A Translation Guide to the Chronological Data in Kings and Chronicles -- By: Leslie McFall

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 148:589 (Jan 1991)
Article: A Translation Guide to the Chronological Data in Kings and Chronicles
Author: Leslie McFall


A Translation Guide to the Chronological Data
in Kings and Chronicles

Leslie McFall

Former Fellow, Tyndale House
Cambridge, England

The year 1991 marks the 40th anniversary of what one reviewer called a “breakthrough” in Hebrew chronology.1 This breakthrough has deservedly won for its author—Edwin Richard Thiele—the praise of the scholarly world and has been described as “the most searching examination of the chronology of the Hebrew monarchies since the work of Begrich in 1929.”2 The same reviewer went so far as to speculate: “Indeed, it is not impossible that Thiele may some day enjoy the position in the margin of the Bible which was held for several centuries by Ussher.”3 Driver described Thiele’s system as an “important work, which comes very near to, if it does not actually reach, a final solution of the problem of the dates of the kings of

Israel and Judah.”4 Even a critic of Thiele’s system who accused him of manipulating variable factors to achieve his goal of fitting the biblical evidence into Near Eastern history and who described his work as “more a study in numerical ingenuity than in scholarly research” had to admit that “Thiele’s assumption is validated by the results achieved: inner consistency and harmony and conformity with the fixed dates of ancient Near Eastern history.”5 Thiele could take confidence from the fact that the combination of interlocking synchronisms and lengths of reign ties the years of Israel and Judah so tightly together as to make impossible any arbitrary adjustment of as much as a single year in the reign of any king, without introducing widespread disruption into an otherwise harmonious pattern.6

Yet this confidence in his detailed precision is regarded by Freedman as “a handicap rather than an asset,” and his “high regard for the massoretic [sic] figures is itself a witness against him.”7 Thiele did not hold to an accurate transmission of the original autographs of Kings and Chronicles in every detail. Indeed he argued that errors were made in the original composition of those autographs.8 Rowley, while having reservations about certain aspects of Thiele’s system, acknowledged its soundness with the words, “In such a theory there is nothing intrinsically unreasonable.”

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