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Canonization of Tanakh


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Adar 15, 5773
Hi, I am very curious about the history of the canonization of the Tanakh. What was the process according to Jewish belief? I remember hearing/reading that Megilas Esther was added to the Tanakh by the Sanhedrin (although it was from heaven) so I have a vague sense that the Sanhedrin was involved in establishing the other books of the Tanakh. However, I would like a more detailed history, if possible. There were a group of Jewish texts that biblical scholars have established were already in existence during the canonization period of the Tanakh and were well known. However, these books did not make it into the Tanakh. Among those books are: Maccabees 1 Tobit (Tovi/Toviah) Wisdom of Sirach (Sefer/Mishlei Sirah) Jubilees (Sefer HaYovelim) Enoch (Sefer HaChanoch) Fragments or copies of most of these books have been found in their original Hebrew versions. However, most of these were better preserved in their Greek and Latin translations and therefore were subject to Christianization. What does Judaism say about the history of these books? Were they indeed around during the canonization period and purposely not included from the Tanakh? Are any of them considered ’holy books’ despite their lack of canonization? If this is the case, then why were they not included in the Tanakh? If they are not ’holy books’, then what are they (ex: are they ’unholy books’?)? Thank you for taking the time to read my question. I look forward to reading your response. Shalom,
Shalom, The books which you mentioned as well as others are sometimes called “outside books” which were around during the second Temple period but purposely not included by the Anshei Knesset HaGdola in the Tanach. Although we are taught not to invest too much time in reading them because they are not considered Torah (see Tiferet Yisrael on Mishna Sanhedrin 10, note 8), some of them, like Ben Sira, are even quoted in the Talmud, while others are mentioned in the Ramban in his commentary on the Torah and elsewhere. The first book of Maccabees is cited by some modern day poskim, as well, although this is done very carefully because it is known that some outside influences entered these books over history. These books are definitely not holy, but can sometimes serve as interesting outside sources to confirm certain historical facts or verify some ancient customs, but even this must be done with supervision, and it’s not a blanket acceptance. With Love of Israel, Rav Ari Shvat
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