Envisioning the Book of Judith: How Art Illuminates Minor Characters
Sheaffer, Andrea M.
Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2014 pp. xii + 156. $80.00
The Bible in the Modern World, 64
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Description: The Book of Judith, the Apocryphal narrative of the Jewish widow who becomes a guerilla solider and headhunting hero, has fascinated and inspired readers over centuries. Weaving together literary and visual approaches, Sheaffer argues that this is a story of unconventionality and unexpected heroism demonstrated not only by Judith, but also by the minor characters in the text: an Israelite enemy displays the most faith in Israel’s God when Israel’s own leaders show the least; a nameless, voiceless slave woman prepares the way for her mistress’s success in rescuing Israel from Assyrian domination.
Sheaffer’s interdisciplinary study is the first to combine literary and visual criticism to illuminate the role and function of minor characters in the Book of Judith. Utilizing Renaissance and Baroque images as a starting point, she is able to show how minor characters function in a variety of roles in the text. They are forerunners, sustainers, inciters, and avatars of the major characters.
The conclusion drawn from this study is that minor characters are indispensable in aiding Judith’s mission. In the biblical text, God uses Judith—considered the weakest in society because of her status as a widow—as an instrument of God’s power over the enemy. Sheaffer shows that minor characters belong in the spotlight alongside the protagonist in the category of unlikely hero/helpers, emphasizing a fundamental theme in the narrative in which the underdog is championed. This approach paints fresh and enriched textual interpretation onto the canvases of Judith and the field of biblical studies alike.
Subjects: Bible, Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, Old Testament Apocrypha, Judith, Literature, Methods, Other Methods
Review by Dan W. Clanton Jr.
Citation: Dan W. Clanton Jr., review of Andrea M. Sheaffer, Envisioning the Book of Judith: How Art Illuminates Minor Characters, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2016).
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