Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 5 (2004-2005) - Review

M. Christine Tetley, The Reconstructed Chronology of the Divided Kingdom (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2005).  Pp. xiv + 194.  Cloth, US $39.50.  ISBN 1-57506-072-8.

This volume, a revision of the author’s 2000 dissertation at the University of Melbourne, advances a new approach to and a new reconstruction of the chronology of Israel and Judah. The volume consists of nine chapters. The first provides an overview of the major issues involved in reconstructing the divided kingdom (DK) chronology. Here Tetley critiques “conventional approaches”—above all the work of Thiele—on four counts: (1) preference of the MT over the Greek chronology; (2) resort to various dating systems, including antedating, postdating, different calendars, and coregency; (3) reliance on the Assyrian Eponym Canon (AEC); and (4) making Menahem of Israel and Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria contemporaries.

            The second chapter reviews the transmission history of and textual witnesses to the book of Kings. Tetley’s approach is unique in its reconstruction of chronology based primarily on that of the Greek witnesses, which Miller and Shenkel found to be superior in Kings to the MT’s.

Chapter three surveys the chronological discrepancies between the MT/Kaige recension (KR) on the one hand and the OG/Lucianic (L) witnesses on the other. Tetley observes that these witnesses yield different totals for the length of the early DK (through the end of the Omri dynasty), when the figures for the two kingdoms and in the different witnesses should be the same. Likewise, while the witnesses agree on the length of the late DK of Judah (165 years), they give different totals for Israel. Tetley describes and further criticizes Thiele’s positing of different dating systems in the two kingdoms (as well as the mixing of the systems) and of coregencies as the means to explain these discrepancies.

            In chapter four Tetley focuses on the Lucianic manuscript c2, which frequently contains variant chronological data from those in the MT and the other L witnesses. Contrary to the common tendency to dismiss these variant data as artificial, Tetley concludes that c2 is a valuable witness to the L tradition in part because it is the only extant witness to “provide an internally consistent chronology for this period” (p. 63).

            Chapter five examines the regnal formulas. Tetley notes two types of closing formulas, one for all of the kings of Judah and those kings of Israel succeeded by a son, the other for assassinated kings of Israel who were not succeeded by a son. Because the first type predominates in OG/L, Tetley concludes that the second type is secondary. She also contends that the supplements that interrupt the direct transition from one king’s closing formula to the next king’s opening formula are additions.

            Tetley’s methodology for reconstructing chronology is the focus of chapter six. Tetley assumes the same dating system for both Israel and Judah; she eschews the postulation of interregnums and coregencies and proposes that the beginning of a king’s reign was reckoned from the time of his predecessor’s death, rather than by calendar year, and that the length of a reign was rounded up or down to the nearest whole year. Above all, she assumes that the original chronology was consistent, and while the OG/L text is generally the best witness to it, inconsistent variants in any witness must be secondary. As for absolute chronology, the likelihood that names are missing from the reign of Adad-nirari III in the AEC as well as inconsistencies between the AEC and the biblical account surrounding Israelite Joash’s payment of tribute in Adad-nirari’s fifth year render the AEC unreliable for dates before 763 bce. The second half of this chapter sharpens Tetley’s critique of Thiele for his dismissal of the Greek textual evidence and frequent appeals to coregencies.

            In chapters seven and eight Tetley lays out her relative chronologies for the early and late DK, respectively. The former is largely dependent on the ascription of six years to Abijam’s reign, following the OG/L testimony, rather than MT’s three. For the late DK, Tetley corrects what she views as errors of transmission and proposes dates not actually attested by any textual witness for several kings. She also advances a new date, 719 bce, for the fall of Samaria, contending against 2 Kgs 18:9, that the siege began under Sargon II rather than Shalmaneser V.

            The final chapter contains Tetley’s absolute chronology of the DK, beginning in 981 and synchronized with Assyrian, Phoenician, and Egyptian chronologies but with a preference for her reconstructed Hebrew chronology. On this basis, she restores forty-three years to the AEC and alters the dates for several Assyrian kings. She also identifies Pul with Shalmaneser IV rather than Tiglath-Pileser III, the Iaúa mar Ḫumri who paid tribute to Shalmaneser III as Joram rather than Jehu, and dates the accession of Sheshonq I to 997 rather than 945.

            Tetley is to be commended for taking the Greek evidence seriously. Her text critical analyses are the most valuable part of this book and will have to be carefully considered by scholars dealing with the book of Kings and its chronology, although her tendency to make text-critical decisions on the basis of chronological consistency—especially where manuscript c2 is concerned—is methodologically problematic and will not be well received. Tetley’s boldness in tackling the tortured topic of chronology and her tenacity in handling the complex data are certainly admirable. While her criticisms of Thiele are well placed, it is not clear whether her insistence on consistency has produced a better result overall. Her sometimes radical proposals—above all the prioritizing of her reconstructed biblical chronology over the AEC and other texts—are mostly doomed for rejection. Still, the possibility that she may prove right on one or more points makes Tetley’s provocative work worthy of serious consideration.

Steven L. McKenzie
Rhodes College
Memphis, TN 38112