Date of Award
Santa Clara : Santa Clara University, 2017.
Doctor of Sacred Theology (STD)
In Hebrew –el means ‘God,’ and the reader or hearer of the Book of Tobit learns that, Tobit, the character after whom the narrative is named, lacks that –el ending in his name. He remains faithful to Jewish religious practice when the rest of his tribe secedes from the temple in Jerusalem, but he experiences exile. He risks execution by burying corpses of fellow Israelites in exile, whom the king of Assyria murders. He loses his sight after sparrows excrete onto his eyes in his courtyard at night after burying the dead.
This dissertation characterizes Tobit in the light of Tob 1:1-2, which I translate as follows: “1aThe book of the words of Tobit, son of Tobiel, 1bson of Hananiel, son of Adouel, 1cson of Gabael, from the seed of Asiel, from the tribe of Naphtali, 2who was led captive from Thisbe, which is South of Kudios of Naphtali in Galilee above Aser, in the days of Enemessaros, the king of Assyrians.” The entry question concerns the significance of the name ‘Tobit’ amongst names ending in –el in Tob 1:1-2.
I argue that a careful analysis of key texts in the Book of Tobit reveals that names ending in –el in Tob 1:1-2 characterize Tobit, as they drive the narrative from the ‘initial Tobit,’ who experiences exile and alienation from his religious family, through the ‘middle Tobit,’ who turns to God in prayer, to the ‘final Tobit,’ who reunites with his religious family and enjoys an end of the exilic experience.
The discovery of four Aramaic texts and one Hebrew text of the Book of Tobit at Qumran makes plausible the contemporaneous existence of at least two different ancient versions of the Tobit narrative, besides the Long Greek Recension (GII), the Short Greek Recension (GI), and the Vulgate of Tobit (VG). In this dissertation, I employ the Short Greek Recension (GI) as the base text, because it survives amongst the most ancient complete versions of Tobit extant to us, and it exercises restraint in characterizing Tobit as a righteous man, which enables its text to store surprises for its readers or hearers. I also utilize narrative criticism with a focus on characterization, by employing name theories, sequence, plot and setting, character relations with others and oneself, trauma, space, forward symmetrical and asymmetrical structures.
This project appreciates the contemporaneous existence of at least two initial texts of Tobit and is the first to dedicate itself entirely to the characterization of Tobit in the light of Tob 1:1-2. In addition, it promotes dialogue between some African traditional personal naming practices and Biblical traditions. The project also bolsters local integration as an alternative for repatriation to the refugee problem, besides highlighting a people’s religious practice in a strange land as a sign of freedom.
Nshimbi, Emmanuel, "The Characterization of Tobit in the Light of Tobit 1:1-2" (2017). Jesuit School of Theology Dissertations. 6.
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