CHRONICLES, BOOKS OF [ISBE]
CHRONICLES, BOOKS OF
- kron'-i-k'-ls (dibhere ha-yamim, "The Words of the Days"; Septuagint paraleipomenon:
1. The Name
2. The Position of Chronicles in the Old Testament
3. Two Books, or One?
4. The Contents
5. Sources Biblical and Extra-Biblical
6. Nehemiah's Library
7. The Way of Using the Biblical Sources
8. Additions by the Chronicler
9. Omissions by the Chronicler
10. The Extra-Biblical Sources
11. The Object in Writing the Books of Chronicles
12. The Text
13. Critical Estimates
14. Date and Authorship
15. Evidence as to Date and Authorship
Arguments for a Later Date
16. Truthfulness and Historicity
(1) Alleged Proofs of Untruthfulness
(2) Truthfulness in the Various Parts
17. The Values of the Chronicles
1. The Name:
The analogy of this title to such English words as diary, journal, chronicle, is obvious. The title is one which frequently appears in the Hebrew of the Old Testament. It is used to denote the records of the Medo-Persian monarchy (Est 2:23; 6:1; 10:2), and to denote public records, either Persian or Jewish, made in late postexilian times (Neh 12:23), and to denote public records of King David (1 Ch 27:24). But its most common use is to denote the Judahite and Israelite records referred to in the Books o f Kings as sources (1 Ki 14:19; 15:7 and about 30 other places). The references in Kings are not to our present Books of Chronicles, for a large proportion of them are to matters not mentioned in these. Either directly or indirectly they refer the reader to public archives.
As applied to our present Books of Chronicles this title was certainly not intended to indicate that they are strictly copies of public documents, though it may indicate that they have a certain official character distinguishing them from other contemporary or future writings. The Greek title is Paraleipomenon, "Of Things that have been Left Untold." Some copies add "concerning the kings of Judah," and this is perhaps the original form of the title. That is, the Greek translators thought of Chronicles as a supplement to the other narrative Scriptural books. Jerome accepted the Greek title, but suggested that the Hebrew title would be better represented by a derivative from the Greek word chronos, and that this would fit the character of the book, which is a chronicle of the whole sacred history. Jerome's suggestion is followed in the title given to the book in the English and other languages.
2. The Position of Chronicles in the Old Testament:
In most of the VSS, as in the English, the Books of Chronicles are placed after the Books of Kings, as being a later account of the matters narrated in Kings; and Ezra and Nehemiah follow Chronicles as being continuations of the narrative. In the Hebrew Bibles the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah and 1 and 2 Chronicles are placed last. By common opinion, based on proof that is entirely sufficient, the three books constitute a single literary work or group of works, by one author or school of authors. It is co nvenient to use the term "the Chronicler" to designate the author, or the authors if there were more than one.
3. Two Books, or One?:
It is the regulation thing to say that 1 and 2 Chronicles were originally one book, which has been divided into two. The fact is that Chronicles is counted as one book in the count which regards the Old Testament as 22 or 24 books, and as two books in the count which regards the whole number of books as 39; and that both ways of counting have been in use as far back as the matter can be traced. Both ways of counting appear in the earliest Christian lists, those of Origen and Melito, for example. 1 Chronicles closes with a summary which may naturally be regarded as the closing of a book.
4. The Contents:
With respect to their contents the Books of Chronicles are naturally divided into three parts. The first part is preliminary, consisting mostly of genealogical matters with accompanying facts and incidents (1 Ch 1 through 9). The second part is an account of the accession and reign of David (1 Ch 10 through 29). The third part is an account of the events under David's successors in the dynasty (2 Ch).
The genealogies begin with Adam (1 Ch 1:1) and extend to the latest Old Testament times (1 Ch 9; compare Neh 11, and the latest names in the genealogical lines, e.g. 1 Ch 3:19 ff). The events incidentally mentioned in connection with them are more numerous and of more importance than the casual reader would imagine. They are some dozens in number. Some of them are repeated from the parts of the Old Testament from which the Chronicler draws as sources--for example, such statements as that Nimrod was a mighty one, or that in the time of Peleg the earth was divided, or the details concerning the kings of Edom (1 Ch 1:10,19,43 ff; compare Gen 10:8,25; 36:31 ff). Others are instances which the Chronicler has taken from other sources than the Old Testament--for instance, the story of Jabez, or the accounts of the Simeonite conquests of the Meunim and of Amalek (1 Ch 4:9,10,38-43).
The account in Chronicles of the reign of David divides itself into three parts. The first part (1 Ch 10 through 21) is a series of sections giving a general view, including the death of Saul, the crowning of David over the twelve tribes, his associates, his wars, the bringing of the ark to Jerusalem, the great Davidic promise, the plague that led to the purchase of the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite. The second part (1 Ch 22 through 29:22a) deals with one particular event and the preparations for it. The event is the making Solomon king, at a great public assembly (1 Ch 23:1; 28:1 ff). The preparations for it include arrangements for the site and materials and labor for the temple that is to be built, and the organizing of Levites, priests, singers, doorkeepers, captains, for the service of the temple and the kingdom. The third part (1 Ch 29:22b-30) is a brief account of Solomon's being made king "a second time" (compare 1 Ki 1), with a summary and references for the reign of David.
The history of the successors of David, as given in 2 Chronicles, need not here be commented upon.
5. Sources Biblical and Extra-Biblical:
The sources of the Books of Chronicles classify themselves as Biblical and extra-Biblical. Considerably more than half the contents come from the other Old Testament books, especially from Sam and Ki. Other sources mentioned in the Books of Chronicles are the following:
(1) The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel (2 Ch 16:11; 25:26; 28:26; 32:32).
(2) The Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah (2 Ch 27:7; 35:27; 36:8).
(3) The Book of the Kings of Israel (2 Ch 20:34).
(4) The Book of the Kings (2 Ch 24:27).
It is possible that these may be four variant forms of the same title. It is also possible that they may be references to our present Books of Ki, though in that case we must regard the formulas of reference as conventional rather than exact.
(5) The Book of the Kings of Israel (1 Ch 9:1), a genealogical work.
(6) The Midrash of the Book of the Kings (2 Ch 24:27).
(7) The Words of the Kings of Israel (2 Ch 33:18), referred to for details concerning Manasseh.
Observe that these seven are books of Kings, and that the contents of the last three do not at all correspond with those of our Biblical books. In the seventh title and in several of the titles that are yet to be mentioned it is commonly understood that "Words" is the equivalent of "acts" or "history"; but it is here preferred to retain the form "Words," as lending itself better than the others to the syntactical adjustments.
(8) The Words of Samuel the Man of Vision and the Words of Nathan the Prophet and the Words of Gad the Seer (1 Ch 29:29) are perhaps to be counted as one work, and identified with our Books of Judges and Samuel.
(9) The Words of Nathan the Prophet (2 Ch 9:29; compare 1 Ki 11:41-53). Source concerning Solomon.
(10) The Prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite (2 Ch 9:29; compare 1 Ki 11:29 ff; 14:2 ff, etc.). Solomon.
(11) The Visions of Jedo the Seer (2 Ch 9:29; compare 1 Ki 13). Solomon.
(12) The Words of Shemaiah the Prophet (2 Ch 12:15; compare 1 Ki 12:22 ff). Rehoboam.
(13) "Shemaiah wrote" (1 Ch 24:6). David.
(14) Iddo the Seer in Reckoning Genealogies (2 Ch 12:15). Rehoboam.
(15) "The Words (The History) of Jehu the son of Hanani, which is inserted in the Book of the Kings of Israel" (2 Ch 20:34; compare 1 Ki 16:1,7,12). Jehoshaphat.
(16) "The rest of the acts of Uzziah, first and last, did Isaiah the Prophet, the son of Amoz, write" (2 Ch 26:22; compare Isa 1:1; 6).
(17) "The Vision of Isaiah .... in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel" (2 Ch 32:32; compare 2 Ki 18 through 20; Isa 36 through 39, etc.). Hezekiah.
(18) The Words of the Seers (2 Ch 33:19 margin). Manasseh.
(19) References to "Lamentations," and to "Jeremiah" etc. (2 Ch 35:25). Josiah.
(20) The Midrash of the Prophet Iddo (2 Ch 13:22). Abijah.
These numbers, from 12 to 20, are referred to as works of prophets. At first thought there is plausibility in the idea that the references may be to the sections in Samuel and Kings where these several prophets are mentioned; but in nearly all the cases this explanation fades out on examination. The Chronicler had access to prophetic writings not now known to be in existence.
(21) Liturgical writings of David and Solomon (2 Ch 35:4; compare Ezr 3:10). Josiah.
(22) Commandments of David and Gad and Nathan (2 Ch 29:25). Hezekiah.
(23) The Commandment of David and Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun (2 Ch 35:15). Josiah.
(24) Chronicles of King David (1 Ch 27:24).
(25) Last Words of David (1 Ch 23:27).
Add to these many mentions of genealogical works, connected with particular times, those for example of David, Jotham, Jeroboam II (1 Ch 9:22; 5:17), and mentions of matters that imply record-keeping, from Samuel and onward (e.g. 1 Ch 26:26-28). Add also the fact that the Chronicler had a habit, exhibited in Ezra and Nehemiah, of using and quoting what he represents to be public documents, for example, letters to and from Cyrus and Artaxerxes and Darius and Artaxerxes Longimanus (Ezr 1:1; 6:3; 4:7,17; 5:6 ; 6:6; 7:11; Neh 2:7). It is no exaggeration to say that the Chronicler claims to have had a considerable library at his command.
6. Nehemiah's Library:
If such a library as this existed we should perhaps expect to find some mention of it somewhere. Such a mention I think there is in the much discussed passage in 2 Macc 2:13-15. It occurs in what purports to be a letter written after 164 BC by the Maccabean leaders in Jerusalem to Aristobulus in Egypt. The letter has a good deal to say concerning Nehemiah, and among other things this: "And how he, founding a library, gathered together the books about the kings and prophets, and the (books) of David, and letters of kings about sacred gifts." It says that these writings have been scattered by reason of the war, but that Judas has now gathered them again, and that they may be at the service of Aristobulus and his friends.
This alleged letter contains statements that seem fabulous to most modern readers, though they may not have seemed so to Judas and his compatriots. Leaving out of view, however, the intrinsic credibility of the witness, the fitting of the statement into certain other traditions and into the phenomena presented in Chronicles is a thing too remarkable to neglect. In the past, men have cited this passage as an account of the framing of a canon of Scripture--the canon of the Prophets, or of the Prophets and the Hagiographa. But it purports to be an account of a library, not of a body of Scripture; and its list of contents does not appear to be that of either the Prophets or the Hagiographa or both. But it is an exact list of the sources to which the author (or authors) of Chronicles and Ezra and Nehemiah claim to have access--"books about the kings" (see above, Numbers 1 through 7), "and prophets" (Numbers 8 through 20), "and of David" (Numbers 21 through 25 ff), "and letters of kings about sacred gifts" (those cited in Ezra and Nehemiah). The library attributed to Nehemiah corresponds to the one which the Chronicler claims to have used; and the two independent pieces of evidence strongly confirm each the other.
7. The Way of Using the Biblical Sources:
The method in which the Biblical sources are used in Chronicles presents certain remarkable features. As a typical instance study 1 Ch 10 in comparison with 1 Sam 31. 1 Ch 10:1-12 is just a transcription, with slight changes, of the passage in Samuel. A large part of Chronicles is thus made up of passages transcribed from Samuel and Kings. The alternative is that the Chronicler transcribed from sources which had earlier been transcribed in Samuel and Kings, and this alternative may in some cases be the true one.
This phenomenon is interesting for many reasons. It has its bearings on the trustworthiness of the information given; a copy of an ancient document is of higher character as evidence than a mere report of the contents of the document. It has a bearing on questions concerning the text; are the texts in Kings and Chronicles to be regarded as two recensions? It is especially interesting as illustrating the literary processes in use among the writers of our Scriptures.
It is sometimes said that they used their sources not by restating the contents as a modern compiler would do, but by just copying. It would be more correct to say that they do this part of the time. In 1 Ch 10 the copying process ceases with 10:12. In 10:13 and 14 the Chronicler condenses into a sentence a large part of the contents of 1 Samuel; one clause in particular is a condensation of 1 Sam 28. So it is with other parts. 1 Ch 1:1-4 is abridged from Gen 5 at the rate of a name for a section; so is 1 Ch 1:24-27 from Gen 11:10-26. In the various parts of Chronicles we find all the methods that are used by any compiler; the differentiating fact is simply that the method of transcribing is more used than it would be by a modern compiler.
In the transcribed passages, almost without exception, there has been a systematic editorial revision. Words and clauses have been pruned out, and grammatical roughness smoothed away. Regularly the text in Chronicles is somewhat briefer, and is more fluent than in Samuel or Kings. If we give the matter careful attention we will be sure that this revisional process took place, and that it accounts for most of the textual differences between Chronicles and the earlier writings, not leaving many to be accounted for as corruptions.
8. Additions by the Chronicler:
Of course the most significant changes made by the Chronicler are those which consist in additions and omissions. It is a familiar fact that the added passages in Chronicles which bulk largest are those which deal with the temple and its Worship and its attendants--its priests, Levites, musicians, singers, doorkeepers. Witness for example the added matter in connection with the bringing of the ark to Jerusalem, the preparations for the temple, the priests' joining Rehoboam, the war between Abijah and Jeroboam, the reforms under Asa and Jehoshaphat, details concerning Uzziah, Hezekiah's passover, the reform of Manasseh, the passover of Josiah (1 Ch 15 through 16; 22 through 29; 2 Ch 11:13-17; 13; 14; 15; 17; 19; 20; 26:16-21; 29 through 31; 33:10-20; 35). It has been less noticed than it should be that while the Chronicler in these passages magnifies the ceremonial laws of Moses, he magnifies those of David yet more.
Next in bulk comes the added genealogical and statistical matter, for example, the larger part of the preliminary genealogies, details as to David's followers, Rehoboam's fortified cities and family affairs with details concerning the Shishak invasion, Asa's military preparations and the invasion by Zerah, with numbers and dates, Jehoshaphat's military arrangements, with numbers, Jehoram's brothers and other details concerning him, Uzziah's army and his business enterprises (1 Ch 2 through 9; 12; 27; 2 Ch 11:5-12,18-23; 12:3-9; 14:3-15; 17:1-5,10-19; 21; 26:6-15).
The Chronicler is sometimes spoken of as interested in priestly affairs, and not in the prophets. That is a mistake. He takes particular pains to magnify the prophets (e.g. 2 Ch 20:20; 36:12,16). He uses the word "prophet" 30 times, and the two words for "seer" (chozeh and ro'eh) respectively 5 and 11 times. He gives us additional information concerning many of the prophets--for example, Samuel, Gad, Nathan, Ahijah, Shemaiah, Hanani, Jehu, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah. He has taken pains to preserve for us a record of many prophets concerning whom we should otherwise be ignorant--Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, Jedo (2 Ch 9:29), Iddo, the Oded of Asa's time, Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, Eliezer the son of Dodavah, two Zechariahs (2 Ch 24:20; 26:5), unnamed prophets of the time of Amaziah (2 Ch 25:5-10,15,16), Oded of the time of Ahaz (2 Ch 28:9).
In addition, however, to the materials that can be thus classified, it is the method of the Chronicler to preserve interesting incidents of all kinds by working them into his narrative. When he reaches Jair in his genealogical list, he finds himself in possession of a bit of information not contained in the older writings, and he inserts it (1 Ch 2:21 ff). He is interested to keep alive the memory of the "families of scribes which dwelt at Jabez" (1 Ch 2:55). He has found items concerning craftsmen, and concerning a linen industry, and a potters' industry, and he connects these with names in his list (1 Ch 4:14,21,23). He has come across a bit of a hymn in the name of Jabez, and he attaches the hymn to his list of names as an annotation (1 Ch 4:9,10). There are matters concerning the sickness and the burial of Asa, and concerning the bad conduct of Joash after the death of Jehoiada, and concerning constructions by Hezekiah (2 Ch 16:12,13; 24:15-27; 32:27-30), that seem to the Chronicler worth preserving, though they are not recorded in the earlier writings. The fruits of the habit appear, in many scores of instances, in all parts of the Books of Chronicles.
9. Omissions by the Chronicler:
As the Books of Chronicles thus add matters not found in the older books, so they leave out much that is contained in the Books of Samuel and Kings. Here, however, the question should rather be as to what the Chronicler has retained from his sources than as to what he has omitted. He writes for readers whom he assumes to be familiar with the earlier books, and he retains so much of the older narrative as seems to him necessary for defining the relations of his new statements of fact to that narrative. From the point where the history of David begins he has omitted everything that is not strictly connected with David or his dynasty--the history of northern Israel as such, the long narratives concerning the prophets, such distressing affairs as those of Amnon and Absalom and Adonijah and the faithlessness of Solomon, and a multitude of minor particulars. We have already noticed his systematic shortening of the passages which he transcribes.
10. The Extra-Biblical Sources:
There are two marked phenomena in the parts of Chronicles which were not taken from the other canonical books. They are written in later Hebrew of a pretty uniform type; many parts of them are fragmentary. The Hebrew of the parts that were copied from Samuel and Kings is of course the classical Hebrew of those books, generally made more classical by the revision to which it has been subjected. The Hebrew of the other parts is presumably that of the Chronicler himself. The difference is unmistakable. An obvious way of accounting for it is by supposing that the Chronicler treated his Scriptural sources with especial respect, and his other sources with more freedom. We will presently consider whether this is the true account.
There are indications that some of the non-Biblical sources were in a mutilated or otherwise fragmentary condition when the Chronicler used them. Broken sentences and passages and constructions abound. In the translations these are largely concealed, the translators having guessed the meanings into shape, but the roughnesses are palpable in the Hebrew. They appear less in the long narratives than in the genealogies and descriptive passages. They are sometimes spoken of as if they were characteristic of the later Hebrew, but there is no sense in that.
For example, most of the genealogies are incomplete. The priestly genealogies omit some of the names that are most distinguished in the history, such names as those of Jehoiada and two Azariahs (2 Ki 11:9, etc.; 2 Ch 26:17; 31:10). Many of the genealogies are given more than once, and in variant forms, but with their incompleteness still palpable. There are many breaks in the lists. We read the names of one group, and we suddenly find ourselves in the midst of names that belong to another group, and with nothing to call attention to the transition. The same phenomena appear in the sections in 1 Ch 23:2-27. These contain a succession of matters arranged in absolutely systematic order in classes and subclasses, while many of the statements thus arranged are so fragmentary as to be hardly intelligible. The most natural explanation of these phenomena assumes that the writer had a quantity of fragments in writing--clay tablets, perhaps, or pottery or papyrus, or what not, more or less mutilated, and that he copied them as best he could, one after another. A modern writer, doing such work, would indicate the lacunae by dots or dashes or other devices. The ancient copyist simply wrote the bits of text one after another, without such indications. In regard to many of the supposable lacunae in Chronicles scholars would differ, but there are a large number in regard to which all would agree. If someone would print a text of Chronicles in which these should be indicated, he would make an important contribution to the intelligibility of the books.
11. The Object in Writing the Books of Chronicles:
On the basis of these phenomena what judgment can we form as to the purposes for which the books of Chronicles were written? There are those who find the answer to this question a very simple one. They say that the interests of the writer were those of the temple priesthood, that it seemed to him that the older histories did not emphasize these interests as they ought, and that he therefore wrote a new history, putting into it the views and facts which he thought should be there. If this statement were modified so as not to impugn the good faith of the Chronicler, it would be nearly correct as a statement of part of his purpose. His purpose was to preserve what he regarded as historical materials that were in danger of being lost, materials concerning the temple-worship, but also concerning a large variety of other matters. He had the historian's instinct for laying hold of all sorts of details, and putting them into permanent form. His respiration from God (we do not here discuss the nature of that inspiration) led him this way. He wanted to save for the future that which he regarded as historical fact. The contents of the book, determined in part by his enthusiasm for the temple, were also determined in part by the nature of the materials that were providentially at his disposal. There seems also to have been present in his consciousness the idea of bringing to completion the body of sacred writings which had then been accumulating for centuries.
As we have seen, the Greek translators gave to the Books of Chronicles a title which expressed the idea they had of the work. They regarded it as the presentation of matters which had been omitted in the earlier Scriptures, as written not to supersede the older books, but to supplement them, as being, along with Ezra and Nehemiah, a work that brought the Scriptures up to date, and made them complete.
12. The Text:
The text of the Books of Chronicles has been less carefully preserved than that of some other parts of the Old Testament. Witness for example the numbers 42 and 8 for the ages of Ahaziah and Jehoiachin (2 Ch 22:2; compare 2 Ki 8:26; 2 Ch 36:9; compare 2 Ki 24:8). There is no proof, however, of important textual corruption. As we have seen, the fragmentary character of certain parts is probably in the main due to exactness in following fragmentary sources, and not to bad text; and the differences between Samuel or Kings and Chronicles, in the transcribed passages, are mostly due to intended revision rather than to text variations.
13. Critical Estimates:
In critical discussions less semblance of fair play has been accorded to Chronicles than even to most of the other Scriptures. It is not unusual to assume that the Chronicler's reference to sources is mere make-believe, that he "has cited sources simply to produce the impression that he is writing with authority." Others hurry to the generalization that the Books of Kings mentioned in Chronicles (see Numbers 1 through 7 above) are all one work, which must therefore have been an extensive Midrash (commentary, exe getical and anecdotal) on the canonical Books of Kings; and that the references to prophetic writings are to sections in this Midrash; so that practically the Chronicler had only two sources, the canonical books and this midrashic history of Israel; and that "it is impossible to determine" whether he gathered any bits of information from any other sources.
Into the critical theories concerning Chronicles enters a hypothesis of an earlier Book of Ki that was more extensive than our present canonical books. And in recent publications of such men as Buchler, Benzinger and Kittel are theories of an analysis of Chronicles into documents--for example, an earlier writing that made no distinction between priests and Levites, or an earlier writing which dealt freely with the canonical books; and the later writing of the Chronicler proper.
What we know in the matter is that three sets of authors combined in producing the Books of Chronicles--first, the men who produced the canonical sources, second, the men who produced the other sources, and third, the man or men who directly or indirectly put the contents of these sources together into the book which we have. We have no means of knowing what most of the intermediate processes were, and it is superlatively useless to guess. It is gratuitous to say that the mention of sources in Chronicl es is not made in good faith. It is probable that among the sources were Midrashim that were nearly contemporaneous. It is exceedingly improbable that none of the sources mentioned were genuine and ancient. All probabilities agree to the effect that the returned exiles and their near descendants were likely to study the ancient history of their race, and to gather materials for that purpose. As we have seen, the phenomena of the book indicate the presence of an antiquarian motive which was sure to be interested in genuine items of evidence from the remote past.
14. Date and Authorship:
The current opinion sixty years ago was that the Books of Chronicles and the whole Old Testament were completed about 404 BC, near the time when Artaxerxes Mnemon succeeded Darius Nothus. The statement now fashionable is that the Books of Chronicles were completed not later than about 250 BC, and this constantly degenerates into the statement that they were written about 250 BC or later. In fact, they were completed within the lifetime of Nehemiah, not later or not much later than 400 BC.
In discussing this we cannot ignore the fact that Chronicles and Ezra and Nehemiah are one work, or, if you prefer, one series. The closing verses of 2 Chronicles duplicate the opening verses of Ezr. This is not, probably, an inadvertent repetition. The Books of Chronicles were written later than the other parts of the series. The closing verses are the Chronicler's notification to his readers that he has brought up the earlier history to the point at which he had previously begun the narrative in Ezr. The testimony concerning Ezra and the "men of the Great Synagogue" and Nehemiah and their work on the Scriptures does not deserve the contempt with which some persons treat it. We know nothing concerning the Great Synagogue as an organization, but we know much concerning the succession of men, from Daniel to Simon the Just, who are called the men of the Great Synagogue. The old traditions do not say that Ezra was the founder of the succession, but they make him the typical person in it. Two bits of tradition are not necessarily inconsistent if one attributes work to Ezra which the other attributes to the men of the Great Synagogue. The regulation remark that tradition attributes Biblical work to Ezra and not to Nehemiah is untrue. Nehemiah was one of the men of the Great Synagogue, and prominent as such. He is introduced to us as a handsome boy, a king's favorite, coming to Jerusalem in 444 BC. In 433 BC he returned to the king. After an unknown interval of time he came back to Judea, and presumably spent the remainder of his long life there, dying some years or sortie decades after 400 BC.
15. Evidence as to Date and Authorship:
The placing of the work of the Chronicles at the close of the Hebrew Scriptures is in itself of the nature of testimony. The men who placed it there testify thereby to their belief that these are the latest writings of the Old Testament aggregate. We are familiar with the testimony of Babha' Bathra' to the effect that most of the later books of the Old Testament were due to the men of the Great Synagogue and to Ezra, but that Nehemiah completed the Books of Chronicles. We cannot avoid including the Chronicles among the 22 books which Josephus says were written before the death of Artaxerxes Longimanus (Apion, I, 8). Of course the limit of time here really intended by Josephus is not the death of Artaxerxes, but the lifetime of men who were contemporary with him--that of Nehemiah, for example. We have already noted the testimony concerning Nehemiah's library (2 Macc 2:13-15). The time when the library was being gathered was the most likely time for it to be used as the Chronicler has used it. Add the recapitulation in Ecclesiasticus (44 through 49), which m entions Nehemiah latest in its list of Old Testament worthies.
Internal marks, also, justify the conclusion that the work of the Chronicler was complete before Nehemiah died. The abundant presence of Persian words and facts, with the absence of Greek words and facts, seems conclusive to the effect that the work was done before the conquests of Alexander rendered the Greek influence paramount. In some of the sections (e.g. Ezr 7:28 ff; Nehemiah passim) Ezra and Nehemiah speak in the first person. The whole work makes the impression of being written up to date. The latest situation in Chronicles is the same with that in Neh (1 Ch 9; compare Neh 11:3 through 12:26). The latest event mentioned is the differentiating of the Samaritan schism. A certain enrollment was made (Neh 12:22-26) in the reign of Darius, up to the high-priesthood of Johanan (elsewhere called Jonathan and John), but including Jaddua the son of Johanan in the high-priestly succession. Ezra and Nehemiah were still in office (Neh 12:26). This enrollment naturally connects itself with the expulsion of Jaddua's bro ther Manasseh for marrying into the family of Sanballat (Neh 13:28; Josephus, Ant, XI, 7-8). Jaddua belongs to the fifth generation from Jeshua, who was high priest 538 BC. Josephus says that Sanballat held a commission from Darius. He mentions a certain Bagoas, "general of another Artaxerxes' army," as in relations with the high priest John.
Arguments for a Later Date.
Josephus, however, apparently regards the Darius who commissioned Sanballat as the last of the kings of that name, and says that Jaddua was contemporary with Alexander the Great, thus dating the Samaritan schism a little before 331 BC. All scholars reject these statements when they are used for dating the Samaritan schism, but some scholars eagerly accept them for the purpose of proving the late date of the last books of the Hebrew Bible. The argument never was valid, and it is completely exploded by the Aramaic papyri recently discovered in Egypt, which show that Bagoas and the high priest Johanan and the sons of Sanballat were contemporaries in 407 BC, the 17th year of Darius Nothus, and for some years earlier.
Dr. Driver (LOT, edition 1897, 518) expresses an opinion very commonly held concerning the Chronicles: "The only positive clue which the book contains as to the date at which it was composed is the genealogy in 1 Ch 3:17-24, .... carried down to the sixth generation after Zerubbabel. This would imply a date not earlier than about 350 BC." Turn to the passage and do your own arithmetic on it. Jeconiah was born 614 BC (2 Ki 24:8). If as an average each of the sons in the succession was born when his fat her was about 25 years old, that would bring the first birth in the 6th generation from Zerubbabel to about 414 BC, and not 350 BC. This is not an improbable showing.
Dr. Driver suggests, however, that in 1 Ch 3:21 we should follow the Greek reading instead of the Hebrew. This would give us: "And the sons of Hananiah: Pelatiah, and Jeshaiah his son, Rephaiah his son, Arnan his son, Obadiah his son, Shecaniah his son." The meaning here is ambiguous. It may be understood to be that each of the six men named after Hananiah was the son of the man named before him (compare 1 Ch 3:10-14, or 1 Ch 6:20-30,50-53); or as counting the six as the sons of Hananiah (compare 1 Ch 3:16; 7:20,21, etc.). Understanding it in the first of these two ways the number of generations after Zerubbabel would be increased to eleven. So many generations before the early decades of the 4th century BC would be exceptional, though not impossible. But the statement that there were 11 generations is weak, being based on a conjectural interpretation of an unproved text emendation, and standing unconfirmed in opposition to credible proof.
16. Truthfulness and Historicity:
"The Books of Chronicles are a tendency writing of little historical value"; "a distorted picture in the interest of the later institutions of postexilic Judaism"; "some ancient facts, having trickled down through oral or written tradition, are doubtless preserved. .... They are few indeed compared with the products of the imagination, and must be sifted like kernels of wheat from a mass of chaff." These statements, taken at random from the book that happens to be handiest, fairly represent the opinion held by many. They regard the Chronicles as a fabrication made in the interest of a religious party, a fabrication in which the history has been intentionally falsified.
A principal motive for this opinion is to discredit the testimony of Chronicles against certain critical theories, the said testimony being more full and detailed than that in Samuel and Kings and the prophets. But on the whole question the testimony of Chronicles is to the same effect with that of the other books. The testimony of the other books supports that of the Chronicles. The discrediting of Chronicles is part of a theory which denies the historical trustworthiness of practically all parts of the Old Testament and New Testament.
(1) Alleged Proofs of Untruthfulness.
Against the Chronicles it is alleged that they sometimes contradict the older books; but nearly all the instances are capable of satisfactory solution. The large numerals in Chronicles, for example those concerning the armies of David, Abijah, Jeroboam, Asa, Zerah, Jehoshaphat, Amaziah, Uzziah, are adduced as extravagant and incredible. Most of the difficulty in connection with such numbers, whether in Chronicles or Exodus or Numbers or Judges or Samuel, disappears when we observe that they clearly belong to an artificial way of counting. These numbers are given in even thousands or even hundreds (even fifties or tens in a very few instances), which would not be the case if the hundreds and thousands were merely numerical. It is alleged that the Chronicler views the glories of the past as on a larger scale than that in which they are presented in the earlier books, but this is not uniformly the case. On the basis of these allegations the Chronicler is charged with an extravagance that is inconsistent with sober truthfulness, but this charge follows the fate of the others. It is said that the Chronicler lacked trustworthy sources, but that is a thing to be proved, not taken for granted, and we have seen that it is improbable. It is alleged that the text is in such bad shape as to render the contents unreliable. This may be balanced against the counter conjecture that, since the Books of Chronicles have not been so often copied as the Books of Ki, their text is in the transcribed passages to be preferred to that of Ki. In fine, the reasons alleged against the historicity of Chronicles dwindle on examination, though there remain some problems that cannot be so easily disposed of.
(2) Truthfulness in the Various Parts.
Different parts of the Chronicles have their own separate problems of historicity. Take the genealogies, for example. If anyone had fabricated them, he would not have put them into their present fragmentary form, in which they have no story interest, and are of no direct use to anybody. On the other hand it is reasonable to account for their present form by the hypothesis that the writer used such materials as he had. This hypothesis is not derogatory to the inspiration of the writer. Deity saw fit to have these materials placed in the Scriptures, and to this end He influenced men of different generations through providential leadings and through impulses of the Spirit. No one thinks that the Spirit-guided man who put the genealogies in their final form received them as miraculous revelations. He received them as the product of effort in study--his own efforts and those of his predecessors. He is entitled to be counted as truthful if he used good judgment and fidelity in selecting and recording his materials.
Similar statements would be true in regard to the other statistical matter, and in regard to the many incidents that are mentioned in connection with the genealogies and other matters. To think of them as inventions by the Chronicler is not congruous with human experience. They are too brief and broken to have interest by themselves as stories. You can assign no possible reason that one could have for inventing them. They bear the marks of being genuine antiquarian discoveries. The final writer believed that he had come across facts which would be of interest if put into connection with the history as currently narrated. These matters are much more reasonably accounted for as facts than as inventions. And furthermore, a good many of them, first and last, have been corroborated by exploration. Take, for example, Manasseh's being carried to Babylon by the captains of the king of Assyria, or the account of Uzziah's military greatness (2 Ch 33:11; 26:6 ff), or the references to industries in 1 Ch 4:14-23 (compare PEFS, 1905, 243, 328; or Bible Sidelights from Gezer, 150 ff).
Possibly on a different footing is such a passage as the account of Abijah and Jeroboam (2 Ch 13:3-18). It says that Abijah had 400,000 men and Jeroboam 800,000, of whom 500,000 were slain in the battle. One might plausibly argue that these numbers were intended as a notice to the reader that he is to understand the story, not as fact, but as a work of the imagination, a religious parable, a midrashic narrative sermon, taken from the Midrash of Iddo (verse 22). Whether or no one finds this argument convincing, anyone can see that it does not accuse the Books of Chronicles of being untruthful. If the passage is a parable it is true in the sense in which it was intended to be understood. A similar case is the account of Jehoshaphat's peril from the invading nations and his wonderful rescue (2 Ch 20).
On still a different footing are such narratives as those concerning the bringing up of the ark, the first making of Solomon king, the reforms under Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah. These are sober narratives, with nothing in them to suggest flights of the imagination. Probably no one doubts that the Chronicler intended them to be understood as historical fact. If one is under bondage to the modern tradition which dates Dt from the time of Josiah and the priestly laws from after the exile, he must needs count these parts of Chronicles as falsified history; but if he is free from that bondage he will see no strong reason for counting them so.
17. The Values of the Chronicles:
In fine men are correct when they say that the greatest values of the Books of Chronicles lie in their availability for vividly illustrating the great truths of religion. They are correct when they assign great value to these books as depicting the ideas of the time when they were written. But they are none the less of great value as repeating from the other Scriptures the outline of the history of the religion of Yahweh, and presenting additional material for the filling in of that outline.
Among the older commentaries on Chronicles see that of Keil in the Keil-Delitzsch series, published in English in 1872; that of Zockler in the Lange series, 1876; that of Barker in the Pulpit Commentary, after 1880. Among more recent works, from the point of view which denies the historicity of Chronicles, see R. Kittel in the Polychrome Bible, 1895, and Curtis and Masden in the International Critical Commentary, 1910. A brilliant characterization from that point of view is that by Torrey, "The Chronicler as Editor and as Independent Narrator" in AJSL, January, 1909, and subsequent numbers. On the other side see Beecher, Reasonable Biblical Criticism, 1911, chapters xviii and xxii; "Is the Chronicler a Veracious Historian?" in Bible Student (October, 1899 and subsequent numbers), is a defense of the historicity. All works on Old Testament Introduction discuss the questions concerning Chronicles. In view of the many proper names in Chronicles, such a book as Gray, Studies in Hebrew Proper Names, has its uses. For the chronological facts, especially in connection with the closing of the Old Testament history, see Beecher, Dated Events of the Old Testament, 1907. For the Egyptian papyri see Drei Aramaische Papyrusurkunden aus Elephantine, Sachau, Berlin, 1907, or the Appendix to Toffteen, Historic Exodus. Also Sprengling's article in AJSL, April, 1911. As to light on the Chronicles from explorations, see "The Excavations of Gezer, 1902-5, and 1907-9," PEF; or Bible Sidelights from the Mounds of Gezer, 1906. For other books see the lists in Encyclopedia Biblica and HDB.
Willis J. Beecher