« Prev Chapter III. Sources And Mode Of Composition. Next »

Chapter III. Sources And Mode Of Composition.

Our impressions as to the sources of Chronicles are derived from the general character of its contents, from a comparison with other books of the Old Testament, and from the actual statements of Chronicles itself. To take the last first: there are numerous references to authorities in Chronicles which at first sight seem to indicate a dependence on rich and varied sources. To begin with, there are “The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel,”44   Quoted for Asa (2 Chron. xvi. 11); Amaziah (2 Chron. xxv. 26); Ahaz (2 Chron. xxviii. 26). “The Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah,”55   Quoted for Jotham (2 Chron. xxvii. 7); Josiah (2 Chron. xxxv. 26, 27). and “The Acts of the Kings of Israel.”66   Quoted for Manasseh (2 Chron. xxxiii, 18). These, however, are obviously different forms of the title of the same work.

Other titles furnish us with an imposing array of prophetic authorities. There are “The Words” of Samuel the Seer77   Quoted for David (1 Chron. xxix. 29)., of Nathan the Prophet,88   Quoted for David (1 Chron. xxix. 29) and Solomon (2 Chron. ix. 29). of Gad the Seer,99   Quoted for David (1 Chron. xxix. 29). of Shemaiah the Prophet and of Iddo the Seer,1010   Quoted for Rehoboam (2 Chron. xii. 15). 14 of Jehu the son of Hanani,1111   Quoted for Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. xx. 34). and of the Seers1212   Quoted for Manasseh (2 Chron. xxxiii. 19). “Seers,” A.V., R.V. Marg., with LXX.; R.V., with Hebrew text, “Hozai.” The passage is probably corrupt.; “The Vision” of Iddo the Seer1313   Quoted for Solomon (2 Chron. ix. 29). and of Isaiah the Prophet1414   Quoted for Hezekiah (2 Chron. xxxii. 32).; “The Midrash” of the Book of Kings1515   Quoted for Joash (2 Chron. xxiv. 27). and of the Prophet Iddo1616   Quoted for Abijah (2 Chron. xiii, 22).; “The Acts of Uzziah,” written by Isaiah the Prophet1717   Quoted for Uzziah (2 Chron. xxvi. 22).; and “The Prophecy” of Ahijah the Shilonite.1818   Quoted for Solomon (2 Chron. ix. 29). There are also less formal allusions to other works.

Further examination, however, soon discloses the fact that these prophetic titles merely indicate different sections of “The Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah.” On turning to our book of Kings, we find that from Rehoboam onwards each of the references in Chronicles corresponds to a reference by the book of Kings to the “Chronicles1919   Cf. pp. 17, 18. of the Kings of Judah.” In the case of Ahaziah, Athaliah, and Amon, the reference to an authority is omitted both in the books of Kings and Chronicles. This close correspondence suggests that both our canonical books are referring to the same authority or authorities. Kings refers to the “Chronicles of the Kings of Judah” for Judah, and to the “Chronicles of the Kings of Israel” for the northern kingdom; Chronicles, though only dealing with Judah, combines these two titles in one: “The Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah.”


In two instances Chronicles clearly states that its prophetic authorities were found as sections of the larger work. “The Words of Jehu the son of Hanani” were “inserted in the Book of the Kings of Israel,”2020   2 Chron. xx. 34. and “The Vision of Isaiah the Prophet, the son of Amoz,” is in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel.2121   Chron. xxxii. 32. It is a natural inference that the other “Words” and “Visions” were also found as sections of this same “Book of Kings.”

These conclusions may be illustrated and supported by what we know of the arrangement of the contents of ancient books. Our convenient modern subdivisions of chapter and verse did not exist, but the Jews were not without some means of indicating the particular section of a book to which they wished to refer. Instead of numbers they used names, derived from the subject of a section or from the most important person mentioned in it. For the history of the monarchy the prophets were the most important personages, and each section of the history is named after its leading prophet or prophets. This nomenclature naturally encouraged the belief that the history had been originally written by these prophets. Instances of the use of such nomenclature are found in the New Testament, e.g., Rom. xi. 2: “Wot ye not what the Scripture saith in Elijah”2222   R.V. marg.i.e., in the section about Elijah—and Mark xii. 26: “Have ye not read in the book of Moses in the place concerning the bush?”2323   R.V.

While, however, most of the references to “Words,” “Visions,” etc., are to sections of the larger work, we need not at once conclude that all references to authorities in Chronicles are to this same book. The 16 genealogical register in 1 Chron. v. 17 and the “lamentations” of 2 Chron. xxxv. 25 may very well be independent works. Having recognised the fact that the numerous authorities referred to by Chronicles were for the most part contained in one comprehensive “Book of Kings,” a new problem presents itself: What are the respective relations of our Kings and Chronicles to the “Chronicles” and “Kings” cited by them? What are the relations of these original authorities to each other? What are the relations of our Kings to our Chronicles? Our present nomenclature is about as confusing as it well could be; and we are obliged to keep clearly in mind, first, that the “Chronicles” mentioned in Kings is not our Chronicles, and then that the “Kings” referred to by Chronicles is not our Kings. The first fact is obvious; the second is shown by the terms of the references, which state that information not furnished in Chronicles may be found in the “Book of Kings,” but the information in question is often not given in the canonical Kings.2424   E.g., the wars of Jotham (2 Chron. xxvii. 7). And yet the connection between Kings and Chronicles is very close and extensive. A large amount of material occurs either identically or with very slight variations in both books. It is clear that either Chronicles uses Kings, or Chronicles uses a work which used Kings, or both Chronicles and Kings use the same source or sources. Each of these three views has been held by important authorities, and they are also capable of various combinations and modifications.

Reserving for a moment the view which specially commends itself to us, we may note two main tendencies of opinion. First, it is maintained that Chronicles 17 either goes back directly to the actual sources of Kings, citing them, for the sake of brevity, under a combined title, or is based upon a combination of the main sources of Kings made at a very early date. In either case Chronicles as compared with Kings would be an independent and parallel authority on the contents of these early sources, and to that extent would rank with Kings as first-class history. This view, however, is shown to be untenable by the numerous traces of a later age which are almost invariably present wherever Chronicles supplements or modifies Kings.

The second view is that either Chronicles used Kings, or that the “Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah” used by Chronicles was a post-Exilic work, incorporating statistical matter and dealing with the history of the two kingdoms in a spirit congenial to the temper and interests of the restored community. This “post-Exilic” predecessor of Chronicles is supposed to have been based upon Kings itself, or upon the sources of Kings, or upon both; but in any case it was not much earlier than Chronicles and was written under the same influences and in a similar spirit. Being virtually an earlier edition of Chronicles, it could claim no higher authority, and would scarcely deserve either recognition or treatment as a separate work. Chronicles would still rest substantially on the authority of Kings.

It is possible to accept a somewhat simpler view, and to dispense with this shadowy and ineffectual first edition of Chronicles. In the first place, the chronicler does not appeal to the “Words” and “Visions” and the rest of his “Book of Kings” as authorities for his own statements; he merely refers his reader to them for further information which he himself does not furnish. This “Book of Kings” so often mentioned 18 is therefore neither a source nor an authority of Chronicles. There is nothing to prove that the chronicler himself was actually acquainted with the book. Again, the close correspondence already noted between these references in Chronicles and the parallel notes in Kings suggests that the former are simply expanded and modified from the latter, and the chronicler had never seen the book he referred to. The Books of Kings had stated where additional information could be found, and Chronicles simply repeated the reference without verifying it. As some sections of Kings had come to be known by the names of certain prophets, the chronicler transferred these names back to the corresponding sections of the sources used by Kings. In these cases he felt he could give his readers not merely the somewhat vague reference to the original work as a whole, but the more definite and convenient citation of a particular paragraph. His descriptions of the additional subjects dealt with in the original authority may possibly, like other of his statements, have been constructed in accordance with his ideas of what that authority should contain; or more probably they refer to this authority the floating traditions of later times and writers. Possibly these references and notes of Chronicles are copied from the glosses which some scribe had written in the margin of his copy of Kings. If this be so, we can understand why we find references to the Midrash of Iddo and the Midrash of the book of Kings.2525   2 Chron. xiii. 22; xxiv. 27. The LXX., however, does not read “Midrash” in either case; and it is quite possible that glosses have attached themselves to the text of Chronicles.

In any case, whether directly or through the medium of a preliminary edition, called “The Book of the Kings 19 of Israel and Judah,” our book of Kings was used by the chronicler. The supposition that the original sources of Kings were used by the chronicler or this immediate predecessor is fairly supported both by evidence and authority, but on the whole it seems an unnecessary complication.

Thus we fail to find in these various references to the “Book of Kings,” etc., any clear indication of the origin of matter peculiar to Chronicles; nevertheless it is not difficult to determine the nature of the sources from which this material was derived. Doubtless some of it was still current in the form of oral tradition when the chronicler wrote, and owed to him its permanent record. Some he borrowed from manuscripts, which formed part of the scanty and fragmentary literature of the later period of the Restoration. His genealogies and statistics suggest the use of public and ecclesiastical archives, as well as of family records, in which ancient legend and anecdote lay embedded among lists of forgotten ancestors. Apparently the chronicler harvested pretty freely from that literary aftermath that sprang up when the Pentateuch and the earlier historical books had taken final shape.

But it is to these earlier books that the chronicler owes most. His work is very largely a mosaic of paragraphs and phrases taken from the older books. His chief sources are Samuel and Kings; he also lays the Pentateuch, Joshua, and Ruth under contribution. Much is taken over without even verbal alteration, and the greater part is unaltered in substance; yet, as is the custom in ancient literature, no acknowledgment is made. The literary conscience was not yet aware of the sin of plagiarism. Indeed, neither an author nor his friends took any pains to secure the permanent 20 association of his name with his work, and no great guilt can attach to the plagiarism of one anonymous writer from another. This absence of acknowledgment where the chronicler is plainly borrowing from elder scribes is another reason why his references to the “Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah” are clearly not statements of sources to which he is indebted, but simply what they profess to be: indications of the possible sources of further information.

Chronicles, however, illustrates ancient methods of historical composition, not only by its free appropriation of the actual form and substance of older works, but also by its curious blending of identical reproduction with large additions of quite heterogeneous matter, or with a series of minute but significant alterations. The primitive ideas and classical style of paragraphs from Samuel and Kings are broken in upon by the ritualistic fervour and late Hebrew of the chronicler's additions. The vivid and picturesque narrative of the bringing of the Ark to Zion is interpolated with uninteresting statistics of the names, numbers, and musical instruments of the Levites.2626   Cf. 2 Sam. vi. 12-20 with 1 Chron. xv., xvi. Much of the chronicler's account of the revolution which overthrew Athaliah and placed Joash on the throne is taken word for word from the book of Kings; but it is adapted to the Temple order of the Pentateuch by a series of alterations which substitute Levites for foreign mercenaries, and otherwise guard the sanctity of the Temple from the intrusion, not only of foreigners, but even of the common people.2727   Cf. 2 Kings xi.; 2 Chron. xxiii. A careful comparison of Chronicles with Samuel and Kings is a striking object lesson in ancient historical composition. It is 21 an almost indispensable introduction to the criticism of the Pentateuch and the older historical books. The “redactor” of these works becomes no mere shadowy and hypothetical personage when we have watched his successor the chronicler piecing together things new and old and adapting ancient narratives to modern ideas by adding a word in one place and changing a phrase in another.


« Prev Chapter III. Sources And Mode Of Composition. Next »


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |