Tosefta Yadayim 2:14: The Biblical Canon and Divine Inspiration


King Solomon. From Dore's illustrations for the Book of Proverbs.

King Solomon. From Dore’s illustrations for the Book of Proverbs.

Lawrence H. Schiffman, Texts and Traditions, Ktav, Hoboken 1998, p.120.

In the debate concerning the biblical canon, Rabbi Simeon explains canonical status as dependent on divine inspiration. In spite of his ruling that Ecclesiastes is only wisdom, both the Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes are considered part of the twenty-four books of the Hebrew Bible.

Rabbi Simeon ben Menasya says, “Song of Songs defiles the hands since it was written with divine inspiration. Ecclesiastes does not defile the hands since it is only the wisdom of Solomon.”

They said to him, “And did he (Solomon) write only this? Is it not stated, ‘He wrote three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered one thousand and five’ (1 Kings 5-12)?” 107 It is stated, “Do not add to his words” (Prov. 30-6). 108

106. Trans. S. Berrin.

107. This verse is cited to demonstrate that Solomon also wrote Proverbs and Song of Songs, books the canonical status of which is universally accepted. Since these books of wisdom which were written by Solomon indisputably defile the hands, so too Ecclesiastes which was written by Solomon must also defile the hands.

108. This verse is cited to counter the previous argument. Despite the undeniably canonical status of Proverbs and Song of Songs, the book of Ecclesiastes cannot be added to the corpus of books which defile the hands.

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