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Poetics and Narrative Function of Tob 6:2-18

Mod.: R.D. Luca Mazzinghi

Tobiah’s travel with the angel (stricte dictu the account of Tob 6) constitutes a singular moment of Tobit’s story. Particularly, it seems to mark a “before and after” for Tobiah as a character. Dependent and childish up to that travel, after it Tobit’s son assumes a striking leading role in the story up to its end: angel Raphael’s role in the story, announced in 3:16-17, is surprisingly “transferred” to Tobiah, who finally becomes the human agent of both announced healings. The angel in disguise remains to the end mostly a mediator of knowledge and a “pedagogue;” he finally seems to have entered the story to bring Tobit’s son to maturity to become the leading agent of the healing processes. Considered attentively, the account of Tob 6 reveals itself with a remarkable richness in content and form. Its stylized feature hints to a purposeful narrative articulation; its concentration of Tobit’s main narrative and thematic components, to its singular importance for the plot denouement.

Following the suggestion of some previous commentators, that Tob 6 would represent a sort of “rite of passage” from childhood to adulthood for Tobiah, the study examines in detail the narrator’s literary and ideological articulation at play in Tob 6:2-18 (its poetics) for that purpose. Conjointly, it also deepens the narrative function of the chapter with respect to Tobit’s narrative project. Some components of Tob 6 constitute a complete novelty in the plot and intrigue commentators from old, particularly the dog and the fish (and its healing organs). The study thus also revisits those components in their narrative function and from the point of view of the history of their interpretation. The same procedure is followed regarding the main ideas of Tob 6 and connected problems (like the suggested “magical” feature of the fish’s organs and “death penalty according to Mosaic law” for disrespect of endogamy), some of which are part of Tobit’s main ideological articulation (like endogamy and burial of the dead). Considering the complexity of Tobit’s textual history, the study also includes a substantial work at level of textual criticism.

The dissertation is organized in four chapters. Chapter 1 discusses some general issues regarding Tobit (textual history, date of composition, sources, literary genre, relationship to Hellenism and collocation within Second Temple literature). For a better appreciation of the significance of Tob 6, chapter 2 offers more detailed literary and narrative remarks on it. The core section of the research, constitutes chapter 3, the exegesis of Tob 6:2-18 in its seven micro-units. Finally, chapter 4 systematizes the poetics and narrative function of Tob 6 and its ideology and message, by way of conclusion.