The Crisis of Israelite Religion: Transformation of Religious Tradition in Exilic and Post-Exilic Times

By Bob Becking; Marjo C. A. Korpel | Go to book overview

Sara Japhet Jerusalem — Israel


Exile and Restoration in the Book of Chronicles

1 The Chronological Master-Plan

The book of Chronicles does not fit well into the framework of the conference theme, as it is not a contemporary witness to the sixth or fifth centuries BCE. This, however, should not detract from its significance for the understanding of those centuries, and its relevance to the questions of identity and continuity posed by the conference. Written at the end of the Persian — or perhaps even better — at the beginning of the Hellenistic period, it observes the one that preceded it from without, and certainly relates to it.

As is generally accepted (although some differences of opinion exist on this as on any other matter), the book of Chronicles was composed in the last part of the fourth century, most probably after the Persian rule had come to an end. By its genre it is a historical work — although the debate about this definition continues. Whether, or to what degree, the Chronicler should be regarded as a historian, and whether — or to what degree — his work should be studied from a historical or a theological perspective, are questions that are still in the focus of attention.1 Nevertheless, from a generic point of view Chronicles is a history. It is a description of the whereabouts of the people of Israel from its creation onwards, throughout the centuries.

Considering the two parameters that I have just mentioned — the point in time at which the book of Chronicles was written, and its topic — the question of its chronological master-plan immediately comes to mind: Why did the Chronicler deal with the distant past, from the beginning of humanity onwards, and did not recount the events of the immediate past, the last centuries of the Persian period? More specifically, why did he not bring the story up to his own time, stopping short two centuries earlier?

Before addressing the question, it should be presented in greater detail. The Chronicler's historical blueprint is well known and needs

1 See the recent collection of essays dedicated to this topic: M.P. Graham et al. (eds.), The Chronicler as Historian (JSOT.S, 238), Sheffield 1997. In the most recent commentary on Chronicles, Johnstone denies the book any claim to history: “C [Chronicles] is a theological work”, or: “C's must be termed a work of Theology”, W. Johnstone, 1 and 2 Chronicles (JSOT.S, 253), Sheffield 1997, 10, 23.

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