Thursday, October 30, 2014

“Our ancestors would think that Europe disavowed Jesus Christ and started worshipping Satan”

Russian Orthodox Church harshly condemns Halloween for its cult of death

The Russian Orthodox Church expressed its concerns in connection with the modern tradition to celebrate Halloween. “Times have changed a lot nowadays. The innocent amusement has been replaced with the entertainment industry, which tends to take dark and mystical coloring,” an article by Mikhail Dudko, a priest of the Uspensky Cathedral in London said.
Speaking about the modern tradition to celebrate Halloween, the cleric said that normal piety has been replaced with commercial dismay. “Our ancestors would think that Europe disavowed Jesus Christ and started worshipping Satan,” the priest wrote.
“Old Christian nations of the continent used to entertain themselves with the contrast of their children’s innocent faces and pumpkins which only symbolized the evil defeated by Christ. Nowadays the true evil gradually comes to a reign,” Mikhail Dudko wrote.

To exemplify his point of view, the priest resorts to the film titled Halloween. The film tells of a little boy, who murdered his six-year-old sister on the eve of Halloween and then became a blood-thirsty killer.
“Confessions of mad people have become quite ordinary. They acknowledge that the roots of their pathological aggressiveness lie in their passion for pop culture, computer games and cinema. Who knows how many mentally unstable people this film will push to committing a crime,” the priest wrote in his article.

Mikhail Dudko also said that in Great Britain, where Halloween originally appeared, many people who have not lost their reason, begin to express their deep anxiety because of Halloween. Local clergymen, for example, asked trading networks to make Halloween a kinder holiday. “One has to be aware of the liberalism of the Anglican Church to understand the reason for such an address – the evil has gone too far,” the priest wrote.

In the meantime, spokespeople for the Depart of Education in Moscow say that Russian schools must not organize any events devoted to Halloween. “The position of the department remains unchanged since 2003, when the administration signed a letter to headmasters of Moscow schools asking them not to hold any events devoted to Halloween,” the press secretary of the Department of Education, Alexander Gavrilov said.
The official said that such decision was made in connection with religious aspects of the holiday – the cult of death, gloating over death, the personification of evil spirits, etc. which contradicts to the secular character of education of state-run schools in Russia. “It is destructive for the psychological and moral health of schoolchildren,” Gavrilov said.

The term Halloween (and its alternative rendering Hallowe'en) is shortened from All-hallow-even, as it is the eve of "All Hallows' Day", which is now also known as All Saints' Day. Some modern Halloween traditions developed out of older pagan traditions, especially surrounding the Irish holiday Samhain, a day associated both with the harvest and otherworldly spirits. Irish and Scottish immigrants carried versions of the tradition to North America in the nineteenth century. Other western countries embraced the holiday in the late twentieth century. Halloween is now celebrated in several parts of the Western world, most commonly in Ireland, the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom and occasionally in parts of Australia and New Zealand.

Many European cultural traditions, in particular Celtic cultures, hold that Halloween is one of the liminal times of the year when spirits can make contact with the physical world, and when magic is most potent, according to Wikipedia.

Halloween did not become a holiday in the United States until the 19th century, where lingering Puritan tradition restricted the observance of many holidays. American almanacs of the late 18th and early 19th centuries do not include Halloween in their lists of holidays. The transatlantic migration of nearly two million Irish following the Irish Potato Famine (1845-1849) finally brought the holiday to the United States. Scottish emigration from the British Isles, primarily to Canada before 1870 and to the United States thereafter, brought the Scottish version of the holiday to each country.

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Church Fathers Were Right About Jewish Origins of Greek Philosophy


Damien F. Mackey



My view that so-called ‘western’ philosophy has its true origins in Hebrew (Jewish) wisdom (חָכְמָה: Chokmah) has led to my writing articles such as the following:


Joseph as Thales: Not an "Hellenic Gotterdamerung" but Israelite Wisdom



Re-Orienting to Zion the History of Ancient Philosophy




Hebrew Foundations of Pythagoras



Dr. Ed (Ewald) Metzler, who has done some important work identifying the influence of Israel’s Davidic dynasty upon Egypt, as I discussed in


House of David



has also written interestingly, regarding Pythagoras and “The Impact of Israel on Western Philosophy” (


[# 3]

According  to  Hermippus  of Smyrna Pythagoras owed all of his theories to the Jews. ….


[# 4]

Of course, Pythagoras might have gotten his  theorem  somewhere  else, if it were not for his other  teachings,  which  make him look like a man of   weird   idiosyncrasies.10)   However,  the  bond which   ties   his  various  theories  together  is  the fact  that  they  all  refer  to the Tablets of the Law in   the   Holy  of  Holies  of  the  First  Temple  in

Jerusalem, such  as the holiness of the ten spheres (Decalogue), the Tetraktys (Tetragrammaton), and the  so-called  Pythagorean numbers 3, 4, and 5 of the   tablets   and   their  box …. The  Pythagoreans swore  their  holy oath by the Tetraktys, i. e. by the Tetragrammaton Y.H.W.H. or YaHUH (Yahuweh), “by  him  who  has  given  to  our  people  the  Ten Commandments”,   the   ten   boustrophedon   lines (Devarim  “logoi”  or  Sephirot  “spheres”)  of  the Torah  “theoria”  of  Moses,    as  the  Jews  even today   bless  “him  who  has  given  the  Torah  to his  people  Israel.” …. 


In the persecution and scattering of the Pythagoreans after the death of Pythagoras we may have a later reminiscence of the Oppression (after the death of Joseph) and subsequent Exodus of the Israelites.


Clues from the Church Fathers


Some of my inspiration for the above-mentioned philosophical articles arose from a common Patristic view about the pagan Greco-Roman philosophers being, in large part, influenced by the Bible and its Hebrew wisdom and Law. Augustine of Hippo was a notable contributor to this view.  


Augustine of Hippo


Pope Benedict XVI had shown himself to be a great fan of St. Augustine of Hippo - e.g., quoting him regularly in his 2007 Lenten Meeting with the Clergy of Rome - as was Pope John Paul II before him, who, in his Apostolic Letter, ‘Augustine of Hippo’ (1986), wrote that (Ch. IV): “… the aim of [Augustine’s] own study [of Sacred Scripture] … is the entirety of Scripture, so that the true thought, or … the “heart” … of Scripture may be indicated, harmonising it where necessary with itself…”.

Augustine has the reputation of a man of perceptive genius. What I especially take from the saint for the purposes of this article is an often-quoted section of his Chapter 11 from his classic, The City of God, in which Augustine tells how Christian commentators had discerned “conceptions” in the writings of Plato “in which they recognize considerable agreement with the truth of our religion”. This phenomenon had led some (e.g., St. Ambrose) to conclude that Plato had actually heard the prophet Jeremiah when in Egypt:    


Certain partakers with us in the grace of Christ, wonder when they hear and read that Plato had conceptions concerning God, in which they recognize considerable agreement with the truth of our religion.  Some have concluded from this, that when he went to Egypt he had heard the prophet Jeremiah, or, whilst travelling in the same country, had read the prophetic scriptures, which opinion I myself have expressed in certain of my writings. ….


Whilst Augustine himself had cause later to reject this opinion on chronological grounds:


…. 306    De Doctrina Christiana, ii. 43.  Comp. Retract. ii. 4, 2.But a careful calculation of dates, contained in chronological history, shows that Plato was born about a hundred years after the time in which Jeremiah prophesied, and, as he lived eighty-one years, there are found to have been about seventy years from his death to that time when Ptolemy, king of Egypt, requested the prophetic scriptures of the Hebrew people to be sent to him from Judea, and committed them to seventy Hebrews, who also knew the Greek tongue, to be translated and kept.  Therefore, on that voyage of his, Plato could neither have seen Jeremiah, who was dead so long before, nor have read those same scriptures which had not yet been translated into the Greek language, of which he was a master ….


it may be that a properly revised chronology, coupled with an originally Jewish origin of so-called ‘Greek’ philosophers, as according to my articles above, and others, may yet allow for a chronological synchronisation, in Egypt, of the prophet Jeremiah and ‘Plato’.

For instance, if ‘Plato’ turns out to be - as I suspect he must - a younger Jewish contemporary of Jeremiah’s, say a Baruch, who was indeed exiled in Egypt with the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 43:6-7), then the intuition of the Church Fathers may not be chronologically impossible after all. The mysterious name, ‘Plato’, may perhaps derive from the Babylonian element balatu, that a captive Jew might have been named when in Exile. Only later did these Middle and Near Eastern traditions filter into the Greco-Roman world, having become greatly distorted in the meantime. Baruch, moreover, already has an important philosophico-religious eastern identification in Syro-Arabic traditions as the famous Zoroaster (Zarathustra).

If ‘Plato’ were originally a biblical Hebrew (Jew), then Augustine’s following concern that the former could not have grasped non-Greek writing would no longer be relevant:     


… unless, indeed, we say that, as he was most earnest in the pursuit of knowledge, he also studied those writings through an interpreter, as he did those of the Egyptians,—not, indeed, writing a translation of them (the facilities for doing which were only gained even by Ptolemy in return for munificent acts of kindness … 307    Liberating Jewish slaves, and sending gifts to the temple.  See Josephus, Ant. xii. 2.though fear of his kingly authority might have seemed a sufficient motive), but learning as much as he possibly could concerning their contents by means of conversation. 


For Saint Augustine, like other of the Fathers, was struck by the similarities, for instance between early Genesis and Plato’s Timæus:


What warrants this supposition are the opening verses of Genesis:  “In the beginning God made the heaven and earth.  And the earth was invisible, and without order; and darkness was over the abyss:  and the Spirit of God moved over the waters.” …. 308    Gen. i. 1, 2.For in the Timæus, when writing on the formation of the world, he says that God first united earth and fire; from which it is evident that he assigns to fire a place in heaven.  This opinion bears a certain resemblance to the statement, “In the beginning God made heaven and earth.”  Plato next speaks of those two intermediary elements, water and air, by which the other two extremes, namely, earth and fire, were mutually united; from which circumstance he is thought to have so understood the words, “The Spirit of God moved over the waters.”  For, not paying sufficient attention to the designations given by those scriptures to the Spirit of God, he may have thought that the four elements are spoken of in that place, because the air also is called spirit.


309    Spiritus.Then, as to Plato’s saying that the philosopher is a lover of God, nothing shines forth more conspicuously in those sacred writings. 


Even more “striking” for Augustine, however, is the similarity between Plato and the Hebrew Book of Exodus:


But the most striking thing in this connection, and that which most of all inclines me almost to assent to the opinion that Plato was not ignorant of those writings, is the answer which was given to the question elicited from the holy Moses when the words of God were conveyed to him by the angel; for, when he asked what was the name of that God who was commanding him to go and deliver the Hebrew people out of Egypt, this answer was given:  “I am who am; and thou shalt say to the children of Israel, He who is sent me unto you;” …. 310    Ex. iii. though compared with Him that truly is, because He is unchangeable, those things which have been created mutable are not,—a truth which Plato zealously held, and most diligently commended.  And I know not whether this sentiment is anywhere to be found in the books of those who were before Plato, unless in that book where it is said, “I am who am; and thou shalt say to the children of Israel, who is sent me unto you.”


No wonder, then, that another of the Fathers, St. Clement, had felt compelled to exclaim:


“What is Plato but Moses in Attic Greek!"


(In Stromateis, I, 22).


These and other Fathers were quite correct, I believe, in their original impulses about the rise of philosophy: that Greek philosophy did have its origins in the Jewish scriptures. And, yes, perhaps Plato did encounter the prophet Jeremiah in Egypt, for the conventional dates and biography that are assigned to Plato by the Greco-Romans may not be correct at all.

Moreover, the original Plato may not have been a Greek.

Such God-inspired wisdom could not have, in my opinion, arisen from the pagan Greeks!


Saint Jerome and Book of Tobit


I had, in my:


Similarities to The Odyssey of the Books of Job and Tobit



referred to Saint Jerome’s recognition of the resemblance of Tobit to The Odyssey. Now the prophet Jeremiah (potential inspirer of Plato) may have had a very close connection with my composite Tobias/Job if I am correct in identifying Jeremiah with the young Elihu of the Book of Job:


Does the Prophet Jeremiah Figure in the Book of Job?


Now recurring themes throughout the Book of Job, again, and also in the Book of Jeremiah, is the theme of justice (also the theme of the Pope Benedict’s Lenten address), and righteousness, and it is a dialogue between Job and three friends, with the clever young man in the wings. It all sounds very much like The Republic of Plato!

Other Platonic dialogues deal with virtues such as courage, temperance, love, and so on; all being quite biblical of course.

And it has even been suggested that Plato’s ideal of the Philosopher King - both his merits and his defects - was based on the wise (but later foolish) King Solomon himself. (See: Who else was the wise ‘Athenian’ statesman Solon, anyway, but the great ruler Solomon, the wisest of the wise, but re-cast in Greece, like ‘Plato’ and ‘Socrates’, as an Athenian?

And Solomon was likely Senenmut (Senmut) in Egypt:


Does the Name ‘Senenmut’ Reflect the Hebrew 'Solomon'?



Edwin M. Yamauchi had observed that the laws of Solon were basically the ‘Jewish’ laws of Nehemiah, ("Two reformers compared: Solon of Athens and Nehemiah of Jerusalem," Bible World. New York: KTAV, 1980. pp. 269-292).


Babylonian Exile Universalises Hebrew Wisdom


Just as the powerful Davidic dynasty had become, at least initially, a conduit for Hebrew wisdom to pour into Egypt, so, with the deportation firstly of Israel into Assyria and Media and then of the Jews into Babylon - exiles experienced, respectively, by Tobit and his family, and by wise Jews such as Baruch - the influence of Israel had permeated to the east, to Mesopotamia, to Persia and even eventually to India.

At about this same approximate time, we find there emerging Zoroaster, Buddha, Confucius, and indeed Socrates, whose original identities are likely to be found in the Hebrew world (e.g. Zoroaster as Baruch).

Israel was probably the breeding ground for each of these philosophico-religious gurus, who themselves can seem sometimes like biblical composites (and hence a bit of a weird, like Pythagoras, mix): e.g.: Zoroaster leads an Exodus and draws water from a rock, like Moses; but also honours sacred fire, like the priests for Nehemiah (2 Maccabees 2:2; cf. 1:20); and he influences the king of Persia, like Daniel.

Buddha also has Moses-like traits, but has as well such striking likenesses to Jesus Christ (e.g. his miracles and parables) that some traditions associated with him must post-date the Gospels.

Invariably, however, the non-Hebrew version is always a ‘whiter shade of pale’ of the vibrant original.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

These same northern European bishops and theologians have presided over the collapse of western European Catholicism.

George Weigel

According to Vatican-speak, a specially scheduled session of the Synod of Bishops is an “Extraordinary Synod,” meaning Not-an-Ordinary Synod, held every three years or so. In the case of the recently-completed Extraordinary Synod of 2014, extraordinary things did happen, in the “Oh, wow!” sense of the word. And if this year’s Extraordinary Synod was a preview of the Synod for which it was to set the agenda, i.e., the Ordinary Synod of 2015, that Synod, too, promises to be, well, extraordinary.

How was the Extraordinary Synod of 2014 extraordinary? With apologies to the Bard, let me count the ways:

1. The 2014 Synod got an extraordinary amount of press attention. Alas, too much of that attention was due to the mass media misperception that The Great Moment of the Long-Awaited Catholic Cave-In was at hand: the moment when the Catholic Church, the last major institutional hold-out against the triumph of the sexual revolution, would finally admit the error of its ways and join the rush into the promised land of sexual liberation, symbolized in this instance by a Catholic cave-in on the nature of marriage. What ought to have gotten the world’s attention—the witness of African bishops to the liberating power of monogamy and lifelong marital fidelity—got sadly short shrift, though Third World women are the principal beneficiaries of the truth about marriage the Church received from its Lord.

2. The 2014 Synod demonstrated the extraordinary self-confidence of bishops from dying local churches who nonetheless feel quite comfortable giving pastoral advice to local churches that are either thriving or holding their own. Many northern European bishops and theologians (and bishop-theologians) acted as if the blissful years when they set the agenda for the world Church at Vatican II had returned. That these same bishops and theologians and bishop-theologians have presided over the collapse of western European Catholicism in the intervening five decades seemed not to matter to them in the slightest. Happy days were here again.

3. The 2014 Synod was extraordinary, or at least the media claimed it was, for an unprecedented public display of discord among cardinals. Perhaps those who found this either unprecedented or unseemly could consult Galatians 2:11, where Paul reports that he “rebuked” Peter “to his face.” Or ponder the fierce arguments among North African bishops during the Donatist controversy. Or look into the quarrel between Bishop Cyprian of Carthage, a doctor of the Church, and Pope Stephen, Bishop of Rome. Or read the debates at the first session of Vatican II. The 2014 controversies were indeed noteworthy, in that otherwise intelligent men whose position had been pretty well demolished by fellow scholars were incapable of admitting that they’d gotten it wrong. But upon further review (as they say in the NFL), that isn’t so new either.

4. The 2014 Synod was extraordinary in that a lot of theological confusion was displayed by elders of the Church who really ought to know better. The idea of the development of doctrine was especially ill-used by some. Of course the Church’s self-understanding develops over time, as does the Church’s pastoral practice. But as Blessed John Henry Newman showed in the classic modern discussion of the subject, all authentic development is in organic continuity with the past; it’s not a rupture with the past. Nor is there any place in a truly Catholic theory of doctrinal development for rewriting the words of the Lord or describing fidelity to the plain text of Scripture as “fundamentalism.”

5. The 2014 Synod was extraordinary in its demonstration that too many bishops and theologians (and bishop-theologians) still have not grasped the Iron Law of Christianity in Modernity: Christian communities that maintain a firm grasp on their doctrinal and moral boundaries can flourish amidst the cultural acids of modernity; Christian communities whose doctrinal and moral boundaries become porous (and then invisible) wither and die.

6. One more thing: why were no representatives of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute on Marriage and the Family invited to a Synod on the family?

Extraordinary, indeed: in both Vatican-speak and plain English.

George Weigel is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Similarities to The Odyssey of the Books of Job and Tobit


Damien F. Mackey




The resemblance of Tobit to the Odyssey in particular was not lost on

that great student of literature [Saint] Jerome ….


This combined biblical influence upon Homer is, I think, more intelligible in light of my article:


Job's Life and Times


in which I have identified Job with Tobit’s son, Tobias.

Some Compelling Comparisons


I need to point out right at the start that it sometimes happens that incidents attributed to the son, in the Book of Tobit, in Job, might, in The Odyssey, be attributed to the son's father, or vice versa (or even be attributed to some less important character).

The same sort of mix occurs with the female characters.



These are some of the parallels that I have picked up:



The two chief male characters


Tobit and his son, Tobias/Job, equate approximately to Odysseus and his son, Telemachus.


Unlike the pious Tobit, though, Odysseus was a crafty and battle-hardened pagan, with a love of strong drink and an eye for women {goddesses}. But he nevertheless pined for his true wife, Penelope.


The Suitors


These unpleasant and self-serving characters are especially prominent and numerous in Homer’s The Odyssey.

In the Book of Tobit, “seven” suitors in turn meet an unhappy fate in their desire for Sarah.


The Sought-After Woman


In The Odyssey, she is Penelope.

She is Sarah in the Book of Tobit.


The 'Divine' Messenger


From whom the son, especially, receives help during his travels.


In the Book of Tobit, this messenger is the angel Raphael (in the guise of ‘Azarias’).

In The Odyssey, it is the goddess Athene (in the guise of ‘Mentes’).


Satan, or Adversary (Book of Job)


He is Poseidon in The Odyssey, the god who hounds down the story’s hero.

He is Asmodeus in the Book of Tobit.


According to the following, this Asmodeus is to be identified with the Iranian, Aeshma Daeva (


Bearing just as obvious a connection with non-biblical literature, I believe, is the demon Asmodeus (Tobit 3:8), who is doubtless to be identified, on purely morphological grounds, with Aeshma Daeva, a figure well known in ancient Iranian religion ….


The Friends


Whereas, in the Book of Tobit, the young man’s journeying takes him amongst kindred folks (e.g. Raguel and Gabael),

in The Odyssey, it is to the homelands of certain Greek returnées from Troy (e.g. Nestor and Menelaus) that young Telemachus travels.


The Dog


Yes, even a dog, or dogs, figure in both stories.

P. Reardon, commenting upon this particular parallel in The Wide World of Tobit, follows the typical pattern of thought according to which the pagan mythology has precedence over the Hebrew version:


The Larger World



The resemblance of Tobit to the Odyssey in particular was not lost on that great student of literature, Jerome, as is evident in a single detail of his Latin translation of Tobit in the Vulgate. Intrigued by the literary merit of Tobit, but rejecting its canonicity, the jocose and sometimes prankish Jerome felt free to insert into his version an item straight out of the Odyssey—namely, the wagging of the dog’s tail on arriving home with Tobias in 11:9—Tunc praecucurrit canis, qui simul fuerat in via, et quasi nuntius adveniens blandimento suae caudae gaudebat—“Then the dog, which had been with them in the way, ran before, and coming as if it had brought the news, showed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail.”16 No other ancient version of Tobit mentions either the tail or the wagging, but Jerome, ever the classicist, was confident his readers would remember the faithful but feeble old hound Argus, as the final act of his life, greeting the return of Odysseus to the home of his father: “he endeavored to wag his tail” (Odyssey 17.302). And to think that we owe this delightful gem to Jerome’s rejection of Tobit’s canonicity!

[End of quote]



There is space here for only a few more of the many further parallels that I have observed between Tobit/Job and The Odyssey:



Further Comparisons


Only Son


Tobias was the only son of Tobit and Anna (cf. Tobit 1:9 and 8:17).

So was Telemachus the only son of Odysseus and Penelope: '[Telemachus] ... you an only son, the apple of your mother's eye...' (II, 47).

Likewise Anna referred to her son, Tobias, as 'the light of my eyes' (Tobit 10:5).

And Telemachus’s uncle will use that identical phrase: 'Telemachus, light of my eyes!' (XVI, 245).


Longing for Death


The aged Tobit, in his utter misery of blindness, longed for death, and thus he prayed to God: 'Command that I now be released from my distress to go to the eternal abode; do not turn Thy face away from me' (Tobit 3:6).

This theme is treated even more starkly, and in more prolonged fashion, in the Book of Job (esp. Ch. 3).

In The Odyssey, it is said of Laërtes that "every day he prays to Zeus that death may visit his house and release the spirit from his flesh" (XV, 239).

And Odysseus, after having learned from Circe about the wretched existence of the dead in Hades, said: 'This news broke my heart. I sat down on the bed and wept. I had no further use for life, no wish to see the sunshine any more' (X, 168).


The Suitors


"On the same day" that Tobit had prayed to be released from this life, Sarah - back home in Midian "was reproached by her father's maids, because she had been given to seven husbands, and the evil demon Asmodeus had slain each of them before he had been with her as his wife" (Tobit 3:7, 8). In the Vulgate version of Tobit, we are informed that these seven suitors had lustful intentions towards Sarah (6:17).

The Odyssey also tells about Penelope, who is tormented by the suitors who have invaded Odysseus’s home and are squandering the family's wealth. Penelope has to resort to the ruse of weaving a winding-cloth - ostensibly intending to make the decision to marry once she has completed it. But each night she undoes the cloth, in order to keep the suitors at bay (I, 28-33; II, 38-39).


The prediction early in the story, that "there'd be a quick death and a sorry wedding for ... all [the suitors]", once Odysseus returned home (I, 32), was to be fulfilled to the letter when he dealt them all a bloody end.

And indeed these words, a "sorry wedding" and a "quick death", might well have been spoken of Sarah's suitors as well, once the demon Asmodeus had finished with them. This Asmodeus is eventually overcome by Tobias, with great assistance from the angel. Asmodeus then "fled to the remotest parts of Egypt, and the angel bound him" (cf. Tobit 7:16 and 7:8:3). Even this episode might have its 'echo' at the beginning of The Odyssey, when the violent god, Poseidon (legendary father of the Athenian hero Theseus - born of two fathers: Poseidon and Aegeus, king of Athens), is found amongst "the distant Ethiopians, the farthest outposts of mankind ..." (I, 25). Ethiopia could indeed be described as "the remotest parts of Egypt".


Heavenly Visitor


... she [Athene] bound under her feet her lovely sandals of untarnished gold, which carried her with the speed of the wind.... Thus she flashed down from the heights of Olympus. On reaching Ithaca she took her stand on the threshold of the court in front of Odysseus' house; and to look like a visitor she assumed the appearance of a Taphian chieftain named Mentes… (I, 27-28).

The reader will quickly pick up the similarities between this text and the relevant part of the Book of Tobit if I simply quote directly from the latter:

The prayer of [Tobit and Sarah] was heard in the presence of the glory of the great God. And Raphael was sent (3:16,17). Then Tobias ... found a beautiful young man, standing girded, as it were ready to walk. And not knowing that he was an angel of God, he saluted him.... 'I am Azarias, the son of the great Ananias' (5:5, 6, 18).


The Questioning


Tobit had interrogated the angel about the latter's identity, asking: 'My brother, to what tribe and family do you belong? Tell me ...', etc., etc. (5:9-12). Raguel exhibited a similar sort of curiosity: 'Where are you from brethren? .... Do you know our brother Tobit? .... Is he in good health?' (7:3, 4).

In The Odyssey, too, this pattern (but with a Greek slant - e.g. the mention of ships) is again most frequent - almost monotonous. Telemachus, for instance, asks Athene: 'However, do tell me who you are and where you come from. What is your native town? Who are your people? And since you certainly cannot have come on foot, what kind of vessel brought you here?' (I, 29).

(For further examples of this pattern of interrogation in The Odyssey, see pp. 72; 118; 164; 175; 208; 220).


Athene replied to Telemachus, using a phrase that I suggest may have come straight out of the Book of Tobit - where towards the end of the story Raphael says: 'I will not conceal anything from you' (12:11). Thus:

'I will tell you everything', answered the bright-eyed goddess Athene. 'My father was the wise prince, Anchialus. My own name is Mentes, and I am a chieftain of the sea-faring Taphians'.


Delaying One’s Guests


Another noticeable tendency in these Israelite writings, as well as in The Odyssey, is for hosts to insist on their guests staying longer than the latter had intended, or had wished. This was perhaps the customary hospitality in ancient Syro-Mesopotamia, because it is common also in Genesis (24:25-26; 29:21-31:41). And it happens in The Book of Tobit, and indeed all the way through The Odyssey as well. For example, Telemachus says to Athene (I, 29): 'Sir, .... I know you are anxious to be on your way, but I beg you to stay a little longer, so that you can bathe and refresh yourself. Then you can go, taking with you as a keepsake from myself something precious and beautiful, the sort of present that one gives to a guest who has become a friend'.

'No', said the bright-eyed goddess. 'I am eager to be on my way; please do not detain me now. As for the gift you kindly suggest, let me take it home with me on my way back. Make it the best you can find, and you won't lose by the exchange'. (Cf. IV, 80; XV, 231-232).

In like manner, Tobias was impatient to leave the sanguine Raguel and return home:

At that time Tobias said to Raguel. 'Send me back, for my father and mother have given up hope of ever seeing me again'.

But his father-in-law said to him, 'Stay with me, and I will send messengers to your father, and they will inform him how things are with you'.

'No, send me back to my father'. So Raguel arose and gave him his wife Sarah and half of his property in slaves, cattle, and money. (10:7, 8-10).


The Dog(s)


(a) The Leaving

"... Telemachus himself set out for the meeting-place, bronze spear in hand, escorted ... by two dogs that trotted beside him" (II, 37).

Also "[Tobias and the angel] both went out and departed, and the young man's dog was with them" (Tobit 5:16).


(b) The Returning

When Telemachus returned home: "The dogs, usually so obstreperous, not only did not bark at the newcomer but greeted him with wagging tails"(XVI, 245).

The dog in the Book of Tobit was equally excited: "Then the dog, which had been with [Tobias and the angel] along the way, ran ahead of them; and coming as if he had brought the news showed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail" (Tobit 11:9).


Similarities to Other Pagan Drama



…. some readers have found in Tobit similarities to still other pagan themes, such as the legend of Admetus. ….

More convincing, I believe, however, are points of contact with classical Greek theater. Martin Luther observed similarities between Tobit and Greek comedy … but one is even more impressed by resemblances that the Book of Tobit bears to a work of Greek tragedy—the Antigone of Sophocles. In both stories the moral stature of the heroes is chiefly exemplified in their bravely burying the dead in the face of official prohibition and at the risk of official punishment. In both cases a venerable moral tradition is maintained against a political tyranny destructive of piety. That same Greek drama, moreover, provides a further parallel to the blindness of Tobit in the character of blind Teiresias, himself also a man of an inner moral vision important to the theme of the play. ….


The widespread panorama of the Book of Tobit has inclined Reardon - who likens it in this regard to the Book of Job - to view the whole thing as a “universal essay”, including similarities with the Book of Jonah:


The Apocrypha’s Tobit and Literary Tradition


I like to think of the Book of Tobit as a kind of universal essay, in the sense that its author makes considerable effort to place his brief, rather simple narrative within a literary, historical, and moral universe of surprising breadth and diversity, extending through the Fertile Crescent and out both sides. To find comparable dimensions of such large cultural exposure among biblical authors, one would have to go to Ezekiel, Luke, or the narrator of Job.


Tobit’s explicit reference to Jonah is of considerable interest in the light of certain affinities between the two books. First and second, both stories take place about the same time [sic] and both in Mesopotamia. Third, both accounts involve a journey. Fourth, the distressed Tobit, like Jonah, prays to die. Fifth and most strikingly, his son Tobias encounters a fish that attempts—with less success than Jonah’s fish—to swallow him! Finally, in each book the fish serves as a special instrument of Divine Providence.

Besides Jonah, Tobit shows several remarkable affinities to the Book of Job, some of which were noted rather early in Christian exegesis. For example, the title characters of both works shared a zeal for purity of life, almsgiving, and other deeds of charity (Job 1 and 31; Tobit 1–2), patient endurance of trials sent by God … a deep weariness of life itself (Job 7:15; Tobit 3:6), a final vindication by the Lord at the end of each book, and perhaps even a common hope of the resurrection. …. As early as Cyprian in the third century, it was also noted that both men were similarly mocked by wives unable to appreciate their virtue and faith in God…..


Reardon then expands upon this apparent universalism of the Book of Tobit:


The Larger World


Even when the Book of Tobit most closely touches the other biblical literature, however, it sometimes does so along lines reminiscent of, and running parallel to, more extensive traditions outside the Bible.

An obvious and rather large example is the “Golden Rule” in Tobit 4:15, “Do not do to anyone what you yourself hate.” Not only does this prohibition substantially contain the biblical command to love one’s neighbor as oneself … not only, furthermore, does it stand in canonical continuity with the more positive formulation of the same Golden Rule preserved in the Gospels … it is also the equivalent to an ideal found in other ethical philosophies. These latter include Greek authors like Herodotus and Isocrates … and even classical Confucianism. …. This use of the Golden Rule thus assured Tobit a featured place in the entire history of religion and moral philosophy…..

A similar assessment is true, I believe, concerning the way that Tobit develops the religious symbolism of the journey. Obviously that motif had long been part of the Bible, particularly in those sections associated with the Exodus wandering and the return from Babylon … but it was a topic not limited to the Bible. Back near the beginning of the second millennium B.C., the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh Epic had inchoatively explored the religious symbolism of the journey, and that exploration would continue down through some of our greatest literature: the Odyssey, of course, diverse accounts of Jason and the Argonauts, the Aeneid, etc., and eventually the Divine Comedy, itself inspired by all of them. In a more secular form the journey imagery continued with such works as the Endymion of Keats … even after it had been assumed within the ascetical literature of the Church as xeneteia, conceived as both exile and pilgrimage. A classical example of the latter use is found in Step 3 of The Ladder of Divine Ascent by St. John of Mount Sinai.