Many people believe that the Tanach is completely inerrant. The idea is that God must have preserved his scripture. When later we found that popular copies and translations of the Bible are different from the original, people say that the original must be inerrant, whatever that means.

However, some books in the Bible are not original.

According to Why is Chronicles so similar to Kings?, Chronicles and Kings are definitely compiled books. That's why they have word-to- word similarity.

The original is gone.

What is Judaism’s view of this? Some books are definitely not original. They are compiled from older, lost, sources. Yet they are part of the Tanach.

Before, we had the idea of divine inspiration wherein God inspired the Bible and hence made it inerrant. Now we have a divine compiler/redactor? Or what? What's next? Divine editor? Divine modifier? Divine sanctioner? Divine censurers? Divine translators? Divine error copiers? Divine tikune soferimer?

How do we reconcile the idea that the "original" Bible is inerrant and complete with the fact that some books are not even original and the original is lost?

Why didn't God tell people to write the final version of the holy book right from the beginning? Why the book has to "evolve" first into it's final form and somehow become holy. What? God didn't get it right the first time?

If somebody latter "compile" Torah, and add Mickey Mouse story, how do we know that the latter compilation is the holy one instead of the original?

The same way, what about if the original book that form chronicle should have been the holy one but lost? Then we would have trouble with God preserving tanach theory right? Or, do God preserve Tanach at all? Christians believe it. Not sure about jews.

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    Chronicles May be compiled, as it is in writings and was written by non-prophets. Nehemia obviously completed Chronicles before the sealing of the Biblical Canon, meaning that Kings, written by Jeremiah, was not 'official' yet. He could have copied relevant parts in to his work, after which point the Men of the Great Assembly canonized both, albeit in different categories.
    – Baby Seal
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 20:31
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    Kings, on the other hand, was written by Jeremiah, a Prophet with his own book, and it, unlike Lamentations, (which he also wrote), was canonized by the Men as being a part of Prophets, not Writings. See what Maimonides has to say about the distinction: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/10204/4682
    – Baby Seal
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 20:36
  • Kings make citations to other extinct works for more information, not for its own material. That's an important distinction.
    – Baby Seal
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 20:41

3 Answers 3


The Torah or five books of Moses was dictated to Moses by Hashem. That has not changed. The prophets were written with prophecy as follows

The talmud in Bava Basrah 14b gives who wrote the actual books that the Anshei Kneses Hag'dolah compiled into the permanent books of the Navi that we have. All the other prophecies were not kept because they were not relevant past the time of their issuance.

Joshuah wrote his book. Shmuel wrote the first part of his book (until his death) and it was completed by the prophets Gad and Nassan.

Samuel wrote Megilas Rus as part of his answer to the question of whether King David was allowed to be king as a member of the tribe of Judah, because the conversion of Ruth was legitimate. This is part of kesuvim and not neviyim so it is "inspired" but not prophecy.

Similarly, the psalms were compiled by King David but the individual psalms started from Adam and continued.

Jeremiah wrote the book of Kings (using prophecy) as well as his own book and Lamentations.

King Chizkiya and his bais din wrote Yeshayah (from the prophecies given and passed down by Yeshaya) and canonized Mishlai, Shir Hashirim, and Koheles (which had been passed down from King Solomon).

The Anshei Kneses Hagedolah (Men of the Great Assembly) canonized the prophecies of Yechezkel, and the twelve "minor prophets" as well as Daniel (from his writings) and the Megilas Esther. Ezra whote his own sefer as well as the geneology in Divrei Hayamim, which was finished by Nechemiah.

The "question" that you have about compilation misunderstands the situation. The original prophecies were written by the prophets and kept without change until they were canonized. There were no changes after the Anshei Kneses Hagedolah (at the start of the second temple era)


We have a tradition that Psalms, for example, has multiple authors — as one might surmise from its incipits. Yet it has the imprimatur of holy men, who had divine inspiration in compiling it. Likewise for some other books of the Bible. There is no contradiction in that.

  • Imprimatur? What's that? How do we know that a book is holy? There are so many rabbis that also says pretty wise things. Why they're not part of the scriptures?
    – user4951
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 5:19
  • Why didn't God tell people to write the final version of the holy book right from the beginning? Why the book has to "evolve" first into it's final form?
    – user4951
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 5:21
  • What imprimatur those chronicles, kings, and psalms have that we know it's "divine".
    – user4951
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 5:32
  • So if latter some guys recompile and reedit the tanach into a different book. Say the original is lost. Then, the new book will be the holy ones too? What about copying error? We got divine copy error too?
    – user4951
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 5:34
  • @JimThio Basically, if someone I trust read your book and said it was worthwhile, I might value it based on their judgement even if I don't value it based on the credentials of the author. No contradiction.
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 3:50

Many people believe that the Tanach is completely inerrant.

Orthodox Jews (generally) believe that the Torah (Pentateuch), as the literal "Word of God," dictated directly from God to Moses, is inerrant. (I'm assuming "inerrant" means that everything is factually accurate. $) The Prophets and Writings are the works of people - composed, edited, and compiled by people. (Bava Basra 14b-15a #) Therefore, even though they are written with "Divine Inspiration," they are not inerrant.

Now we have a divine compiler/redactor? Or what? What's next? Divine editor?

In short, Yes. Anything having to do with "Torah" and holy books are considered to have an element of "divine inspiration" involved in the process. This is known as ruach hakodesh, and it is believed that God, in his mysterious ways, 'inspired' or had a hand in the composition of the book. Please see Are the works of Maimonides treated as divinely inspired? for details.

Divine inspiration is also considered to be at play with regards to canonization, or choosing which books became part of Tanach.

What about talmud? That's even less inerrant

Correct. There are many disagreeing opinions even in the Talmud itself, and many later rabbis disagree with the Talmudic sages. However, all opinions (even the wrong ones) are considered to have an element of divinity. See How does "eilu v'eilu" work out with an absolute truth? for example.

$ However, there are various opinions regarding the factual accuracy of the Creation story.

# Quote from Talmud:

"Who wrote the Scriptures? Moses wrote his own book ... Jeremiah wrote the book which bears his name, the Book of Kings, and Lamentations ... The Men of the Great Assembly edited\compiled\published (lit. wrote) Ezekiel, the Twelve Minor Prophets ... the Holy One, blessed be He, dictated and Moses repeated and wrote."

  • So, in Judaism, only torah is inerrant. The rest of the tanach while very accurate and "worthy" is not inerrant. That's the difference between Christian typical inerrant doctrine and Judaism. What about talmud? That's even less inerrant
    – user4951
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 8:25
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    Neviim (Prophets) can be split in two. First Prophets - Joshua thru Kings - is mostly narrative, similar in style to Torah. But these books also mention that they're based, in part, on outside sources, specifically jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/…
    – Shmuel
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 21:51
  • Those books also contain little actual prophecy, and the prophecies that they do contain seem to be specific to those circumstances - ie, God telling Samuel to annoint David. I don't know of any explicit sources regarding the (lack of) inerrancy of these book off-hand, but I'll look.
    – Shmuel
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 21:53
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    Neviim Acharonim (Ezekiel, Jeremiah, etc) are different, as they're mostly Prophecy (not narrative). However, they're not inerrant because while the prophecy is from God, the books are the prophecies as understood and interpreted by the prophet. This is explicit in the books themselves. For example, see Jeremiah chapter 1. I'll look for explicit Talmudic\Rishonim sources regarding inerrancy and post later.
    – Shmuel
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 21:56
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    Re Scholars: Some of them, yes. Others, no. Not sure how that's relevant. Ecclesiastes\Kohelet has words that weren't used in early Biblical times, but are used in Second Temple\Mishna times, like (3:1) "זמן" (Used in Esther, Ezra & Nehemiah, but not before; Thus Kohelet wasn't written before Second Temple era.)
    – Shmuel
    Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 4:04

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