Raphael - The Angel Raphael and Tobias with the Fish before the Madonna and Child, El Prado Museum, Madrid, 1515.


The Book of Tobias, as it is called in the Latin Vulgate, is also known in the Greek Septuagint as the Book of Tobit, and serves as part of the Historical Books in the Latin Vulgate and Greek Septuagint Bible. Both the Hebrew origin of the book and the name Tobiah – טוֹבִיָּה which means “Yahweh is my good” have been appreciated since antiquity. The name itself is noted, for example, in 2 Chronicles 17:8, Ezra 2:60, Nehemiah 2:10, Tobit 1:9, and Zechariah 6:10. The recent discovery of five scrolls of Tobit – 4QTob 196-200 in both Aramaic and Hebrew among the Dead Sea Scrolls in Cave IV of Qumran has given the book renewed attention. As with all ancient texts discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Hebrew was in consonantal form only. The Book of Tobit is also extant in Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopic, and Syriac. This translation is primarily based upon the Codex Sinaiticus, the Greek version discovered in St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai, Egypt in 1844.

The Book itself is one of the most delightful books of Hebrew Scripture. The book is a religious novel characterized as a Hebrew romance and is a captivating narrative. The father is called Tobit or Τωβίτ in the Greek Septuagint. The son is called Tobiah or טוביה in Aramaic (4Q196 2:3, 2:10, 2:12) and Hebrew (4Q200 4:3, 4:6), Tobias or Τωβίας in Greek, and Tobias in Latin. In this translation both father and son are known as Tobias. The book begins with Tobit or Tobias the Father, an Israelite of the Northern Kingdom deported to Nineveh who suffers blindness. Sara in Medes suffers torment. Because of their good life and prayers, God sends the Archangel Raphael to help them. The virtuous Tobias the Son joins the disguised Raphael on a journey to Medes on his father’s behalf, and brings happiness both to his Father and Sara.

The message of the book is that God is both just and free. The book offers much wisdom and notes suffering is not a punishment but a test. God in the long run does reward the just and punish the wicked. The believer is called upon to trust God and live his way. The book presents the sanctity of Marriage, intercession through Angels, reward of good works, and parental respect, as well as the importance of prayer in our daily lives, fasting, and especially almsgiving in expiation of sin (12:9). Raphael reveals himself in a fascinating statement in Chapter 12 as “the angel Raphael, one of the seven who stand before the Lord” (12:15).

Even though the setting takes place in the eighth century BC, it is thought the book was written after the time of Ezra, and thus it was not included in the shorter Hebrew Canon. However, the book followed Ezra and Nehemiah in the Greek Septuagint Old Testament and has always been considered inspired by both Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. It is part of the Apocrypha in the King James Bible. The Historical Books are followed by the Wisdom Literature such as the Psalms in the Greek Septuagint, Latin Vulgate, and the Christian Old Testament of the Bible.

The following Scripture is from the Douay-Rheims Bible, now in the public domain. The Douay-Rheims Bible was the standard English Bible for Catholics for over 300 years, and still remains in use today. The Douay-Rheims Bible was the first approved English translation of St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate Bible. The Old Testament translation was completed at the English College of Douai, France in 1609, and the New Testament at the English College of Rheims, France in 1582. The Douay-Rheims Bible was revised by Bishop Challoner in England from 1749 to 1752. The Haydock Douay-Rheims Bible of 1814 was the one upon which President John F. Kennedy took the oath of office on January 20, 1961 to become the 35th President of the United States.

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