The Traditionally Printed Sequence arranges the Five Megilloth according to the calendrical order of the festivals to which they are attached, and it ends with Chronicles.I have discussed previously the views of some scholars that the Talmudic Sequence is the "original" and "true" order of the Hagiographa (see esp. here, here, and here). In this post I simply want to point out what I regard as some of the faulty reasoning behind this view, especially in regard to its presentation by Roger Beckwith.
The Aleppo-Leningrad Sequence arranges the Five Megilloth in chronological order and begins with Chronicles.
The Talmudic Sequence does not group the Five Megilloth together at all, but rather begins with Ruth and ends with Chronicles.
(1) Beckwith rules out the Aleppo-Leningrad Sequence as being early mainly because it groups the Five Megilloth together (see his book, pp. 202-3, 210). He says this would not have happened before the tenth century, when these five books were each attached to particular festivals (see here). Now, we have evidence for the attachment of four of the Megilloth to festivals by the eighth century in tractate Sopherim (Beckwith, p. 202), but our earliest evidence for the attachment of Qoheleth to Sukkot, according to Beckwith, are the Tiberian manuscripts that group the Megilloth together. But, can we actually consider the grouping of these books together to be evidence for the liturgical use of them at Festivals?
Well, not everyone thinks so. A few years ago I met Timothy J. Stone (PhD 2011, St. Andrews) at a conference and heard him present part of his dissertation (which, apparently, will be published by Mohr Siebeck; see here for a summary), in which he argued, in part, that the grouping of the Megilloth in manuscripts precedes their attachment to five festivals. This is from the summary of Stone's dissertation:
The grouping of the Megilloth in the Masoretic tradition is probably not the result of liturgical practices within Judaism, as is commonly thought, which leaves room to re-examine the antiquity of this order.Indeed, I recall his saying that the grouping in manuscripts of these five books may have led to their joint liturgical use at festivals, rather than the reverse. I have noted before that the link between Qoheleth and Sukkot, especially, is tenuous without any definite explanation. It may be the case that Qoheleth needed to find a festival to accompany since it was already grouped with four other books that themselves had found festivals for their liturgical use.
This would mean that Beckwith too easily dismisses the Aleppo-Leningrad Sequence based on its being 'liturgical' and thus late, evidenced by the grouping of the Five Megilloth. Beckwith says:
The earliest known manuscripts to reflect this development are the influential manuscripts produced at Tiberias in the tenth century [...]. (p. 210)Ah, well, that is late--tenth century. Wow. Please, Prof. Beckwith, tell us about all the many manuscripts before this time that do not group the Five Megilloth.
If one discounts the Dead Sea Scrolls (which largely antedate the combination of different biblical books in a single manuscript [...]), extant Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible begin in the tenth century AD [...]. (p. 198)Wait a second! So, what Beckwith should have said on p. 210 is that "the earliest known manuscripts reflect this development [i.e., the grouping of the Five Megilloth]." We have no relevant manuscript evidence before the tenth century. So of course that is the earliest manuscript evidence for the grouping of the Megilloth.
(2) I mentioned in an earlier post in this series that Beckwith catalogs 70 different orders for the Hagiographa in his second appendix (pp. 452-64). By thus eliminating all "liturgical" orders (those that group the Five Megilloth) from being considered "early" or "original", he eliminates 39 of these orders. He also wisely eliminates what he calls "anomalous" orders, numbering seven, and ten "literary" orders that "seem only to occur in a single manuscript of relatively late date (fourteenth or fifteenth century)" (p. 210). We are thus left with 15 orders that are possibly "early", which Beckwith defines as prior to our earliest complete biblical manuscripts (tenth century; p. 211).
These possibly early orders for the Hagiographa include:
(a) The Talmudic Sequence, attested in b. B. Bathra 14b, and a few other sources, detailed in the first post in this series. The earliest is, of course, the Talmud, and one of the other sources is perhaps as early as the eleventh century, according to Beckwith.
(b) Five other orders listed on p. 452, and orders XIII, XIV, and XVII on p. 454, all of which, similarly to the Talmudic Sequence, begin with Ruth and end with Chronicles. The earliest source here is twelfth century. Most are thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
(c) Order XIX on p. 455, which runs: Daniel, Ezra-Neh., Chron., Ruth, Esther, Psalms, Job, Prov., Qoh., Song, Lam. The source is a thirteenth-century Italian manuscript.
(d) Order XXI on p. 455, beginning with Ruth and ending with Chronicles. The source is thirteenth century.
(e) Order XXII on p. 455, beginning with Chronicles and ending with Ezra-Neh. The sources are twelfth and thirteenth century manuscripts.
(f) The orders of Jerome and Josephus on p. 457.
The point is all of the manuscript evidence for these orders deemed early by Beckwith is at least a century later than our manuscript evidence for the supposedly late "liturgical" orders contained in the Aleppo and Leningrad codices.
(3) The statement by Jesus (Matt. 23:35 // Lk. 11:51) that all righteous blood from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah--perhaps the Zechariah of 2 Chron. 24:20-22--would be required of his own generation of Jews is interpreted by Beckwith and many others as indicating that in Jesus' day the canon ended with Chronicles. Thus, Jesus would be saying that all the righteous blood in the whole Bible, from Genesis (Abel) to Chronicles (Zechariah), would be required of his generation. The most significant argument against this view is this article by H.G.L. Peels in ZAW 2001.
(4) I don't see that Beckwith ever addresses the reason that Chronicles is put at the head of the Hagiographa in some sequences that group the Megilloth. Is there supposedly some relationship to the grouped Megilloth and the opening position of Chronicles? At any rate, it seems to me that Chronicles makes a fine introduction to the third section of the Hebrew Bible, just as it also makes a fine conclusion. I don't see that either one of these options can claim originality or correctness.
Finally, at the end of the day, I just don't see that the order of books is really very important. I intimated some of my views on this here. The variety of orders do show that people wanted to find a suitable arrangement for the Hagiographa, but they also show that apparently no single arrangement commended itself as the authoritative sequence. Beckwith cites some twelfth century Jewish authors (Mishael ben Uzziel and Joseph of Constantinople; p. 201) as indicating that the Aleppo-Leningrad sequence was the proper one, but apparently a lot of scribes copying Masoretic manuscripts felt free to alter this order.