A Lost Jewish Tradition about the Bible’s Authorship

Modern though it may seem, the question of who wrote the Hebrew scriptures is actually discussed in ancient Jewish sources; in fact, the talmudic rabbis were well aware that books might have been written first in one form and then redacted by later editors. The standard account appears in the Babylonian Talmud, but an alternate version associated with the Masoretes, 10th-century scribes in northern Israel who preserved the old manuscripts of the Bible, appears in (among other places) a fragment found in the Cairo Geniza. Kim Phillips speculates as to which version might be the original:

A masoretic note [in the Geniza] shares numerous, obvious parallels with the [Talmud’s account]. . . .

In the talmudic passage, King Hezekiah [who ruled Judah in the 8th century BCE] and his associates are credited with writing (presumably the task we would refer to as editing) the books of Isaiah, Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. Regarding the attribution to Hezekiah and his associates of the last three works [whose own texts seem to ascribe authorship to King Solomon], it seems that the rabbis are relying on an extension of the sense of Proverbs 25:1: “These, too, are Solomon’s proverbs, which Hezekiah king of Judah’s men copied.”

In the masoretic version, Hezekiah and his associates have disappeared. These four books are all attributed to Isaiah’s authorial-editorial labors. It is quite understandable that Isaiah should be credited with having written [the book that bears his name], but what qualifications can he claim for editing the other three books? Is it just possible that these were appended to Isaiah’s CV on the basis of the various love-poetry and wisdom themes found in his prophecy (e.g. Isaiah 5:1–7 and 28:23–29)?

More likely is the hypothesis that the talmudic wording of the tradition lies somewhere in the pre-history of this masoretic tradition. At some point, Hezekiah and his associates were omitted from the wording (accidentally or otherwise), leaving Isaiah with the burden of editing Solomon’s works as well as writing his own book. Under the pressure of the fact that Joshua, Samuel, Jeremiah, and Ezra are claimed to have written the books that bear their names, it is easy to understand how such a mutation would credit Isaiah with writing his own book. That is to say: it makes sense to see the talmudic tradition as prior to the masoretic tradition in this case. It is harder to imagine the mutation occurring in the opposite direction.

Read more at Cambridge University Library

More about: Cairo Geniza, Hebrew Bible, Isaiah, Masoretes, Religion & Holidays, Talmud

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security