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Australian Biblical Review


ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 60, 2012

ISAAC KALIMI, The Retelling of Chronicles in Jewish Tradition and Literature: A Historical Journey (Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 2009). Pp. xx + 395, Hardcover. $59.50.

At the outset, it must be stated that The Retelling of Chronicles in Jewish Tradition and Literature: A Historical Journey is a fascinating interdisciplinary work which is immensely readable and informative. Isaac Kalimi is celebrated for his studies on Chronicles. In the present book he draws attention to the rich interplay between the Biblical work and Jewish tradition from the Hellenistic Age to the Enlightenment. In so doing, he provides illumination about the extent of the dialogue with Chronicles and the role it played in Jewish culture, literature and Biblical interpretation. Further, as he states, “Thorough knowledge of interpretation’s history can eliminate scholars’ repeating of the same thoughts, interpretations and arguments” (6).

The book is split into six parts: Chronicles in the Hebrew Bible and in the New Testament; Chronicles in Jewish Hellenistic Sources; Chronicles in Ancient Texts and Ancient Art; Chronicles in Classical Rabbinic Literature; Chronicles in Medieval Jewish Literature; Chronicles and the Dawn of Modern Jewish Biblical Critical Scholarship. Kalimi has researched long and hard to gather together the materials—textual, artistic, inscriptional and ritual—as well as becoming conversant with the secondary writings that relate to them. In addition, he provides original interpretations in many cases as to why Chronicles, rather than Samuel–Kings was quoted or alluded to in specific instances. An example is that in the ancient synagogue of Dura-Europos, the fresco of Samuel anointing David pictures David as one of seven brothers, as he is in Chronicles. According to Kalimi, the contemporary view of the importance of the number seven played a part in this choice. Another example is that Chronicles, which Kalimi indicates is closer in spirit to Rabbinic writings than Samuel and Kings, is (along with Job, Daniel and Ezra) cited in the Mishnah as having the ability to keep the High Priest awake the night before the Day of Atonement! Kalimi considers scholarly views as to why this was so, but rejects them, asserting that the language of the cited works was late Hebrew/Aramaic and so closer to being contemporary with the High Priests than earlier works.

There is much in the work to interest the Biblical scholar. The presence of allusions to Chronicles in later works of the Hebrew Bible (Qoheleth; Daniel) is indicative of the status accorded to it. Further, passages from Chronicles lie behind a number of New Testament ones. Kalimi’s assertion that the story of the Good Samaritan is not history but akin to “rabbinic aggadic midrash” (60) accords well with the recognition that the New Testament belongs to the Jewish literary tradition.

As far as the Septuagint is concerned, the title of Chronicles Paralei—pomenon (omitted/left out) indicates it contained additional material, presumably to Samuel and Kings. This limited understanding of its purpose affected later Christian evaluations of Chronicles. Kalimi asserts that the few allusions to it in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha are to passages not paralleled by Samuel and Kings. A similar phenomenon is evidenced by Eupolemus and Josephus, although their use of Chronicles is much more extensive. The lack of copies of Chronicles among the Dead Sea Scrolls (one small fragment only) and the relatively few quotations or allusions to the work lead Kalimi to posit that Chronicles was not popular because of its more tolerant stance to intermarriage and the centrality of the Temple.

Review by
History Program, La Trobe University,
Bundoora VIC 3086