Part I: The Validity of the Numbers in Chronicles -- By: J. Barton Payne

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 136:542 (Apr 1979)
Article: Part I: The Validity of the Numbers in Chronicles
Author: J. Barton Payne

Part I:
The Validity of the Numbers in Chronicles

J. Barton Payne

[J. Barton Payne, Professor of Old Testament, Covenant Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri.]

The books of 1 and 2 Chronicles, and particularly the numbers they contain, have become a front line for recent critical attack in the battle for the Bible. The following illustrations represent four degrees of departure from belief in the validity of Scripture, in a descending order of hostility toward Chronicles. Most extreme is traditional liberalism, as represented by this warning from the late Robert H. Pfeiffer:

It is an error to consider the Chronicler as a writer of history. It is futile to enquire seriously into the reliability of any story or incident not taken bodily from Samuel or Kings. His…grandiose pretensions could never have been established by means of a sober assembling of the facts of past history…. Of necessity the Chronicler was led to fabricate wonderful evidence to prove his case.1

Such “modernism” has now been outdated, particularly by the archaeological evidences that William F. Albright delighted to adduce.2 But still, as a second illustration, today’s neoevangelicalism

continues to invoke Chronicles, and particularly its numbers, as “Exhibit A” for its attack against biblical inerrancy. Thus LaSor argues, “When there are seven or eight places where the number in Chronicles is ten times that given in Samuel or Kings, it strains credulity to believe that textual corruption is the reason for all of the differences.”3 Less directly skeptical is Pinnock’s proposal, in this same publication, that “Where the Chronicler recounts figures quite different from those in parallel passages, his intention is one of being only to set forth the record as he found it in the public archives.”4 Yet is the Chronicler intending merely to quote, noncommittally, from faulty sources? Or is he stating what he himself intends? The situation seems to parallel one which the present writer decried in a paper in 1960.5 A fourth illustration is represented by Ellison, who feels constrained to admit the following:

One of the main problems in Chronicles is bound up with the numbers contained in it. Many are impossibly large, some disagree with Samuel and Kings, others are incompatible with the discoveries of archaeology. Yet there are other numbers that will not make sense of the usual suggestion that we are dealing with plain exagg...

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