The Prototypical God As the Only God: Exploring Monotheism in the Book of Chronicles

In a recent essay, Jennifer Singletary (“Incomparable or Prototypical” 2021) addresses the question of YHWH’s incomparability through the prototype theory of categories. She explains that prototype theory examines categories not simply as groups composed of members who possess certain required shared characteristics. Instead, prototype theory recognizes that characteristics that mark membership in a category may be graded and fuzzy. Furthermore, the characteristics themselves may stand in a hierarchy. For instance, one may claim that a member of the category “bicycle” must have two and only two wheels and be propelled forward through a rider’s physical exertion. However, a bicycle with four wheels, in which two wheels are “trainers,” may still qualify as a bicycle, but not as strongly (perhaps such is not a “real” bicycle). She applies prototype theory to biblical texts that claim that there is none like YHWH. She shows that such texts demonstrate how YHWH is special not because he possesses “unique characteristics that no other beings share at all, but instead [because of] the confluence of several qualities perceived and reinforced as highly representative of this category that YHWH possesses to outstanding degree” (411-412). As a result, for Singletary, YHWH is the prototypical God although not necessarily the only god.
Against the background of Singletary’s work, the goal of this paper is to determine what features and to what degree these features factor into the presentation of YHWH as God in Chronicles. To state it differently, the paper aims to answer the following question: How does the Chronicler intend for his readership to identify YHWH as God through the speeches and narratives he records. To accomplish the purpose, the paper will start with a few passages that claim that YHWH is God and examine their narrative contexts to determine what features of YHWH and his actions lead to such claims (e.g., 1 Chron. 16:14, 25-26; 17:20-24; 2 Chron. 20:6-7; 33:13). Second, the paper will examine passages that address other gods and their features (1 Chron. 5:25; 16:26; 2 Chron. 13:8-9; 25:14-20; 28:23-25; 32:13-19). Examining these passages in their contexts will show that the Chronicler emphasizes that YHWH is God in his strength to conquer in combat, in his foreknowledge to reveal the future of David’s dynasty, in his power to create the world rather than be created, and in his kindness to restore one who repents. At the same time, the paper will demonstrate that Chronicles does more than present YHWH as God; it presents him as the only God since it also deprives other gods of those features that mark YHWH as God. Therefore, for the Chronicler, YHWH is the only true God.

5 thoughts on “The Prototypical God As the Only God: Exploring Monotheism in the Book of Chronicles”

  1. Takes up a particular
    Takes up a particular theological theme (and indeed, one would be hard pressed to think that a study of ‘God’ was not theology!) and explores it through a sample text. I think this makes it a potentially interesting work of OT Theology.

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  2. new Methodology
    I’m always interested in seeing new methodologies that emerging scholars are bringing to the field and of course something on Chronicles is interesting and lacking often in our groups. While focused on Chronicles and not broad ranging in OT texts, it does tackle such a huge issue in OT Theology and Religion: monotheism. It may fit with other proposals this year, although it does really tackle the Law per se.

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