When the author of Ecclesiastes wrote, "Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh," he apparently thought that everything worth knowing had already been written; nothing could be gained by writing more books. But writing did not cease with the completion of the Ecclesiastes manuscript. So far as the Hebrew people were concerned, each succeeding generation continued to write books, many of which were regarded as worthy of inclusion along with the other writings that ultimately became part of the Old Testament. Eventually, which writings to accept as the authoritative word of Yahweh and which ones to exclude from the list of inspired or sacred Scriptures became necessary. The decision was not reached all at once. Some of the writings were accepted without question, others were regarded as somewhat doubtful, and still others were not accepted at all.
Several centuries were required before there was any general agreement among the Jewish rabbis concerning all of the books that are now included in the Old Testament. Apparently, the majority of the Jewish people accepted the idea of degrees of inspiration. For example, the so-called books of Moses, known as the Torah or the Book of the Law, were regarded as the most highly inspired and therefore the most authoritative of all the writings. Next to the Law came the group of prophetic books, which included both the historical writings and the ones named for the prophets. These texts were considered to be inspired and authoritative but on a somewhat lower level than the Book of the Law. A third group, known as the Hagiographa, or miscellaneous writings, while still inspired and authoritative, was believed to be on a level that was somewhat lower than that of the prophets. In addition to these books, two more groups of writings were recognized as valuable and appropriate for use in religious service but not as authoritative sources for the establishment of doctrine: the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha, both of which are relevant to the study of the Old Testament.