In a previous post, I surveyed the order of the Hagiographa in early printed Hebrew Bibles, from the editio princeps of the Hagiographa (1486-87) to the Second Rabbinic Bible (1524-25), edited by Jacob ben Chayim. We saw that while the editio princeps of the Hagiographa was a bit of an oddball--because of the strange order of the Five Megilloth: Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Ruth, Esther--the editio princeps of the entire Bible (Soncino, 1488) established a standard order for the Hagiorapha which was carried through almost all printed Bibles (excluding the Complutensian Polyglot, which intentionally followed the Christian [LXX or Vulgate] order) until quite recent times.
Thus, the first four editions of the Bible (Soncino, 1488; Naples, 1491-93; Brescia, 1494; Pesaro, 1511-17) all printed the Hagiographa in this order, as did the first two Rabbinic Bibles (Venice, 1516-17; Venice, 1524-25).
Song of Songs
There are three issues with regard to this order that we will explore in this post: (a) the order of the first three books, (b) the order of the Five Megilloth, and (c) the placement of Chronicles.
Now, the sequence of the Hagiographa I have just listed has become more-or-less standard, just as the Ben Chayim text itself (Second Rabbinic Bible) became standard for a long time. That is, the Ben Chayim text was reprinted many times and became the basis for further editions, including the first two editions of Rudolf Kittel's Biblia Hebraica (1906; 1912). Not only did Kittel adopt the Ben Chayim text as his base text, but he also adopted the order of books from Ben Chayim. This same order of books is still represented in the Jewish Study Bible and Marvin Sweeney's recent critical introduction and theology, Tanak. Thus, this order has become somewhat normative.
However, the Biblia Hebraica editions no longer follow this exact order for the Hagiographa. When Paul Kahle determined to make the Leningrad Codex B19A--the earliest complete Hebrew Bible now in existence, dating to 1008 or 1009 CE--the basis for the third edition of Biblia Hebraica (1937), he also determined to follow the order of books in this codex, at least, to a point. That is, even though Chronicles is at the beginning of the Ketuvim in the Leningrad Codex, Kahle left it at its by-now traditional place at the end of the Ketuvim, but he altered the order of the first three books and the Five Megilloth to agree with the Leningrad Codex. Thus, the order for BHK-3, as also for the fourth edition, known as BHS (1977), is:
Song of Songs
Again, this exactly reproduces the order for the Leningrad Codex, except for the placement of Chronicles. By the way, this is also the order in which Brevard Childs discussed the books in his Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture (Fortress, 1979), though he made nothing of it, as far as I can tell. (He did consider it correct to follow the tripartite arrangement of the Hebrew Bible--see his last chapter--but I do not see any place where he says that this particular order for the Hagiographa should be followed.)
The order of the first three books is thus altered in BHK-3/BHS as opposed to the traditional order represented in the first two editions of BHK. I am not sure about the significance of this, or why one order might be preferred to another. It looks to me like the order of BHS would be based on the length of the three books, from longest to shortest. And, this allows for Prov. 31--with its acrostic about the virtuous woman--to sort of introduce Ruth, as long as Ruth is also printed as the first of the Five Megilloth, as it is in BHS. The traditional order of Psalms, Proverbs, Job, I learned once-upon-a-time formed the reverse acronym in Hebrew Emet ('truth')--Iyov (Job), Mishlei (Proverbs), and Tehillim (Psalms). But it's doubtful to me that that is a reason they were put in this order; probably it just developed as a mneumonic after the fact.
As for the order of the Megilloth, the two possibilities do reflect some logic. The traditionally printed order reflects the liturgical order, that is, the order of the festivals to which each of the Megilloth is tied (see here).
Song of Songs--Passover
Lamentations--Ninth of Av
The order in the Leningrad Codex and BHS (and the Aleppo Codex) reflects a chronological order according to the events related or the presumed author.
Ruth--period of the Judges, leading to a genealogy of David
Song of Songs--traditionally attributed to Solomon, in his youth
Qoheleth--traditionally attributed to Solomon, late in his life
Lamentations--traditionally attributed to Jeremiah
The last issue concerns the placement of Chronicles. As I mentioned, Kahle apparently decided to leave Chronicles at the end of the Ketuvim, as it had been in all printed Hebrew Bibles since the days of the editio princeps of the Hagiographa, even though in all other respects he followed the order of the Leningrad Codex, which itself placed Chronicles at the head of the Ketuvim. [I have not found anything actually attributing this decision to Kahle, so possibly it was not he who decided this. But, the fact is BHK-3, edited by Kahle, left Chronicles at the end of the Ketuvim, and BHS has followed BHK-3 in this sequence.]
But, apparently Biblia Hebraica Quinta (BHQ), being published now in fascicles, will completely follow the Leningrad Codex in terms of order, including placing Chronicles (being edited by Zipora Talshir) at the head of the Ketuvim. Now, I'm almost positive I read this somewhere some years ago, but many Google searches and a perusal of the General Introduction to BHQ published along with the Five Megilloth in the first fascicle (numbered fasc. 18, published in 2004) has failed to reveal where I might have come across this. Maybe somebody said it at a conference, I don't know. At any rate, the fact that Chronicles will be at the head of the Ketuvim is shown by the fascicle numbers. You can see at the Wikipedia entry that the Twelve Minor Prophets--which concludes the order of the Prophets--is fasc. 13, and Proverbs is fasc. 17, so Chronicles, Psalms, and Job must come in between these two. Moreover, Ezra-Nehemiah is fasc. 20, and according to the BHS Wikipedia entry, BHQ will be published in 20 installments. So, Ezra-Nehemiah must be at the end of the Ketuvim, not Chronicles.
In a later post, I'll try to do some evaluation of these orders, bringing in some of the arguments by Roger Beckwith in favor of the Talmudic order, which is not represented here.