Photo by Erich Lessing, Art Resource, N.Y.; collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Gemäldegalerie, Vienna

ON THE COVER: Judith displays the severed head of Holofernes by flickering candlelight, in this oil painting by Italian artist Carlo Saraceni (c. 1579–1620). The Assyrian general’s face remains frozen in a grimace. Judith’s maid uses her hands and teeth to hold open the sack in which Judith will carry home the head so that she can prove to the Jewish people she has slain their enemy.

Despite the bravery and piety of its heroine, the Book of Judith never made it into the canon of the Hebrew Bible. But the Book of Esther did—even though Esther shows much less concern for prayer and religious law than Judith. In “Esther Not Judith,” Sidnie White Crawford explains why.