The tripartite structure of the Hebrew Bible today *
Having reviewed the general factors which were significant in the Hebrew Bible’s coming into being, how did it finish up in written form, how many completed versions were there, who gave ultimate sanction to what appeared therein and how can one have confidence in their authenticity?
There are three main divisions of the Hebrew Bible, comprising the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. The Law or Torah consists of the Bible’s first five books, consisting of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The <strong “mso-bidi-font-weight:=”” normal”=””>Prophets comprises the Books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Minor Prophets in a single book. The Writings consist of Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles – the last book in the Hebrew canon, showing Israel restored to Jerusalem and history at an end.
One elaboration in Genesis suggests that the Torah – the Law of God as revealed to Moses and recorded in the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Pentateuch) – is there from the very beginning and is present in the Garden of Eden. Another suggests that it was given to Moses on Mt Sinai or Horeb. Genesis also contains many other mythological figures. For example, there is the story of Enoch, who walks with God and never dies. P is the final link in the creation of the Pentateuch, and the redactors edited the whole of the Hebrew Bible, not just the Pentateuch. They pulled together complex strands and united them, including not just Ezra, but modern viewpoints as well.
The story of Genesis Chapters 12-26 broadly encompasses the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Originally, these were three separate stories, but they were later incorporated into a common ideology. As previously noted, Deuteronomy has two strands indicating that the sacred scripture was included in the Bible at different times. To have the stamp of authority, antiquity was very important. Thus, Daniel and Enoch have the aura of antiquity about them, but were written much later than the events they describe. The Book of Daniel was included in the second Century BCE, and the suggested completion date for the Torah is about 450 BCE, that is in the fifth century. However, Joseph Blankenship argues for a longer redaction of the Hebrew Bible down to 300 BCE.
<em “mso-bidi-font-style:=”” normal”=””>The writings, the third section of the Hebrew Bible (encompassing Chronicles and the other texts referred to above, were not completed until the end of the first century down to the second century CE, and many had not even been endowed with names until the beginning of the fourth century BCE. The Writings were not fixed. There was always more to come, and in fact Luke refers to lots of prophets and scribes down to the first century CE.
Chronicles is full of anachronisms. The account of music and worship in David’s reign is really a picture of the Jewish Church in the Chronicler’s time, nearly 750 years after David. And similarly so with the Book of Daniel. It is so filled with historical errors and inaccuracies that consensus among Biblical scholars indicates it was written very much later than the period it pretends to be. Indeed it can be dated with certainty between 167 and 164 BCE, and only pretends to be written in the 6th century BCE because by the time it came to be read, many of the so-called “prophecies” included therein would have already been “fulfilled”<span “font-size:12.0pt;font-family:=”” “times=”” roman”,serif;mso-fareast-font-family:”times=”” roman”;mso-ansi-language:=”” en-us;mso-fareast-language:en-us;mso-bidi-language:ar-sa”=””>.
The Psalms were not generally written by David, who may have written some of them. As previously noted, Psalm 137 “By the rivers of Babylon” was written to commemorate the Jewish captivity in Babylon (686-536 BCE) an event which happened four centuries after the death of David. Jonah was supposed to have lived in the 8th century BCE but the presence of gross historical errors and the language points to the 4th century BCE as the date of composition<a “mso-footnote-id:=”” ftn2″=”” href=”https://elwynshebrewbiblepage.weebly.com/the-hebrew-bible-today—its-tripartite-structure.html#_ftn2″ title=””><span “font-size:12.0pt;font-family:=”” “times=”” roman”,serif;mso-fareast-font-family:”times=”” roman”;mso-ansi-language:=”” en-us;mso-fareast-language:en-us;mso-bidi-language:ar-sa”=””>. The exile acted as a catalyst for creativity spawning many ancient Israelite traditions, prayers and songs. Thus the Hebrew Bible was very much in a state of flux, and was not completed, it would seem, until at the very least the second century CE, a very long period indeed.
There were 12 <strong “mso-bidi-font-weight:=”” normal”=””>minor prophets, not minor in the sense of lacking significance, mind you, but because they were short in length. The prophet’s role was not necessarily to foretell the future, but to assess the political situation. They saw themselves as political commentators. Their role was not fortune telling, but to give advice – to read the political climate, to assess the portents and to foretell what will happen if such-and-such an event occurs. The role of the prophets diminished as the oral tradition was progressively reduced to writing and the scribes assumed control over the editing of the written text. They were simply rendered redundant
All this bears witness to the Tripartite structure of the Bible, which the Jews believed was authoritative scripture.
* I acknowledgement my indebtedness to Dr Susanne Glover for this material and that which appears on succeeding pages on this issue.
<span “font-size:10.0pt;font-family:=”” “times=”” roman”,serif;mso-fareast-font-family:”times=”” roman”;mso-ansi-language:=”” en-us;mso-fareast-language:en-us;mso-bidi-language:ar-sa”=””> Tobin, The rejection of Pascal’s wager, op cit, 110-118.
<span “font-size:10.0pt;font-family:=”” “times=”” roman”,serif;mso-fareast-font-family:”times=”” roman”;mso-ansi-language:=”” en-us;mso-fareast-language:en-us;mso-bidi-language:ar-sa”=””> Ibid, 127.