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Jonah, Tobit, Judith (Collegeville Bible Commentary. Old Testament ; 25) (Vol 25) [Paperback]

By Irene Nowell (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   94
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.06" Width: 5.22" Height: 0.26"
Weight:   0.24 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 1, 1986
Publisher   Liturgical Press
ISBN  0814614825  
EAN  9780814614822  

Availability  0 units.

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Item Description...
The complete text of each biblical book is given, with the commentary on the same or facing page. Review aids and discussion topics make the series useful for individual or group Bible study. Books are paperback, 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 and contain from 64 to 144 pages. \RULER L < A C Z R

Publishers Description
The Complete text of each biblical book is given, with the commentary on the same or facing page. Review aids and discussion topics make the series practical and useful for individual or group Bible study.

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More About Irene Nowell

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Irene Nowell, O.S.B., is the director of community formation at Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas.

Irene Nowell currently resides in Atchison, in the state of Kansas. Irene Nowell was born in 1940.

Irene Nowell has published or released items in the following series...
  1. 101 Questions & Answers
  2. New Collegeville Bible Commentary

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Commentaries > Old Testament   [2074  similar products]
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Three Sacred Fictions  Apr 15, 2010
Should I try to review these three narratives as literature or as 'inspired' religious texts? They are certainly both, the only debatable issue being the nature and source of the 'inspiration.' "Jonah" is included in the canon of the Old Testament by Protestants, while "Tobit" and "Judith" are usually included in the Apocrypha. This 93-page study pamphlet comes from a catholic publisher and has both the 'imprimatur' and 'nihil obstat' certifications. Roughly the upper half half of each page is the narrative in the translation of the New American Bible; the lower half of each page consists of notes and explications by Irene Nowell, O.S.B. Much of Nowell's commentary focuses on the historical provenance of the three narratives, which she explicitly identifies as "fictions" intended as exhortations to the contemporaries of the anonymous authors. All three were composed centuries after the events they narrate.

"Jonah" was written around the Fifth century BCE, "when the Jews were still recovering from the Babylonian Captivity..." Nowell interprets it as a polemic against the "attitude of exclusivity and rigid observance of the law" which prevailed among Jews of that era. The man Jonah is sent to preach to non-Jews in the city of Nineveh. It's a short text, just a page and a half in my own Swedish cathechism Bible, and it's replete with thorny ambiguities, much stranger and subtler than the simple tale of Jonah and the Whale.

"Tobit" is the story of an exceptionally pious Jew held in exile in Assyria in the era of Sennacherib. Many of its historical details are inaccurate and it was probably written generations later as a parable of appropriate piety. Tobit shows his courage by piously burying the corpses of executed Jewish criminals, an act for which he is punished. He is also 'tested', like Job, by blindness. Eventually, he sends his son Tobias on a dangerous journey to Media to recover money which he had sequestered with a kinsman. Tobias is aided by a kinsman/servant who turns out to be the archangel Raphael in disguise, one of the seven 'helpers' of G*d. With such help, it's no surprise that Tobias returns with the money and with a proper wife, plus a salve that restores his father's vision. Rapahel then reveal his identity and departs skyward.

"Judith" portrays the invasion of the lands along the eastern Mediterranean coast by the armies of the great Babylonian king Nebuchanezzar, around 593 BCE, under the command of the general Holofernes. The tale was written as much as four hundred years after the historical events; many of the details are faulty, and the geography is thoroughly scrambled. Holofernes has trapped a Jewish frontier settlement in a ruthless siege, and the Jews are losing hope. Judith, a beautiful Jewish widow, rails against them for their lack of faith. She crosses the siege lines, pretends that she is betraying her countrymen, lies guilefully, and 'seduces' Holofernes with her beauty. Holofernes wines and dines her in expectation of bedding her, but falls into a drunken stupor. Judith whacks off his head, sneaks out of the Babylonian camp and carries the gruesome trophy to the Jews. When the Babylonians discover their headless general, they are thrown into confusion and the Jews slaughter them as they flee.

Nowell's explications of the three stories are far from theologically controversial. She hews a rather standardized line, interpreting everything from the very localized perceptual grid of the Jewish authors and their contemporary readers. I would have preferred to see her attempt to place these literary pieces in the broader context of influences upon Jewish culture during those eras of exile and captivity, and especially in the era of "Hellenistic" cosmopolitanism when they were most probably composed. In other words, I question their 'purity' as artifacts of isolated Jewish communities; to me, they seem heavily influenced by exposure to Greek literary traditions. I'm also intrigued by the undertones of polytheism in all three tales. The G*d worshipped by Jonah, Tobit, Judith, and their fellow Jews is repeatedly labeled "their" G*d, theirs exclusively in Tobit and Judith, and references are made to the gods of other 'nations' as if those gods existed independently. Angels and devils are also depicted in the action, as actual entities with their own existence. I'm driven to wonder, by these tales and even more by the related tale of Job, just how pure the 'monotheism' of the Old Testament jews really was.

But my interest in these three narratives isn't actually theological at all. Rather, it's musical and artistic. All three stories were immensely popular in the 17th and 18th Centuries as subjects for painting, sculpture, and theatrical music - cantatas, oratorios, and operas. The popularity of the names Jonah, Tobias, and Judith are a remnant in our times of the fascination people felt for these characters in the Baroque era. The most splendid musical settings of the 'sacred' narratives, in my opinion, are:

Jonah: the oratorio "Jonas" by Giacomo Carissimi, brilliantly recorded by Les Voix Baroques

Judith: the opera "Juditha Triumphans" by Antonio Vivaldi, sung on recording by Magdalena Kozena

Tobit: the oratorio "Tobit" by George Frederic Handel, and the oratorio "Il Ritorno di Tobia" by Joseph Haydn

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