woensdag 13 februari 2013

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

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

Review in: Irish Theological Quarterly 2006 71: 355
Review door: Martin McNamara
Gevonden op: http://itq.sagepub.com/content/71/3-4/355.full.pdf+html

1 CHRONICLES 1–9: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (The Anchor Bible, vol. 12).
By Gary N. Knoppers. New York: Doubleday, 2003.
Pp. xxii+1–514; 8 maps. Price $49.95. ISBN 0-385-46928-4.

1 CHRONICLES 10–29: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (The Anchor Bible, vol.12A).
By Gary N. Knoppers. New York: Doubleday, 2004.
Pp. xxii+515–1045 (continuous pagination for the 2 vols.).
Price $49.95. ISBN 0-385-51288-0.

In the preface the author acknowledges the privileged position in which he stands in writing a commentary on Chronicles, thanks to the new scholarly interest in the Persian era (538–332 BCE) in the past three decades. Long neglected by commentators, Chronicles is finally being given its due. Knoppers acknowledges in particular the contributions of Sara Japhet, Thomas Will, and Hugh Williamson. He begins his treatment with a new translation of 1 Chronicles, and then in a lengthy ninety-page introduction of nine chapters gives detailed consideration to titles (of the work), the relevance of textual criticism, the Chronicler’s use of earlier biblical books, the state of the field: recent studies on Chronicles, theories of multiple editions, the debate over authorship and date, the issue of extrabiblical sources, the question whether Chronicles is a rewritten Bible, and finally Chronicles and Canon. In his preface he notes Isaac Kalimi’s comprehensive bibliography (The Books of Chronicles: A Classified Bibliography, 1990), but after his own introduction gives a hundred-page bibliography himself.

Knoppers is strong and informative on textual criticism: the impact of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the various witnesses to the text of Chronicles and their value (1 Esdras, two major Greek translations, the debated question on the usefulness of the Old Latin, the Vulgate, the Peshitta, Aramaic targums, Armenian and the Masoretic text itself). His survey of the recent studies on Chronicles has to do principally with the unity and extent of the Chronicler’s work, with special reference to the doublet in 2 Chr 36:22–3 and Ezra 1:1–3a (Cyrus’s decree to return). While he believes that the ideology of Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah is so different as to indicate separate authors, he notes the points of contact, and concludes that the cumulative weight of the considerations would suggest that Chronicles has some points of connection with Ezra and Nehemiah, but that it is quite unlikely that one individual is responsible for both works. It is impossible that the author(s) of the narrative portions of Ezra and Nehemiah are also responsible for Chronicles. In a summary, after examining the evidence for date, he remarks that, given the limited amount of evidence directly bearing on the composition of Chronicles, his commentary allows a range of dates from the late 5th century through the mid-3rd century. His own inclination is toward a date in the late 4th or early 3rd century.

Knoppers opens his treatment of Chronicles as a rewritten Bible noting that scholars do not agree on a precise definition of what a rewritten Bible is (instancing the definitions by Vermes, Brooke, Crawford and Nickelsberg), and noting that for some early works so considered (e.g. Jubilees, part of 1 Enoch, Apocalypse of Moses) the designation ‘Rewritten Bible’ can be anachronistic. He notes that many features of rewritten Bibles can be found in Chronicles: commentary to material borrowed from earlier biblical books, Chronicles as midrash or exegesis, with additions of a theological nature among others. He remarks, however, that there is nothing in earlier biblical works to compare with the genealogies in 1 Chr 1–9. The closest analogues that he is aware of stem from the classical world. The Chronicler’s depiction of the monarchy is not simply a commentary on the Deuteronomistic History. If Chronicles as a complete work is to be compared with any corpus of biblical writings, it probably should be the primary history (Genesis through Kings). In this context, there is something to be said for viewing Chronicles as a second national epic. Chronicles was composed not necessarily as a replacement of, but as an alternative to, the primary history. Indeed, the Chronicler’s work may have had an effect on how the older works were interpreted by some readers. Given its unique literary structure and its unparalleled content, Chronicles is more than a paraphrase or literary elaboration of the primary history. Chronicles must be understood as its own work.

The commentary proper is done in sections. For each section the translation is first given, followed by textual notes and then (commentary) notes on individual verses, after which come sections on individual questions (e.g. sources, composition) followed by a general comment. 1 Chr 1–9, the subject of the first volume, contains genealogies only. Knoppers introduces this with an excursus on the genealogies. He opens with words from Plato on the subject. According to Plato, when Socrates asked the famous sophist Hippias, ‘What are the subjects that the Spartans gladly hear from you?’ Hippias replied: ‘They listen with the greatest pleasure to the genealogies of their heroes and men, to the settlement of tribes, and how cities were founded of old and, in a word, to everything concerning antiquarian knowledge’ (Plato, Hipp. mai. 285d) – words that will be welcome to students of the New Testament (Matthew, Luke) and medieval Irish literature. Genealogies of this extent are unique in the Bible and in the Near East. In Knoppers’s judgement the closest counterpart to the phenomenon of 1 Chr 1–9 may be found in the works of Greek genealogists. He notes the artistic arrangement of the nine chapters. The outer frame (1:1–54; 9:2–34) says something of the Chronicler’s view of the larger purpose of divine history. The imago mundi of 1 Chr 1 reveals that Israel is akin to its neighbours, but the following genealogies (1 Chr 2–8, concentrating on Judah, Levi and Benjamin) reveal that the children of Israel occupy a privileged place among the very nations to whom they are related. The list of those in the restored community (after the exile: 1 Chr 9) creates continuity between postexilic society and the Israel of ages past. Knoppers notes the desire of some to find a messianic interpretation in Judah’s genealogy (he instances 1 Chr 2:1–55; 4:1–23) and in the name Anani, ‘the cloud man’ in 3:24 (cf. Dan 7:13), a view opposed by other scholars. Knoppers himself, without wishing to oppose any of those theories, sees in the genealogy of Judah a desire to establish a continuity between the Yehud of Persian times and earlier Judah (where the David tradition was central), with an inclusiveness the opposite of the position of Ezra-Nehemiah. He notes the targumic interpretation of 21:15, with reference to the sacrifice of Isaac, but does not dwell on what the object of ‘he (God) saw’ might be for the Chronicler.

The work ends with eight black and white maps, indexes of biblical references, of modern authors, and a very detailed (23 pages) index of subjects.

This work of immense erudition is the fruit of long and deep research. It is a worthy addition to the Anchor Bible series and will serve students of these books and other interested researchers for years to come.

Milltown Institute,


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