Judith 16:24-31 (DRB) And the people were joyful in the sight of the sanctuary, and for three months the joy of this victory was celebrated with Judith. 25 And after those days every man returned to his house, and Judith was made great in Bethulia, and she was most renowned in all the land of Israel. 26 And chastity was joined to her virtue, so that she knew no man all the days of her life, after the death of Manasses her husband. 27 And on festival days she came forth with great glory. 28 And she abode in her husband's house a hundred and five years, and made her handmaid free, and she died, and was buried with her husband in Bethulia. 29 And all the people mourned for seven days. 30 And all the time of her life there was none that troubled Israel, nor many years after her death. 31 But the day of the festivity of this victory is received by the Hebrews in the number of holy days, and is religiously observed by the Jews from that time until this day.

Thanks in advance.

  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya! Please take a look at our tour for more information on how our site works; I see that you’re a member at Biblical Hermeneutics and Christianity, so you’re already aware that different Stacks work differently from each other.
    – DonielF
    Sep 14, 2018 at 15:10
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    To others who see this question: do not vote to close this as comparative religion. If we allow questions about Judaism from other religions, certainly we should allow them from the Apocrypha.
    – DonielF
    Sep 14, 2018 at 15:11
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    @SolaGratia Many scholars agree that references to "the king of Assyria", "Babylon", etc. are euphesisms for the Greeks. The story is supposed to have taken place during the Hellenistic period, during the Maccabean Revolt.
    – ezra
    Sep 14, 2018 at 15:53
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    My copy of Judith ends at verse 25. Where are these extra verses from?
    – Double AA
    Sep 16, 2018 at 1:30
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    From the Vulgate. St. Jerome did not use the LXX but an Aramaic edition used in his day. Being the Biblical purist he was ("Hebrew truth" and all that), it's very safe to assume he didn't grab any old Aramaic edition, but one used by Jews in his day. After all, he learned Hebrew and Aramaic from a Jew, and even had a Jew relate the Aramaic of Judith in Biblical Hebrew: that's actually what the Vulgate edition of Judith is the result of (he knew Aramaic but was not just as proficient in it as Hebrew).
    – SolaGratia
    Sep 16, 2018 at 12:55

2 Answers 2


Professor Yehoshua M. Grintz in his annotated edition of Yehudit, wrote on the Vulgate's addition to the ending of the book:

"...במאה הד' לספירה לא נמצאה מכבר בידי העם אלא נוסחה ארמית...נוסחה זו לא הגיעה גם היא אלינו, אבל יכולים אנו לשערה בערך, מתוך התרגום הלאטיני של הירונימוס (היא הוולגטה). בהקדמה לתרגומו הוא מספר שלא היה מתרגם מן היווני אלא מה שמצא כמותו בארמי...לאיזה דור ייחסו את המעשה? גם כאן המושל הוא עדיין "נבוכדנאצר מלך אשור". אבל נראה שכבר אז ביקשו להאחיז אותו באיזה "יום טוב". בסופה של הוולגאטה בא פסוק מעניין...וכבר הראה בול, שפסוק זה נוסף: לא זו בלבד שאינו בשום נוסחה אחרת אלא שאין הוא גם כדרך כתיבתו של סופר ישראלי. אין הוא כותב "בני ישראל" אלא "יהודים" ו"עברים" (שזה דרך השימוש הארמי או היווני). על כן איננו הוספה משל הירונימוס, הרי הוא מידו של המתרגם הארמי."

Translation: "In the 4th century CE there wasn't available by the people but the Aramaic version...this version didn't come to us as-is, but we can hypothesize, more or less [how it was], from Jerome's Latin translation (the Vulgate). In the introduction to his translation he relates that there wasn't a translator from the Greek but what he found similar to it in the Aramaic...to what generation did they [the Jews] attribute the tale? Also here the ruler is still "Nevuchadnetzar King of Assyria". But it seems that even then they wanted to connect [the story] to some sort of "holiday". At the end of the Vulgate comes an interesting verse...and Boll already showed that this verse is an addition: Not only does it not appear in any other version, but it also isn't written in the style of an Israelite author. He doesn't write "the Children of Israel" but "Jews" and "Hebrews" (which is the way it was used by the Aramaic and the Greek). Therefore, this isn't an addition made by Jerome, but it was by the hand of the Aramaic translator."

Per Professor Grintz it seems that there was no holiday, but the anonymous Aramaic translator wished to strengthen the hold of the story but connecting it to some "lost" holiday.

However, later he mentions that Rabbi Dr. Moshe Gaster, when discussing the story, brought a midrashic version of the story, which seems to be from some sort of edition of Megillat Ta'anit, which is a Tannaic text that tells on what days it was not allowed to decree fast days. In this version (which doesn't appear in the version in Sefaria), it says:

"תנו רבנן: בשמונה עשר באדר יום שעלה סליקוס הוא. ‏דתניא: כשצר על ירושלים היו ישראל בשקים ובתענית, והיתה שם אשה אחת יפה ביותר, ויהודית בת אחיטוב שמה...עד שנשבעה להם, ולא האמינו, עד שהראתה להם ראשו של אותו רשע, והאמינו ופתחו לה. ואותו יום עשאוהו יום טוב. כיון שהיה יום שני, יצאו ישראל ופשטו ידיהם על אותם הגייסות והרגו בהם, עד שאיבדו אותם מן העולם. והשאר הניחו סוסיהם וממונם וברחו, ובאו בני ישראל ושבו את הכל." (can be found here and partially here)

Translation: "Our sages taught: In the eighteenth of Adar the day that Salikus rose up. As it is taught in a baraita: When he laid siege upon Jerusalem, Israel sat in sackcloth and fasted, and there was there a beautiful woman, and Yehudit bat Achituv was her name...until she swore to them, and they didn't believe her, until she showed them the head of that evil man, and they believed her and they opened up [the gate] to her and that day they made into a holiday. As the second day came, the Israelites went out and struck the legions and killed them, until they wiped them from the world. And the rest left their horses and wealth and escaped, and the Children of Israel came and took everything captive."

So it's possible that the referenced holiday is the 18th of Adar (per the midrash, it seems this all happened in a two-day period).

  • Thanks for your answer, and I concur. Is it safe to say that this tradition/holiday has simply been lost? (As to the two-day part: Judith slew Holofernes some time before all the slaying and gathering spoils: "And as soon as the sun shall rise, let every man take his arms, and rush ye out, not as going down beneath, but as making an assault"). This explains that it all took place on two (or more) days, but the thing celebrated (the decapitation of the chief enemy) on one day.
    – SolaGratia
    Jan 25, 2021 at 23:58
  • @SolaGratia You're welcome. Actually, it's my understanding that the Book of Yehudit, if not being outright fiction, certainly wasn't connected to any sort of day of thanks for the first couple of centuries, but there was a separate event, during the time of the Chashmonaim, in which a woman - possibly with a similar name - killed one of the Greek generals, thus forming the basis of multiple midrashim (including the one Rabbi Gaster found), and that is the event that created that day of thanks, which the Aramaic translator later decided to connect with the Book, in order to give it a
    – Harel13
    Jan 26, 2021 at 5:46
  • stronger basis. Make it more reliable, etc. With that said, I'd still be weary of saying that this is a tradition that was lost, for a few reasons: a. Like in the case of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we don't make halachic rulings based on things found in the ground, because for all we know, they may have been put there as genizah - texts with holy words that are no longer useable are buried. And why are the texts no longer useable? Sometimes it's because of physical damage to the text. But at other times, it's because the text was deemed to not be useable in theological terms.
    – Harel13
    Jan 26, 2021 at 5:50
  • So too, Rabbi Gaster's midrash: Prof. Grintz wrote that it's from a version of Megillat Ta'anit. Why is this version no longer in circulation? (I checked multiple editions of the scroll. It's not there) For all we know, it was deemed that this tradition of a day of thanks was false. Never mind, I don't have other reasons.
    – Harel13
    Jan 26, 2021 at 5:56
  • Of course, the other option is that this day, like almost every other day in Megillat Ta'anit, simply fell out of favor. There many days of thanks in the Scroll that haven't been celebrated in over a thousand years. In the diaspora there was also such a custom, to create days of thanks for miraculous events. But these were unique to specific families and/or communities. I think most of them aren't still kept.
    – Harel13
    Jan 26, 2021 at 6:24

The Book of Judith was originally written as a fiction and was (incorrectly) accepted as valid by the Christians. Even the nonJewish scholars regard this as a work of fiction. It does seem that it is possible that it is conflated with Chanuka. However, since the reference is to a single day, But the day of the festivity of this victory, it does not seem likely.

The Jewish Encyclopedia dates its composition as around the first century before the Common Era. This means that it could never have happened.

One would probably not be far out of the way in placing it near the beginning of the first century B.C. The book is first quoted by Clement of Rome (Ep. I. ad Corinth., c. 55), near the end of the first century of the common era.

Wikipedia says

Historicity of Judith

It is generally accepted that the Book of Judith is ahistorical. 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."[26]

Thus, the great villain is "Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled over the Assyrians" (1:1), yet the historical Nebuchadnezzar II was the king of Babylonia.[26] Other details, such as fictional place names, the immense size of armies and fortifications, and the dating of events, cannot be reconciled with the historical record.[26] Judith's village, Bethulia (literally "virginity") is unknown and otherwise unattested to in any ancient writing.[26]

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. 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 BCE) and its last ruler to die while Judea remained an independent kingdom.[31]

The Jewish Encyclopedia also explains that it is a complete work of fiction. As a result, there would be no such holiday. In fact, the Encyclopedia points out that from the first sentence, it is deliberately written so that the reader would know that it is fiction.

Historical Setting.

The book begins with a date, "the twelfth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar," and everything moves with the air of a precise account of actual events. But the way in which the narrative at once makes open sport of chronology and history is very striking. Nebuchadnezzar is the king of Assyria, and reigns in Nineveh(!). The Jews, who have "newly returned from the captivity" (iv. 3, v. 19), are in no sense his subjects; indeed, his chief captain has apparently never heard of them (v. 3). Yet the writer of this story was a well-informed man, familiar with foreign geography (i. 6-10, ii. 21-28), and well acquainted with the Hebrew Scriptures (i. 1; ii. 23; v. 6-19; viii. 1, 26; ix. 2 et seq.). It must therefore be concluded either that the principal names of the story are a mere disguise, or that they were chosen with a purely literary purpose, and with the intent to disclaim at the outset any historical verity for the tale. The former supposition is not rendered plausible by any consideration, and fails utterly to account for the peculiarities of the narrative; the latter, on the contrary, gives a satisfactory explanation of all the facts. That is, with the very first words of the tale, "In the twelfth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned over the Assyrians in Nineveh," the narrator gives his hearers a solemn wink. They are to understand that this is fiction, not history. It did not take place in this or that definite period of Jewish history, but simply "once upon a time," the real vagueness of the date being transparently disguised in the manner which has become familiar in the folk-tales of other parts of the world.

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    Are you aware the book of Judith is not a Christian book? They adopted it into their canon, but it predates Christ and is a Jewish book; cf. the 1913 Jewish Encyclopedia article on the Book.. Moreover, my question does not rely on the canonicity of the Book, but to what the author is referring when he states the Jewish people celebrate this among their Feasts. Clearly his readers couldn't be fooled into believing the Jews held a Feast in memory of Judith in his day if they could readily see they didn't.
    – SolaGratia
    Sep 14, 2018 at 21:37
  • @SolaGratia According to the citation, it appears to have been known to be a work of fiction. As such, references cannot be trusted to be correct. If there was such a day, it was not regarded as a holiday, like Chanuka. Sep 14, 2018 at 21:47
  • @SolaGratia I changed the Christian reference to match the Jewish Encyclopedia. Sep 14, 2018 at 21:55
  • 'it was not regarded as a holiday' is sadly begging the question: what if this is testimony to the keeping of this holiday you said we lack ('they didn't regard it as a holiday')? "This means that it could never have happened" what of Genesis? What is the length of time from the events recorded and the composition of the history? I don't think that's a good standard for anyone who believes in the Torah to be applying to books.
    – SolaGratia
    Sep 14, 2018 at 21:58
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    Invalid logic: did the Book of Esther cause Purim to be celebrated? 1 Maccabees, Chanukka? Aren't they histories of the figures celebrated? Don't the Books themselves note they are written post the founding of the respective Feasts?
    – SolaGratia
    Sep 14, 2018 at 22:05

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