Different Tobit Ch. 5 trsl's; how many others passages like this?


I usually cross-reference the online Haydock whenever I come across a scripture quote on the web. Recently a friend quoted the Book of Tobias, Ch. five, from the NSRV, like this:—

[quote=Tobias v. 11–14]Then Tobit said to him, “Brother, of what family are you and from what tribe? Tell me, brother.”
He replied, “Why do you need to know my tribe?”
But Tobit said, “I want to be sure, brother, whose son you are and what your name is.”
He replied, “I am Azariah, the son of the great Hananiah, one of your relatives.”
Then Tobit said to him, “Welcome! God save you, brother. Do not feel bitter toward me, brother, because I wanted to be sure about your ancestry. It turns out that you are a kinsman, and of good and noble lineage. For I knew Hananiah and Nathan, the two sons of Shemeliah, and they used to go with me to Jerusalem and worshiped with me there, and were not led astray. Your kindred are good people; you come of good stock. Hearty welcome!

The Haydock has the (most similar) passage like this:—

[quote=Tobias v. 16–19]And Tobias said to him: I pray thee, tell me, of what family, or what tribe art thou?
And Raphael, the angel, answered: Dost thou seek the family of him thou hirest, or the hired servant himself, to go with thy son? But lest I should make thee uneasy, I am Azarias, the son of the great Ananias.
And Tobias answered: Thou art of a great family. But I pray thee be not angry that I desired to know thy family.

That’s a pretty clear difference, however minor, with more information in the NSRV than in the Haydock. It’s particularly surprising to me as the KJV actually has something similar to the NSRV here, and here I was thinking that the Protestants don’t pay much attention to the deuterocanonical books It got me wondering, how many other passages like this are there?


I’m not a scholar, but just to get the ball rolling:

There are differences in the various lines of transmission of many Deuterocanonical books.

So something like the Douay-Rheims, which follows Latin recensions, will differ from the RSV/NRSV/KJV which follows Greek ones.

Others on this forum are far more qualified to describe nuances of all this than I am. But as far as I’m concerned, I consider the Latin as well as the Greek to be “legitimate,” despite differences, and despite my preference for the Douay-Rheims/Vulgate.

Also, there are claims that the Book of Tobias was really treated as more of a paraphrase by St. Jerome.


yours is a very difficult question to answer. There’s no fault here, but a lot of people may open their Bible and then a different one, and feel cheated somehow.

Most Bibles will have differences in translation, due to copyright laws. Every Bible you put your hands on will carry a copyright. So, the translators have to use their imagination to find a way to express the text of the original that doesn’t copy some other translation excessively… Then, too, in this case, there may be different versions of the original, which was common.

It is thought that Judaism was still revising texts into the second century AD, to eliminate scrolls and wording inside of scrolls that supported the Christian point of view.

the Jewish Publication Society has an expensive 3-volume set of books called **Outside the Bible ** which has writings of the second temple period that did not make it into the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh). One of the surprising genre of these writings is designated “rewritten scripture.” when the historian Josephus was translating some of the Bible into Latin, he left out the parts he considered embarrassing and parts that would offend the Romans, like the idea of circumcision.

Those who study the scriptures in the original languages can identify places where changes were made intentionally or otherwise – usually because some pattern of words is interrupted. It’s more convincing when you read a book that gives examples of this.

Modern scholars have formed opinions that some of what we would think are the earliest books of the Bible were written long after the events they describe and then were modified or blended into other traditions within Judaism. Contradictions are another category of differences within even one Bible that you hold in your hands. The Decalogue (“ten commandments”) is given twice, in Exodus and Deuteronomy. There is at least one minor difference between them. One says to “observe” the Sabbath and the other says to “remember” the Sabbath – and I think they give different reasons for observing the Sabbath - one rationale refers to creation and the other refers to the exodus from Egypt, if I remember correctly.

So get to work and start counting. come back in fifty years and give us YOUR answer.


Guys, thanks for your thoughtful responses.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I feel cheated, it’s that I feel — how to say this? — fascinated by the creativity which a translation job requires.

…expensive 3-volume set of books…

runs out to buy it

So get to work and start counting. come back in fifty years and give us YOUR answer.

:smiley: :thumbsup:


Very good (and important) question there!

I’ll elaborate later, but here’s the answer in a nutshell: it essentially all boils down to the book of Tobit existing in different versions, all of which share the same basic story but differ with each other in the details. Different translations use different source texts, which explains why the NAB Tobit, the RSV Tobit and the Douai-Rheims Tobit don’t quite match up with each other.


Here’s the longer answer.

The book of Tobit exists in different versions in different languages. As I mentioned, while they all tell the same basic story, there are differences in the wording and the details.

Most modern translations today translate Tobit from the Greek, specifically, from two of three versions in that language.

Most Greek manuscripts of Tobit contain a short version of the book, which scholars call Greek I; this is the source text used by the RSV and most English translations of Tobit made before the 1960s-70s.

The 4th-century Codex Sinaiticus contains a version of Tobit that is longer than Greek I (we’ll call this Greek II). A couple other manuscripts contain bits of Greek II, but Sinaiticus is the only manuscript that contains this version in its fullest form (and even then, there are a lot of gaps in the text as it is written).

Most translations made since the late 1960s (such as the NAB or the NRSV) use Greek II as their source text. The reason for this is the Tobit manuscripts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Scraps of five manuscripts of Tobit (four in Aramaic, one in Hebrew) were found in Qumran; upon closer inspection, the text of these manuscripts (which, BTW, also differ among each other) generally agree more with Greek II than they do with Greek I. While up to this point, most scholars believed that Greek I was the version closer to the original, with Greek II being a later derivative, this discovery led them to rethink their view. Nowadays, the opinion is that Greek II is closer to the Semitic original, while Greek I is an abridgement. This is the reason why modern translators now generally prefer translating from Greek II.

Douai-Rheims Tobit is a translation of the Vulgate version, which is a translation of a Hebrew translation of a late Aramaic version/paraphrase of Tobit (St. Jerome for some reason had the Aramaic text translated in Hebrew, from which he made his translation.)

The Latin translations of Tobit made before Jerome (Vetus Latina), meanwhile, were all ultimately derived from a version close to Greek II and the DSS Tobit manuscripts. (In fact, in a number of cases, they’re more closer to the DSS Tobit than Greek II is.) The text of Tobit in the Nova Vulgata isn’t the translation made by Jerome, but a revised version of one of these pre-Jerome translations.

In addition, you have ancient translations of Tobit in various languages as well as medieval Hebrew and Aramaic versions.

To sum, you have the following versions:

Shorter Greek version (Greek I): KJV, RSV (Pretty much every translation made before 1950s-60s)
Longer Greek version (Greek II): NAB, NRSV, New Jerusalem Bible (Pretty much most translations made after 1966*)
Late Aramaic version: Vulgate, Douai-Rheims
Vetus Latina: Nova Vulgata

  • There are a few exceptions to this, of course.


There are a number of good litmus tests to determine which version of Tobit you’re reading, but here’s two easy ones.

First, look at Tobit 1:21 and see how many days elapsed before Sennacherib was killed by his own sons. In the shorter Greek I, it’s “fifty days.” In the longer Greek II, it’s “forty days.” In the Vetus Latina versions and the Vulgate, it’s “forty-five days.” (The one DSS manuscript of Tobit which preserves this relevant portion would agree with either Greek II or the Latin versions in giving forty or forty-five - it’s hard to tell which exactly because the manuscript has a lacuna just where the number should be.)

A second test is to check the specified age when Tobit became blind (14:1). If in your text, Tobit is said to become blind at fifty-eight, you’re reading Greek I. If he becomes blind at sixty-two, it’s Greek II you’re reading*. If he becomes blind at fifty-six, then you’re reading the Vulgate version.

NRSV (Greek II): “He was sixty-two years old when he lost his eyesight, and after regaining it he lived in prosperity…”
RSV (Greek I): “He was fifty-eight years old when he lost his sight, and after eight years he regained it.”
DR (Vulgate): “He was six and fifty years old when he lost the sight of his eyes, and sixty when he recovered it again.”

(* At this point, the NAB has “fifty-eight.” But this is because it’s following the lead of one of the five DSS manuscripts of Tobit, the only one which preserves the text of 14:1, which agree with Greek I rather than Greek II in giving Tobit’s age as fifty-eight. It does agree with Greek II against Greek I in saying that Tobit died at age 112 though.)


Patrick, wow, what a thorough response. I love it. Thanks! Wow, how amazing the story of the Scriptures


I forgot the answer to this question: which version of Tobit has the dog “fawning and wagging his tail”? Is it only the Vulgate? Is it in the Nova Vulgata, too?

I like bibles that have the dog in Tobit–I don’t think that the dog was a later invention of the story–I think it was inspired.


Tobit 11:9

D-R “Then the dog, which had been with them in the way, ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail.”
Knox: “Yet he was not to reach the house first. The dog that had accompanied him on his travels ran on before him, heralding the good news with the caress of his wagging tail.”

As I age, I appreciate Saint Jerome’s and Monsignor Ronald Knox’s heroic efforts more and more. The Vulgate-based Tobits are simply warmer and more human - possibly reflecting on the differences between Aramaic/Hebrew and the Greek. The verse which has helped me through years of medical mayhem is

Tobit 12:13

D-R: “And because thou wast acceptable to God, it was necessary that temptation should prove thee.”
Knox Then, because thou hadst won his favour, needs must that trials should come, and test thy worth.

This is but part of the reason why Tobit is referred to as a “mini-Job.”


Yes. No other version of Tobit contains that detail. It likely came from that late Aramaic version/paraphrase Jerome got; some people have even suspected that since its absent in just about every other version of the book we know, maybe that bit was Jerome’s invention - as a sort of playful throwback to Odysseus’ dog Argos in the Odyssey perhaps?

It’s not in the Nova Vulgata, because the Nova Vulgata Tobit is derived from an earlier Vetus Latina version that’s probably derived from the same (earlier) Semitic version as the longer Greek II text, which of course doesn’t have that bit about the dog’s tail.


Thanks for the answer Patrick. I guess for the time being my favorite bibles will be Confraternity Douay and Knox bibles where Tobit comes from the Vulgate.

I also like Jerome when he says “super substantial bread”.

Vulgate bibles are not perfect but they are in the ballpark of the truth more than many other translations of today.

I wish we had more translations in the Vulgate direction.

closed #13

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.