woensdag 13 februari 2013

Review of: Gary N. Knoppers, 1 Chronicles. 2 vols. (AB 12 & 12A), Doubleday, 2003 (1-9) & 2004 (10-29); in: Interpretation

Gary N. Knoppers, 1 Chronicles. 2 vols. (AB 12 & 12A), Doubleday, 2003 (1-9) & 2004 (10-29).

Review in: Interpretation 2006 60: 326
Review door: Steven S. Tuell
Gevonden op: http://int.sagepub.com/content/60/3/326.full.pdf+html

I Chronicles 1-9: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (The Anchor Bible, vol. 12).
by Gary N. Knoppers
Anchor Bible. Doubleday, New York, 2003.
514 pp. $49.95 (cloth). ISBN 0-385-46928-4.

I Chronicles 10-29: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (The Anchor Bible, vol. 12A).
by Gary N. Knoppers
Anchor Bible. Doubleday, New York, 2004.
531 pp. $49.95 (cloth). ISBN 0-385-51288-0.

SINCE THE GROUNDBREAKING WORK of Sara Japhet and H.G.M. Williamson in the 1970s, Chronicles has attracted more and more scholarly attention. Gary Knoppers is one of the most productive scholars in this renaissance of Chronicles research, making this work particularly welcome. This two-volume commentary opens with a complete translation of the text, followed by a 137-page introduction and a lengthy bibliography (exhaustive through 2000; understandably sketchy thereafter). The remainder of the first volume covers the genealogies in 1 Chronicles 1-9. The second volume comments on the reign of David

Knoppers' work is distinguished by his mastery of text criticism, discussed in depth in his introduction. As he observes, the Dead Sea discoveries have made Septuagint criticism particularly important, since we now know that "at least some of the oldest Greek texts for certain biblical books were translated from a Hebrew text that differed from the textual base of the later rabbinic recension" (pp. 53-54). He therefore urges caution when Chronicles differs from its source texts, "as the alleged change may be due either to the textual tradition preserved by the Chronicler's Vorlage or to textual corruption"—and not, as some commentators too quickly have concluded, to a purposive change by the Chronicler (pp. 70-71).

Summarizing recent scholarship, Knoppers deals in particular with the relationship between Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah. Most critical treatments of Chronicles since the nineteenth century have connected these books in a unified Chronicler's History. However, the consensus of recent scholarship holds that Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah were composed, and should be read, separately. According to Knoppers, the linguistic arguments either way are inconclusive. Further, some points of alleged discontinuity actually point to continuity between these works—the importance of Mosaic Torah and Davidic promises, "the use of genealogy to define community," and general matters of style, for example (p. 88). Still, Knoppers remains with the consensus, due to what he calls "the most glaring of contrasts" between Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah: Chronicles' view of Israel is inclusive, incorporating the northern tribes, while Ezra-Nehemiah's view of Israel is exclusive, restricting the true Israel to the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin.

However, the nearly word-for-word parallels between the conclusion of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 36:22-23) and the opening of Ezra (Ezra l:l-3a), as well as the existence of 1 Esdras (which parallels 2 Chronicles 35:1-Ezra 10:44 and Nehemiah 8:1-13), show that these works were at least secondarily joined. Indeed, Ezra 1-6 shares so much in language and theme with Chronicles that it would be perverse to deny the connection. Knoppers' detailed arguments pertaining to the date, text, and composition of Chronicles are largely consistent with a connected Chronicler's History, composed in stages over time (as proposed by, among others, Freedman, Cross, Blenkinsopp, Schniedewind, and this reviewer). Knoppers' view of the separate composition of Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah hypothesizes a redactor who edited the opening chapters of Ezra in order to combine these works. In any case, in Knoppers' perspective, Chronicles can be viewed on its own; "its characteristic concerns are no longer being forced into the mold of Ezra-Nehemiah" (p. 100).

Knoppers' major sticking point, the alleged inclusivity of Chronicles toward the northern tribes over against the exclusivity of Ezra-Nehemiah, does not represent an irreconcilable conflict. After all, Chronicles is quite exclusive in its own right (apart from general exclusion of the history of the north in 2 Chronicles, consider 2 Chronicles 11:13-15; 13:8-12; or 25:7). Ezra-Nehemiah can sound a note of inclusivity (see the reference to the twelve tribes in Ezra 16:7).

The insistence that Chronicles be read on its own terms also leads Knoppers to resist assigning Chronicles to the genre of "rewritten Bible" attested at Qumran, since "Chronicles is more than a paraphrase or literary elaboration of the primary history" (p. 134). However, describing Chronicles as rewritten Bible does not mean regarding this work as a mere paraphrase of Genesis-Kings. A consideration of Jubilees, the Temple Scroll, or Josephus' Antiquities surely demonstrates that rewritten Bible texts have their own clear purpose and integrity. What this genre designation does imply is that Chronicles shares with other exemplars of rewritten Bible faithfulness to its source text, joined to the attempt to unify the tradition on a biblical base. Surely this designation is appropriate, as the most readily distinguishing feature of Chronicles is the degree to which it reproduces large blocks of biblical material. Indeed, Knoppers demonstrates in his own comparisons of Chronicles with source material in Genesis and the Deuteronomistic History that its connections with other parts of the canon should be fully explored.

Knoppers places 1 Chronicles 1-9 in its historical and biblical context through an excursus on genealogies in the ancient world, which emphasizes the creative expression possible in genealogical material. The Israelite tribal genealogies emphasize Judah (treated first: see 1 Chronicles 2:3-4:23), Benjamin (treated last: see 8:1-40), and Levi (given "center stage" in the genealogies: see 5:27-6:66). The list of returnees from exile in 1 Chronicles 9:2-18, which in Knoppers' view shares a common source with Nehemiah 11:3-19, links the temple liturgy of the Chronicler's own time with the temple liturgy of David and the tabernacle service of Mosaic Torah, thus asserting continuity with ancient tradition. Since Knoppers is so careful on text-critical matters, his decision to restore Dan to the tribal genealogies (1 Chronicles 7:12) is surprising. Given the absence of Dan, not only from the versions of this passage but from the Levitical town lists in 6:54-81 as well, it is more likely that Dan has been polemically excluded by the Chronicler than that it has fallen out due to scribal error.

In his treatment of David's reign in 1 Chronicles 10-29, Knoppers compares Chronicles to the annals of ancient Near Eastern kings. He identifies numerous instances of achronological historiography, that is, "deliberately narrating events out of chronological order to make a larger point" (p. 545). Just as the annals of Assyrian kings place their greatest successes at the beginning of their reigns, Chronicles describes the conquest of Jerusalem as the first act of David's reign (1 Chronicles 11:4-9), places David's first attempt to bring the Ark to Jerusalem prior to the account of his Philistine wars (13:1-14), and speaks of David consecrating to God the booty of nations he has not yet conquered (18:11). Knoppers rightly rejects the overly simplistic view that Chronicles ignores material critical of the king, such as the story of David and Bathsheba, in order to whitewash David. Rather, the presentation in Chronicles is purposefully shaped to present "David's reign ... as Israel's normative age" (p. 741). Anything that needlessly complicates this aim is ignored— not just anything negative. In the story of the census and its disastrous aftermath ( 1 Chronicles 21), David's repentance becomes as normative as his obedience. Knoppers reads the Hebrew sàtàn in 1 Chronicles 21:1 not as the proper name Satan, but simply as "an adversary," so that David's census is prompted by a nameless human advisor. Knoppers observes that either translation is possible from the text itself. More adequate justification than he provides is required for this shift from a venerable reading. Sometime in the Persian period, has'sätän became the proper name Satan. 1 Chronicles 21 is fraught with supernatural beings and actions: consider the mammoth destroyer with his drawn sword who addresses David through the words of his seer Gad, or the fire from heaven that consumes David's sacrifice. Why then should the shift from has'sätän to Satan not begin here?

Knoppers is a formidable scholar and this is a formidable work, bringing an astonishing depth and breadth of information to bear upon the interpretation of Chronicles. A newcomer to Chronicles scholarship may become lost in the wealth of detail that Knoppers provides. The difficulty of the material is minimized by Knoppers' lucid style. An excellent index at the end of the second volume makes the commentary more accessible. That Knoppers' extensive, detailed treatment of 1 Chronicles required publication in two volumes makes it expensive for many pastors' book budgets. This commentary is an essential addition to any theological library, and deserves to be read beyond the relatively small circle of Chronicles scholars. I hope that many pastors, challenged and stimulated by Knoppers' fresh treatment of a sadly ignored ancient text, will begin to teach and preach from Chronicles, a book that St. Jerome said holds "the meaning of the whole of sacred history."

Steven S. Tuell


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