Chronicles And The Canon In New Testament Times -- By: R. Laird Harris

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 33:1 (Mar 1990)
Article: Chronicles And The Canon In New Testament Times
Author: R. Laird Harris

Chronicles And The Canon In New Testament Times

R. Laird Harris*

The position of Chronicles in the canon of the OT could be easily answered by saying that it is at the end of the Hebrew OT and, in the English Bible, after the historical books of Samuel-Kings as in most LXX and patristic sources. It is often assumed and sometimes argued that, since the Hebrew OT is original, therefore the position of Chronicles was originally at the end. It is our purpose to examine these arguments and assumptions and note some of the consequences of this view.

It is well known that Josephus, near the beginning of our era, classified the books in such a way that Chronicles was not at the end, but his evidence is often downgraded. Not so well known is the fact that a good number of Hebrew MSS and sources do not have Chronicles at the end. The LXX and Christian sources never have Chronicles at the end, having it usually after the books of Samuel-Kings. Nevertheless at the beginning of this century it became common to hold that the present division of our Hebrew Bible into three parts was the original division, and critical scholars proceeded from there to develop a three-stage canonization theory with the Law canonized in its final form about 400 s.c., the Prophets about 200, and the Writings not all canonized until the alleged Council of Jamnia in A.D. 90. This view was espoused by H. E. Ryle in an influential book,1 by A. S. Geden2 and by many others.

The view of Robert Dick Wilson3 following Moses Stuart4 is that the division of Josephus was the original one, or at least was prior to the present Hebrew division, and that Daniel, Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, and so forth were originally among the books of the second division. Wilson’s real purpose was to show that the position of Daniel in present Hebrew Bibles is not an argument in favor of its Maccabean date, because originally Daniel was not in the third division supposedly canonized at Jamnia. Jack Lewis has done us a great service in showing that there was no Council of Jamnia and that the discussions that were held there

* Laird Harris is emeritus professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.

have been much overrated.5 I have followed Wilson and Stuart but in addition have drawn attention to the many early references to a twofold canon.6 Roger Beckwith has recently published an exhaust...

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