The Book of Tobit is a 3rd century or early 2nd century BCE Jewish work describing how God test the faithful and responds to prayers and defends the covenant community (i.e., the Israelites). The book tells the story of two Jewish families one for the blind Tobit of Nineveh and the other for the undeclared Sarah of Ecbatana. ( Tobit’s son Tobias is given by Raphael to recover the ten silver talents Tobit left behind in Rages the town that is located in Media. Tobias is brought to Ecbatana where Tobias meets Sarah. Asmodeus is a demon who has a wicked agenda has a crush on Sarah and destroys all plans for her wedding. Raphael assists Tobias to exorcize the demon and Sarah is to wed. Tobit is then cured of his blindness.

It is mentioned in both the Orthodox as well as Catholic canons. But, it’s not mentioned in the Jewish. According to Protestant custom, it appears included in the Apocrypha. Anabaptists Lutherans Anglicans, Methodists, Anabaptists Lutherans and Anglicans recognize it as part of Scripture and are able to utilize it for liturgy or edification for purposes, even though it’s not canonical. The majority of scholars believe it to be an untrue work with certain historical references.

Summary and structure

The book is comprised of 14 chapters, forming three major narrative sections with a prologue and epilogue:

  • Prologue (1:1-2)
  • Situation in Nineveh and Ecbatana (1.3-3.17)
  • Tobias’s travels (4:1-12:22)
  • Tobit’s song of praise , and his death (13:1-14:2)
  • Epilogue (14:3-15)
  • (Summarized from BenediktOtzen “Tobit and Judith”)

The introduction informs the reader that this is a story about Tobit the tribe of Naphtali who was deported by Assyrians from Tishbe in Galilee and then taken to Nineveh. He was a loyal follower of the law of Moses and offered sacrifices to the Temple in Jerusalem prior to the Assyrian defeat. His marriage to Anna is mentioned in the story, and the couple had a son named Tobias.

Tobit is a religious man who burys dead Jews. In the night, in his sleep, he is blinded when birds feces in his eyes of Tobit. He becomes dependent on his wife, but accuses her of stealing and prays for death. Meanwhile, Sarah, his relative, lives far away in Ecbatana and prays for his death. Asmodeus, a demon was able to kill her suitors at their wedding nights.

God will answer their prayers and Raphael is the archangel chosen by God to help them, is the one sent. Raphael disguised in human form offers to join Tobias in his quest to get money from a family member. Raphael disguised as a human, is willing to join Tobias in his journey. He informs him that a burnt liver or the heart can rid the demons of the world, and the gall can cure blindness. Raphael predicts that the demon will be eliminated when they reach Ecbatana. Sarah is also there.

Tobias and Sarah get married, Tobias gets richer, and they return to Nineveh (Assyria) where Tobit and Anna wait for Tobit and Anna. Tobit’s blindness is treated and Raphael goes on his way after telling Tobit, Tobias and Tobit to bless God and proclaim his good deeds (the Jews), that they should fast, pray and beg alms. Tobit praises God who has been punishing his people through exile, but who will show them mercy and restore the Temple when they return to him.

In the conclusion Tobit tells Tobias that Nineveh will be destroyed to show evil; similarly Israel will be degraded and the Temple will be destroyed, but Israel as well as the Temple will be restored. Therefore, Tobias must leave Nineveh as well as his children should live in uprightness.


Tobit is thought to be a piece of fiction that has few historical references, and combines prayers, moral exhortation, comedy and adventure with elements derived from folklore, travel stories, wisdom tales as well as comedy and romance. It provided guidance to diaspora Jews living in exile on how to retain their Jewish identity.

Latin Rite readings are based on the book. It is commonly used by the Latin Rite to read from the book in weddings. In terms of doctrine, the book’s instructions regarding angels’ intercession and the piety of filial and reverence for people who have died are referenced. Tobit is also made reference to in chapter five of 1 Meqabyan The book is recognized as canonical in Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

Manuscripts and compositions

Leaf from a vellum manuscript dating to c. 1240.

The tale in the Book of Tobit is set in the 8th century BC, but the book itself is written between 175 and 225 BC. There is no consensus among scholars on the place of composition (“almost every region of the world’s ancient past appears to be a candidate”); a Mesopotamian source is logical considering that the story is set in Assyria and Persia and includes the Persian demon “aeshma daeva”, rendered “Asmodeus”, but it has some significant mistakes in geographical specifics (such as the distance between Ecbatana to Rhages and their topography), and arguments against and in favour of Judean or Egyptian composition also exist.

Tobit is found in two Greek versions, one (Sinaiticus) longer than the other (Vaticanus and Alexandrinus). Aramaic and Hebrew fragments of Tobit (four Aramaic, one Hebrew – it is not clear which was the original language) found among the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran tend to align more closely with the longer or Sinaiticus version, which has formed the basis of most English translations in recent times.

Tobit and Judith are referred to in the Vulgate as historical books, after Nehemiah. Certain manuscripts from Greek versions place them after the wisdom writings.

Canonical status

The deuterocanon refers to Jewish books that are located in the Septuagint and not the Masoretic standard canon of the Jewish Bible. Protestants do not adhere to the Masoretic Canon, so they don’t include Tobit in the traditional Masoretic Canon. But, they do include Tobit in the deuterocanonical category of books, also known as the apocrypha.

The Book of Tobit is listed as a canonical book by the Council of Rome (A.D. 382) The Council of Hippo (A.D. 393) as well as the Council of Carthage (397) and (A.D. 419) as well as the Council of Florence (1442) and finally the Council of Trent (1546), and is part of the canon of the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Catholics refer to it as deuterocanonical.

Augustine (c. A.D. 397) and Augustine (c. A.D. 397) and Pope Innocent I, A.D. 405, confirmed Tobit within the Old Testament Canon. Athanasius (A.D. 367) said that some other books, including the Tobit book Tobit, while not being part of the Canon, “were appointed by the Fathers to be read”.

Rufinus of Aquileia (c. A.D.400) said that the work of Tobit, along with other deuterocanonical works weren’t Canonical however, they were Ecclesiastical.

The book of Tobit is usually placed in the intertestamental section known as Apocrypha according to Protestant tradition. Anabaptism uses the book of Tobit for liturgy during Amish weddings. The “book of Tobit” can be used to provide the basis for the wedding sermon. Tobit is part of the Luther Bible’s “Apocrypha,” which means books which are not considered equivalent to the sacred Scriptures but are still usefully used for reading. Article VI of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England lists it as an article belonging to the “Apocrypha”. The first Methodist liturgical work, The Sunday Service of the Methodists includes passages taken from Tobit in the Eucharistic liturgy. The lectionaries of the Lutheran and Anglican Churches contain scripture readings from the Apocrypha along with alternate Old Testament readings. For Holy Matrimony services, Anglican, Methodist, and Catholic congregations use the Book of Tobit as a Scripture reading.

Tobit offers interesting proof of the early development of the Jewish canon. It focuses on two rather than three divisions, the Law of Moses (i.e. The torah as well as the prophets. For unknown reasons it is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible; proposed explanations include its age (this is now considered to be unlikely) as well as a rumored Samaritan origin or a violation of ritual law, in that it portrays the wedding contract between Tobias and his bride as written by her father , rather than her groom. It is in the Septuagint as a Greek Jewish writings, which was adopted by the Christian canon towards the end of the 4th century.


The inclusion of Tobit in the Christian canon made it possible to influence theology art, culture, and theology throughout Europe. It was often dealt with by the early Church fathers as well as the idea of Tobias and the fish (the fish representing the image of Christ) was extremely popular in both theology and art. The works of Rembrandt are especially noteworthy because, even though he was a member of the Dutch Reformed Church he was responsible for numerous drawings and paintings that depict episodes from the book.