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HTS Theological Studies

On-line version ISSN 2072-8050
Print version ISSN 0259-9422


EVANS, Annette H.. 'Between righteousness and alms' in Tobit: What was the author's real intention?. Herv. teol. stud. [online]. 2020, vol.76, n.4, pp.1-7. ISSN 2072-8050.

Before the Semitic fragments of 4QTobit were found at Qumran, the 4th-century Greek GI version of Tobit was thought to be original and was regarded as 'a lesson on almsgiving and its redeeming powers'. In his presentation of the 4Q196-4Q199 (Aramaic) and 4Q200 (Hebrew) fragments of Tobit, Fitzmyer, in 1995, reconstructed and rendered the Semitic lexeme —•—• (literally, 'righteousness') as 'almsgiving', as in Mishnaic Hebrew. He referred mainly to the 4th-century Common Era Greek and Old Latin versions. The hypothesis of this article is that the Aramaic lexeme —•— may not yet have had the meaning of 'almsgiving' in the original composition; thus, the original authorial intention may be masked in Fitzmyer's presentation. Therefore, the emphasis on almsgiving for ultimate personal gain found in the later copies of Tobit may be a secondary, reductionist application by subsequent scribes of the lexeme —•—•. To test this hypothesis, the relevant reconstructions and English translations as 'almsgiving' of the Semitic copies of Tobit found at Qumran are examined and reconsidered. In the beginning of the narrative, in 4Q196 (and in GI and GII) the rather self-righteous Tobit is 'accidentally' blinded while performing an act of charity to his own kin, which he believed was the way to gain righteousness and thus be rewarded by God. In the end, when he has recovered his sight, Tobit redefines the way to achieve true righteousness: to bless God and extol his majesty to all nations with truthfulness in heart and soul. CONTRIBUTION: The comparison of the Semitic fragments from Qumran with the Septuagint versions suggests that the first reconstructions and translations of 4QTobit may have been overly influenced by the long-standing Greek versions. Whereas the Greek versions tend to emphasise almsgiving as a means to gain righteousness, the older Aramaic versions tend to highlight righteousness and truthfulness as the primary value

Keywords : 4QTobit; Semitic Tobit; Septuagint; Tobit GI; Tobit GII; Qumran; Fitzmyer 1995; Righteousness; Almsgiving.

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