Dating 1 and 2 Chronicles via Archaeological Anomalies and Anachronisms
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05 May 2001
10 Dec. 2002 Update at the end
May and Metzger, succinctly sum up the prevailing views on the date of 1 and 2 Chronicles' composition in 1977:
"In the Hebrew Bible 1 and 2 Chronicles were originally a single book, as were 1 and 2 Samuel and also 1 and 2 Kings. The two books of Chronicles are now usually considered to have been part of a larger work which inluded the books of Ezra and Nehemiah...The sources used by the Chronicler are mainly the books of Samuel and Kings, which are often quoted verbatim though never mentioned by name. Likewise utilized are parts of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua and Ruth...If Ezra-Nehemiah are a part of the Chronicler's work, our books cannot be dated before about 400 BC. Some scholars date them as late as 250 BC well into the Greek period. Since the evidence of Greek influence are few, it is well to adopt an intermediate date of 350-300 BC."
(p.495, "Introduction to Chronicles," in Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, editors. The New Oxford Annotated Bible With the Apocrypha. New York. Oxford University Press. 1977)
May and Metzger are probably referring to Myers' work on Chronicles, published in 1965. Myers concluded one author had written Chronicles and Ezra/Nehemiah:
"Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah are so closely related in thought, language, and theology that not only must they have come from a single hand, with possibly a few exceptions, but, like the other great literature of Israel, their author must have had in view a purpose that the earlier histories of his people did not meet in the form in which they had been transmitted."
(p.xx, "The Intention of the Chronicler," Jacob M. Myers. II Chronicles. Garden City, New York. Doubleday & Co. The Anchor Bible Series. 1965)
Myers' conclusions have since been challenged by other scholars. I am unaware of attempts to date Chronicles via Archaeological anomalies and anachronisms, which is the subject of this article.
Although the Chronicler utilizes, verbatim, extracts from the Primary History (Genesis-2 Kings), he does slip in "new facts" from time to time. It is with one of these "historical snippets," that a date can be arrived at for the works' composition.
We are told by the Chronicler that King Solomon built in addition to the fortified chariot cities of Gezer, Hazor and Meggido, Tadmor in the wilderness, near Hamath and Zobah (2 Chr. 8:4).
Myers on Tadmor:
"Tadmor does not occur in the parallel (I Kings 9:18); the name given there is Tamar, which is was a small village southwest of the Dead Sea...The alteration of Tamar to Tadmor is usually attributed to the Chronicler's attempt to glorify Solomon, since Tadmor was an important center east of Zobah on the caravan route to Mesopotamia (Tadmor later became Palmyra). It is to be noted that the Kings reference appears in a different context and thus the Chronicler may indeed preserve another tradition since he places it immediately after Hamath-Zobah in whose territory Tadmor was located...There is just a possibility that Solomon may have constructed some kind of fortification at or in the vicinty of Tadmor to check the Arameans, who threatened the outskirts of his empire. If we admit his endeavor to control Aramean pressures then the fortifying of Tadmor or its environs is not impossible."
White on Tadmor:
"Tadmor...It is mentioned in the Assyrian records of Tiglath-pileser I (1115-1100 BCE) as tadmar sa mat amurri, "Tadmor of the Amurru country" (ANET, 275). Amurru, or Aram, was located in what is now modern-day Syria...Tadmor later became known as Palmyra to the Greeks; it was a large and important trading center until its destruction by the Roman emperor Aurelian in 273 CE...The identity of Tadmor in 2 Chronicles 8:4 as the northern oasis on the trade route connecting Mesopotamia and Palestine is certain. The city is mentioned as part of Solomon's building program immediately after the recounting of his conquest of Hammath-zobah in Syria. Therefore the identification of Tadmor as the city mentioned in the Assyrian records, later known as Palmyra, is clear."
(ABD 6.307, Sidnie Ann White, "Tadmor," 1992)
Gawlikowski on Palmyra (Tadmor):
"Disregarding some Paleolithic flint finds and a few Bronze Age sherds, the earliest remains discovered in Palmyra date to the 2d century BC, and consist of burial deposits in the underground family tomb of Yedi`bel. The first safely dated inscription, commissioned by the priests of Bel in 44 BC is nearly contemporary with a failed attempt by troops of Mark Antony to loot the city, which had hastily been evacuated by the inhabitants (Appian, BCiv 5.9). A tiny chapel of the Arab goddess Allat was erected before ca. 50 BC, but all other extant monuments were built around the BC/AD transition or later...Statutes of Tiberius and his kin were erected in the temple of Bel in 17 AD. Under Nero, the senate was created...By the time of Nero, Palmyra had already risen to prominence as a major merchant power, with outposts in Babylon and Seleucia-on-Tigris, and later in Vologesias and Charax, river ports closer to the Persian Gulf...The present-day ruins correspond largely to the inner city of the 2d-3d centuries AD, as preserved within the reduced perimeter of the Diocletian's wall...The major monument of Palmyra is the sanctuary of Bel, erected on top of a mound which was the likely site of the early settlement and its temples. The present cella, dedicated in 32 AD..."
(ABD 5.136-7, M. Gawlikowski, "Palmyra," 1992)
Excavations have been conducted at Tadmor, but have failed to substantiate the Chronicler's claim that it was founded by Solomon.
Although mention is made of Bronze Age sherds, no Iron Age sherds have been reported, nor have structures been found indicating the presence of a fortified city as suggested in the Chronicler's narrative about Solomon being the founder. Now Solomon was famous for not only building great fortresses or chariot cities, but also for international trade. Certainly Tadmor is in a key location for controlling the trade route between Damascus and Mesopotamia, and ought to have some ruins- but nothing has been found predating the Hellenistic city which arose sometime in the 1st century BCE. Gawlikowski speculates that perhaps beneath the earthen mound upon which the temple of Bel sits, are the ruins of earlier temples and the city of an earlier age. Until further excavations take place, to establish his hunch, we are forced to conclude that on the basis of the present archaeological information, that Solomon did not fortify this city because it wasn't in existence in his days. Although Assyrian records mention Tadmar of the Amurru country, they might be alluding to a nomadic "city." The nomads believed that structures, that is, houses or homes, shouldn't be built for this tied one down to the land and then made it possible for an invader to conquer and rule over you. Better to remain a free man, strike one's tents, and retire into the wastes of the wilderness, eluding the invader.
So Tadmar was important for its springs which sustained weary caravans crisscrossing the wilderness between Canaan and Mesopotamia, but the local inhabitants were probably nomadic. Tadmor's rise to fame as a "caravan trade city" was in the 1st century BCE when the earliest ruins appear. This archaeological anomaly suggests that the Chronicles had to have been composed not earlier than the 1st century BC. Josephus knew of Tadmor's fame as Palmyra, mentioning the city in his famous history of the Jews (written ca 80-90 AD).
Josephus on Tadmor:
"Nay, Solomon went as far as the desert above Syria, and possessed himself of it, and built there a very great city, which was distant two day's journey from the Euphrates, and six long days' journey from Babylon the Great. Now the reason why this city lay so remote from the parts of Syria that are inhabited, is this : That below there is no water to be had, and that it is in that place only that there are springs and pits of water. When he had therefore built this city, and encompassed it with very strong walls, he gave it the name of Tadmor; and that is the name it is still called by at this day among the Syrians; but the Greeks name it Palmyra."
(Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews. 8.6.153-154)
Cornell and Matthews on Palmyra's "unusual groundplan," suggesting it followed earlier bedouin encampments about the various springs:
"The most striking feature of the plan of Palmyra is its irregularity. The temple of Bel, the houses behind it, and the theater are out of alignment, and the arrangement of the theater and adjoining agora is asymmetrical. The great colonnade assumes three different directions and the transverse colonnade is not perpendicular to it. The explanation of the irregularity lies in the the pattern of pre-Roman occupation of the site, itself dependent on the position of the oasis and location of the water sources. It has been suggested that the inhabitants had retained something of their bedouin lifestyle, encamped in different areas of the site, which developed as different quarters of the Roman city."
(p.159. "Palmyra." Tim Cornell and John Matthews. Atlas of the Roman World. New York. Facts on File. 1994)
Although mentioned in Assyrian annals, Tadmor may have existed at that time only as a place where nomads gathered to water their flocks. No structures have been found of the Bronze or Iron Ages. The lack of Iron Age sherds is surprising as Tiglath-Pileser I mentions the place (perhaps more thorough archaeological surveys are needed of this area?).
Until future archaeological work establishes an earlier history for Tadmor, the present evidence suggests the city was created not earlier than the 1st century BC (a 2d century BC tomb is not proof of a city's existence), and rose to fame as a caravan city in the same century. I am of the opinion, that this archaeological anomaly dates Chronicles as a composition not earlier than the 2d century, but more likely, the 1st century BC. Interestingly, some of the compositions found amongst the various Dead Sea Scrolls caches have been dated to this same period of time, the 2d-1st centuries BC.
Update 10 December 2002 :
Most scholars suspect Chronicles is perhaps a Post-Exilic or Persian Era creation, as its last verses mention Cyrus the Persian setting free God's people from the Babylonian Exile (2 Chron 36:20-23). Of some note, in this regard, is the mention of the Solomonic Temple's costs in Jerusalem being reckoned in "Darics" (1 Chron 29:7). These were gold coins introduced by the Persian King Darius I (ca. 521-486 BC). It would be strange that if Chronicles is a ca. 1st century BC composition, that the Temple's costs were not reckoned in Greek Drachmas, but Persian Darics. So, it is possible that Chronicles is a Persian era creation rather than a Hasmonean work.