The Purpose of 1 and 2 Chronicles -- By: Jeffrey L. Townsend

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 144:575 (Jul 1987)
Article: The Purpose of 1 and 2 Chronicles
Author: Jeffrey L. Townsend

The Purpose of 1 and 2 Chronicles

Jeffrey L. Townsend

Grace Bible Church, Nacogdoches, Texas

Most works on 1 and 2 Chronicles emphasize the themes but not the purpose of this most sweeping of all historical perspectives in Scripture. The reason is given by Freedman: “It is not easy to answer the basic question: What was the underlying intention or primary objective of the Chronicler in compiling his work? At the same time it is not difficult to isolate the major themes which run through the history.”1

The goal of this article is to work with the major themes of 1 and 2 Chronicles and other data to seek to synthesize and support a purpose statement that subsumes the various particulars of 1 and 2 Chronicles. A number of factors must be considered, such as date, authorship, audience, literary genre, and the author’s selection and arrangement of the material.

Analysis of Various Factors in Chronicles

Date and Authorship

According to internal evidence Chronicles was written following the decree of Cyrus in 538 B.C. (cf. 2 Chron 36:22–23) and the return under Zerubbabel in 537 B.C. (cf. 1 Chron 9). In addition

the mention of Zerubbabel’s grandsons (cf. 1 Chron 3:19–212 ) dictates a date around 500 B.C. as the earliest possible time of composition.3

Many, including the Jewish Talmud (Baba Bathra 15a), hold that Ezra was the author of Chronicles and date the book around 450 B.C. shortly after his return to Jerusalem. Though appealing evidence can be gathered to support Ezra’s authorship of Chronicles,4 the proof is not airtight. In fact R. K. Harrison feels that “attempts to identify the Chronicler with Ezra appear inadvisable because of significant differences in style, historical and theological perspective, the treatment of source material, and the basic metaphysic of history as exhibited in the two compositions.”5 Since with present knowledge the authorship of 1 and 2 Chronicles cannot be determined with certainty, the author is referred to as “the chronicler.”

Although 1 and 2 Chronicles have been dated as late as the Maccabean period,6 manuscript evidence from Qumran points to a date as early as around 400 B.C.You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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