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Asbury Bible Commentary – II. Authorship, Date, And Composition
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II. Authorship, Date, And Composition

II. Authorship, Date, And Composition

The book does not name an author. A rabbinic tradition maintains that Ezra wrote Chronicles. However, it is doubtful that this tradition is trustworthy. Some scholars assume that the author was a minister, perhaps a Levite, due to his intense concern for the temple and worship.

The language of Chronicles is close in form, vocabulary, and Aramaic influence to other later biblical books such as Ezra-Nehemiah, Esther, and Daniel. It is also similar to the language of the Isaiah Scroll of Qumran and the Samaritan Pentateuch. These similarities in style, and the fact that there are no traces of Hellenistic influence, call for a date of composition within the Persian Period. Chronicles was probably written sometime in the fourth century b.c. (Japhet, 533).

What sources did the chronicler use? He does not mention parallel biblical books, but he cites noncanonical materials. Royal annals, designated by the title “The Book of the Kings,” are usually qualified by the name of a specific kingdom (2Ch 16:11; 20:34; 24:27; 25:26; 27:7; 33:18; 35:27). The use of the names Judah and Israel in these phrases is not consistent, so they may refer to varations of the same annalistic work. Other sources are associated with the ministry and writing of prophets (1Ch 29:29; 2Ch 9:29; 12:15; 13:22; 20:34; 26:22; 32:32; 33:19). The author points to other documents, such as “the words of David and of Asaph the seer” (2Ch 29:30), “the directions written by David king of Israel and by his son Solomon” (2Ch 35:4), and “the laments” (2Ch 35:25).

What was the chronicler's main source? Though some have doubted that the canonical books of Samuel-Kings were his primary source, it is apparent that the chronicler was making use of authoritative Scripture to tell the nation's story to his contemporaries. His text was probably related to, but not identical with, the Masoretic tradition.

How did the chronicler handle his authoritative source? Sometimes he omitted materials, perhaps assuming that his audience was familiar with the contents of Samuel-Kings. He virtually ignored the history of the North. He deleted narratives regarding Absalom, Amnon, Adonijah, the apostate Solomon, and David's adultery. The chronicler controlled his source material to stress themes such as God's promise to David and the centrality of the temple.

What about the emendations to the stories recounted in Samuel-Kings? Some of these supplements came from the sources noted earlier. Some scholars have considered these stories as figments of the chronicler's imagination or revealing only the historical circumstances of the author's day. These additions may reflect reliable historical data. However, there is no scholarly unity regarding the nature of the sources. Did the chronicler use oral tradition, other written sources, or an enlarged form of Samuel-Kings? We do not know.