Prophecy

We have already seen that the prophetic books grew by a complex process, in which old oracles were updated and new ones added. At what stage in this process any given prophetic book came to be seen as 'Scripture' is hard to say. Presumably (see above) a book is not yet scriptural if its contents can be freely reworked. But there are some prophetic books (Isaiah is the classic case) which were expanded by the addition of complete blocks of material at the end, perhaps after the work of interpolation into the original book was complete, and here it might make sense to say that the original book was being seen as already a complete—and hence arguably 'scriptural'—text. On the whole, however, it may be better to think of the prophets as becoming 'canonical' only at the point where all further work on the text had ceased. In that case few of the books were Scripture until at least the fifth century, and some not until a couple of centuries later still.

An interesting phenomenon is the 'Book of the Twelve', seen as a unit by Ben Sira (Ecclus. 48:10). This obviously postdates the latest of the individual books of the minor prophets (Malachi), though some think there were earlier collections—a 'Book of the Six' (or two such books), or a 'Book of the Nine'.

Whatever the details, the collection witnesses to a way of seeing the prophets comparable to what we have already observed for the Torah and the Psalms. Their individuality is lost beneath a perception of their works as a collection of divine oracles, all of much the same kind.

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