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Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 14b-15a: The Order of Scripture

Psalms Scroll BExcerpted from Lawrence H. Schiffman, Texts and Traditions, Ktav, Hoboken 1998, p.118-119.

The Rabbis of the Talmud, in a baraita, listed the order of the biblical books in a way different even from the later Jewish Bibles. This passage shows that the tri-partite canon was the norm. The Rabbis also dealt with the question of who had actually committed the various books to writing.

Our Rabbis taught-

The order of the Prophets (Nevi’im) is- Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the Twelve Minor Prophets. Now, Hosea came first, as it is written, “God first spoke to Hosea” (Hos. 1-2). But, did He first speak to Hosea? Were there not a number of prophets from Moses to Hosea? However, Rabbi Yohanan said that he was the first of four prophets who prophesied at that time, and these are they- Hosea, and Isaiah, Amos, and Micah. Then Hosea should have been placed first? Since his prophesies are written (in the collection together) with Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, and Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi were the last of the prophets, Hosea is considered together with them. Then it should have been written separately and placed earlier? Since it is small, it might have gotten lost. Now, Isaiah is before Jeremiah and Ezekiel, so Isaiah should have been placed first? Kings ends with an account of destruction, and Jeremiah is entirely an account of destruction, and Ezekiel begins with destruction and concludes with consolation, and Isaiah is entirely consolation. Thus, we adjoin destruction to destruction and consolation to consolation.

The order of the Writings (Ketuvim) is- Ruth, and the Book of Psalms, and Job, and Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and Lamentations, Daniel, and the Scroll of Esther, Ezra, and Chronicles. According to the view that Job lived in the days of Moses, Job should have been placed first? It is not proper to begin with calamity. But Ruth also deals with calamity? It is calamity which has a good end, as Rabbi Yohanan said- “Why was she called Ruth? (Hebrew- rwt) Because from her descended David who delighted (Hebrew- rywhw) God with songs and hymns.” 101 And who recorded [the biblical books]? Moses recorded his book, including the portion of Balaam, and Job. Joshua recorded his book and eight verses of the Pentateuch. Samuel recorded his book and Judges and Ruth. David recorded the Book of Psalms with the help of ten elders- Adam, Me1chizedek, Abraham, Moses, Heman, Yeduthan, Asaph, and the three sons of Korah. Jeremiah recorded his book and the Book of Kings and Lamentations. Hezekiah and his assistants recorded Isaiah, Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. The Men of the Great Assembly recorded Ezekiel, and the Twelve Minor Prophets, Daniel, and the Scroll of Esther. Ezra recorded his book and the genealogies of Chronicles up to his own time. 102 This supports Rav, as Rabbi Judah said, “Rav said- ‘Ezra did not go up from Babylonia until he recorded his genealogy, and then he went up.’’’ And who concluded [the Book of Chronicles]? Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah.

100. Trans. S. Berrin.

101. Although the story of Job precedes the other works of the Ketuvim chronologically, it is not placed first in the collection because it consists entirely of afflictions. Ruth is the first book, according to the order proposed here, despite the fact that it begins with affliction because it ends well.

102. Modern scholars have also accepted the notion that Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles are by the same author.

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