among parallels to Judith in the incontroverted biblical literature, earlier Christians drew particular attention to Esther. The similarities here are obvious. Each book is actually named for, centered around, and absolutely dependent on, the actions of a virtuous woman who brings about the defeat of an evil man by a combination of ascetical preparation, sagacity, heroism and violence. In respect to the ascetical preparation, Christian sources also pointed to ways in which Judith resembled another consecrated widow, Anna of the New Testament.
The Bible offers other possibilities for comparison, however. One is particularly struck by similarities between the actions of Judith and those of Jael in Judges 4. In both cases the villains, Holofernes and Sisera, were lulled to sleep and then quickly and efficiently dispatched with each lady’s weapon of choice.27 Although rabbinical sources drew attention to those similarities,28 I can think of no early Christian writers who did so.
Nonetheless, they are worth exploring. In each story there is a threat to God’s people being met and eliminated by the intelligent subterfuge and then the prompt, violent action of an enterprising woman who does not hesitate to kill a sleeping enemy in cold blood. Likewise, each woman’s decisive action is then celebrated with festivity by the other women (Judges 4:24–31; Judith 15:12f.).
In thus juxtaposing Judith with Jael, as well as Esther, we also place her within the hermeneutic context of the other wise and courageous women recognized in the Bible, such as Abigail.29 Moreover, Holy Scripture does not seem to be offended that some of these women now and then employed, like Jael and Esther, a generous measure of intrigue, chicanery and legerdemain to attain their goals: Rebecca, Tamar in Genesis 38, Rahab of Jericho, Naomi and Ruth, Michal in 1 Samuel 19, Joab’s “actress” in 2 Samuel 14, and perhaps Bathsheba in 1 Kings 2. With respect to such matters as stratagem, gullery and spreading a noose, Judith could hold her own with the best of them.
Nor does the Bible appear to be shocked that the wisdom of some of these women occasionally took a rather aggressive turn. Besides the instances of Jael and Esther once again, there was the blood-warming (and perhaps blood-curdling) enthusiasm of Miriam and Deborah giving themselves to hearty, full-throated song over the dead bodies of their enemies. One likewise recalls the steady eye and strong arm of that millstone-tossing Shechemite lady who dispatched the deserving Abimelech in Judges 9, as well as the “wise counsel” of the anonymous female citizen of Abel Beth-Maachah who supervised a beheading in 2 Samuel 20. And so on. Once more, given the sometimes robust ways of biblical women, Judith seems to stand in respectable company.
Judith as Parody
Second, I suggest that, in reading Judith against the backdrop of the canonical biblical stories, we carefully avoid trying to fit her account into any of the specific historical settings recorded in the Bible. This is a hopeless distraction. It is simply impossible to make sense of Judith if one takes the approach of reading the book as the account of a determined historical event. Attempting to do so is not only unnecessary to a proper understanding of Judith, it is also a fruitless and frustrating exercise that will only distract from a profitable reading of the story.
Moreover, I am convinced that the historical improbabilities in Judith are intentional. Notwithstanding certain parallels to Daniel and the Maccabean period in general,30 the author of Judith obviously went far out of his way to frustrate any effort to get a historical “fix” on his narrative. He introduces us to a virtual never-never land right from the book’s first verse, speaking of “the twelfth year of Nebuchadnessar, who reigned in Nineveh . . . in the reign of Arphaxad, which reigned over the Medes in Ecbatane.” Here we are presented with a well-known Babylonian emperor ruling in the Assyrian capital during the Persian period! That verse seems an unmistakable clue that the author was writing a deliberate parody.
But that is just the beginning. The author continues apace for 16 chapters, mixing details from a wide range of political and even geographical settings, juxtaposing historical elements from contexts not only hopelessly incongruous but also radically incompatible, placing features of the story in circumstances impossible to reconcile with well-known and perfectly plain facts of biblical history—in short, going to enormous pains to thwart and render utterly futile any endeavor to identify the Judith story as a determined and specific event within that history.
Whatever historical setting first inspired the Book of Judith, it is certainly beyond recovery, at least in the sense that no scholarly effort of the past two millennia has been able to recover it.31 I suggest that all such efforts should be abandoned as useless distractions from a proper literary and theological analysis of the book.
A Sustained Joke
Third, relative to Judith’s literary quality, particular attention should be paid to the book’s most consistent device: irony. Very similar to the Book of Esther in this respect as well, the irony in Judith is more ubiquitous and multi-faceted. Indeed, even those manifold historical, geographical and political incongruities noted above are best interpreted, I believe, as evidence of the author’s intentional irony. I believe that the reader who is not laughing his way through Judith is likely missing the point.32
Regarded in this way, the endless and endlessly befuddling details of the story’s setting serve to identify it as a sort of burlesque. The Book of Judith is best read as a sustained joke about God’s enemies and how he treats the arrogant and unrepentant. The biblical verse that most usefully serves as a key to the understanding of Judith is, I submit, the line from Psalm 2 that reads: “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure.”
The same consideration applies to the story’s characters. Thus, Holofernes, who never seems to use his head anyway, loses it twice, first romantically, and at the end physically. This arrogant boaster is portrayed as the consummate Fool, the very travesty of his kind. Thus, the attentive reader will detect in his conversation with Judith that Holofernes is forever saying “more than he knows,” such as when he praises Judith for her wit (11:23), and tells her that “God did well to send you” (11:22), and assures her that she “will live through this night and for a long while to come” (11:3). Holofernes is constantly giving the reader clear signs that he himself “doesn’t have a clue” as to what is going on. It is impossible to take him seriously. After all, God doesn’t.
In contrast, Judith seems to be very aware of the double meanings of the things she says, such as when she tells the city magistrates: “You cannot plumb the depths of a person’s heart, nor understand the thoughts of his mind” (8:14). Irony is chiefly the note of what she says to her intended victim, even though the Fool himself suspects nothing. For example, when she uses the expression “my Lord,” Holofernes thinks she is referring to him, whereas it is quite a different “Lord” she has in mind. Thus, she affirms that she “will say nothing false to my Lord this night” (11:5), and then goes on to tell him that “God will accomplish something through you, and my Lord will not fail to achieve his ends” (11:6). He that sitteth in the heavens is holding Holofernes in derision.
The same irony marks other characters in the story, such as the pagan Achior, who displays more trust in Israel’s God than do most of the local Jews. There was also Judith’s anonymous maid, who ventured boldly into the Assyrian camp while the men of Bethulia were too afraid to go out and face the foe.
The entire story is a matter of irony for Judith herself, of course, this respectable widow turned seductress, this matronly and meticulous keeper of Israel’s dietary laws plying her victim with alcohol, this almost monastic devotee of prayer and fasting who comes walking home one morning with a man’s head tucked in her purse. She is a living example of the truth that God’s ways are past finding out.
But they are God’s ways, after all. The enterprising widow of Bethulia is only an instrument. The chief actor in the story is God, and the victory is his. There is not a single overt miracle in the Judith story, nor a divine apparition of any kind. Yet, and still ironically, God is quietly at work, making certain that the necessary deed gets done, holding his foes in derision, then vexing them in his sore displeasure.
Judith’s literary device of irony serves the doctrine of Divine Providence, which is the book’s major theological motif. At the end it is God’s victory that Judith praises: “I will sing unto the Lord a new song: O Lord, Thou art great and glorious, wonderful in strength, and invincible” (16:13).
Then, quietly and as though nothing out of the ordinary had ever happened, the wise and lovely Judith returns once more to her simple, sanctified life of prayer and fasting.
This article originally appeared in Epiphany (Vol. 16:3, 1997) and has been slightly edited.
1. Jerome tells us that he stayed up and translated Judith into Latin from Greek and Aramaic during one night; cf. his Praefatio in Judith (PL 29.39–40).
2. In speaking of Judith as noncanonical, I am using an Orthodox mode of expression. For Roman Catholics, Judith’s canonicity was settled by the Council of Trent, and in recent centuries they have adopted the expression “deuterocanonicals” to refer to Judith and certain other works of the Septuagint.
3. Clement of Rome, Ad Corinthios 55.4f. (Bibliothêkê Hellênõn Patêrõn [BEP] 1.54f.). This and all other translations are my own.
4. Ambrose, De Officiis 3.13.83 (PL 16.169B); 3.14.88 (170B); De Viduis 7.37–38 (246A–B); Isidore of Seville, De Ortu et Obitu Patrum 63 (PL 83.148A); cf. also Pseudo-Augustine, Sermones 49 (PL 39.1840).
5. Thus, the Codex Vaticanus and the various lists in Athanasius, Augustine, Innocent I, Pseudo-Gelasius, Ebedjesu, Cassiodorus, Nicephorus and the Council of Carthage. In the codices Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus, Esther and Judith are separated only by Tobit.
6. Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 4.19 (BEP 8.90); Origen, De Oratione 13.2 (BEP 10.253); 16.3 (260); Isidore of Seville, Allegoriae Quaedam 122 (PL 83.116A); Hugh of St. Victor, Sermones Centum 87 (PL 177.1175–76).
7. Ambrose, Epistolae 1.62.29 (PL 16.1198C); De Viduis 7.38 (246B); also The Apostolic Constitutions 5.20 (BEP 2.93).
8. Ambrose, Epistolae 1.62.29 (PL 16.1197B); De Viduis 7.40–41 (247A).
9. Origen, De Oratione 13.2 (BEP 10.253); also Fulgentius of Ruspe, Epistolae 2.14.29 (PL 65.319–20); Hugh of St. Victor, Allegoriae in Vetus Testamentum 11.3 (PL 175.747–48).
10. Pseudo-Augustine, Sermones 48 (PL 39.1839–40). One is struck by Judith’s resemblance to Daniel with respect to prayer; note, for instance, that her prayer in 9:1 coincides with the evening offering of incense, as in Daniel.
11. Ambrose, De Officiis 3.13.82 (PL 16.169B); De Viduis 7.39 (246C).
12. Methodius of Olympus, Convivium Decem Virginum 11.2 (PG 18.212A); Fulgentius of Ruspe, Epistolae 2.14.29 (PL 65.319D); 2.15.30 (320B); Rhabanus Maurus, In Librum Judith 8 (PL 109.560C); Philip the Praemonstratensian, De Silentio Clericorum 111 (PL 203.1185A).
13. The Apostolic Constitutions 3.7 (BEP 2.63).
14. Ambrose, Epistolae 1.62.29 (PL 16.1198C); The Apostolic Constitutions 8.25 (BEP 2.162); Fulgentius of Ruspe, Epistolae 2.15.30 (PL 65.320A–C).
15. The Apostolic Constitutions 8.2 (BEP 2.142).
16. Fulgentius of Ruspe, Epistolae 2.15.30 (PL 65.320B).
17. John of the Cross, Subida del Monte Carmelo 2.21.9 (Obras Completas, Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos [BAC], 1991, p. 363). A modern Orthodox theologian also goes to Judith to discuss divine foreknowledge and prophecy; cf. Panagiotos Trempela, Dogmatike tes Orthodoxses Katholikes Ekklesias, Vol. 1 (Athens: Ho Soter, 1978), pp. 360f.
18. Hugh of St. Victor, Sermones Centum 86 (PL 177.1174D).
19. Cf. Tertullian, The Council of Carthage, Augustine, Fulgentius of Ruspe.
20. Rhabanus Maurus, Expositio in Librum Judith (PL 109.539–592).
21. Cf. the principal manuscripts of the textus receptus, along with codices 19, 58, 106, 107, and 108. Given the disposition to cite Judith on the part of the early Alexandrians, Clement (Paidagogos 1.8 [BEP 7.113]; Stromateis 2.7 ) and Origen (De Oratione 19.3 [BEP 10.292]; Fragmenta in Jeremiam 20 [BEP 11.164]; In Joannem 2.16 ; 13.28 [BEP 12.137]), it is not surprising that our first extant textual witness to the book is from third-century Egypt—an ostracon containing part of chapter 15, discovered in Cairo in 1946; cf. Julius Schwartz, “Un Fragment Grec du Livre de Judith,” Revue Biblique 53 (1946), 534–547.
22. Cf. Melito of Sardis, Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, Gregory Nazianzen, Amphilochius of Iconium, Leontius of Byzantium, John of Damascus.
23. Cf. Hilary of Poitiers, Ambrose, Pope Innocent I, Cassiodorus.
24. Tertullian, De Monogamia 17.1 (CCL 2.1252). I have experienced this difficulty first-hand. On one occasion my pastoral exhortation to Christian modesty was scorned by a young lady who promptly answered: “Yeah? So what about Judith?” Well, at least I was edified that she had read the book!
25. Ambrose, De Virginitate 2.4.24 (PL 16.213).
26. Cf. Origen, Homiliai in Jeremiam 19 .7 (BEP 11.148); Jerome, Adversus Rufinum 18 (PL 23.412C); Sulpicius Severus, Historia Sacra 2.16 (PL 20.138D). It is passing curious, however, that Augustine’s De Mendacio, singularly inventive in defending the likes of Jacob, Rahab and Tamar from the charge of mendacity, makes no mention at all of Judith.
27. There is also a remarkable parallel in Homer, where Odysseus blinds the powerful Polyphemus after getting him drunk on wine. Re-reading The Odyssey recently, while preoccupied with Judith, I was continually struck by her sustained similarities to the famous polytropos from Ithaca.
28. Cf. A. M. Dubarle, “La Mention de Judith dans la littérature ancienne, juive et chrétienne,” Revue Biblique 66 (1959), 537f.
29. Cf. P. H. Reardon, “Abigail and the Way of Wisdom,” Touchstone 9/2 (Spring 1996), pp. 26–30.
30. Indeed, despite its uncanonical standing among the Jews, Judith was adopted for the annual feast associated with this period, Hanukkah.
31. Some of those bold attempts bordered on heroic. One recalls the wonderful biographer of St. Martin of Tours, Sulpicius Severus, who identified Judith’s Assyrian (!) Nebuchadnezzar (605–562 B.C.) with the Persian Artaxerxes III (358–338 B.C.), an undaunted and highly imaginative effort amply illustrating the sorts of difficulties an historiographer is obliged to face in this account.
32. Martin Luther speculated that Judith’s historical incongruities were deliberate; cf. Luther’s Works, Volume 35 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1960), p. 338.
Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois. He is the author of Christ in the Psalms, Christ in His Saints, and The Trial of Job (all from Conciliar Press). He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
“Apocryphal Judith, Saintly Deceiver” first appeared in the May/June 1998 issue of Touchstone. If you enjoyed this article, you'll find more of the same in every issue.
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