Your points are well taken Erkenbrand, but I have to disagree as well. For one, just because the Silmarillion was published after Tolkien died, does not mean that it detracts anything from its greatness. The Silmarillion was Tolkien’s life work, and I believe he intended it to be his greatest creation. Tolkien began working on the Silmarillion in1917, and continued to work on it throughout his entire life. He never stopped working on it, and to me, clearly that shows that this was something very special to him. Further, Christopher even states in his foreword that the Silmarillion “became the vehicle, and depository of his profoundest reflections”. Also, personally I feel that the fact that the Silmarillion was edited by Christopher Tolkien, doesn’t take anything away from the work either. The Silmarillion is still J.R.R.’s creation. He wrote the stories, he created the characters, that world, the history, the language, etc… and just because Christopher organized it into a more cohesive, publishable form doesn’t mar, or change that fact.
You’re right that the Silmarillion is a collection of stories, and that the various stories within were never written in a chronological order, but in my opinion, this is exactly why the Silmarillion is his greatest work. It’s not just a wrinkle in time; it’s the entire history of Ea, and to me that makes it so much deeper than anything else of his I have ever read. It’s precisely the depth, scope, and magnitude of the Silmarillion that makes it his greatest work. I have to agree with Diaz_Soulbern in that; the Silmarillion might not be your choice for his greatest work (and I respect that), but I value it above LOTR, because I also have gotten more from it. There’s no denying that if one reads the Silmarillion, one’s knowledge of Ea, of Middle Earth, and of the events, and characters concerning LOTR becomes tenfold. Again, it’s the scope, and the depth of the Silmarillion that make it his greatest work for me. I also enjoy the stories in the Silmarillion more as well, but that’s just me.
Let’s not forget that at the end of the day, we are all Tolkien fans, and we all share that common bond. Each of us is going to have a favorite character, story, or work of Tolkien’s that might differ from another’s opinion, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, in fact, it’s critically healthy. However, I feel that it is still entirely possible for one to think that the Silmarillion is Tolkien’s greatest work despite the fact that it may not hold the interest of the casual reader, because it all comes down to one’s personal opinion.
"I would have the Ring-bearer bring the crown to me, and let Mithrandir set it upon my head, if he will; for he has been the mover of all that has been accomplished, and this is his victory." Elessar