|To’bit, Book of, |
a book of the Apocryphal which exists at present in Greek, Latin, Syriac and Hebrew texts, but it was probably written originally in Greek. The scene of the book is placed in Assyria, whither Tobit, a Jew, had been carried as a captive by Shalmaneser. It is represented and completed shortly after the fall of Nineveh (B.C. 606), Tob. 14:15, and written, in the main, some time before. Tob. 12:20. But the whole tone of the narrative bespeaks a later age and above all, the doctrine of good and evil spirits is elaborated in a form which belongs to a period considerably posterior to the Babylonian captivity. Asmodeus iii. 8; vi. 14; viii. 3; Raphael xii. 15. It cannot be regarded as a true history. It is a didactic narrative and its point lies in the moral lessons which it conveys, and not in the incidents. In modern times the moral excellence of the book has been rated highly, except in the heat of controversy. Nowhere else is there preserved so complete and beautiful a picture of the domestic life of the Jews after the return. Almost every family relation is touched upon with natural grace and affection. A doctrinal feature of the book is the firm belief in a glorious restoration of the Jewish people. Tob. 14:5; 13:9-18. But the restoration contemplated is national, and not the work of a universal Saviour. In all there is not the slightest trace of the belief in a personal Messiah.