In the 13th and 14th centuries the number of chronicles written in the vulgar tongue continued to increase, at least in continental Europe, which far outpaced England in this respect. From the 15th century, with the revived study of Greek and Roman literature, the traditional form of chronicles, as well as of annals, tended to disappear and to be replaced by another and more scientific form, based on the models of antiquity—that of the historical composition combining skilful arrangement with elegance of literary style. The transition, however, was very gradual, and it was not until the 17th century that the traditional form became practically extinct.
CHRONICLES, BOOKS OF, two Old Testament books of the Bible. The name is derived from Chronicon, first suggested by Jerome as a rendering of the title which they bear in the Hebrew Canon, viz. Events of the Times. The full Position
and date. Hebrew title would be Book of Events of the Times, and this again appears to have been a designation commonly applied to special histories in the more definite shape—Events of the Times of King David, or the like (1 Chron. xxvii. 24; Esth. x. 2, &c.). The Greek translators divided the long book into two, and adopted the title Παραλειπόμενα, Things omitted [scil. in the other historical books].
The book of Chronicles begins with Adam and ends abruptly in the middle of Cyrus’s decree of restoration, which reappears complete at the beginning of Ezra. A closer examination of those parts of Ezra and Nehemiah which are not extracted from earlier documents or original memoirs leads to the conclusion that Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah was originally one work, displaying throughout the peculiarities of language and thought of a single editor, who, however, cannot be Ezra himself as tradition would have it. Thus the fragmentary close of 2 Chronicles marks the disruption of a previously-existing continuity,—due, presumably, to the fact that in the gradual compilation of the Canon the necessity for incorporating in the Holy Writings an account of the establishment of the post-Exile theocracy was felt, before it was thought desirable to supplement Samuel and Kings by adding a second history of the period before the Exile. Hence Chronicles is the last book of the Hebrew Bible, following the book of Ezra-Nehemiah, which properly is nothing else than the sequel of Chronicles.
Of the authorship of Chronicles we know only what can be determined by internal evidence. The style of the language, and also the position of the book in the Jewish Canon, stamp the book as one of the latest in the Old Testament, but lead to no exact determination of the date. In 1 Chron. xxix. 7, which refers to the time of David, a sum of money is reckoned by darics, which certainly implies that the author wrote after this Persian coin had been long current in Judaea. In 1 Chron. iii. 19 sqq. the descendants of Zerubbabel seem to be reckoned to six generations (the Septuagint reads it so as to give as many as eleven generations), and this agrees with the suggestion that Hattush (verse 22), who belongs to the fourth generation from Zerubbabel, was a contemporary of Ezra (Ezra viii. 2). Thus the compiler lived at least two generations after Ezra. With this it accords that in Nehemiah five generations of high priests are enumerated from Joshua (xii. 10 seq.), and that the last name is that of Jaddua, who, according to Josephus, was a contemporary of Alexander the Great (333 B.C.). That the compiler wrote after the fall of the Persian monarchy has been argued by Ewald and others from the use of the title king of Persia (2 Chron. xxxvi. 23), and from the reference made in Neh. xii. 22 to Darius III. (336–332 B.C.). A date some time after 332 B.C. is now accepted by most modern critics. See further Ezra and Nehemiah.
What seems to be certain and important for a right estimate of
the book is that the writer lived a considerable time after Ezra,
and stood entirely under the influence of the religious institutions
of the new theocracy. This standpoint determined the
work. nature of his interest in the early history of his people. The true importance of Hebrew history had always centred in the fact that this petty nation was the people of Yahweh, the spiritual God. The tragic interest which distinguishes the annals of Israel from the forgotten history of Moab or Damascus lies wholly in that long contest which finally vindicated the reality of spiritual things and the supremacy of Yahweh’s purpose, in the political ruin of the nation which was the faithless depository of these sacred truths. After the return from the Exile it was impossible to write the history of Israel’s fortunes otherwise than in a spirit of religious pragmatism. But within the limits of the religious conception of the plan and purpose of the Hebrew history more than one point of view might be taken up. The book of Kings looks upon the history in the spirit of the prophets—in that spirit which is still echoed by Zech. i. 5 seq., but which had become extinct before the Chronicler wrote. The New Jerusalem of Ezra was organized as a municipality and a church, not as a nation. The centre of religious life was no longer the living prophetic word but the ordinances of the Pentateuch and the liturgical service of the sanctuary. The religious vocation of Israel was no longer national but ecclesiastical or municipal, and the historical continuity of the nation was vividly realized only within the walls of Jerusalem and the courts of the Temple, in the solemn assembly and stately ceremonial of a feast day. These influences naturally operated most strongly on those who were officially attached to the sanctuary. To a Levite, even more than to other Jews, the history of Israel meant above all things the history of Jerusalem, of the Temple, and of the Temple ordinances. Now the writer of Chronicles betrays on every page his essentially Levitical habit of mind. It even seems possible from a close attention to his descriptions of sacred ordinances to conclude that his special interests are those of a common Levite rather than of a priest, and that of all Levitical functions he is most partial to those of the singers, a member of whose guild he may have been. From the standpoint of the post-exilic age, the older delineation of the history of Israel, especially in the books of Samuel and Kings, could not but appear to be deficient in some directions, while in other respects its narrative seemed superfluous or open to misunderstanding, as for example by recording, and that without condemnation, things inconsistent with the later, post-exilic law. The history of the ordinances of worship holds a very small place in the older record. Jerusalem and the Temple have not that central place in the book of Kings which they occupied in the minds of the Jewish community after the Exile. Large sections of the old history are devoted to the religion and politics of the ten tribes, which are altogether unintelligible and uninteresting when measured by a strictly Levitical standard; and in general the whole problems and struggles of the prophetic period turn on points which had ceased to be cardinal in the life of the New Jerusalem, which was no longer called to decide between the claims of the Word of Yahweh and the exigencies of political affairs and social customs, and which could not comprehend that men absorbed in deeper spiritual contests had no leisure for the niceties of Levitical legislation. Thus there seemed to be room for a new history, which should confine itself to matters still interesting to the theocracy of Zion, keeping Jerusalem and the Temple in the foreground, and developing the divine pragmatism of the history, not so much with reference to the prophetic word as to the fixed legislation of the Pentateuch, so that the whole narrative might be made to teach that the glory of Israel lies in the observance of the divine law and ritual.
For the sake of systematic completeness the book begins with Adam, as is the custom with later Oriental writers. But there was nothing to add to the Pentateuch, and the period from Moses to David contained little that served the Contents. purpose. The early history is therefore contracted into a series of tribal and priestly genealogies, which were doubtless by no means the least interesting part of the work at a time when every
- See the lists in Driver, Lit. of Old Test. pp. 502 sqq.; and the exhaustive summary by Fr. Brown in Hastings’ Dict. Bible, i. 289 sqq.