The Wisdom Instructions in Tobit 4:3-19, 21; 12:6-10 and 14:8-11

The Wisdom Instructions in Tobit
Book of Tobit

The reader is left in no doubt that the sayings in Tob 4:3-19, 21 are instructional, thanks to the “father-son” motif at the beginning of Tob 4:3.1 Instruction given to a beloved son by an authoritative father-figure is a genre typical of much sapiential literature.2 Content-wise, the collection in Tobit 4 concerns existential attitudes and ethical maxims that make for a virtuous and consequently, a successful life, which is one of the foremost themes of wisdom writings. In other words, the Didache or the extensive ethical exhortations in Tob 4:3-19, 21; 12:6-10

1 Using direct discourse, GI evidences the father-son address more precisely than the Sinaiticus. In Tob 4:3, GI has Tobit speaking his words to his son directly with kai. kale,saj auvton. ei=pen paidi,on, while the Sinaiticus opens the instructions in a less direct but more elaborate fashion with kai evka,lesen Twbian to.n ui`o.n auvtou/ kai. h=lqen pro.j auvto,n kai. ei=pen auvtw/|. In 4Q200, the vocative ynb is used. WACHOLDER/ABEGG, A Preli-minary Edition, 2; FITZMYER, Tobit (DJD), 19:65. In any case, it is clear in both the Greek recensions and the Qumran Hebrew fragment that Tobit the father addresses his words to his son Tobias, a literary feature of sapiential literature. According to Wright, the purpose of using this literary device in wisdom literature is to proffer the same parental authority to the reader in order to influence his or her behavior and values. WRIGHT, From Generation to Generation, 25-47.

2 Cf. for instance Prov 1:8-19; 2:1-22; 3:1-12, 21-35; 4:10-13; 5:1-6; 6:20-23; 7:1-13; Sir 2:1; 3:17; 4:1; 6:18. Deuteronomy also contains references to the responsibility of parents to instruct their children regarding God’s law (cf. Deut 4:9, 6:1-2; 31:12-13; 32:46). Among Second Temple Jewish literature, this is found in The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs. KEE, Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, 1:775-828. Examples of ancient Near East wisdom literature that employ this literary technique include the Story of Ahiqar, LINDENBERGER, Ahiqar, 2:494-507; the Egyptian Instruction of Amenemope, the Instruction of Ptahhotep, the Instruction of Any and the Dua-Khety and the Sumerian Instruction of Suruppak. HALLO, The Context of Scripture, 1:110-126; 569-570; LICHTHEIM, Ancient Egyptian Literature, 1:61-80; IDEM, Ancient Egyptian Literature, 2:135-163. The Counsels of Wisdom also begins with an address to a son. LAMBERT, Babylonian Wisdom Literature, 106-107. For a quick overview of ancient Near East wisdom literature, see CALDUCH-BENAGES, Sapienziali, Libri, 1252-1254.

and 14:8-11 can be reasonably described as instances of Jewish sapien-tial literature.3

Detailed and copious, the first collection of wisdom instructions comes from the mouth of Tobit himself after his prayer for death in chapter three and before the journey of his son Tobias to Media in chapter five. The second set in Tobit 12 reiterates some of Tobit’s own counsels, but this time Rafael utters them. The angel enjoins upon Tobit and Tobias certain commands before ascending to heaven. This collec-tion comes after Rafael has completed his mission and is to be unders-tood in light of the revelation of Rafael’s true identity. The final group of instructions, located at the closing chapter of the story, echoes To-bit’s main concern which was first expressed in his original instruc-tions. Before he sleeps the sleep of the just, Tobit delivers a valedictory speech, which teaches that acts of compassion or almsgiving do not result in futility but in salvation. Functioning as a teaching story within a teaching story, Tobit employs the tale of Ahiqar and his nephew Na-dab to show the efficacy of heeding one of his chief counsels.

The analysis of the textual situation, structure and content of the sapiential sayings of the aforementioned sections will be the focus of this chapter. Although Tob 12:6-10 and Tob 14:8-11 will be treated sep-arately, the bulk of the analysis will nevertheless concentrate on Tob 4:3-19, 21, since the two later sections basically reiterate and reinforce the instructions of the first collection. In the discussion of Tobit 4, refer-ences to the other two pericopes will be made as and when it seems pertinent. The chapter will not be devoted to a broad analysis of the Ancient Near East and Old Testament wisdom background or parallels of each instruction except when it is significant.4

The chapter has a twofold purpose: first, it will argue that Tob 4:3-19, 21 was not a redactional insertion but formed part of the original composition. Secondly, it will demonstrate that a certain order can be discerned in the seemingly arbitrary choice of sayings. It will show that

3 Cf. FITZMYER, Tobit (CEJL), 34. Cf. also OESTERLEY, An Introduction to the Books of the Apocrypha, 42; PAUTREL, Tobie, 13; ESTRADÉ/GIRBAU, Tobit – Judit, 24; LORETZ, Roman und Kurzgeschichte, 325; EISSFELDT, The Old Testament, 584; ALONSO SCHÖKEL, Rut.Tobías.Judit.Ester, 60; NICKELSBURG, Tobit, 796; GILBERT, La sapienza del cielo, 14-15; SCHÜNGEL-STRAUMANN, Tobit, 98.
4 For an extensive investigation of the Ancient Near East and Old Testament back-ground of Tobit’s exhortations, see RABENAU, Studien zum Buch Tobit, 27-66. Com-mentaries, such as Moore’s, also point out a number of parallels found in other wis-dom literature. MOORE, Tobit, 163-180.

Tobit’s instructions to his son have one universal guiding principle or instruction which is realized in turn by three general norms.

The Textual Situation of Tobit 4

Codex Vaticanus treats Tobit as a wisdom book while Codex Sinaiticus regards it as an historical one.5 Conceivably, chapter four’s more co-pious collection of sapiential exhortations in Vaticanus, which belongs to the GI group of textual recensions, is a factor that may explain the divergence in the placement of Tobit in the said codices. Sinaiticus is the preferred text for analysis because it is judged to be closer to the Se-mitic Urtext of Tobit. The said codex is the long Greek recension with the shorter version of the fourth chapter of Tobit, as it omits some of the sapiential instructions.6 The GII recension has two textual lacunae, namely Tob 4:7-19b and 13:6-10b.

The Wisdom Instructions of Tobit 4 as Insertions

The variations in chapter 4 among the extant texts of Tobit prompted suggestions that this particular paraenetic section of Tobit has accu-mulated interpolations over time. Other instructions, notably the ones without motivational or explanatory clauses in Tob 4:14b-18, result from insertions. The thesis is that, gradually, more and more words of wisdom have been attributed to Tobit, of the kind which different

5 According to Delcor, the uncertainty as to the genre and purpose of Tobit may have contributed to the differing placement of the book. DELCOR, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Hellenistic Period, 2:474. Note also the observations of ZAPPELLA, Tobit, 10. In Miller’s opinion, the book of Tobit represents an intermediary stage between the historical and the sapiential. MILLER, Das Buch Tobias, 7.

6 As Wills notes, the Vaticanus text, which has a much more extensive list of instruc-tions, enjoys a different relationship with the story. Additionally, because the col-lection of instructions in the Sinaiticus is shorter, Tobit 2–12 cannot be considered a wisdom narrative. The Sinaiticus version is “too short or too specific to the context to have a separate teaching value.” The purpose of the sayings is merely to characterize the protagonist and to stress the irony in the story. Without all the proverbial in-structions, the whimsical and the fantastic get emphasized in the book. WILLS, The Jewish Novel in the Ancient World, 89-90.

editors wished to instill in the minds of readers.7 The apparent instability of the text of Tobit 4 may be due to its very nature as a collection that may or may not follow a certain system. As a com-pilation of sapiential counsels, a copyist can easily append to, remove from or enlarge the set without necessarily harming, changing or cre-ating problems not only for the collection itself but also for the story.8 In fact, the narrative framework of chapter 4, according to Groß, is so designed that a later editor can insert without effort certain injunctions or general principles of life, before Tobit finally addresses the issue of the money entrusted to his cousin Gabael at Rages in Media and sends his son Tobias for its retrieval.9

Following Milik’s proposal that the social background of Tobit is the Tobiad family, Wills has asserted that the dissemination of the val-ues of the patronage system, a significant piece of the social economy of the ancient Near East in Greco-Roman times, motivated the insertion of sayings that deal with the importance of almsgiving as well as other instructions proper to a well-heeled young man who may in the future become a benevolent benefactor of, or guardian to, a poor client.10 Dese-laers has also claimed that the proverb-like instructions in Tob 4:3b-19, 21 were not original to the Tobit story, having been interpolated as part of the first expansion of the basic story in order to give the Tobit narrative some sapiential shade.11 Lastly, Rabenau, following the claim

7 Cf. ERBT, Tobit, 4:5116. The author also cites Jerome’s Vulgate as a particular example of inserting other exhortations. However, other than changes in wording, formula-tion and the deletion of the counsel to marry a kinsman, as a whole, the instructions in the Vulgate follow and are similar to those found in the Vetus Latina, GI and GII. For a comparison of the Vulgate version of Tobit 4 with the Greek texts and Vetus La-tina, see SKEMP, The Vulgate of Tobit, 126-155.

8 Dancy includes what I call the “no-effect-on-the-narrative” principle as a reason, along with two others, namely a weak link between verses 6 and 7 and Tobit’s final testamentary speech in chapter 14, for why this long section of sayings can be counted as something that did not originally belong to the story. But the author also cites a counterargument for each. DANCY, The Shorter Books of the Apocrypha, 30.

9 GROß, Tobit.Judit, 25. Cf. ALONSO SCHÖKEL, Rut.Tobías.Judit.Ester, 60; MANFREDI, Un frammento del libro di Tobit, 178.

10 Cf. WILLS, The Jewish Novel in the Ancient World, 89; 190-191. He divides the instructions into three categories: sayings that deal with almsgiving, those that stress marriage within the tribe (endogamy), and injunctions for a wealthy gentleman. For a discussion of this value among Jews in the Diaspora as reflected in epigraphic sources, see RAJAK, Benefactors in the Greco-Jewish Diaspora, 373-391.
11 Cf. DESELAERS, Das Buch Tobit, 50; 380-392. Auneau follows Deselaers’s lead, claim-ing that Tob 4:3b-21 is a secondary insertion that sharpens the sapiential tone of the story. AUNEAU, Écrits didactiques, 355.

of James E. Crouch that Jewish propaganda during Hellenistic times employed not only a number of laws from the Torah which had universal application but also included unwritten laws of Greek ethics,12 has proposed that only Tob 4:14b-18 are insertions on account of its form and content. The first redactor, who may have been aware of a tradition of Jewish apology and propaganda that used unwritten laws of Greek ethics, may well have inserted these short injunctions without explanations under the category of paidei,a in order to fashion a short description of Jewish ethics as part of his missionary goal.13

The Original Incorporation of the Instructions

While these proposals do not exceed the limits of plausibility, the na-ture of a compilation is such that it can be difficult ultimately to deter-mine which particular saying in the collection is the end result of a later redactional touch. It is just as conceivable that the author of Tobit in-corporated into his original work the instructions that he thought would serve his story well, drawing from a variety of collections of proverbial instructions or influences, both oral and written, which were circulating during his time. As the Qumran discoveries demonstrate, a lively tradition of wisdom writing was in evidence during the Second Temple period.14 The fact of the matter is that this plethora of prover-bial instructions found a new home and context in the Book of Tobit. The author of Tobit, even before the redactor, could have easily availed of various instructional materials and typical texts from his tradition and used them to tell and shape his story.

To cite some examples, it is probable that the Instruction of Ankh-sheshonqy drew from Demotic collection of individual sayings in molding the instructions, similar to the fashionable literary activity in Greece from the fourth century and throughout the Hellenistic and Roman periods to collect and excerpt popular, wise and memorable sayings from Greek poets and philosophers.15 Such gnomic collections enjoyed wide circulation. Further, the collection of proverbs in Ahiqar

12 CROUCH, The Origin and Intention of the Colossian Haustafel, 96-101.
13 Cf. RABENAU, Studien zum Buch Tobit, 51-65; 149-150.
14 Cf. for instance, HARRINGTON, Wisdom Texts, 2:976-980; AITKEN, Apocalyptic, Revelation and Early Jewish Wisdom Literature, 181-193.
15 Cf. LICHTHEIM, Late Egyptian Wisdom Literature, 27-28; HEATON, The School Tradi-tion of the Old Testament, 41-44; 92. Cf. also GEMSER, The Instructions of ‘Onchshe-shonqy and Biblical Wisdom Literature, 134-160.

is said to have taken over sayings originally collected from family wis-dom of the middle class, reworked and expanded later.16 Qoheleth, who was likely active during the early Hellenistic period, may have engaged in the activities of teaching, ordering, examining and editing certain collection of sayings.17 With good reason one can entertain the idea that such models also served for the collection in Tobit.18

A Case of Scribal Error in Transmission

The absence of Tob 4:7-19b in Sinaiticus can be attributed not to redac-tional intentions but to accident in transmission. That Sinaiticus may have had a similarly detailed collection of instructions can be partly demonstrated by MS 319. This eleventh century minuscule, which also belongs to the GII family of recensions, contains the verses of Tob 4:7-19b omitted in Sinaiticus. The Vetus Latina, which closely follows Sinaiticus, also contains these missing verses.19 The Hebrew Qumran fragment 4Q200, which also bears family resemblance to the long Greek version, witnesses likewise to the presence of some lost verses, namely Tob 4:3-9.

16 Cf. KOTTSIEPER, The Aramaic Tradition: Ahikar, 115-116. Lindenberger dates the Elephantine manuscript of Ahiqar to the 5th century BCE, although it is possible that the combined text of narrative and sayings existed for at least a century before the said date. LINDENBERGER, Ahiqar, 2:482. Kottsieper thinks that the sayings can be dated to the beginning of the 7th century BCE, if not earlier. The story was added later to frame the proverbs as is commonly found in later traditions. KOTTSIEPER, The Ara-maic Tradition: Ahikar, 109-124. This implies that the author of Tobit would have likely known the Story of Ahiqar in this arrangement in which the narrative forms a frame for the sayings.

17 Cf. PERDUE, Sages, Scribes and Seers, 8.
18 Crouch claims that the the Stoic schema of listing social duties, in which sayings or ethical precepts that deal with various relationships are formulated in a code, could have easily influenced the collection of sayings in Tobit 4, despite its very Jewish fla-vor. CROUCH, The Origin and Intention of the Colossian Haustafel, 74-83.
19 Cf. MOORE, Tobit, 161-162; FITZMYER, Tobit (CEJL), 5, 163-180; WAGNER, Polyglotte Tobit-Synopse, xxi; LITTMAN, Tobit, 10-15. In light of the discussion above, some authors assert that Vetus Latina and GI can be used as textual guides to compensate for this particular textual lacuna in Sinaiticus. Since the Vetus Latina generally follows the Sinaiticus, some translations of Tobit 4 for liturgical purposes have relied upon the Old Latin instead of the GI recension. AUWERS, Traduire le livre de Tobie, 183-184. However, one has to keep in mind that there is a considerable variation in the textual tradition of the Vetus Latina. Found in 18 manuscripts, the Old Latin is not a single textual entity. GATHERCOLE, Tobit in Spain, 5-11.

Further, the textual witness of GI reports the presence of a long collection of exhortations. If this textual tradition of Tobit is indeed an abridgement of the long Greek version, it is odd that the collection was not subjected to scribal scissors. In other words, MS 319 may in fact re-flect, or even preserve, the intact state of the Greek long text before the said verses accidentally fell away from the manuscript. All of this may well conspire to indicate that the omission of Tob 4:7-19 in the Sinaiticus could have been simply due to a copying error or “scribal carelessness.”20
What might the error have been? In a possible instance of homoioteleuton, it is likely that the copyist got confused and his eyes mistakenly jumped from one verse to another, since euvodwqh,sontai is in Tob 4:6 and the same verb euvodwqw/sin is in Tob 4:19.21 In the same way, the scribe could have simply associated the objective fact stated in kai. pa/sin toi/j poiou/sin th.n dikaiosu,nhn in Tob 4:6 with the subjective reason for such act expressed in dw,sei ku,rioj auvtoi/j boulh.n avgaqh,n in verse 19.22 Such may explain why vv. 7-19 dropped and disappeared from the Sinaiticus text.

Looking at Tob 4:3-19, 21 in both GI and GII recensions, one notices that, on the whole, the collection of instructions is similar. The organization of the sayings in both recensions are not entirely or remarkably different. In fact, the entirety of Tobit’s counsels in GI are found in GII via MS 319 with the sole exception of the instruction on

20 Cf. WEEKS/GATHERCOLE/STUCKENBROOK, The Book of Tobit, 13. According to Han-hart, the lacunae in the Sinaiticus seem to be a copying error, a “Fehler eines Ab-schreibers,” which can be filled and consequently restored using the Old Latin and MS 319. HANHART, Text und Textgeschichte, n.2, 17. Littman comments that “in general MS 319 omits iota subscripts, and has a number of incorrect accents when h stands alone. Because of iotaization, epsilon iota is often rendered with an iota. It is uncertain why S neglected to copy this section.’ LITTMAN, Tobit, 89. See also FITZMYER, Tobit (CEJL), 169-178. Interestingly, Schüngel-Straumann uses GI rather than MS 319 to translate Tobit 4 in her commentary. SCHÜNGEL-STRAUMANN, Tobit, 97. For a critical evaluation of this commentary, cf. SCHMITT, Ein Kommentar zum Buch Tobit, 28-32.
21 Cf. LITTMAN, Tobit, 89. The author hastens to add that it is possible that Tob 4:7-19 did not originally belong to the narrative, having been “simply inserted since it con-tained additional maxims on righteousness.” To the mind of this writer, however, there are good reasons as mentioned above that decrease the likelihood of such pos-sibility.

22 Cf. SIMPSON, The Book of Tobit, 1:211. The author also entertains the possibility of a lost mss page.

moderate wine-drinking given in Tob 4:15b.23 Indeed, there are some words added or deleted and some changes in formulation, but gener-ally speaking, Tob 4:3-19, 21 of GI agrees with MS 319.24 In GI, for instance, Tob 4:14b reads kai. eva.n douleu,sh|j tw/| qew/| avpodoqh,setai, soi, “if you serve God, you will be rewarded,” while MS 319 reads kai. omisqo,j sou ouv mh. auvlisqh ea.n douleuvsh|j tw| qew| evn avlhqei,a|, “and your reward will not be delayed if you serve God in truth.”25 In GI, Tob 4:19 is shorter, stating only that o]n eva.n qe,lh| tapeinoi/ kaqw.j bou,letai while in GII 319 a contrastive parallelism is created by o]n a’n qe,lh| auvto,j u`yoi/ kai. o]n a’n qe,lh| ku,rioj tapeinoi/ e[wj a[|dou katwta,tw. Though the wording in GI is slightly altered in keeping with its tendency to condense and avoid unnecessary verbosity, the core and the sense of the sayings nonetheless remain the same. Moreover, MS 319 preserves the general order of the injunctions as found in GI. Given the fact that collections are not necessarily systematic, this lessens the likelihood of redactional activity on Tobit 4. Had there been later insertions, the order would likely have been changed or dissimilar at least, for some other belatedly inserted sayings would have interrupted the general order. Finally, with the story’s popularity, Tobit’s charge at the end of his discourse, to remember these commandments and not let them be erased from the heart, could credibly have discouraged redactional activity. It is doubt-ful that eager hands of later redactors deleted or inserted moral in-junctions that they wanted to impress upon readers with Tobit as their mouthpiece. In this study, the textual point of departure will be the Sinaiticus and MS 319.

23 The Codex Regius of the Vetus Latina, which is generally believed to be the closest to the long Greek text and which influenced other Latin traditions, preserves this par-ticular instruction. However, another Vetus Latina codex, the Alcalà Bible or the Com-plutensis 1, considered “the most expansive version of all the extant Old Latin texts,” and described as a paraphrase, omits the instruction on moderate drinking. WEEKS/GATHERCOLE/STUCKENBROOK, The Book of Tobit, 22-25; 146. For a fuller discussion of the direct and indirect traditions of the Old Latin, see AUWERS, La tradi-tion vieille latine du livre de Tobie, 1-21; GATHERCOLE, Tobit in Spain, 5-11. It is a bit perplexing, however, that Fitzmyer includes this instruction on wine-drinking, claiming that “GI agrees with MS 319.” FITZMYER, Tobit (CEJL), 175-176, when Wagner and Littman leave this particular instruction out in their reproduction of MS 319. WAGNER, Polyglotte Tobit-Synopse, 44; LITTMAN, Tobit, 12-13. Jerome also did not include this counsel in the Vulgate. Since avoiding drunkenness is consistent with his views, it is likely that its absence in the Vulgate was not a deliberate omission but a reflection of the Aramaic text Jerome claimed to have used. SKEMP, The Vulgate of Tobit, 144-145.

24 For more detailed comparison, cf. FITZMYER, Tobit (CEJL), 163-180.
25 Cf. WAGNER, Polyglotte Tobit-Synopse, 44.

Observations on the Narrative and Formal Features of Tob 4:3-19, 21 53

The textual witnesses give credence to the possibility that Tob 4:3-19, 21 formed part of the original Tobit narrative.26 It is also plausible that the author of Tobit, who could have obtained the instructions from an assortment of collections in a written document or from an oral tra-dition, incorporated relevant sapiential sayings into his original narrative as part of his pedagogical strategy of focusing the moral of the story. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the author of the composition would observe his very own exhortation in Tob 4:18 to seek advice from the wise and not to think lightly of any counsel which could be valuable. In this case, it would have been wise sayings and instructions that he would have found useful for his narrative and theological purposes.

Originally posted 2020-02-10 04:54:12.