THE CANON OF THE TALMIDI MIQRA (BIBLE)
In the late Second Temple Period (the 1st century CE), the various Jewish sects that existed at the time, differed in the books which they considered worthy to be part of the Hebrew canon of scripture. For example, the Sadducees (the aristocratic, priestly sect) only considered the five books of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) to be their bible. On the other extreme, various Essene sects had literally dozens of books which they considered scripture, in addition to the ones we have today.
However, for most ordinary Jews, there was a basic core of books which they considerd sacred. Yet even within this core, the order seemed to differ according to where you lived. For example, rabbis in Babylon differed in their order from those living in Egypt.
For a very long time, probably since the return of Jews to Judea after the Babylonian exile, the first 13 books (up to the 12 books of the minor prophets) were held as canonical. The present canon of the Hebrew bible (known as the Tanakh) was decided by Pharisaic elders at the Council of Yavneh around the year 90 CE.
In the ‘Ascents of James’, Jacob the Pious debates with the High Priest what books should be acknowledged as part of their debate – this was obviously pre-Yavneh. In deciding what to consider the canon that we as Talmidis would use, the question was: what was the order that Yeshua`, as a Galilean, would have known?
The next best-known Galilean of the 1st century CE was Josephus. In his book, Against Apion (book 1, passage 8), he writes that there were 22 books in the bible he knew:
“and of them five belong to Moses; the Prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books, and the remaining four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the conduct of human life”.
Why the Book of Esther was not included
Some Galileo-Judean sources suggest that bibles used in the land of Israel may not have included the Book of Esther. Very few copies of the Book of Esther have been found in the Land of Israel, in contrast to the wealth of copies of other books. However, most copies are found in areas where the Babylonian Jewish community dwelt. Purim is therefore considered a “local” Jewish folk festival, not a national one (like Chanukkah), or a biblical one (like Passover or Sukkot). It appears in the Babylonian Jewish bibles, where the scroll of Esther originated, but hardly in any Galileo-Judean ones.
The order that Josephus knew
Here then is the order that Josephus probably knew:
20. Song of Songs
The canon of the Talmidi miqra
We have kept this basic order. The only difference is, that we have re-arranged the order of the last four books, so that the two books of sayings come first, and the Book of Psalms is placed last. In this way, the very last lines of the Talmidi miqra (bible) become a psalm of praise to YHWH:
“Praise YHWH. Praise God in the sanctuary; praise God in the dome of the sky, God’s splendid work.
Praise God for such mighty deeds; praise God for such exceeding greatness.
Praise God with the sounding of the horn, praise God with the harp and lyre,
Praise God with tambourine and dancing, praise God with the strings and flute,
Praise God with the clash of cymbals, praise God with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise YHWH. Praise YHWH.”
8. Samuel (1 Samuel and 2 Samuel)
9. Kings (1 Kings and 2 Kings)
13. The Twelve
18. Chronicles (1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah)
21. Song of Songs
a. now split into 1 Samuel & 2 Samuel
b. now split into 1 Kings & 2 Kings
c. consisting of Hosea, Yo’el, `Amos, `Ovadyah, Yonah, Mikhah, Nahum, Havaqquq, Zefanyah, Haggai, Zekharyah, Malakhi
d. now split up into 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah
written by Benny Thomson and Shmu’eyl Nappach