The Book of Tobit is a much loved work of fiction.

Wednesday, 6/5/13

The introduction to the Book of Tobit in our Catholic Bibles tells us that this book is a religious historical novel. Written around the year 170 B. C. it is a fanciful novel about the ten northern tribes that were carried off to Assyria in  722 B.C..

When we were younger we thought that all Bible stories were completely factual. We would say things like, “This is the Bible truth.” When we were protesting that something was true we would swear that it was the Bible Truth. Some Christians s use the Bible as the final criterion of the truth, and we, growing up in their company, absorbed their belief in the Bible’s being factual.

The writers of many Bible passages knew they were using poetic license. They never expected or wanted us to take their fictions as fact.

Among serious writers the two works from which they quote most often are the Bible and the writings of Shakespeare. We too, when we quote things said by Hamlet or Lady Macbeth or King Lear, are strengthened by their words, and it doesn’t matter to us that they were just fictional characters.

So, for many many centuries Christians and Jews have been morally strengthened by the advice Tobit gave to his son, and by Raphael’s revelation of God’s mysterious kindness. 

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