Reading Judith, I came across very familiar-sounding words 'murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer, and perished by serpents:'

Judith 8:22-25 (DRB)

They must remember how our father Abraham was tempted, and being proved by many tribulations, was made the friend of God. 23 So Isaac, so Jacob, so Moses, and all that have pleased God, passed through many tribulations, remaining faithful. 24 But they that did not receive the trials with the fear of the Lord, but uttered their impatience and the reproach of their murmuring against the Lord, 25 Were destroyed by the destroyer, and perished by serpents [a serpéntibus periérunt]. 26 As for us therefore let us not revenge ourselves for these things which we suffer. 27 But esteeming these very punishments to be less than our sins deserve, let us believe that these scourges of the Lord, with which like servants we are chastised, have happened for our amendment, and not for our destruction.

Upon reading this I instantly recalled what turned out to be one of St. Paul's letters to the Corinthians wherein he says (in the same context of enduring through trials faithfully):

1 Corinthians 10:10-13 (DRB) For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea. 2 And all in Moses were baptized, in the cloud, and in the sea: 3 And did all eat the same spiritual food, 4 And all drank the same spiritual drink; (and they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.) 5 But with most of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the desert. 6 Now these things were done in a figure of us, that we should not covet evil things as they also coveted. 7 Neither become ye idolaters, as some of them, as it is written: The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. 8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed fornication, and there fell in one day three and twenty thousand. 9 Neither let us tempt Christ: as some of them tempted, and perished by the serpents [a serpéntibus periérunt]. 10 Neither do you murmur: as some of them murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened to them in figure: and they are written for our correction, upon whom the ends of the world are come. 12 Wherefore he that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall. 13 Let no temptation take hold on you, but such as is human. And God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able: but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it.

This appears to be a somewhat overt reference or even quotation of Judith. You could even put quotation marks in there, or italics, as the particular convention might have it.


What arguments militate against this assessment, or what arguments might support the conclusion that this is a quotation from/reference to the book of Judith?

Warning: this question assumes that, if there is a reference, it would be to the Old Aramaic tradition preserved by Jerome2 which you have read above, and not to the different-across-the-board Septuagint (Greek) version of the Book.

Cf. Wis 16:4-5.

Thanks in advance.


1 Cf. Jerome, Præf. in Lib. Judith: Multorum codicum varietatem vitiosissimam amputavi: sola ea, quae intelligentia integra in verbis Chaldaeis invenire potui, Latinis expressi. "I have discarded altogether the many varying and hopelessly error-ridden codices: only what I could find in the Chaldean words, with understanding intact, did I express in Latin ones."

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    Hard to say with certainty. What I would say is for certain is that this is a pre-Christian document. E.g. Clement (~A.D. 96) references this as a 'family favorite,' common knowledge heroine like Esther: "The blessed Judith, when her city was besieged, asked of the elders permission to go forth into the camp of the strangers; and, exposing herself to danger, she went out for the love which she bare to her country and people then besieged; and the Lord delivered Holofernes into the hands of a woman. [Judith 8:30] Esther also, being perfect in faith, exposed herself to no less danger, ..." Oct 8, 2018 at 12:19
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    "Saint Athanasius, author of one of the synoptic gospels, ..." No, most definitely not a Catholic view (or a view held by anyone, as far as I'm aware). One can only hope it's nothing more than a typo or drifting of thought, or bad proof-reading. Oct 8, 2018 at 14:46
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    I agree this situation is frustrating. My personal view (without being very certain at all) is that Judith was composed as an anachronistic midrash about the end of the first century because we have no record of it until the early second century. Thus, Judith would be referencing Paul but not very well.
    – user25930
    Oct 8, 2018 at 21:27
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    Judith reads very unlike a midrash, and much, much more like a scroll such as Esther. It's one of the most eloquent Old Testament era books, actually, in my opinion; very rich; definitely not lacking in a natural, self-contained flow: and therefore not to be accused of plagiarizing St. Paul (which indeed begs the question as to its date of composition). Such an accusation is unwarranted. Oct 8, 2018 at 23:38
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    As to dating, "the day of the festivity of this victory is received by the Hebrews in the number of holy days, and is religiously observed by the Jews from that time until this day" is a strong clue that since we have no extant record of such a feast that I'm aware of, it must predate Talmudic and other such literature (if you'll indulge the loose usage of the term). Oct 8, 2018 at 23:40

1 Answer 1


I suggest two things to solve this matter:


My personal view is that Judith was probably written in the first century BC and therefore was composed and available to Paul who was presumably aware of it. Despite this, it is NOT clear that the text as we now have it predates Paul as it shows some signs of later editing. However, for the sake of this discussion, let us assume that what we have now in Judith is what was available to Paul.

Who Quotes Whom?

I do not believe that Paul quotes Judith, nor does Judith quote Paul. The nature of what Paul is discussing makes it obvious that Paul is quoting from Numbers 21:5, 6. Further, Judith very likely alludes to the same passage (but this is not necessary).

Therefore, I do not believe it is necessary discover whether Paul quotes Judith or vis versa as it is far more probably that they both quote from a common much earlier source, the Torah, Num 21:5, 6 specifically.

  • I almost agreed it until I remembered that the words specifically chosen are what are at issue, not what is being referred to (the plague of serpents). The choice of words is where I find the allusion or quotation, not in that they both refer to the plague of serpents. "were destroyed by the destroyer" and "perished by serpents" are two very specific ways of describing what could aptly be otherwise described. When used simultaneously, this breaches the realm of coincidence, and becomes a mere matter of dating the relevant portion of Judith (in my opinion).I nonetheless appreciate your input! Nov 5, 2018 at 23:14
  • You make a very good point. Is it possible that both paraphrased in a similar way?
    – user25930
    Nov 6, 2018 at 0:34
  • @DrPeterMcGowan The odds of that are incredibly bad, I should think. I would say that it is more likely that they both were referring to some other now lost text. Sort of like the Q document theory. But lost now. Maybe they will find something in that new cave at Qumran!
    – Ruminator
    Dec 6, 2018 at 3:35
  • I agree - we just do not know.
    – user25930
    Dec 6, 2018 at 8:24
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    Actually, I was thinking more about this - the chances of two (or more) people misquoting something the same way from same source is quote common. see for example en.wikiquote.org/wiki/List_of_misquotations
    – user25930
    Dec 6, 2018 at 11:38

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