Some people say that God wrote the Torah. That is clear and I understand it. Others say that people wrote the Torah. That is also clear and I understand it. Then there are people who say that people wrote the Torah, but with "inspiration" from God. And that I do not understand at all.

Within normative Judaism, of course, God wrote the Torah. But even within normative Judaism, the rest of the Tanach was written by people [list in Bava Batra 14b-15a], but under "divine inspiration". And that I don't understand.

Does "inspired" by God mean:

(1) the same as written by God?

(2) a collaboration between people and God, each providing input, both authoritative? But why would God want a collaboration when it comes to laying down His instructions?

(3) that God said one thing but the scrivener wasn't always paying attention and may have written something else? Honest mistakes?

(4) that scribal errors may have crept in over the centuries and we must find them and remove them?

(5) that some teachings have eternal value (that's God's part) and other teachings are transitional (that's the human part), and our task is to find which is which and, at the right time, remove the second according to the political correctness of the day?


See Guide for the Perplexed 2:45 at length. A couple of relevant excerpts:

(2) The second degree is this: A person feels as if something came upon him, and as if he had received a new power that encourages him to speak. He treats of science, or composes hymns, exhorts his fellow-men, discusses political and theological problems; all this he does while awake, and in the full possession of his senses. Such a person is said to speak by the holy spirit. David composed the Psalms, and Solomon the Book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon by this spirit; also Daniel, Job, Chronicles, and the rest of the Hagiographa were written in this holy spirit; therefore they are called ketubim (Writings, or Written), i.e., written by men inspired by the holy spirit. Our Sages mention this expressly concerning the Book of Esther.

(Friedlander translation)


There is no doubt that this is one degree below that form of prophecy to which the words, "In a dream I will speak to him," are applied. For this reason the nation desired to place the book of Daniel among the Hagiographa, and not among the Prophets. I have, therefore, pointed out to you, that the prophecy revealed to Daniel and Solomon, although they saw an angel in the dream, was not considered by them as a perfect prophecy, but as a dream containing correct information. They belonged to the class of men that spoke, inspired by the ruaḥ ha-kodesh, "the holy spirit." Also in the order of the holy writings, no distinction is made between the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Daniel, Psalms, Ruth, and Esther; they are all written by divine inspiration. The authors of all these books are called prophets in the more general sense of the term.

(Friedlander translation)

  • So the answer is my (1) for practical purposes? The only difference is the means of delivery of the message? – Maurice Mizrahi Feb 21 at 21:19
  • If it was your (1) then why are there different categories of books? – Alex Feb 21 at 21:21
  • @Alex the Babylonian Talmud Megilla 7a says the Book of Esther was composed with the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit. – Turk Hill Feb 21 at 23:33

There are a few more possibilities. It's possible that Moses meditated on nature and produced the Torah. It is also possible that the Torah was inspired by the experiences of the Israelites in Sinai. The Babylonian Talmud Megilla 7a seems to agree. It says the Book of Esther was composed with divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This is similar to some rabbis who feel the Oral Torah was developed in the spirit of the Torah. It was, in other words, "divine inspiration." Similarly, Nachmanides felt that the patriarchs observed the Torah by divine inspiration.

Was it divine inspiration? Does G-d inspire people to write the Tanakh? I think so.


A sixth possibility could mean that Moses meditated on nature (Divin laws created by G-d, G-d's greatest creation (Rabbi Slifkin)) and wrote the Torah. Although I also struggle with the meaning of "divine inspiration," I always understood it to mean that people write the Tanakh in a way that G-d would want to communicate. Some modern rabbis hold the radical view that the Oral Torah was a later development but that this was done in the spirit of the Torah (ie what the Torah expects/wants). Could we apply the same reasoning to Tanakh?

Whatever it means, the Babylonian Talmud Megilla 7a says the Book of Esther was composed with divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

  • 2
    Uh, no. Meditation is not the revelation at Sini. Any intelligent person understands that. The Rambam would have someone who thinks like that thrown into a pit. He is a dangerous idiot. – Mordechai Feb 21 at 20:51
  • @Mordechai According to some rabbis, Rambam wrote that Moses meditated on nature and produced the Torah. – Turk Hill Feb 21 at 22:43
  • @Mordechai Of course, Rambam says we have no idea how the Torah was revealed. – Turk Hill Feb 21 at 22:49
  • 2
    This is against the 13 principles and t the entire toyruh – bluejayke Feb 22 at 19:09

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