E. Ben Zvi and Diana V. Edelman (eds.), What Was Authoritative for Chronicles?

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 12 (2012) - Review

Ben Zvi, Ehud and Diana V. Edelman (eds.), What Was Authoritative for Chronicles? (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2011). Pp. viii + 268. Hardcover. US$39.50. ISBN 978-1-57506-28-1.

This volume reproduces revised versions of ten papers read in 2008 and 2009 in the section devoted to “Israel and the Production and Reception of Authoritative Books in the Persian and Hellenistic Period” at the annual meeting of the European Association of Biblical Studies, plus two other studies. It also contains an insightful introduction by Ben Zvi plus an Index of Authors and an Index of Scripture. Two of the papers append bibliographies; the other ten supply all bibliographical information the first time a source is mentioned in the footnotes. Each article will be addressed briefly in the following remarks. The review will close with comments about the volume in general and one specific article.

Ehud Ben Zvi (“One Size Does Not Fit All: Observations on the Different Ways that Chronicles Dealt with the Authoritative Literature of Its Time,” pp. 13–35) focuses on modes of the Chronicler's reading of “authoritative” literature. His use of such texts (e.g., narratives, laws, prophetic literature, and psalms) serves to inspire confidence in the reader that the Chronicler is a reliable, even godly, writer worthy of being read and trusted.

Steven J. Schweitzer (“Judging a Book by Its Citations: Sources and Authority in Chronicles,” pp. 37–65) thinks that the author does not cite by name “authoritative” sources (e.g., Torah, Samuel–Kings, and Psalms), although he does acknowledge external sources when the later are named by his own sources, or when he wishes to enhance the persuasive power of his information. Schweitzer thinks the Chronicler's use of authoritative texts and his mention of authoritative people are persuasive devices employed by him to convince his readers that the utopia he describes as having existed in the past, but which never really existed, can be (re)instituted in the present.

David A. Glatt-Gilad (“Chronicles as Consensus Literature,” pp. 67–75) argues that Chronicles was “designed to promote consensus around…institutions, principles, and holy writ” (p. 75). Its author appeals to the Torah of Moses as an authoritative source, considering it a paradigm for communal consensus. The three pillars of the community emphasized by the Chronicler were the temple, the Davidic monarchy, and the Mosaic Torah. The last of these three was also a precedent for the Chronicler's quest for widespread acceptance of his own work.

Philip R. Davies (“Chronicles and the Definition of ‘Israel,’” pp. 77–88) argues that there was a scribal community and an archive in Jerusalem (a small but vigorous temple-city; p. 79) during both the Persian and the Hellenistic periods. They account for the survival of most of the biblical literature. He thinks Chronicles' concept of Israel stands typologically, but not necessarily chronologically, between the Pentateuch and the Deuteronomistic History. It is neither midrash of Samuel–Kings nor a utopian, unrealistic account of the past, but is a creative work with a complex relationship to Samuel–Kings.

Joseph Blenkinsopp (“Ideology and Utopia in 1–2 Chronicles,” pp. 89–103) dates 1–2 Chronicles between the last years of the Persian Empire and 301 B.C.E. He sees it as a utopian work written against the background of warfare during those decades, and posits its social location among the Levitical guilds of musicians at the temple.

Ingeborg Löwisch (“Cracks in the Male Mirror: References to Women as Challenges to Patrilineal Authority in the Genealogies of Judah,” pp. 105–132) focuses on the genealogies in 1 Chr 1–9, construing them as a means of establishing a normative past, legitimating hereditary claims, and conceptualizing collective identities. She focuses on two texts in which patriarchal authority is threatened (1 Chr 1:3–4 and 2:24–35), arguing that the authority of patriarchal succession depended on negotiating the memory of Israel's past by coherently correlating Israel's past with its present. She explores fissures in the narratives that highlight the difficulties inherent in a male-only genealogy by paying attention to women.

Yairah Amit (“A Lesson in Shaping Historical Memory,” pp. 133–144) focuses on the narrative of David's purchase of Aruna's threshing floor (1 Chr 21:18–22:1) that established the view that the Temple Mount was also the site of the binding of Isaac and the divine manifestation to David. In doing so, the Chronicler turned an otherwise marginal note in 2 Sam 24:16 into a key element undergirding the legitimacy of Jerusalem.

Louis Jonker (“The Chronicler and the Prophets: Who Were His Authoritative Sources?,” pp. 145–164) surveys prophetic activity in Chronicles and argues that the book of Jeremiah showed the Chronicler a way to merge Priestly and Deuteronomistic traditions. This argument shows, in addition, that the Chronicler was an early reader of Jeremiah.

Amber K. Warhurst (“The Chronicler's Use of the Prophets,” pp. 165–181) shows that Chronicles is laden with references to Isaiah and that Isaiah's anticipation of a full restitution of Jerusalem after the Exile is read back into the account of Hezekiah's reign. She also notes the Chronicler's fourfold mention of Jeremiah in his narrative of the fall of Jerusalem.

Mark Leuchter (“Rethinking the ‘Jeremiah’ Doublet in Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles,” pp. 183–200) argues that one of the Chronicler's successes lay in showing that external empires (like Persia) rise and fall, and did so according to principles worked out within texts available to him, which also made their way into the Hebrew Bible.

David J. Chalcraft (“Sociology and the Book of Chronicles: Risk, Ontological Security, Moral Pains, and Types of Narrative,” pp. 201–227) is formed by studying the “Sociology of Risk.” He argues that the Chronicler valued bureaucratic procedure, including the importance of texts and records. Authoritative actions are recorded in authoritative records that define social order and relationships.

Diana Edelman and Lynette Mitchell (“Chronicles and Local Greek Histories,” pp. 229–252) focus on Chronicles as a possible example of the type of Greek local history that began in the seventh century B.C.E. but became popular in the fourth and third centuries B.C.E. They examine five issues about those histories in relation to the work of the Chronicler. The first four are (1) the simultaneous existence of differing accounts of past events; (2) the prominent use of genealogies to link past and present; (3) the use of speeches to explore ideas, problems, and moral lessons; and (4) the function of local histories to solidify group identity. Their fifth point is a contrast. On the one hand, the Greeks could question the gods as purveyors of truth and wisdom, but still portray someone as a god and a “living law.” On the other hand, the Chronicler very much believed in the involvement of God in human affairs by means of truth and knowledge that can be gained from revealed teachings and through the workings of divine retribution.

Overall these articles raise and attempt to answer serious issues in Chronicles, though, obviously, there is no overall understanding of Chronicles tying them together since this work is an anthology, not a monograph. Its contributors include some of the best-known scholars in the study of Chronicles, along with others who are newer to the field. It is precisely the kind of collection of essays on a central theme or biblical book that has arisen lately in biblical studies with great benefit to the academy.

Finally, without meaning to detract from Leuchter's essay, I would like briefly to add my voice by responding to him since he contested the findings in an earlier article of mine exploring the relationship between 2 Chr 36:22–23 and Ezra 1:1–3a.[1] Leuchter observes that those verses read identically for fifty-three words in the Hebrew text, except that 2 Chronicles writes the name Cyrus twice with a full holem while Ezra omits it, and that 2 Chronicles ends the name Jeremiah with a holem (the overwhelmingly typical spelling in the book of Jeremiah) while Ezra omits it. Beginning with the next word ויעל (let him go up), Ezra 1:3 goes its own way. In connection with Leuchter's point, however, one should note that 2 Chronicles mentions Jeremiah three other times in its description of the last days of Judah (35:25; 36:12; and 36:21), whereas Ezra-Nehemiah never mentions him again. Whatever else one may want to say about the relationship between those two passages, it seems obvious to me that Ezra borrowed from 2 Chronicles (where the mention of the prophet was significant) and added to the verses. For 2 Chronicles the role of Jeremiah was crucial; for Ezra the mention of Jeremiah was incidental. Scholars complain that 2 Chronicles ends abruptly, and that may be so, but that ending offers no grounds for arguing that Ezra 1:1–3a is primary. (See also the comments above about Jonker's view of Jeremiah's impact on the Chronicler, not vice versa.)

Paul L. Redditt, Georgetown College and the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky

[1] Paul L. Redditt, “The Dependence of Ezra-Nehemiah on 1 and 2 Chronicles,” in Mark J. Boda and Paul L. Redditt (eds.), Unity and Disunity in Ezra-Nehemiah: Redaction, Rhetoric, and Reader (Hebrew Bible Monographs 17; Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2008), 216–40.reference