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Australian Biblical Review


ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 54, 2006

GARY N. KNOPPERS, I Chronicles 1–9 (AB: New York: Doubleday, 2004) Pp. xxii+514. $US49.95; II Chronicles 10–29 (AB: New York: Doubleday, 2004) Pp. Xxii+531. $US49.95.

Gary Knoppers’ two volume commentary on the book of Chronicles makes a worthwhile contribution both to the Anchor Bible Commentary series and to the world of biblical scholarship. A new translation of Chronicles is offered, an extended introduction to both volumes appears in the first and, in the usual style of the Anchor Bible Commentary Series, critical notes and comments on the text make up the bulk of the work. Where appropriate, the sources used by the Chronicler and the structure of a particular section of the text are discussed.

The Introduction covers the relevance of textual criticism; the Chronicler’s use of earlier biblical books; recent studies of Chronicles, particularly the unity and extent of the Chronicler’s work; theories of multiple editions; the debate over authorship and date; the issue of extra-biblical sources; whether Chronicles can be classified as a rewritten Bible; and Chronicles and the Canon. Within the extended discussion of the above topics, Knoppers provides a review of scholarship on them as well as a number of valuable insights and approaches to the study of Chronicles. As such, the Introduction is the key to the approach taken in the commentary.

As far as textual criticism is concerned, Knoppers highlights the contribution of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Only a fragmentary text of Chronicles has been found at Qumran, but Knoppers reviews the literature that highlights how the texts from the Dead Sea have changed the scholarly understanding of the relationship of the versions to one another and to the Massoretic text. It can no longer be assumed that the Massoretic text is the closest to the autograph. As a consequence, Knoppers does not always align his translation of Chronicles with the MT. The reader needs to be aware of this, since the complete translation of Chronicles that appears before the Introduction does not mention it. It is only later in the two volumes, in the notes that accompany the translation of each chapter and prior to comments upon it, that this is made clear.

In the section entitled “The Debate over Authorship and Date” Knoppers gathers together evidence of Chronicles being used by later works and considers the use Chronicles makes of earlier biblical works. By allowing time for Chronicles to have become widely enough disseminated for others to have made use of it and by calculating a similar gap at the earlier end of the spectrum for biblical works to have become sufficiently established for the Chronicler to have imitated or alluded to them, Knoppers arrives at the balanced judgement that Chronicles is likely to have been written around the mid third century BCE. In an important section called “Rethinking the Link between Source Criticism and Historical Reconstruction” Knoppers draws attention to the extensive archaeological and epigraphical data on the post-exilic period that has been uncovered in recent years. These, he posits, are a more reliable guide to dating than source criticism and should be considered alongside the text of Chronicles. He puts this perspective to good use at various points in the Commentary.

In an Excursus entitled “The Genealogies,” Knoppers displays his considerable knowledge of the Ancient World beyond Israel. He gives a survey of Mesopotamian genealogical traditions and briefly reviews secondary scholarship on them. He then turns to the Greek world and demonstrates very convincingly that the genealogies in 1 Chron 1–9 owe a great debt to them as well as to the Mesopotamian tradition. Pedigree, hierarchy and status are all concerns in genealogies, as Knoppers points out. However, one of the most concise and important remarks made by Knoppers is, “Whether in the ancient Greek or the early Jewish arena, whether in poetic verse or prose, each genealogical work represents a particular construction made by a particular author in a particular time from a particular vantage point” (Vol. I, p. 258). As he points out, in the genealogies of Chronicles, the spotlight is on a unified Israel—one that began in the universal human arena and continues to the period of the Restoration. The story of the United Monarchy, which follows the genealogies, evidences the same theme. Further, it points forward to the renewal of the institutions of Temple and of Jerusalem as a capital city in the Persian period.

Comments on individual pericope are limited in their depth. This is due mainly to the nature of commentaries on whole biblical works. However, there are times when more detail could have been given. For example, in the case of 1 Chron 8:29–40 and its close parallel 9:35–44, no mention is made of the differences in the two pericope. Indeed, they are deemed to be duplicates, with 9:35–40 posited as primary but with no justification for such a judgement being offered.

Overall, however, the two volumes will be of use to the scholar and student alike and they offer the benefits of a review of the state of research on Chronicles as well as some important insights into the nature of the work.

Review by
La Trobe University
Bundoora VIC 3086, Australia