There are difficulties in identifying certain cities in the biblical text, but I’ve never seen anything as strange as the location as Bethulia in the book of Judith. The following is abridged from the Bethulia entry by Sidnie Ann White in the Anchor Bible Dictionary (1: 715-16).

BETHULIA (PLACE) [Gk Baityloua (Βαιτυλουα)]. City where the events of the book of Judith are located (Jdt 4:6). The author of Judith gives many indications of the location of Bethulia: it is N of Jerusalem (11:19), near Betomasthaim (4:6), over against Esdraelon (4:6), near Dothan (4:6), in the hill country of Samaria (6:11). It is described as having a spring below the city (7:12–13), and it is positioned to hold the narrow mountain pass giving access to Jerusalem from the N hill country (10:10–11). However, the name Bethulia is unknown to modern readers, and its exact location, despite all the descriptive material, is uncertain. Enslin (1972) points out that we do not even know whether the city was actually known to the author.


None of these locations is definitive. It is possible that the author of Judith modeled his city on one of the major cities in the N hill country (Shechem being the most likely candidate), but that does not lead to an absolute identification. It seems most helpful to follow Craven (1983) when she says, “It seems best to leave the details of the Book of Judith alone as the products of a fertile, creative imagination.”

This reminds me of an interview once in which I was asked about various place names that sounded somewhat biblical but were clearly misinformed. Though not without its challenges to interpreters 2,000 years later, the Bible clearly stands apart from other religious texts.

To say it another way, there is no Pictorial Library of Apocryphal Lands or Pictorial Library of Mormon Lands because one cannot photograph what did not exist.

Shiloh from west, tb120806860

Judges 21:19 (NIV) “But look, there is the annual festival of the Lord in Shiloh, to the north of Bethel, and east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem, and to the south of Lebonah.”

Footnote: Not all apocryphal or deuterocanonical texts are ahistorical or a-geographical, but as readers have long recognized, the biblical books are unique.


Christianbook.com is running a special on two volumes of James Charlesworth’s The Dead Sea Scrolls. Retailing for $150 each, they are available now for $20. These are not the first books to buy on the Dead Sea Scrolls, but they are essential for more careful study of the sectarian literature.

21994: The Dead Sea Scrolls, Volume 1: Rules of the Community and Related Documents The Dead Sea Scrolls, Volume 1: Rules of the Community and Related Documents
By James H. Charlesworth / Westminster John Knox Press

“This important work brings together all copies of the Dead Sea Scroll text known as THE COMMUNITY RULE (also called the Manual of Discipline), with original Hebrew and English translations on facing pages. This volume offers the most up-to-date research, an indispensable compendium for anyone doing research on the scrolls.” [taken from BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW] THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS Vol. 1 was winner of the Biblical Archeological Society Publication Awards–Best Scholarly Books on Archaeology for 1995. Includes introduction, selected bibliography, and footnotes.

22037: The Dead Sea Scrolls, Volume 2: Damascus Document, War Scroll, and Related Documents The Dead Sea Scrolls, Volume 2: Damascus Document, War Scroll, and Related Documents
By James Charlesworth / Westminster John Knox Press

The Princeton Theological Seminary Dead Sea Scrolls Project was established to make available the first comprehensive edition of texts, translations, and introductions to all the Dead Sea Scrolls that are not copies of books in the Biblia Hebraica. Hence the documents composed at Qumran, as well as the Jewish writings composed elsewhere but found in the 11 Qumran caves, are collected in this series.

Amazon has volume 1 for $110 and volume 2 starting at $90.

HT: Peter Wong