Judith - Introduction
Judith is a good example of the Hebrew narrative art: vivid imagery; a paced combination of description and action; and resolute realism. The name Judith means “Jewess”; the heroine represents Israel's faith and spirit, strong and resourceful despite a weak and delicate appearance, which emerges triumphant from the drama of a confrontation between Israel, small and isolated, and all the great powers of the Near East.
There are historical contradictions in the story interpreted by some scholars as intended by the author to indicate unmistakably the fictional nature of the work, and thereby to point up the timeless quality of its contents.
Though set in earlier times, the narrative reflects conditions prevalent during the turmoil of the Hellenistic period described in 1 and 2 Maccabees: divine honors paid to kings ( 3.8 ); Jerusalem ruled by a high priest and a form of Sanhedrin ( 4.8; 15.8 ); and the like. This evidence of Hellenistic influence indicates a date of composition in the late second century B.C.E. The original language was probably Hebrew, even though most ancient surviving texts are Greek. The author and place of composition are unknown.
The intention of the author seems to be to reassert, at a moment of historical disarray, the Jewish conviction of God's commitment to the Jewish people's survival and victory in the odyssey of human existence. Judith exercises the same power that worked through Moses to free Israel from Egyptian bondage. Conversely, the author affirms that the proper response to God's action is an avoidance of political and religious involvement with pagan nations, and an uncompromising observance of the Torah in true Jewish fidelity and piety.