[b-hebrew] Inspiration

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Wed Aug 3 07:06:31 EDT 2005

On 03/08/2005 12:25, Yigal Levin wrote:

>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. ...

The book of Ezra calls Ezra "the priest" (HAKKOHEN) and "the scribe" 
(HASSOPER) (Ezra 7:11 etc). There is no other named High Priest in his 
period, assuming that Joshua (active when Haggai prophesied in 520 BCE) 
was dead by the time of Ezra's arrival in Jerusalem (generally reckoned 
as c. 458 BCE). The only other priest named in Ezra's time is Meremoth 
(Ezra 8:33). Ezra is described as "son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, 
the son of Hilkiah..." (7:1). Could this Seraiah have been the High 
Priest taken into exile by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:18)? Well, the 
time frame seems rather too long. Could this Hilkiah have been the High 
Priest of Josiah's time? This makes more sense, although the generations 
are still rather long unless some have been skipped. Anyway, it is not 
unreasonable to conclude just from the Bible that Ezra was at least 
acting as High Priest at the time, perhaps because he was the senior 
surviving and available descendant of the high priestly line. Perhaps he 
avoided calling himself "High Priest" because there was some doubt about 
his formal status. But the Talmudic tradition is certainly a reasonable 
inference from the biblical picture.

But as for Ezra being a prophet, it is interesting that there is no sign 
in the books of Ezra or Nehemiah of him speaking in the name of God, 
only of him speaking to God and instructing the people in his own words 
and the words of the Torah. The biblical picture seems to suggest that 
the era of prophetic activity had already finished, and was being 
superseded by an era of dependence on written sources. And, as you point 
out later, the books attributed to Ezra are in Jewish tradition 
considered "inspired" but not "prophetic". Of course this leaves open 
(if the Talmudic tradition is not relied on) the question of who wrote 
the book of Malachi, and when.

>... 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.

Surely there is good evidence somewhat earlier than this, of a more or 
less fixed canon by the 1st century? The DSS and the New Testament more 
or less agree in which books they quote as authoritative. And the 
"apocryphal" books in the LXX etc, even those originally written in 
Hebrew e.g. Sirach, never seemed to have been considered part of the 
Hebrew "canon".

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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