Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Dimant on Aramaic Tobit

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Aramaic Tobit at Qumran (Devorah Dimant).
Tobit before Qumran

For a long time, the book of Tobit has been studied as a one-of-a-kind composition, with other so-called “novels,” such as Esther and the book of Judith. However, the presence of Aramaic copies of Tobit among the Qumran scrolls, together with other Aramaic texts, revealed its background and context and taught us much about the language and cultural setting of the composition. Most particularly, Tobit shows affinity to the Aramaic stories about the biblical patriarchs and to the Aramaic court-tales. Despite the fact that this corpus is the closest to Tobit in time and place, little has been done to utilize the Qumran Aramaic literature as a key to interpreting Tobit. This may be due partly to the well-anchored opinion, still maintained by numerous scholars, that Tobit was composed in the “Eastern Diaspora.” The Tobit copies found among the Dead Sea Scrolls and the numerous links Tobit displays to the Aramaic texts discovered there, suggest that the origin and setting of the book is in the land of Israel.

Here, only four topics from Tobit are examined and compared with their parallels in various Aramaic texts: endogamy (i.e., the practice of marrying only within a specific ethnic, class or social group), demonology, burial practices, and halakhic items reflected in sectarian literature.