The Order Of The Books In The Greek Old Testament -- By: Gregory Goswell

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 52:3 (Sep 2009)
Article: The Order Of The Books In The Greek Old Testament
Author: Gregory Goswell

The Order Of The Books In The Greek Old Testament

Greg Goswell*

* Greg Goswell is lecturer in biblical studies at Presbyterian Theological College, 684 Elgar Road, Box Hill North Vic 3129, Australia.

Where a biblical book is placed relative to other books influences a reader’s view of the book and so influences interpretation. The reader naturally assumes that the placement of books in close physical proximity implies that they are in some way related in meaning. It is this readerly habit that forms the basis of this survey and analysis of biblical orders. It is not necessary to make a judgment about how deliberate the process of ordering was, for the focus of this study is the effect on the reader of a given order, not its historical production. Without trying to guess what was in the mind of those responsible for the ordering of the biblical books, there are a number of possible principles of order as inferred by the reader (e.g. common genre, similar theme, storyline thread). In an earlier article I surveyed and analyzed the order of the books in the Hebrew Bible,1 viewing the ordering of the books as an element of the paratext of Scripture. I now turn to the structure of the OT in the Greek tradition, which will allow comparison between the Hebrew and Greek orders.

It is commonly asserted that the Greek canon basically transposes the second and third sections in the Hebrew ordering of the books. In this way the prophetic books (= Latter Prophets) close the OT canon and, from a Christian perspective, provide a transition to the NT, signaling that the main connection of the NT is with the OT prophetic word pointing forward to the consummation of God’s purposes in Jesus Christ. Actually, it is only Vaticanus (B) of the three Great Uncials that places the prophetic books at the end of the canon (the Minor Prophets preceding the Major Prophets), with Daniel the last book listed. In Sinaiticus (א) and Alexandrinus (A) the poetic books are placed last, so that the final section in these two codices is somewhat similar to Writings of the Hebrew canon.2 This is one indicator that we are not to overplay the difference between the (relatively settled) Hebrew

order and the (by no means uniform) Greek orders of the canonical books.3 Despite all the variety in the Greek (and Latin) lists, what we can say is that the books Genesis–Ruth are a set grouping (Octateuch) and are always in premier position; Ruth is always placed after (or joined to) Judges; Chronicles almost always...

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