The Pentateuchal Principle Within The Canonical Process -- By: Duane L. Christensen

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 39:4 (Dec 1996)
Article: The Pentateuchal Principle Within The Canonical Process
Author: Duane L. Christensen

The Pentateuchal Principle
Within The Canonical Process

Duane L. Christensen*

In an article published in 1981 Isaac Kikawada argued for a five-part, or what we designate here as pentateuchal, structural design for the book of Genesis on three successive levels: for Genesis 1–11, for Genesis as a whole, and for Genesis within the Pentateuch. In each instance the three central elements in his structural outline share a common theme, and the first and fifth elements form an inclusio. Kikawada cited a somewhat parallel situation in the book of Zephaniah, where Ivan Ball had earlier “shown that the Book of Zephaniah as a whole imitates the outline of a part of the book or that the organization of the book as a whole is found in miniature as a part of Zephaniah.” 1

This paper is an attempt to carry Kikawada’s insight further and to provide an explanation for what he intuited—namely, the basic structural principle of the canonical process within ancient Israel and early Christianity, which is pentateuchal in nature. In an earlier study I have attempted to sketch this process in broad outline in terms of categories taken from Jungian psychology. 2 Carl Jung was fascinated with the number four as a symbol of wholeness and a structuring principle within the psychic process for both the individual and the collective unconscious of a given people. He illustrated what he had in mind in terms of the four gospels in the NT, which display certain characteristic features—namely, a chiastic arrangement of the four parts and the principle of “three plus one” in the relationship of the parts. 3 Thus for Jung, Matthew and John form a structural pair with Matthew as the gospel addressed to the Jews and John as the gospel of the Gentiles. Mark and Luke form another pair, with Mark as the gospel from the point of view of the apostle Peter and Luke as the gospel from the perspective of Paul. The “three plus one” structure is evident in the commonly accepted designation of the first three as the synoptic gospels set over against the gospel of John, which Jung called the “Gnostic Gospel.”

The structural features Jung had in mind are seen even more clearly in terms of the last four books of the Pentateuch, as I argued in my earlier

* Duane Christensen is professor of Old Testament and intercultural studies at Patten College, 2433 Coolidge Avenue, Oakland, CA 94601.

paper. Here Exodus, Numbers and Leviticus form the three items with something in common, w...

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