Friday, June 08, 2007

Tobit, Tobiah and Raphael

This week's first readings for Mass have been from the book of Tobit, a charming "novelette" from the 2nd century BC. In some ways, it is like the book of Job, with one of the central characters being a just man beset by suffering. But mainly it is edifying fiction about how to live an upright life, and it has a good dose of the angelic for good measure. In fact, this is where we get the name of the archangel Raphael ("God heals"). It is Raphael who presents the prayers of Tobit, blinded and miserable, and of Sarah, plagued by a demon, and it is Raphael who is sent to heal them. There's even romance (between Tobit's son Tobiah and Sarah). The liturgical readings give only the barest outline of the story. It is really worth your while to read the whole book, savoring its antiquity.
This is one of those books which came to us in the Greek version, and was, for that reason, excluded from Jewish and Protestant Bibles. Interestingly, Aramaic and Hebrew fragments of the book of Tobit were found among the Dead Sea scrolls.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

After hearing the readings of Tobit, Tobiah and Raphael all week I am happy to have it explained to me in the king's english. Thanks,spqr