According to the reading I am offering, the purpose of Ezra's mission was to give the people of the renascent land of Israel a sacred and covenantal law by which to live and build. We have concluded that Ezra and his entourage imparted to the people religious laws that were unequivocal and practicable. At the same time, the tangible symbol of this law, the book of the Torah that Ezra and his scribes provided to the people was maculate and inconsistent, incorporating the divergent voices of its compiled scriptural components. Without entering the debate concerning the provenance of these several textual strata, I began the argument with the fact that the scriptures had been compiled and interwoven in a canonical whole by the time of the return from Babylonian captivity (during the fifth century B.C.E.). In Chapter 1 it was contended that the school of Ezra was able to promote coherent and practicable laws in spite of the maculations of this composite canon. Yet the scribes did not use their influence to change the written word. For these leaders, and for the people at large, the actual words of the Torah were inviolable, their inviolability reflecting the holiness of revelation. Consequently, instead of emendation, the scribes and teachers of Israel resorted to other means to overcome the maculation of their scriptures.
It is to be assumed that the composite nature of the written Torah was a fact known to the earliest leaders of Israel after the return from Babylon. Some residual memory of the canon's compilation remained even in early rabbinic times. Bamidbar Rabbah (and parallel sources), as quoted in Chapter 1, explicitly alludes to Ezra's editorial prerogative, imputing to him the choice of including or excluding certain passages. Moreover, the Talmud, in Rabbi Yose's name, mentions Ezra in the same breath as Moses