Behind the scenes of The Weeping Key
The Book of Tobit
A surprisingly controversial little story about how bird poop can blind you.
In The Weeping Key, we follow the life of Katie ‘Tidbit’ Thorne (Tobit) as she deals with trauma from her childhood and the suicide of her beloved father, Vernon. My inspiration for the novel came after reading the book of Tobit, which can be found in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles but isn’t present in Protestant translations.
Common questions that arise upon the mention of this scripture are:
Why did the Catholics add it to their Bible?
They didn’t add it, it was removed by Protestants.
Present in early translations of the Bible, and written in either Hebrew or Aramaic language, Martin Luther removed the seven books that are in the Catholic Bible and not present in the Protestant Bible. (They are often referred to as deuterocanonical or apocryphal, depending on who you are talking to.) He wanted them out because he didn’t feel like they matched with the theology that he wanted to implement. His first Germanic translation was missing 25 books, with such exclusions as Genesis, Exodus, Job, Jonah, Matthew, Luke, John, Acts, Hebrews, James, and Jude to name a few; but his followers didn’t allow him to accomplish that and replaced many of the books he removed.
What is Tobit about?
I’ll put this in simple language because I feel that’s the best way to teach:
Tobit was a Godly man. He lived during a war and would go out at night and give the dead proper Christian burials. Tobit gets tired one day and falls asleep leaning against a wall, and as he sleeps, a bunch of birds poop in his eyes. (There’s no easy way to say that. It is what it is. It must have been a GOOD nap.)
When he wakes up, he’s blind. As time goes on, he begins to feel like a burden to his wife and son, Tobias. It reaches a culmination when his wife brings home a goat to cook for dinner one night. Tobit feels like a failure in every way because he can’t provide for his family. That night, he begins to pray and asks God to put him out of his misery and kill him.
At the same time Tobit is saying this prayer, a woman named Sarah is in equal despair. Sarah has been married seven times, but all of her husbands die on their wedding night because Sarah has a demon, Asmodeus, attached to her. She feels like an embarrassment to her family, and like she’s a burden. She, too, begins to pray and asks God to kill her because she’s tired of the struggle.
While these two are praying, God hears their prayers in Heaven and sends the archangel Raphael to earth in disguise to help both of them. Tobias is out and about one day and a fish attacks him. He kills the fish, and Raphael walks up and throws down some wisdom. Raphael tells Tobias to kill and save certain parts of the fish for later. He tells him which fish bits will heal blindness, and he tells him which fish parts will work as a burnt offering to drive out demons. Tobias follows the plan laid out to him by the stranger, and, to make a long story short, heals his dad, marries Sarah, and all is wrapped up with a nice little bow as Tobias gives his father the honorary burial he had been giving to other men all along, which had gained him favor with our Lord.
That doesn’t sound so bad, what could be the issue with it?
There are a few issues that Martin Luther found.
One, there are a few minor contradictions with timing and age for Tobit. But given other places in the Bible with the same problems, for me personally, this wasn’t a make-or-break deal.
He also felt it wasn’t clear enough whether it was a true story or a parable. Again, given Jesus's love of teaching in parables, and the use of allegory, metaphor, song, and poetry found throughout the Bible, for me, personally, this wasn’t a problem.
Finding consistent information on why Protestants are against the Apocrypha is surprisingly difficult. With every click through the deep web of information available to us, opinions litter the ground forming a deep blanket that keeps us from seeing the bed upon which our faith should sleep. One common theme amongst the plethora of opinion pieces is that Tobit teaches us that one is saved through “works”. This is often an anti-Catholic talking point, and as a convert from atheism to everything in between before landing in the Catholic church, I’d like to express my opinion on that, and it might make sense to someone else.
Jesus says it is more difficult to get into Heaven
than it is to get a camel through the eye of a needle.
Our greatest commandment, according to Jesus, is to love God and to then love your neighbor as you love yourself. I take this to mean, that in order to fulfill the commandments properly, I have to actually DO something for my neighbor. It takes great effort to love yourself, and the action of getting up every day and doing something to make yourself a better person. Love isn’t something you just say, it’s something you SHOW. It’s an action, which, according to Jesus, prayer without action is dead.
I’ve always taken Jesus’s words to mean that we should pray, we should love- both ourselves which is HARD, and others which is HARDER, and that we need to take action for these things to work. I have to take action to show God my love through prayer, helping others, helping myself through spiritual, physical, and emotional betterment, and by DOING things. The idea that we just say we love God, and we go to church on Sunday, and we shake the dust off our hands in the meantime because we are “saved” seems WAY too easy to me. I can’t imagine Jesus came to Earth, God in human form, suffered horrifically both physically and mentally, and went through utter despair, all so I can say that because I went to church on Sunday and said some prayers when I thought I had time for it, that it would be enough to get the camel through the needle.
Works, however you want to define them, don’t “save” us. It is through them that we grow in our love, faith, and our spiritual life, so that we can become those lights for Jesus that he talked about in scripture that he didn’t want hidden away from the world. So I ask myself, how can I be a better light for Him? Is it through action, or works, or whatever you want to call it, or is it through the effort I take to make that manifestation of LOVE a real, tangible concept in this world?
It is my opinion, which we are all entitled too, that I don’t think the book of Tobit should be excluded. Tobit took action, he saw good, Godly men dying in the streets, and he gave them the burial he knew God wanted them to have. It was through that ACTION that he gained favor, and his prayer was heard. Sarah kept trying, she kept trying to do what God wanted and she tried to get a man to make it through their wedding night, but it wasn’t working for her. She took action, and it didn’t work, but when she prayed, he still heard her. We can hold two concepts: we need action, but we don’t always have to rely on it. Life is complex.
What drew me to Tobit?
The idea that a person in despair can still love God and his creation, yet not want to be in it any longer. Suicide is something that ravages families. People feel like they can’t go on, usually through the way they’ve been treated by others or from feeling so alone and unnoticed. In this, we have Tobit and Sarah both feeling like burdens. They didn’t really want to die, they just didn’t want to feel the way they felt any longer.
There have been times in my life that I’ve felt utterly hopeless, and maybe you have, too. Perhaps you’ve found yourself sitting in a house that is so quiet you can hear the electricity moving through the cables in the walls, ringing in your ears, and you think, “Why does no one love me? Why am I this alone?” You want to escape that feeling, in any way possible, but you look at the intricacies of our creation and you see God working through all of it, from a big level, to the smallest of atoms, and you think, “All of this was created for me to experience, and I’m unworthy of it, because the way other people are making me feel makes me not want to be a part of it any longer.” And you might start to debate whether or not taking your life will send you to an eternity of torture, and you may begin to think that even if that’s the case, it wouldn’t be so bad because it would have to be better than this, but something in you, the spirit that moves upon the face of the waters, reaches out and makes you come back to yourself, and so all you can do is sit in the deafening quiet and talk to God, and you ask him to help you, or to take you from it, because you simply don’t want to do it anymore, but you thank him for his efforts in creating this wonderful world for you, and you wish you could have loved it more.
Or something like that.
I could see myself in Tobit, and in Sarah, and the fantastical idea that God could hear a lowly human and want to send his beautiful, majestic angels to help them.
And so, The Weeping Key began to manifest, with hints of reality forming a story that needed to be told so that someone else who might find themselves praying the prayer of “Help me, I don’t want to do this anymore” might remember that they are heard and that there is help, and that it’s all around you, always, even if it doesn’t come in the form of beautiful angels and time travel or actual conversations with Jesus.
Hopefully, I’ve explained this well, and if you have made it this far, you can find my book on Amazon for Kindle and paperback. Shameless plug at the end. I have to make my 33 cents per sell somehow. Ha!
I’ll be back with Volume Two where we will discuss Archangels, who they are, where they can be found in the Bible, and how they differ from other Heavenly beings next week.