The Retelling of Chronicles in Jewish Tradition and Literature

Isaac Kalimi Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake, IN November 30, 2009
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This work consists of a collection of essays that could each stand independently but that are bound together thematically, diachronically, and logically. Its seventeen chapters are gathered into six parts as follows: (1) Chronicles in the Hebrew Bible and in the New Testament; (2) Chronicles in Jewish Hellenistic Sources; (3) Chronicles in Ancient Texts and Ancient Art; (4) Chronicles in Classical Rabbinic Literature; (5) Chronicles in Medieval Jewish Literature; and (6) Chronicles and the Dawn of Modern Jewish Biblical Scholarship. The fact that each of these topics is challenge enough by itself as a subdiscipline of biblical scholarship testifies to the breadth and depth of learning exhibited by the author, considered rightly as one of the leading authorities in contemporary studies on the traditionally neglected book of Chronicles.

Kalimi addresses the issue of the “unappreciated and neglected status” of the book in his very first chapter and then expresses optimism about the current interest in Chronicles in light of the productivity of scholars representing many religious traditions. Also he notes (correctly) that few studies exist that trace the history of Chronicles research, thus justifying the need for the present work.

Chapters 2 and 3 provide scores of instances where both the Old and New Testaments allude to Chronicles, especially in the first case Qoheleth and Daniel, both of which Kalimi dates late in the Second Temple period in line with prevailing critical scholarship. As for the New Testament, he cites at length Matthew 23:35 and Luke 11:50–51a and their reference to the “Murder in the Temple” of the priest Zechariah. The only other example developed at all is the story of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:30–37, which some interpreters argue finds its source in 2 Chronicles 28:5–15, which tells of certain Samaritans who ministered to Judean soldiers who had been maltreated by both Arameans and other Israelites. This connection seems somewhat contrived and Kalimi himself seems not to have been greatly convinced by it.

The same attempts to document the use of Chronicles in later literature are in chapter 4 (“Chronicles’ Use in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha”) and chapter 5 (“Chronicles in the Septuagint, the Judeo-Hellenistic Historians, and the Philosopher Philo”). Chapters 6–8 trace Chronicles’ impact on, respectively, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Cairo Geniza; Dura-Europos and the Cognate Arts; and the Mosaic Inscription of the Ancient Synagogue at Ein-Gedi. Chronicles and classical rabbinic literature are explored in chapters 9–11 as follows: in the Mishnah, Talmud, and Midrash; in the Targum; and in Jewish liturgy and religious literature. Part 5—“Chronicles in Medieval Jewish Literature”—surveys “Medieval Jewish Biblical Interpretation: Comments and Commentaries on Chronicles,” “Chronicles in Medieval Jewish Mystical Writing: The Zohar”; “Chronicles in Medieval Jewish Poetry,” and “Chronicles in Medieval Jewish-Christian Disputes” (with a notable omission of reference to Nicholas de Lyra).

Finally, Kalimi offers an invaluable discussion on “Chronicles and the Dawn of Modern Jewish Biblical Critical Scholarship,” with special focus on de’Rossi, da Costa, Delmedigo, and Spinoza. With the exception of Spinoza, these other pioneers in modern critical approaches to the Old Testament are largely unknown to Christian scholars, even those who practice a classical form of that discipline. A survey of the indexes of the introductions by Brevard Childs (1979), Otto Eissfeldt (1965), S. R. Driver (1956), Robert Pfeiffer (1952), and J. Alberto Soggin (1974) reveals that not one of them mentions any of the above except for Benedict Spinoza. Kalimi’s contribution in even this seemingly unimportant history of criticism is in itself significant.

Christian students, especially those interested in the book of Chronicles, cannot afford to disregard this contribution to a burgeoning field of Second Temple literary interest and Jewish participation in it. Kalimi has set the table—young scholars should sit down and feast on what he has to say.

—Eugene H. Merrill

April 1, 2013
 

Biblotheca Sacra

This review appeared in the Apr-Jun 2013 vol. 170 no. 2 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.

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