Bible Review 6:2, April 1990

A Woman Was the First to Declare Scripture Holy

By William E. Phipps

Huldah the prophetess—let us celebrate her—holds a unique place in history. It was she who, for the first time, designated a written document as Holy Scripture. She began the process that culminated more than millennium later in the canonization of the Bible.

It occurred during the reign of King Josiah of Judah in the late seventh century B.C. After half century during which paganism had infected Israelite religious practice, King Josiah led a campaign restore its purity and to centralize the worship of Yahweh in Jerusalem. Under the direction of Hilkiah, the high priest, carpenters and masons set about repairing the Temple that King Solomon built Contributions for the restoration of the Temple had been collected in a large trunk at the Temple. When payday came for the workmen, Josiah sent Shaphan, his secretary, to the Temple to pick up the donations and distribute the money. On arriving, Shaphan found Hilkiah eager to show him a dusty old scroll that had been uncovered when the offering container had been emptied. Hilkiah realized that the scroll contained laws, but no one knew their significance. When Shaphan returned to the royal palace With this unusual discovery, Josiah had the scroll read to him. He was distressed when he contrasted the demands of these laws with the prevailing practices in the Judahite state.

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