Saturday, July 08, 2017

Where Should the Books of Chronicles be Placed?

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In the latest issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 60.2 (2017): 283–99, Gregory Goswell has contributed an article entitled “Putting the Book of Chronicles in Its Place.” His “aim is to unsettle any developing consensus that Chronicles must be read as the last book of the OT (in preference to other positions)” (283–4; emphasis original). His conclusions are worth citing in full:
My argument has been that the placement of Chronicles within the different canons reflects post-authorial evaluations of the book and its contents. Each position has its rationale and potentially contributes to the understanding of readers. There are no grounds for insisting that any one position is the earliest or best. In particular, there is no proof that the Chronicler composed his work to conclude the OT canon. Chronicles after Kings alerts readers that Kings (and the preceding historical books) record the history of Israel from a prophetic perspective. Chronicles at the head of the Writings suggests that succeeding books have a liturgical and/or wisdom orientation. Finally, Chronicles at the end of the Writings sums up the witness of the OT to God’s purposes that culminate in the rebuilt temple (= palace) of God as a precursor to the dawning of God’s final kingdom (pp. 298–9).
The first order of books alluded to above is the Greek ordering of the OT books in which Chronicles or Paraleipomenon follows Kings (p. 284ff); the second order is that of the earliest extant Hebrew codices of Aleppo and Leningrad which have Chronicles at the beginning of the Writings (p. 289ff); the third order in which Chronicles concludes the Writings is found in Baba Batra 14b.

In the final analysis, Goswell shows that our current, variegated evidence keeps us from concluding that any one of these orders is primary or better. Most importantly, according to him, we cannot conclude that the author of Chronicles is responsible for closing the Writings and therefore closing the Hebrew Bible with his own book. The different canonical orders result from “post-authorial interpretive frames” not an “authorial paratext” or an authorial guide to interpretation of the whole.

The article is worth reading in its entirety paying especial attention to pp. 295-7 wherein he shows the improbability that Chronicles was composed as a conclusion to the Writings as an authorial paratext. Goswell probably has not settled the debate, but he and others like Edmon L. Gallagher (see Tyndale Bulletin 65.2 (2014): 181-199; pdf) are certainly unsettling any recently formed consensus on this question.

26 comments :

  1. All the evidence cited is from after the advent of the codex.

    Is there any evidence from the period of the books being on scrolls exclusively that anyone conceived of such a thing as a right order for the entire OT?

    We do have Melito's list of the books, which maybe comes from a time before the whole OT was ever put together in one codex. Maybe we can say the same about the Bryennios list. But just giving a list of book names doesn't automatically mean that a person thinks there's a right or wrong order to them.

    I think, when the books were just scrolls, there were some subsets that had a definite right order, like the 5 books of the Torah, and Joshua-2 Kings. But I wouldn't extrapolate that to the whole OT.

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    1. Good question, Eric. I'm not sure how Goswell would respond. Josephus, Bryennios, and Melito don't share the same exact orders of books, but the latter two are similar. Baba Batra's traditional date of c. 200 might put it before the time Jews began using the codex. There's no material evidence for how scrolls were organized in the temple library. All arguments are usually working backwards from the orders of books in the codices.

      A theory I'm working under now is that "order" was not a criterion or prerequisite for canon among Jews and early Christians. Hence the various orders we find in the lists and MSS. Different orders didn't reflect fluid canons, but rather different functions such as liturgy, chronography, literature, etc.

      Therefore, I think your last paragraph may need some more nuance given the evidence. Where was Ruth placed? With Judges or before Psalms? Job? After the Pentateuch like most of the Syriac tradition and some of the Greek? Chronicles? There is some evidence for it appearing before Kings. Psalms? Some evidence for it appearing after Ruth appearing after Judges. The situation only becomes more complex once we leave the former prophets.

      Good thoughts, Eric. I wish we knew more about the ordering of books before the codex but I'm not sure that we do.

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    3. Good point about Ruth.

      When I started typing that sentence, at first I was going to say 1 Samuel-2 Kings. But then it hit me that the whole so-called deuteronomistic history naturally had to all be in order. Ruth technically is outside that, and could logically either interrupt it or go elsewhere. I think that if we bracket off Ruth, my statement probably still holds.

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    4. Okay but that's a big one :-). So Josh-Judg-Sam-Kings? But again there is some evidence which puts Job in between Joshua and Judges because some dated his life to the period of the Judges (Josh-Job-Judg-Sam-Kings). Is this a wrong order? I'm trying to understand how far you want to go with "definite right order" on this one.

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    5. Notice that in both of your examples, the order of Joshua-Judges-Samuel-Kings doesn't change.

      And even with the issue of whether or not Ruth or Job can interrupt that order, you still have the set of Samuel-Kings without variation.

      I think my main point is the same as yours, which is that it's only in small sets of books where there was a right order from as far back in the lives of those books that we can go, but that this didn't extend out beyond those small sets.

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    6. I'll grant you Samuel-Kings :-). But there would have to be a different conceptual arrangement between Josh-Job-Judg-Sam-Kings and Josh-Judg-Sam-Kings. Right?

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  2. Surely this is only a problem for those who no longer write Chronicles on leather scrolls. For those who use storage jars to contain their library, the question of the ordering of the storage jars is in this case somewhat indifferent. I guess it also doesn't matter so much for those who prefer to memorize the Scriptures. It's just a problem for those of us who use codices, bound books or orderly electronic menus.

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    1. I do think there's some truth to that idea, Pete. Furthermore, the problem is for those who make "order" as a part of canonicity. But there appears to be precious little emphasis on "order" for ancient canon theory. This is Goswell's point in part.

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    2. //For those who use storage jars to contain their library, the question of the ordering of the storage jars is in this case somewhat indifferent.//

      This may be generally true. But there were counterexamples. There was a conceptual order to the 5 separate books of the Pentateuch, the 4 separate scrolls of Samuel-Kings, and the 2 separate scrolls of Chronicles. Maybe at some point in the arrangement of the Psalms this was also true of 5 separate books of Psalms (I'll leave it to others who know more about that to say if that's right).

      So the scroll vs. codex distinction was a factor, but not the only factor.

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    3. There probably weren't separate scrolls for Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. Each of these would have been "the Roll / Book of X." Not until they were translated into Greek did they become two books but nevertheless almost ubiquitously counted as one book. I'm not aware of any Psalms scrolls that reveal breaks between the five books. So perhaps this was true, but challenging to demonstrate.

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    4. I think you probably mean that Samuel was all on one scroll and Kings was all on one.

      But that's still two separate scrolls for one continuous work. And there was a definite order to them.

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    5. Yes. What we conceive of as 1 and 2 Samuel, was originally contained in one scroll. Same for Kings and Chronicles. There's no evidence for conceiving of Samuel-Kings as one continuous work, is there? Sure, the chronological theme binds them, but I'm not certain they should be construed as "one continuous work."

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    6. Also, I notice that the DSS attest to all of Samuel on one scroll and all of Kings on one. So we know at least that that did happen.

      But since the medieval Hebrew codices divide each of those into two books a piece, don't we have to posit that that goes back to a tradition of dividing them into two scrolls a piece in Hebrew?

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    7. //There’s no evidence for conceiving of Samuel-Kings as one continuous work, is there?//

      I would say the content of the books is evidence enough of that. First Kings continues where 2 Samuel left off. The books as we have them are the result of some editorial process that originally produced them as one continuous work, even if it took multiple scrolls to contain it all.

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    8. The Greek titles of 1-4 Kings for what we call 1 Samuel - 2 Kings are further evidence of their being conceived as one continuous work.

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    9. The medieval codices don't divide Samuel and Kings into 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, and 2 Kings. The books are Samuel and Kings respectively. The Hebrew tradition of one scroll to one "book" within the codex is consistent in itself. The division of one scroll into two for Samuel and Kings occurred on the level of the Greek translation.

      Conceptually these two books are linked. But now you are back to Pete Williams point: for those who had these memorized or in scroll jars, conceptually Kings would have followed Samuel. But materially, these books have been kept distinct. Perhaps they had different authors and were written at different times. Does this make sense?

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    10. Interesting. I assumed that the titles in BHS followed the Leningrad Codex.

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    11. //But materially, these books have been kept distinct. Perhaps they had different authors and were written at different times. Does this make sense?//

      Matierially they were distinct. So were the 5 books of the Pentateuch. And at least in the Greek, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, and 1-2 Chronicles were also materially distinct.

      But the order was not just material, but conceptual. And it was more than just chronological order of content, but also a compositional continuity.

      I’m sure that sources that Samuel-Kings was based on were written by various authors over centuries. But the work as we now know it was produced as a unity, even if it was divided onto two or more scrolls. This could be because of one single editor producing the whole canonical version of 1 Samuel - 2 Kings. But it could also be because one editor produced 1-2 Samuel and some other editor came along and produced 1-2 Kings with the intention of continuing the story of 1-2 Samuel.

      Either way, the result is still that they have a definite order and unity, not just by a coincidental chronology, but by editorial intent.

      It doesn’t seem to me that saying that Kings was not a deliberate continuation of Samuel is a reasonable option. I’m not sure if you were suggesting that or not.

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  4. Thanks for sharing this! When I had to teach some classes in an undergraduate introduction about the canon of the Hebrew Bible last year, it struck me that the the order of the BHS is not that of the Leningrad Codex (contrary to what one might think) and that Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah are in a different order. As Eric found out, BHS is no copy of Len.Codex, but does present itself, explicit or implicit, in such a way.

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  5. John Meade: "A theory I’m working under now is that “order” was not a criterion or prerequisite for canon among Jews and early Christians. Hence the various orders we find in the lists and MSS. Different orders didn’t reflect fluid canons, but rather different functions such as liturgy, chronography, literature, etc."

    I'm inclined to agree. As far as an ideal order of the books, at least from the perspective of the exegete, why not attempt (there are difficulties involved, to be sure) to read the books in order of the date of their composition? It seems to me that this approach would tend to highlight authorial intent more than would grouping books by theme, author, or the date(s) of the historical events discussed therein.

    (The textual critic, however, would also want to pay attention to the order of books known to a given scribe, given the influence than such might have on harmonizations and the like.)

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    1. It's not a bad idea, Stephen. It's an issue fraught with its own difficulties as not all of the books are easily datable. One thinks of the chronological issues within the Book of the Twelve to see that even in that one book, dating is very difficult.

      But good thoughts. Thanks for them.

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    2. In light of the original blog post, it's interesting to me that you talk about the Book of the Twelve this way, not just calling it one book, but speaking of dating in it as one book, rather than speaking of multiple books with multiple dates comprising it (king of an earlier and miniaturized version of what we have later on with large sets of books bound together in codices, as we've been discussing).

      Isn't it the case that the order of the Book of the Twelve--not it's order as a whole within the larger canon, but the order of the twelve short books that comprise it--varies?

      It seems to me that this variance of order of the books within the Book of the Twelve supports considering them as twelve separate works, and also extending your original conclusion to them all, so as to acknowledge that there is not one authorial order to those 12 books, even if it is still held that they belong together as a united set of books canonically regardless of their order within the set.

      I don't dispute that the Book of the Twelve is counted as one book going back in antiquity as far as we have external references to it. But that may reflect the simple practical matter that all these small books fit on a single manageable scroll. Again, this may show a distinction between the conceptual and the material, where in this case, we have books that are materially united, but conceptually divided.

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    3. Eric, I'm no expert on the Book of the Twelve, but many scholars see thematic unity of the book on the level of its final redaction. But we don't know who finally ordered the books or exactly when the redaction occurred. Its reception is complicated. Some Christians, like Augustine, appeared to count them individually. So the Jewish collection was not always heeded. There are two distinct orders of the book. The Hebrew order is: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. The Greek: Hosea, Amos, Micah, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. The differences in order pertain only to the first six books.

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