In chapters 8-15 of the book of Judith the heroine and her maid charm their way into the tent of Holofernes, the general about to invade Israel. She then plies him with wine, decapitates him, and slips away with the head in her sack. As a result Holofernes' troops panic, run, and are slaughtered by the Israelites. In the Glossa Ordinaria's pages on these chapters (II, 1573-1604) the commentators all agree that Judith is a type of the Church, the bride of Christ and advocate par excellence for God's people.
Judith was a favorite subject in the Renaissance. Narrative images most often represent the beheading. The portraits almost always use the head as an attribute, as in the second picture at right. Both types will often include the maid. In modern times the plot has been adapted by films such as Judith of Bethulia (D. W. Griffith, 1914) and Cat Ballou (Elliot Silverstein, 1965).
The Book of Judith is in the Latin Vulgate and is accepted as canonical in Catholic Bibles, but it is not in the Protestant canon.
Prepared in 2014 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University