This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Monday, 24 February 2014


Today we have a new recruit to the Eccles Bible Class, namely Graham Norton, a TV "celebrity", who described Catholics defending traditional marriage as "rats trapped in the corner of a barn". In order to help the poor man learn some manners, it was decided that he should come along to this month's lesson, which covers the book of Tobit. Hello, Graham!

Norman Tebbit

Tobit (also called Tebbit).

Now, Graham, we don't have any rats for you in the book of Tobit, although there is a fish that attempts to devour the foot of Tobit's son, Tobias. Some good comes of this, as after overcoming the fish, Tobias is told: If thou put a little piece of its heart upon coals, the smoke thereof driveth away all kind of devils, either from man or from woman, so that they come no more to them. We'll try that one on you later, Graham!

Toby Young

Tobias (also called Toby).

Still, let's start at the beginning. It's a bit of a tangled story, as both T senior and T junior are referred to as Tobias. To avoid confusion, we'll call them Tebbit and Toby (or young Toby). Now they are both righteous chaps, living in exile in the Telegraph blogs Nineveh. Two problems are dealt with in this book:

1. Tebbit goes to sleep under a swallow's nest, gets hot dung in his eyes, and goes blind. I suppose the modern equivalent is watching Graham Norton on television. Only joking, Graham!

2. In faraway Rages, a city of the Medes, a lady called Sara has got problems with demons. Indeed, her seven husbands have been killed by Asmodeus "at their first going in unto her". Don't snigger at the back, there, Fry.


Asmodeus, the demon of lust (from his Facebook page).

So off goes Toby ("On your bike!" says his father, in some translations), and he meets the fish. Fortunately, he is under the protection of the angel Raphael, which means that he is going to win through in the end. He marries Sara, his kinswoman, and drives away the demon by burning the fish's liver in his bedroom. Of course, the bedroom smells of burnt fish for a long time afterwards, but this is a small price to pay for married bliss. Raphael binds the devil, and we hear no more of him. Do spare a thought for Raguel, Sarah's father, who digs a grave for Toby only to find that it isn't needed.

Toby goes back to see Tebbit, and uses the fish's gall to cure his father's blindness. Many years later, Tebbit dies, and Toby leaves Nineveh - which is doomed, as we'll see later when we reach Jonah - to return to the land of the Medes.

Tobias and the fish

Toby and the fish.

Now, this is a great book of fish recipes, but that's not really the point. One of the themes - sorry, Graham, it really isn't your day - is marriage. And when the third night is past, thou shalt take the virgin with the fear of the Lord, moved rather for love of children than for lust, ... that sort of thing. Chapter 4, old Tebbit's advice to young Toby, is also hot on charity, wisdom, avoiding pride, praying, voting Conservative, etc.

Ah, Dawkins, I see your hand is up. I think I know what you're going to say: "Fish gall doesn't cure blindness, there are no such things as demons, or angels. Giving alms isn't going to benefit you personally. There's nothing wrong with a bit of lust." Shall we make it easy for you, as you're a beginner? Look at some of the instructive moral teaching, don't worry too much about the supernatural elements for now - I know they give you a headache - and leave it at that. Oh, and here's your guardian angel to escort you home.

Darwin's angel

John Cornwell? Doesn't he write rubbish books about popes called Pius?


  1. Hmmm… Catherine of Aragon could have used Asmodeus’s services circa 1509.

    Of course, that would have had an effect on later popular music…

    “I’m ‘Enery the Seventh, I am…” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

  2. God on yer! Good chestertonian unenglishness on your part: no wretched dog wagging's tail!
    Bravo !
    Way back when , uk, dogs spelt backwards pace chesterton, you got tobit, you got more of ther beinghted hound's antics than even in the various versions in the original language- some spritual ancestor of the Brits was one of the inspired writers or passerson of the book, and an even more inspired redactor trimmed the canine to the right size.
    Tough on proddie Uk canophiles, that they themselves apocrified the book at the back of 't Bible at best.