Putting The Book Of Chronicles In Its Place -- By: Gregory Goswell

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 60:2 (Jun 2017)
Article: Putting The Book Of Chronicles In Its Place
Author: Gregory Goswell

Putting The Book Of Chronicles In Its Place

Gregory Goswell*

* Gregory Goswell is academic dean and lecturer in Biblical Studies (OT) at Christ College, 1 Clarence Street, Burwood NSW 2134, Sydney, Australia.

Abstract: The book of Chronicles is found in more than one position in ancient canons of Scripture (Hebrew and Greek). The different canonical placements reflect post-authorial evaluations of the book and its contents. Each position has its rationale and potentially contributes to the understanding of readers. There is nothing to indicate that any one position is the earliest or best. In particular, there is no proof that the Chronicler composed his work to sum up and conclude the OT canon. When Chronicles follows Kings, this alerts readers that Kings (and the preceding books) recount the history of Israel from the vantage point of the prophets. Chronicles at the head of the Writings suggests that this canonical section has a liturgical or wisdom orientation. 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 that itself points forward to the consummated kingdom of God.

Key words: Chronicles, Kings, canon, paratext, Writings

Chronicles is one of a number of OT books that are found in alternative positions in different canons, other prominent examples being Ruth, Lamentations, and Daniel.1 Depending on the particular canon, Chronicles is found in one of three places: in Greek canonical orders it follows Kings; in the Hebrew Bible it is either at the head of the Writings or at the end of the Writings; and, of course, the third alternative also makes Chronicles the final book in the OT canon.2 The positioning of a canonical book relative to other books is by no means value-neutral and reflects a construal of the book by ancient readers. In other words, it preserves evidence of the early history of interpretation of the book. The alternate placements of the book of Chronicles reveal that the compilers of these canons viewed its theological and historical meanings in different ways.

In recent times, what I would view as excessive claims have been made about the significance of Chronicles as the last book in the OT, some scholars arguing that it was actually designed and written to close the canon.3 My aim is to unsettle

any developing consensus that Chronicles must be read as the last book of the OT (in preference to other positions).

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