Is every word of The Bible the inspired word of God? That depends on who you ask. I already know the prevailing Christian views on the subject. However, I wanted to know what a Rabbi thought about that topic. I happen to be a member of “The Ark“, so I had the chance to ask Rabbi Pinchas Taylor about it. Below is my question as worded. Since the group is private I can’t share the video. Thus, I’ll give you a summary of his answer.
What Rabbi Taylor means by Word of God.
The Rabbi laid it out as follows. All communication occurs on different levels. Those levels are marked by differences in context and clarity. Modern examples are as follows.
- Face to face.
- Skype, Zoom, or video call.
- Phone call.
- Email or letter.
- Text message.
Each of these are effective ways of communication. However, some are clearer than others. A text can easily be taken the wrong way. Phone calls hide facial expressions. Therefore, face to face meetings are the best way of communicating. As it turns out, we’re told of only one man who communicated with God in this manner.
Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.Exodus 33:11
AAccording to the Rabbi, this puts Torah at a higher level of authority than other writings. Now a Christian might bristle at that thought. However, there is a Biblical basis to the claim. Consider Deuteronomy 18:22.
when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.DDeuteronomy18:22
Here, God instructed the Israelites to test prophets. Now remember, prophecy doesn’t have to be predictive. It is simply the word of Hashem in the mouth of a man. Thus, when Moses delivered the 10 Commandments it was prophecy.
God appeared to the entire nation of Israel. However, this caused the people to be afraid. Thus, God said he would communicate through prophets. Obviously, people could easily judge the accuracy of a prediction. But how would they know if non predictive prophecy was true? By judging it against prophecy they knew was true, since they saw Hashem appear to Moses. Thus, Torah is the gold standard.
But what about the rest of the Bible?
After the writings of Moses, we have the prophets. These are still the word of God. However, these are your Skype or phone call versions. Authoritative? Absolutely. However, less personal and clear than face to face.
Next, we have the writings. Psalms, Daniel etc. These would fall into the letter or email category. The word of God, but the meaning and context can be clouded. Less clear.
Additionally, the Rabbi believes that the Talmud is the word of God, but at the lowest level of authority. I won’t address that further than to say that I don’t agree with that teaching.
My assessment of Rabbi Taylor’s take on what we mean by the word of God.
I think it’s a great analogy. Moreover, I find myself in agreement with what he teaches. In Deuteronomy 13, Hashem says that he will sometimes allow the predictions of false prophets to come true. Thus, we must follow only the teachings that are consistent with the known word of the one true God.
We must carefully judge all other writings against the Torah. If they offer teachings contradicted by Torah, we should reject them. Then we will know that we are following the true word of God.