What is the Canon?


Moshe Ben-Chaim


Reader: What were the criteria used to accept the other books of the Tanach other than the Torah? I was looking at Deuteronomy where it states that the word that He gave was not to be added to or taken away from and that got me thinking. Are the words of the Prophets and the Writings adding? If they are not, then are they considered to be equal as the "word of G-d" as the first five books? I am not trying to be contentious, but have asked this same question of the books of the "New Testament", as these are what I was raised under, and now must ask the same about the other books that are not among the first five. What of the historical books, are they also considered to be equally inspired? And if so, how was this decided as they were not witnessed by large numbers of people as the very voice of G-d speaking? Thank you for you time.


Mesora: The Men of the Great Assembly decided upon what was and was not canonized as Prophets and Writings. Additionally, the Five Books (Torah) surpass the Prophets and Writings, in that only from the Five Books are Torah laws derived. Additionally, the Rabbis teach that there is nothing new in Prophets and Writings, the latter two - even though they too are the word of G-d - only reiterate the concepts originally found in the Five Books.


The Men of the Great Assembly also taught that nothing after their canon is G-d's word. Prophecy had ended. Those great men had the Mesora, the teachings, handed down directly from Moses to them, and we therefore abide by their Torah decisions. Their decisions include what enters Prophets and Writings, and their decision is final. They are the sole authority. The Torah teaches, In accord with the Torah that they teach you, and upon the statute they tell you, so shall you do, do not veer from the matter that they tell you, left or the right. (Deut. 17:11) These are G-ds words, commanding us to follow the Rabbis. Thus, upholding the opinions and decrees of the Rabbis is G-ds will. Whoever violates the Rabbis, such as those who say that the New Testament is G-ds word, is in violation of G-ds words.