[b-hebrew] Inspiration

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Wed Aug 3 07:25:17 EDT 2005

The basic Jewish tradition, found in the Talmud and in later sources, is
that Ezra collected the earier books (and wrote a few of his own), perhaps
decided between different versions, and declared these books, and no others,
to be "Scripture" (in Christian terms, this would be called canonization).
He was able to do this because, in Jewish tradition, he had three "hats": he
was "Ezra the scribe", basically what later became known as a "rabbi", and
in Jewish tradition he was the head of the high rabbinical court (the
"Knesset Hagedolah" or Great Assembly, the later Sanhedrin). This gave him
the legal authority. He was also a prophet; the Talmud identifies him with
Malachi, the last of the prophets. So he also had the "inspiration" - and
yes, I think that that is a perfectly appropriate term. He was also High
Priest, so that he also had the "ritual authority". However, you should
remember that this is Talmudic tradition, written down almost 1000 years
after Ezra. The book of Ezra itself makes no such claims. From our sources
from the Second Temple period, including the DDS, the LXX, the Apocrypha,
Josephus, Philo etc., we know that the canonization of scripture in Judaism
was a long process, and that Ezra, whatever his role was, was the starting
point, not the conclusion. The Hebrew Bible achieved its more-or-less final
form only after the destruction of the Second Temple, probably in the 2nd or
even 3rd century.

"Inspiration" is also a good was to explain the difference in authority
between the Nevi'im, the Prophets, and the Ketuvim, the Writings. All of the
Nevi'ivm (Josh., Judges, Sam., Kings, Isaiah, Jer., Ezekiel and the Twelve)
are considered to have been written by prophets AS prophets, and thus
directly reflect "the word of God" (but less directly that the Torah, which
was "composed" by God himself). The writings were written "under the
influence" of the Holy Spirit, but are not "prophecy". So that what Jeremiah
wrote in the book named after him was prophecy, Lamentations is "inspired
poetry". But Kings, also attributed to Jerimiah, is a "prophetic" book,
while Chronicles, attributed to Ezra, is only "inspired". Daniel, in Jewish
tradition, is only "inspired", NOT "prophetic".


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Kevin Riley" <klriley at alphalink.com.au>
To: <leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il>
Sent: Tuesday, August 02, 2005 5:42 AM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Inspiration

> When you say that Ezra was the "editor" of the Tanakh, what exactly is
> meant by "editor"?  Are there different Jewish traditions of what this
> editing" entailed?  I ask because the conservative evangelical idea of
> inspiration" doesn't allow for any more than collecting the texts of
> scripture.  That is one reason I asked about how the ancient Hebrews saw
> process of the texts coming into being - and maybe "inspiration" was the
> wrong term to use for that.
> Kevin Riley
> -------Original Message-------
> From: Yigal Levin
> Date: 08/02/05 14:34:47
> Shoshanna,
> The "Hebrew Bible", as the term is used by everyone who speaks English, is
> the Tanakh, not the just the five books of the Torah, or Pentateuch. And
> Jewish tradition (have a look at Bavli Bava-Bathra 14a) considers the
> of Nevi'im and Ketuvim to have been written by different people, and Ezra
> have been the "editor" of the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible. So what Chris
> is perfectly correct - the writers of the individual books, including
> (assuming that he "wrote" the Pentateuch), could not have had a concept of
> the Tanakh as a whole, since it didn't exist yet.
> Yigal

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