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Scott Hahn: The Kingdom of God as Liturgical Empire

Scott W. Hahn, The Kingdom of God as Liturgical Empire: A Theological Commentary on 1-2 Chronicles (Baker Academic, 2012).

The Kingdom of God as Liturgical Empire is Dr. Hahn’s finest work. This reviewer has read some of Hahn’s other works and has some of them in his personal library. He is a professor of Scripture and Theology at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and holds the Pope Benedict XVI Chair of Theology at St. Vincent Seminary. Dr. Hahn has occasionally been part of the Evangelical Theological Society, where this reviewer has met him at a national gathering.

What Dr. Hahn maintains in this commentary is that First and Second Chronicles comprise not an history of Israel between the reigns of Saul, David, Solomon, and their successors up to the Babylonian Exile, but a liturgical recall of those events in order to evoke repentance and renewal of both the Kingdom and of the people of God. “The writing of Chronicles is an act of what the Hebrews called zakkor, an act of remembrance that aims to bring one into the living and vital contact with events recalled” (p. 2). The “why” of Israel’s history is the reason for Chronicles. The why lies in the well-known and often recited passage in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Scott W. Hahn

Hahn makes a very strong case for treating First and Second Chronicles as a liturgical recalling and retelling of Israel’s story. “For the Chronicler, the key to is the Kingdom of David, established by divine covenant and embodied in the temple at Zion at its liturgy (p. 13). The Hebrew terms zakkor (remembrance), seper toledat (assembly/congregation), ma’al (unfaithful), and bekor (first born) appear frequently within Chronicles.

This reviewer had never before thought of Chronicles as a liturgical retelling of the story of Israel, within a rebuilt temple, to remind the people of God of what it takes for God once more to restore, heal and bless them. Yet the retelling of incident after incident was meant to prick consciences, encourage, and renew both people and the Kingdom of God. They were to represent the Lord of the covenant who had delivered them time after time.

I am re-reading First and Second Chronicles with greater attention than ever before.

It is on page 39 that Hahn identifies what the Chronicler insists upon in these First and Second “liturgies,” “God wants faithfulness and worship, men and women who seek the Lord,” not what they want. On page 42 Hahn draws attention to a feature in the gospel accounts of both Matthew and Luke that is repeated from the Chronicler, namely the genealogy which ends with Jesus: “the son of David, the son of Abraham.” “What is eschatology in Chronicles has become history in Matthew and Luke: the realization of the Chronicler’s most ardent hope for the future.” Instead of claiming a discovery here, Hahn refers back to a similar notice made by Jerome in the fifth century, in his Epistle 53:8.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Fall 2017

About the Author: Woodrow E. Walton, D.Min. (Oral Roberts University School of Theology and Missions), B.A. (Texas Christian University), B.D. [M.Div.] (Duke Divinity School), M.A. (University of Oklahoma), is a retired Seminary Dean and Professor of biblical, theological and historical studies. An ordained Assemblies of God minister, he and his wife live in Fort Worth, Texas. Walton retains membership with the Evangelical Theological Society, American Association of Christian Counselors, American Society of Church History, American Academy of Political Science, and The International Society of Frontier Missiology.

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