problems with story of judith
Most contemporary exegetes, such as Biblical scholar Gianfranco Ravasi, generally tend to ascribe Judith to one of several contemporaneous literary genres, reading it as an extended parable in the form of a historical fiction, or a propaganda literary work from the days of the Seleucid oppression. 
In medieval Christian art, the predominance of church patronage assured that Judith’s patristic valences as “Mulier Sancta” and Virgin Mary prototype would prevail: from the 8th-century frescoes in Santa Maria Antigua in Rome through innumerable later bible miniatures. Gothic cathedrals often featured Judith, most impressively in the series of 40 stained glass panels at the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris (1240s). [ citation needed ]
Ibid. “Women Who Lied for the Faith.” In Justice and the Holy: Essays in Honor of Walter Harrelson, edited by Douglas A. Knight and Peter J. Paris, 35–49. Atlanta: 1989.
In Part 2 (8:1–16:25), Judith, a pious widow in Bethulia, comes forward to challenge the five-day compromise that has imposed conditions on God’s sovereignty. Once she takes the stage, she surrenders it to no other character, figuring in every scene until the book’s end. She sends her maid to summon the town magistrates, Uzziah, Chabris, and Charmis to her house. Upbraiding them for putting themselves in the place of God (8:12), she argues that God is simply testing them, and has the power to help them at any time (8:15). She urges, “Do not try to bind the purposes of the Lord our God; for God is not like a human being, to be threatened, or like a mere mortal, to be won over by pleading” (8:16). Judith proposes that they wait for deliverance and together call upon God who will listen, if so disposed (8:17). She insists that God will not disdain Israel because they know no other god and that capture by the Assyrians will mean the desolation of the temple as well as their way of life. Judith counsels, “Let us set an example for our kindred” (8:24).
The work’s historicity is suspect because of numerous historical and chronological errors. Some scholars have suggested that the existence of similar accounts in the Bible (e.g., Jael in the Book of Judges) and in the interpretive stories of the Midrash point to an early, common source (perhaps from the 6th century bce ) now lost. Others, however, view the story as sheer fiction and attribute it to an anonymous Palestinian Jew who wrote shortly after the end of the Maccabean revolt (2nd century bce ). According to this view, Judith was meant to be the female counterpart of Judas Maccabeus, leader of the revolt, and the book, discussing a contemporary situation in the guise of an ancient historical setting, was written to encourage the Judaean Jews in the uneasy period of independence following the wars precipitated by the Maccabean uprising.
The book relates that Nebuchadrezzar, king of Assyria, sent his general Holofernes on an expedition against Palestine. At the siege of the Jewish city of Bethulia, a general named Achior warned Holofernes of the danger of attacking the Jews. A beautiful Jewish widow named Judith left the besieged city in pretended flight and foretold to Holofernes that he would be victorious. Invited into his tent, she cut off his head as he lay in drunken sleep and brought it in a bag to Bethulia. A Jewish victory over the leaderless Assyrian forces followed.
Key words: Judith, Greimas, narrative analysis, structure
C’ Achior is received into Bethulia; he talks with the people of Israel (6:12-21)
24 The rest of this section of the Psychomachia forms a reply to the recurring problem of vice. On the one hand, freewill of the individual appears to be invoked since each person must summon his or her own inner virtues to suppress lust. On the other hand, what allows each person to fight this battle and kill off lust in universal salvation history is the immaculate birth of Christ, which Pudicitia explains over the course of twenty-seven lines (Psych. 70–97). Psych. 66–69 must be understood in this context. The phrase at Psych. 66, sub umbra legis (under the shadow of [Mosaic] law), points backward to the incompleteness of Mosaic law when an indefatigable lust was operative in the universe, and forward to the new dispensation of Christianity, in which Libido will be driven from the soul. This possibility of a future, free of lust, has been prefigured by the action of Judith. The typology has become more specific, pairing Judith’s killing of Holofernes – and as a consequence, the saving of the Jewish people – with the birth of Christ by Mary, which saves all Christians. The elimination of lust by Judith typologically indicates Mary, her immaculate conception, and the birth of Christ, a moment in history when individual, freely taken action, resulting in the destruction of vice and evil became available to even ”feeble agents.” The phrase infirmos ministros is typologically tinged, signifying Judith and Mary (as well as Martyrs), females whose worldly weakness is transformed into salvational strength. Through the association of females with weakness and salvation, Prudentius, Jerome, and Paulinus of Nola describe a new Christian agency, one that is universalizable to all human beings.
25 Early Christians such as Prudentius understood the idea of agency to include a degree of autonomy and independence that allows the human agent to choose freely between virtue and vice.24 What is more, an act of a weak agent can defeat extremely powerful forces, either through earthly victory or through the winning of salvation in ”defeat” (David, Judith, Jesus, and the Martyrs, respectively). The exemplary female agent in early Christian writing is often figured as strong though weak, first though last, included though excluded. Judith and Mary are certainly the most unlikely candidates to change the world with their actions, yet they do just that. However, these figures obtain much of their force and authority because of the pivotal roles they play in salvation history. And for Prudentius, salvation history is constructed through a series of typologies that unite the Hebrew past with the Roman Christian recent past, present and future. Adverbial expressions of time indicate these periods: sub umbra legis (Psych. 66–67), post partum virginis (Psych. 70, 71), nostra tempora … quibus (Psych. 67–68), inde (Psych. 76), post Mariam (Psych. 88), postquam (Psych. 60). The killing of Holofernes, the incarnation of Christ, and the immortality of Prudentius’s Roman Christian reader become constituents of a typology that signify individual salvation through freely chosen action.