Philo would have said, were it not either the received opinion of his time or
had he not received it from others worthy of credence.
3] The Proverbs of Solomon were, I believe, also collected together at
the same time, or at least in that of King Josiah, because in the ¢rst verse
25 it is said,‘These also are proverbs of Solomon which the
men of Hezekiah, King of Judah, copied’. But here I cannot remain silent
about the audacity of those rabbis who wanted to exclude this book,
together with Ecclesiastes, from the canon of sacred writings, and lay it
aside with the rest that have not come down to us. And they would cer-
tainly have done so, had they not found some passages where the Law of
Moses is commended. It must truly be regretted that sacred and excel-
lent things depended upon the judgment of such men. I congratulate
them for their being willing to let us have these books, but cannot help
doubting whether they passed them on to us in good faith. However I do
not want to go deeply into that here.
4] I pass on therefore to the books of the Prophets.When I study these,
I see that the prophecies they contain were redacted from other books, and
that in those books they were not always composed in the same order in
which they were spoken or written by the prophets themselves. Further-
more, they do not include all the prophecies but only those that could be
found in one place or another. These books are thus nothing more than
fragments of the prophets.
Isaiah began to prophesy when Uzziah was king, as the writer who
transcribed them himself testi¢es in the opening verse.
But at this time he
was not just a prophet; for he also wrote an account of all the achievements
of King Uzziah (see
2 Chronicles 26.22), a book which no longer survives.
What we do have derives from the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah and of
Israel, as we have shown. In addition, the rabbis maintain this prophet also
prophesied whilst Manasseh was king and that the latter had him put to
death, and although this story seems to be a legend, they still apparently
believed that not all of his prophecies are extant.
5] Jeremiah’s prophecies, narrated as if they were a historical account,
appear to be a collection of excerpts from several di¡erent chronicles.
Remaining Old Testament books
They are set out in an unsystematic manner with no regard to chron-
ological succession, and the same story is duplicated in several versions.
21, for example, explains the reason for the arrest of Jeremiah,
namely, that he predicted the destruction of the city to [King] Zedekiah
whilst the latter was consulting him. This narrative is then interrupted
22 moves on to the story of his denunciation of Jehoiachin
(who reigned before Zedekiah), and his
predicting his captivity. Chapter
25 then describes what had been revealed to the prophet earlier, in the
fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign. The text then gives the prophecies from
the ¢rst year of this king’s reign, and proceeds in the same manner,
accumulating prophecies with no regard to temporal order, until ¢nally
38 he returns to the story which began to be narrated in
21 (as if these 15 chapters were in parenthesis). For the con-
necting particle with which chapter
38 begins refers back to verses 8, 9,
10 of chapter 21. Then, the text recounts Jeremiah’s ¢nal arrest dif-
ferently, providing a very di¡erent reason for his prolonged detention in
the court of the guard than was given in chapter
37. Hence, it is clearly
evident that these things have all been gathered from di¡erent chroni-
clers and cannot be accounted for in any other way.
The remaining prophecies in the closing chapters, where Jeremiah is
speaking in the ¢rst person, appear to have been copied from the book
Baruch wrote at Jeremiah’s dictation. For that volume (as is clear from
36.2) contained only what was revealed to Jeremiah from the time of
Josiah to the fourth year of Jehoiakim, which is where our book begins.
Everything from chapter
45, verse 2 to chapter 51, verse 59 likewise seems
to have been copied from the same volume.
6] The opening verses of the Book of Ezekiel plainly indicate that this
too is but a fragment. The conjunction with which the book begins
obviously refers to other things already said, connecting them with what
is to come. Not just the conjunction, moreover, but the whole structure
of the work presuppose other writings. For the thirtieth year with which
the book begins indicates that the prophet is continuing rather than
beginning his narrative. The writer also remarks in parenthesis in verse
3,‘there had often been a word of God to Ezekiel the priest, the son of
Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans’ etc., as if he were saying that the
words of Ezekiel which he had recorded down to this point referred to
other things which had been revealed to him before this thirtieth year.
Again, Josephus in his Antiquities
10.7 relates that Ezekiel predicted that
Zedekiah would not see Babylon, but we do not ¢nd this in his book as
we have it. On the contrary, in chapter
we read that Zedekiah would
be taken to captivity in Babylon.
7] Of Hosea, we cannot say for certain that he wrote more than is con-
tained in the bookwhich goes under his name.Yet I am surprised we do not
possess more from him, as by the
writer’s own testimony, he prophesied
for more than eighty-four years. More generally, we know the writers of
these books did not collect the writings of all the prophets that ever lived
nor all the writings of the prophets that we have. Of the prophets who
prophesied in the reign of Manasseh mentioned in a general way in
33.10, 18, 19, we possess no prophecies at all. Nor do we retain
all the prophecies of the Twelve Prophets.
Of Jonah, only his prophecies
concerning the Ninevites were copied down for us, though he did also
prophesy to the Israelites; about which see
2 Kings 14.25.
8] Regarding the Book of Job, and Job himself, there has been much
controversy among the commentators. Some take the view that Moses
wrote it and that the whole story is just a parable; this is what some of
the Rabbis of the Talmud teach and Maimonides also advocates in the
Guide of the Perplexed.
Others believed the story to be true and thought
that Job lived in Jacob’s time and married his daughter Dinah. Ibn Ezra,
as I said above, a⁄rms in his commentary on the book that it had been
rendered into Hebrew from another language. I wish he had demon-
strated this for us more conclusively, since we could deduce from it that
the gentiles too possessed sacred books. I leave the question therefore in
some doubt, surmising only that Job was a gentile and a man of the
highest constancy, whose situation was initially favourable, then extre-
mely adverse, and in the end full of good fortune; for so Ezekiel
speaks of him along with others. I believe Job’s varied fortune and con-
stancy of mind have given many the opportunity to disagree concerning
divine providence, or at least gave the author of this book the opportu-
nity to compose his dialogue. For its content and style seem to be not
those of a man miserably ill on an ash-heap but rather someone
Spinoza’s footnote: see Annotation
The ‘minor’ biblical prophets from Hosea to Malachi.
Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed,
The Latin text has
14.12. Noah, Daniel and Job are named as three supremely righteous men.
Remaining Old Testament books