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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


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Of Persons.

The state of being prompted by or filled with the spirit of God. Bezaleel was "filled with the spirit of God" (Exodus 31:3 , 35:31 ) that is, he planned the work of the Tabernacle by inspiration. Inspiration is essential to all prophetic utterances "the Spirit of God came upon Balaam" to make him prophesy (Numbers 24:2 ) upon the seventy men selected by Moses (Numbers 11:17,25 , 26) upon Saul and Saul's messengers (1Samuel 10:6,10 11:6 19:20,23 ) upon Elisha as heir and successor to Elijah (IIKings 2:15) upon Amasai (1Chronicles 12:18 ) upon Jahaziel the Levite (2Chronicles 20:14 ). Inspiration empowered Micah to "tell Jacob his transgression" (Micah 3:8 ). The prophet, therefore, is called "the man of the spirit," that is, the inspired one (Hosea 9:7 [A. V., incorrectly, "spiritual man"]). All true prophets have their visions by divine inspiration ( Isaiah 29:10 , 30:1 Zechariah 7:12 Nehemiah 9:30 ).

Ezekiel very frequently describes the working of the power of inspiration (Ezekiel 2:2 3:12,24 8:3 11:1,24 36:1 ). Therefore he is compared to a man from the country who is demonstrative in his description of the king whereas Isaiah is compared to a man of the city who is accustomed to seeing the king (Ḥ ag. 13b). The seer of the Exile also describes the mode of his inspiration (Isaiah 48:16 , 61:1 ).

In the future all men will come under the influence of inspiration and prophecy, says Joel (ii:28 et seq. , 3:1 et seq. comp. Isaiah 44:3 , 59:19 ). Daniel also was inspired "the holy spirit of God was in him" (Daniel 4:6,8 , 15 5:11 [A. V. and R. V., incorrectly, "the spirit of the holy gods"]) and enabled him to interpret the dream correctly, as it did Joseph also (Genesis 41:38 ). David, too, sang under the power of inspiration (1Samuel 16:13 comp. 2Samuel 23:2 ) and the Psalmist prays for inspiration (Psalm 51:12-14 [A. 5:11-13]). Othniel, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson judged and led Israel under the power of inspiration ( Judges 3:10 , 6:34, 11:29, 13:23 et seq. ). Inspiration was occasionally brought upon the prophet by the power of music (IIKings 4:15). According to the Book of Jubilees the Patriarchs were inspired when they blessed their children or grandchildren (xxv:14, 31:12). Ben Sira says of Isaiah that his visions of the future were inspired (Sirach 48:24 regarding Daniel, see Susanna 45 [Theodotion] and Ascensio Isaiæ , 5:14). The great festivity of the drawing of water on Sukkot ("Simḥ at bet ha-Sho' ebah") brought about the inspiration of the saints and miracle-workers ("ḥ asidim we-anshe ma' aseh," Suk. 5:4), and occasioned a pouring out of songs and of other manifestations of spiritual rejoicing (Yer. Suk. 5:55a Suk. 50-51, "the pouring out of the Holy Spirit," with reference to Isaiah 12:3 ). Similarly the people of Israel at the Red Sea were inspired when they sang their song, faith having caused the Holy Spirit to rest upon them (Mek., Beshallaḥ comp. Ps. R. 4:6 ).

Inspiration, in rabbinical theology, is the influence of the Holy Spirit which prompted the Patriarchs, the Prophets, and the sacred writers (Sifre, Deuteronomy 176 Tosef., Soṭ ah, 12:5, 13:2 Seder ' Olam xx.-xxi.), the Holy Spirit and the spirit of prophecy being considered as identical (Yer. Meg. 1:70a Targ. to Psalm 51:13 , Isaiah 40:13 , and 1Samuel 23:3 ). Eber was regarded as having been inspired (Genesis 10:25 Gen. R. xxxv. Seder ' Olam R. i.) so also were Sarah (Meg. 14a Gen. R. lxxii.), Isaac and Rebekah (Gen. R. lxxv.), Jacob (Gen. R. xcviii.), Joseph (Gen. R. xciii. Pirḳ e R. El. xxxix.), King Solomon (Tan., Ḥ uḳ ḳ at, ed. Buber, p. 11), Balaam (Tan., Balaḳ , ed. Buber, pp. 11,17), and Job and his four friends (B. B. 15b Lev. R. i. Seder ' Olam R. xxi.). Often (not always in the later Haggadah, as Zunz contends in "G. V." pp. 2,188, 191,255, 260,266, 275,277 el seq. , 326,365) the prophetical and hagiographal passages are quoted as having been uttered by the Holy Spirit through Solomon, David, Amos, Ezekiel, Elisha, the sons of Korah, etc. (Pesiḳ . R. vi., vii., x., xi., xx. Gen. R. xlv., lxxv., cxiii. Pes. 87b et al. ). The high priest, too, when giving the answer of the Urim and Thummim, was believed to be inspired (Yoma 73b comp. Josephus, "Ant." 4:8, § 14, who speaks of the prophet together with the high priest). See Holy Spirit .

Of the Holy Scriptures.
Whatever book has been included in the Bible canon must necessarily have been inspired or written by the Holy Spirit (Meg. 7a Tosef., Yad. 2:14). Often the words of Scripture are taken to be exclamations of the Holy Spirit intercepting the speaker, and, therefore, also the work of inspiration (Soṭ ah 9:7 Tosef., Soṭ ah, 9:2-9 Ab. R. N. 14 Pes. 117a Gen. R. lxiii., lxxxv. Num. R. xvii. Deut. R. 11: to IV Esd. 14:38, Ezra and his coworkers reproduced from memory the lost twenty-four holy books, as well as the seventy apocryphal books, by the power of the Holy Spirit. The prevailing opinion is that with the last of the Prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, inspiration ceased (Tosef., Soṭ ah, 13:2 Seder ' Olam R. xx. Sanh. 11a I Mace. 4:46).

The Targum, as the recognized traditional interpretation of the Prophets, was regarded as having been written by Jonathan ben Uzziel under the inspiration of the last prophets (Meg. 3a). Similarly the Septuagint translation of the Pentateuch was regarded as the work of the Holy Spirit, or as having been inspired (Philo, "Vita Moysis," 2:7 comp. Masseket Soferim 1:8 Aristeas Letter, § § 305-317). Necessarily, inspiration was claimed for the translation of Holy Scripture as well as for the original text while the Essenes made the same claim for their apocryphal writings (Wisdom of Solomon 7:27 IV. Esd. 14:38 see Eschatology Essenes ). It appears from Tosef., Shab. 13:1 Shab. 115a and Masseket Soferim 1:7 that the earlier view regarding the inspired character of the Targum and the Septuagint was later discarded by the Rabbis, though it was maintained in Alexandria, where the apocryphal writings ranked with the canonical literature.

Traditional View.
The traditional view is that the Pentateuch in its entirety emanated from God, every verse and letter being consequently inspired hence the tannaitic statement that "he who says the Torah is not from Heaven is a heretic, a despiser of the Word of God, one who has no share in the world to come" (Sanh. 11:1 ib. Gemara, 99a) is expressly explained to include any one that says the whole Torah emanates from God with the exception of one verse, which Moses added on his own responsibility, or any one that finds verses like Genesis 36:12 and 22 too trivial to assign to them a divine origin (Shab. 99a, b). The Pentateuch passages are quoted in the schools as the sayings of God ("amar Raḥ mana" = "the Merciful One has said," B. M. 3b, and often). Moses wrote the whole Pentateuch at God's dictation, even, according to R. Simeon, the last eight verses, relating to his own death (B. B. 14b). On the other hand, some held that the curses in Leviticus 26 were pronounced by "the mouth of the Divine Power," whereas those in Deuteronomy 28 , by Moses, were of his own prompting (Meg. 31b but see Tosafot, "this does not exclude divine inspiration"). Every letter of the Torah was fixed by the Masorah and counted by the Soferim (Ḳ id. 30a), and on each particle, such as "et," "we," "gam," "af" ("and" or "also"), were based important laws (Pes. 22b Sanh. 70a) even the Masoretic signs formed the basis for halakic or haggadic interpretations in Akiba's system (see Akiba ). The division of the Pentateuch into verses was ascribed to Moses (Meg. 22a). The final letters, also (), were fixed by the Prophets, and were therefore inspired (Shab. 104a Yer. Meg. 1:71d Gen. R. 1: Ishmael said to R. Meï r while the latter was occupied with the professional work of a scribe, "Be on thy guard concerning thy sacred task, for if thou omittest or addest one single letter to the Law thou destroyest the whole world" (' Er. 12b). This whole view of plenary inspiration was in the main (though the passage regarding the counting of the letters by the Soferim, Ḳ id. 30a, includes the Prophets and Hagiographa) strictly held only in regard to the five books of Moses— the Torah. Upon the absolute completeness of the Torah rested the fundamental rabbinical principle, "No prophet after Moses was allowed to change anything in the Law" (Shab. 104a Yoma 80a Meg. 2b based upon Leviticus 27:34 or Numbers 36:13 ). Whatever is written in the other holy writings must therefore, somewhere or somehow, have been alluded to in the Torah (Ta' an. 9a). To the Pentateuch or Torah a higher degree of divine inspiration is accordingly ascribed than to the Prophets and Hagiographa, which are often called "dibre ḳ abbalah" = "words of tradition" (see Zunz, "G. V." p. 44), or simply "sefarim" = "books" (Meg. 1:8, 3:1), or "ketubim" (see Bible Canon ). All the canonical books are "kitbe ḳ odesh" = holy writings" (Shab. 16:1), and were read at divine the service as the divinely inspired Word ("Miḳ ra" = "the recited Word of God"). The prophetical and hagiographic books are implicitly included in the Torah (Tan., Re' ch, ed. Buber, p. 1), but the Torah is the standard by which their value or holiness is judged and gaged (see Shab. 13b, 30b Meg. 7a Ab. R. N. i. Tos. Meg. 4:19 Yer. Meg. 4:73d). The final composition as well as the writing of the Hagiographa was ascribed to the "men of the Great Synagogue." who also were regarded as working under the influence of the Holy, or prophetic, Spirit, having among them the last of the Prophets (B. B. 15a see Synagogue, Great ).

Degrees of Inspiration.
As to the distinction between the plenary inspiration of the Pentateuch and the more general inspiration of the other sacred writings, a definite statement is nowhere to be found in Talmudic literature. Judah ha-Levi, in the "Cuzari" (iii:32-39), distinguishes the books of Moses and of the other prophets from those that were only influenced by the divine power, claiming divine origin for every vowel or sign of the Pentateuch as having been given to Moses on Sinai on the other hand, he places the inspired man, whether prophet, "nazir" like Samson, high priest, or king, above the category of common men, seeing in him one lifted to the rank of angels (iv:15). The latter view is shared by Maimonides ("Yad," Yesode ha-Torah. 7:1-6 "Moreh," 2:32-35 see Prophecy ). How far the view that certain passages, in the Pentateuch are emendations of the scribes ("tiḳ ḳ une soferim," Mek., Beshallaḥ , Shirah, 6 comp. with Tan., Yelammedenu, Beshallaḥ Gen. R. xlix. Lev. R. xi. Num. R. iii.) is compatible with the idea of plenary inspiration is discussed by Albo ("' Iḳ ḳ arim," 3:22). In fact, the expression in Mek. l.c. , "kinnah ha-katub" (Holy Writ has used a euphemistic form), is such as does not impugn the divine character of any part of the book (see I. H. Weiss in note 1:47 of his Mekilta edition, and Geiger, "Urschrift," pp. 308 et seq. ).

According to Philo, whose idea of inspiration was more or less influenced by the Platonic conception of the ecstatic or God-intoxicated seer, the prophet spoke and wrote in an ecstatic state ("Quis Rerum Divinarum Heres Sit," § § 51-52). Josephus ("Contra Ap." i., § 7) writes: "The Prophets have written the original and earliest accounts of things as they learned them of God Himself by inspiration." This view regarding the inspiration of the Bible as a whole is expressed also in II Tim. 3:16: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God" (Φ ε ό π ν ε υ σ τ ο ς , "given by the spirit of God," the same as the Hebrew "beruaḥ ha-ḳ odesh"). Maimonides ("Moreh," 2:45), enumerating the various degrees of prophecy, ascribes different degrees of inspiration to the Pentateuch, to the Prophets, and to the writers of the third class of Scripture— the Hagiographa. The view regarding the plenary inspiration of the Pentateuch maintained by the Rabbis and the philosophers of the Middle Ages, such as Saadia, Maimonides, and others, did not prevent them from resorting to allegorical interpretation when the literal meaning seemed opposed to human reason (Saadia, "Emunot we-De' ot," 2:44, 9:133 Maimonides, "Moreh," 2:29,47).

Modern Views.
Modern Jewish theology of the Reform school, after making full allowance for the human origin of the Holy Scriptures, and recognizing that the matter recorded is sometimes in contradiction to the proved results of modern historical, physical, and psychological research, arrives at the following conclusion: While the ancient view of a literal dictation by God must be surrendered, and while the seers and writers of Judea must be regarded as men with human failings, each with his own peculiarity of style and sentiment, the Spirit of God was nevertheless manifested in them. The Holy Scriptures still have the power of inspiration for each devout soul that reads or hears them. They speak to each generation with a divine authority such as no other book or literature possesses. The inspiration of the Bible is different from the inspiration under which the great literary and artistic master-works of later eras were produced. The religious enthusiasm of the Jewish genius leavens the whole, and the truth uttered therein, whatever be the form it is clothed in, seizes men now as it did when prophet, psalmist, or lawgiver first uttered it, themselves carried away by the power of the Divine Spirit. This view of modern theology, compatible with Biblical science and modern research, which analyzes the thoughts and the forms of Scripture and traces them to their various sources, finds that prophet and sacred writer were under the influence of the Divine Spirit while revealing, by word or pen, new religious ideas. But the human element in them was not extinguished, and consequently, in regard to their statements, their knowledge, and the form of their communication, they could only have acted as children of their age.

Bibliography : Hauck's Real Encylopä die , s.v. Bacher, Die Aelteste Terminologie, der Jü dischen Schriftauslegung , 1899, pp. 88-93,117, 154,168, 180.

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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Inspiration'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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