The Canonicity of Judith

Originally posted 7/2/2007.

MYTH
The Book of Judith, which Catholics added to the Bible, is full of errors and uninspired

1. The New Testament refers to the “deuterocanonical”{1} book of Judith in several places.{2} The Fathers, Saints, Doctors, Councils, and Popes treat Judith as canonical. These include St. Hilary of Poitiers,{3} St. Athanasius the Great,{4} St. Basil the Great,{5} St. Ambrose the Great,{6} Pope St. Damasus,{7} St. Gregory Nazianzen,{8} St. Jerome the Great{9}, the Council of Hippo,{10} the Third Council of Carthage,{11} the Apostolic Constitutions,{12} Rufinus of Aquileia,{13} Pope St. Innocent I,{14} St. Augustine the Great,{15} Pope St. Clement I of Rome,{16} Tertullian, and Origen. I just referred to eleven saints, seven doctors, three councils, and three popes.


2. The Church has always regarded the book of Judith, whose name means Jewess, as God-breathed Scripture; the pernicious heretic Martin Luther was the one who subtracted books from the Bible as he saw fit. There is not a single error in the original manuscripts, and there are only copyist/scribal errors in the ones we have today; original inerrancy is a true doctrine. That being said, Protestants often object to the canonicity of Judith because they say the book is unhistorical and full of errors. Their complaints, which we will treat below, are without merit.

Obj. 1: The mention of the Sanhedrin in Judith 4:8; 11:14; 15:8 is anachronistic.
Reply 1: “Gerousia” does not mean “Sanhedrin,” but is the same as “ancients” in Lev 9:3.

Obj. 2: Judith was not a historical person, as evidenced by her symbolic name “Jewess.”
Reply 2: The book would not have detailed Judith’s husband’s demise [Judith 8:2-4] if it was not a historical narrative about real people.

Obj. 3: Judith is confused about Palestinian geography; in her speech to Holofernes [Judith 11:12,15] she mixes up Jerusalem and Bethulia and the Bethulia, which is said to have been a large city with streets and towers [Judith 7:22,32], evidently never existed, but Judith says it was on the edge of the Esdrelon Plain guarding the pass to Jerusalem.
Reply 3: It is likely that by Bethulia St. Judith (Joachim transcribed her account) indicated Mithilia, and she obviously was highly knowledgeable about Palestinian geography as is evident from her description of the strategic description in Judith 4:1-6.

Obj. 4: Judith wrongly calls Nebuchadnezzar the King of Nineveh because Nineveh was destroyed before 605 B.C, the year Nebuchadnezzar was crowned. Further, the events must have been taken place after the Restoration as is plain from Judith 5:22; 8:18-19.
Reply 4: This Nebuchadnezzar is the same man as Assurbanipal who was contemporary with Phraortes. Thus Judith refers to the captivity and Restoration of Manassas under Assurbanipal [2 Chr 33:11] and not the one under Esdras.

Notes and References
{1} The adjective Deuterocanonical was devised in the 1600s to denote the seven of Scripture which the Protestant followers of the heretic Martin Luther rejected, i.e. subtracted, mutilating Sacred Scripture. In fact they are properly described as “canonical” but for purposes of dealing with anti-Catholic Protestants they are often referred to as deuterocanonical.
{2} Cf. Mt 9:36 and Judith 11:19; Mk 9:48 and Judith 16:17; Lk 1:42 and Judith 13:18; 1 Cor 2:10 and Judith 8:14; and 1 Cor 10:10 and Judith 8:25.
{3} In A.D. 365 St. Hilary of Poitiers, Doctor of the Church, said in Prologue to the Psalms 15: “[T]he Old Testament is reckoned as consisting of twenty-two books…so that of Moses there be five books…with the Lamentations and the Letter[Baruch 6-Epistle of Jeremiah], and Daniel…bringing the number of the books to twenty-two. It is to be noted also that by adding to these Tobias and Judith, there are twenty-four books, corresponding to the number of letters used by the Greeks.”
{4} Two years later Patriarch St. Athanasius the Great of Alexandria, the Doctor of the Church from whom we have the splendid Athanasian Creed on the Trinity, said in his Festal Letters, 39:4,7:

There are, then, of the Old Testament, twenty-two books in number; for, as I have heard, it is handed down that this is the number of the letters among the Hebrews; their respective order and names being as follows. The first is Genesis, then Exodus, next Leviticus, after that Numbers, and then Deuteronomy. Following these there is Joshua, the son of Nun, then Judges, then Ruth. And again, after these four books of Kings, the first and second being reckoned as one book, and so likewise the third and fourth as one book. And again, the first and second of the Chronicles are reckoned as one book. Again Ezra, the first and second are similarly one book. After these there is the book of Psalms, then the Proverbs, next Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. Job follows, then the Prophets, the twelve being reckoned as one book. Then Isaiah, one book, then Jeremiah with Baruch, Lamentations, and the epistle, one book; afterwards, Ezekiel and Daniel, each one book. Thus far constitutes the Old Testament … But for greater exactness I add this also, writing of necessity; that there are other books besides these not indeed included in the Canon, but appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of godliness. The Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit, and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being [merely] read; nor is there in any place a mention of apocryphal writings. But they are an invention of heretics, who write them when they choose, bestowing upon them their approbation, and assigning to them a date, that so, using them as ancient writings, they may find occasion to lead astray the simple.

{5} In A.D. 375 St. Basil the Great of Caesarea, Doctor of the Church, said in On the Holy Spirit, 8:19, “So as Judith says [Judith 9:5-6], ‘Thou hast thought, and what things thou didst determine were ready at hand.'”
{6} Three years after that Bishop St. Ambrose the Great of Milan, Doctor of the Church, said [Concerning Widows, 7:38], “So then, holy Judith [Judith 10:3-5], strengthened by lengthened mourning and by daily fasting, sought not the enjoyments of the world regardless of danger, and strong in her contempt for death.”
{7} In A.D. 382 Pope St. Damasus decreed at the Council of Rome,

The order of the Old Testament begins here: Genesis, one book; Exodus, one book; Leviticus, one book; Numbers, one book; Deuteronomy, one book; Joshua [Son of] Nave, one book; Judges, one book; Ruth, one book; Kings, four books [i.e., 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings]; Paralipomenon [Chronicles], two books; Psalms, one book; Solomon, three books: Proverbs, one book; Ecclesiastes, one book; Canticle of Canticles [Song of Songs], one book; likewise Wisdom, one book; Ecclesiasticus [Sirach], one book. Likewise the order of the Prophets. Isaias [Isaiah] one book, Jeremias [Jeremiah] one book, … Lamentations, Ezechiel [Ezekiel] one book, Daniel one book, Osee [Hosea] … Nahum … Habacuc [Habakkuk] … Sophonias [Zephaniah] … Aggeus [Haggai] … Zacharias … Malachias [Malachi] … Likewise the order of the historical [books]: Job, one book; Tobit, one book; Esdras, two books [Ezra and Nehemiah]; Esther, one book; Judith, one book; Maccabees, two books.

{8} Two years had passed when St. Gregory Nazianzen the Great, Theologian of the Trinity and Doctor of the Church, said, quoting Judith 5:6 [Oration 45, Second Oration on Easter 15], “[I]n the Scripture the ‘Seed of the Chaldeans’ removed, and the children of Babylon dashed against the Rocks and destroyed.”
{9} In A.D. 391 St. Jerome the Great, Doctor of the Church, said [Preface to Samuel and Kings=Prologus Galeatus], “This preface to the Scriptures may serve as a ‘helmeted’ introduction to all the books which we now turn from Hebrew into Latin, so that we may be assured that what is not found in our list must be placed amongst the Apocryphal writings. Wisdom… the book of …Sirach, and Judith, and Tobias, and the Shepherd are not in the canon. The first book of Maccabees I have found to be in Hebrew, the second in Greek, as can be proved from the very style.”
In A.D. 398 he wrote [Preface to the Proverbs],

We have the authentic book of Jesus son of Sirach, and another pseudepigraphic work, entitled the Wisdom of Solomon. I found the first in Hebrew, with the title, ‘Parables’, not Ecclesiasticus, as in Latin versions…The second finds no place in Hebrew texts, and its style is redolent of Greek eloquence: a number of ancient writers assert that it is a work of Philo Judaeus. Therefore, just as the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees, but does not admit them to the canon of Scripture; so let the Church read these two volumes, for the edification of the people, but not to support the authority of ecclesiastical doctrines.

{10} In A.D. 393 the Council of Hippo decreed Canon 36:

That nothing be read in church besides the Canonical Scripture. Item, that besides the Canonical Scriptures nothing be read in church under the name of divine Scripture. But the Canonical Scriptures are as follows: Genesis. Exodus. Leviticus. Numbers. Deuteronomy. Joshua the Son of Nun. The Judges. Ruth. The Kings, four books. The Chronicles, two books. Job. The Psalter. The Five books of Solomon. The Twelve Books of the Prophets. Isaiah. Jeremiah. Ezechiel. Daniel, Tobit. Judith. Esther. Ezra, two books. Macchabees, two books.

{11} In A.D. 397 the Third Council of Carthage decreed [Canon 397],

[It has been decided] that nothing except the canonical Scriptures should be read in the Church under the name of the divine Scriptures. But the canonical Scriptures are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, Paralipomenon [Chronicles], two books, Job, the Psalter of David, five books of Solomon [Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, Sirach], twelve books of the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, two books of Esdras, two books of the Maccabees.

{12} Three years later the Apostolic Constitutions said [47:85],

Of the Old Covenant: the five books of Moses–Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy; one of Joshua the son of Nun, one of the Judges, one of Ruth, four of the Kings, two of the Chronicles, two of Ezra, one of Esther, one of Judith, three of the Maccabees, one of Job, one hundred and fifty psalms; three books of Solomon–Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs; sixteen prophets. And besides these, take care that your young persons learn the Wisdom of the very learned Sirach.

{13} Rufinus of Aquileia said in The Apostles Creed,

Of the Old Testament, therefore, first of all there have been handed down five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Then Jesus Nave, (Joshua the son of Nun), The Book of Judges together with Ruth; then four books of Kings (Reigns), which the Hebrews reckon two; the Book of Omissions, which is entitled the Book of Days (Chronicles), and two books of Ezra (Ezra and Nehemiah), which the Hebrews reckon one, and Esther; of the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel; moreover of the twelve (minor) Prophets, one book; Job also and the Psalms of David, each one book. Solomon gave three books to the Churches, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles. These comprise the books of the Old Testament … But it should be known that there are also other books which our fathers call not ‘Canonical’ but ‘Ecclesiastical:’ that is to say, Wisdom, called the Wisdom of Solomon, and another Wisdom, called the Wisdom of the Son of Syrach, which last-mentioned the Latins called by the general title Ecclesiasticus, designating not the author of the book, but the character of the writing. To the same class belong the Book of Tobit, and the Book of Judith, and the Books of the Maccabees…These are the traditions which the Fathers have handed down to us, which, as I said, I have thought it opportune to set forth in this place, for the instruction of those who are being taught the first elements of the Church and of the Faith, that they may know from what fountains of the Word of God their draughts must be taken.

{14} In A.D. 405 Pope St. Innocent I said [Ep. 6 to Exsuperius], “A brief addition shows what books really are received in the canon. These are … of Moses five books … and Josue [Joshua], of Judges one book, of Kings four books, and also Ruth, of the Prophets sixteen books, of Solomon five books, the Psalms. Likewise of the histories, Job one book, of Tobias one book, Esther one, Judith one, of the Machabees two, of Esdra two, Paralipomenon [Chronicles] two books…”
{15} Bishop St. Augustine the Great of Hippo [On Christian Doctrine ii, 8] said in A.D. 426:

Now the whole canon of Scripture on which we say this judgment is to be exercised, is contained in the following books:–Five books of Moses, that is, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; one book of Joshua the son of Nun; one of Judges; one short book called Ruth, which seems rather to belong to the beginning of Kings; next, four books of Kings, and two of Chronicles –these last not following one another, but running parallel, so to speak, and going over the same ground. The books now mentioned are history, which contains a connected narrative of the times, and follows the order of the events. There are other books which seem to follow no regular order, and are connected neither with the order of the preceding books nor with one another, such as Job, and Tobias, and Esther, and Judith, and the two books of Maccabees, and the two of Ezra (i.e., Ezra & Nehemiah), which last look more like a sequel to the continuous regular history which terminates with the books of Kings and Chronicles. Next are the Prophets, in which there is one book of the Psalms of David; and three books of Solomon, viz., Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. For two books, one called Wisdom and the other Ecclesiasticus, are ascribed to Solomon from a certain resemblance of style, but the most likely opinion is that they were written by Jesus the son of Sirach. Still they are to be reckoned among the prophetical books, since they have attained recognition as being authoritative. The remainder are the books which are strictly called the Prophets: twelve separate books of the prophets which are connected with one another, and having never been disjoined, are reckoned as one book; the names of these prophets are as follows:–Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; then there are the four greater prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel. The authority of the Old Testament is contained within the limits of these forty-four books.

{16} Pope St. Clement I of Rome, 1 Corinthians 55.

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