Monday, March 04, 2019

More thoughts on the canonical structure of the OT and NT: Is there a grand unity?

A few more thoughts from Kruger’s discussion of canonical structure in the OT and NT from Canon Revisited (Crossway, 2012): 152-159.

First: Kruger suggests the possibility of a Moses-Elijah-David structure from OT to NT:

Kruger notes that each of the tripartite divisions of the Hebrew Bible (OT) end with focus on a key figure:

Law ends with Moses (Deut 34:12).

Prophets end with Elijah (Mal 4:5-6).

Writings ends with David [renewed Davidic hope for a temple in Jerusalem] (2 Chron 36:23).

In the NT Gospels this Moses-Elijah-David structure of the OT canon is “recapitulated and fulfilled” (155). See especially the Mount of Transfiguration where Moses and Elijah meet with Jesus, the Son of David (Matt 17; Mark 9; Luke 9).

Second: Kruger suggests the possibility of a seven-fold structure across the OT and NT of Christian Scripture:

He notes that alongside the threefold structure of the Hebrew Bible (OT):


there is a fourfold NT structure (again following Trobisch):

Praxapostolos (Acts and General Epistles)
Pauline letters

Together, they make seven units. Moreover, he notes parallels between the first (Genesis) and last (Revelation) books, which each focus on sevens. For Genesis there is the seven days of creation-Sabbath. For Revelation, there are letters to seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls, etc. Genesis describes the creation of heaven and earth (Gen 1:1) and Revelation a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1). Genesis and Revelation form “an inclusio of sevens” (155).

Kruger also acknowledges that this suggestion of a “grand unity” of OT and NT might be dismissed by the skeptic “as coincidental or irrelevant” (157).

Indeed, there are some challenges to this view like:

Early Christians did not generally possess complete copies of the OT and NT as we have them today.

The NT was not apparently joined as one complete codex till the fourth century (see Trobisch).

The order of the books, especially in the Writings of the OT, may have varied.

Many early Christians might have been more influenced by the order of the books in the LXX than in the Hebrew Bible.

The idea of early Christians seeing their Bible as composed of seven units is an interesting speculation, but no Patristic citations are offered to show that any actually held this view. One might object, I suppose, that whether seen by them or not, the pattern was still there and perhaps was only to be appreciated by later generations.


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