Narrative

The interaction between texts that were well on the way to being Scripture, and new texts that would eventually become so, can be seen most clearly in the books of Chronicles. Though there may be some independent sources lying behind Chronicles, it is clear that for the most part these books are a reworking of the books of Samuel and Kings—parts of the Deuteronomistic History. Chronicles describes the history of Judah as it would have been, if history conformed to more regular patterns of cause and effect, merit and reward. To this end the author has to rewrite Samuel-Kings extensively. But it is not as though Samuel-Kings itself had provided an objective account of events, while Chronicles gives us pure fantasy. The Deuteronomistic History is already far from neutral, and often reshapes the events it describes; while Chronicles clearly feels bound by the constraints of 'what really happened' to a much greater degree than if it were a work of pure fiction.

For example, in Chronicles David rather than Solomon takes most of the credit for the Temple: he plans it, collects the materials, appoints the builders (1 Chr. 28-9). This accords with the Chronicler's depiction of David as the originator of all Israel's sacred institutions. Yet it is still Solomon who actually inaugurates the building: evidently this was regarded as an unalterable fact. The Deuteronomistic version is pulled into a new shape, embellished, curtailed, rewritten; but it is not, strictly speaking, contradicted. For the Chronicler, it seems, the books of Samuel and Kings had a high—more or less a 'scriptural'— status, so that any retelling of the history must be in close reliance on them and not openly at odds with them. On the other hand, it was still apparently open to writers to produce an original retelling of the story, not just a commentary on the existing one.

And yet this retelling was like the original in conception and in style. It was a kind of pastiche, and skilful enough that the reader of the English Bible, faced with Samuel-Kings and Chronicles both rendered into the same 'biblical English', does not immediately see that one is an imitation of the other, but reads both alike as scriptural narrative. The text conceals the fact that there was a time (perhaps in the fifth century) when Samuel-Kings was already Scripture, and Chronicles was just another newly written work, with no authority but that of its author(s).

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