Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 18 (2018) - Review

Auld, A. G., Life in Kings: Reshaping the Royal Story in the Hebrew Bible (AIL, 30; Atlanta: SBL Press, 2017). Pp. viii + 321. Cloth. US$39.95. ISBN: 9780884142126.

A. Graeme Auld, Professor Emeritus of Hebrew Bible at the University of Edinburgh, is known in the field for (among many other things) his advancement of a scholarly heresy: a common source for the books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. The mainstream view is that the Chronicler used Samuel-Kings as a source for his own work. One implication of the consensus view is that the material that is present in Samuel and Kings but not found in Chronicles was intentionally omitted by the Chronicler. However, if Auld and others such as Raymond Person are correct that the material found in both Samuel-Kings and Chronicles is drawn from a common source, then the development of the two works may have been roughly parallel and simultaneous.[1] It is this process of textual development of Kings which Auld develops in Life in Kings, building on his own work of several decades, including his Old Testament Library (OTL) commentary on Samuel, as well as a growing body of literature challenging old models of “literary dependence” and “textual development” in oral cultures.[2]

In the first chapter, Auld articulates his task: to demonstrate that the materials unique to Samuel and Kings (abbreviated as USKM in this review) differ in style and theme from the synoptic materials (SM) shared with Chronicles (which in his reconstruction is a preexisting work from a separate hand), and to suggest how the USKM could have been constructed using terms and names drawn from the SM.[3]

Auld begins by studying the usage of particular terms, constructions and topics/ideas in the synoptic passages (SM) in Samuel-Kings, which have small pluses in comparison to Chronicles. Chapter 2 (from which the title of the book is somewhat misleadingly drawn) considers the usage of “live/life/alive” terms (חיה/חי/חיים) in the SM, USKM, and UCM; chapter 3 expands the scope to יש, temporal markers (e.g., יום), the infinitive absolute (InfA), and other terms. Recognizing that linguistic evidence must be used with caution, Auld turns his attention in chapters 4–5 to thematic evidence differentiating the USKM from the SM in Samuel-Kings, and Chronicles as a whole.

One difficulty with the case that Auld makes for a common source is that it is difficult to falsify. Indeed, contrasting pieces of linguistic evidence may be marshaled in support of the common-source hypothesis. For example, if a linguistic marker (vocabulary or grammatic construction) occurs much more frequently within the USKM than in the SM or in the UCM, but with relatively the same frequency between SM and UCM, Auld takes this as evidence of a common source being supplemented in two directions (such as יום in pp. 40–42 and ישׁ in pp. 42–43). On the other hand, differences between Samuel-Kings' and Chronicles' presentations of synoptic material are also taken as evidence of a common source—for example, eight synoptic passages in which Samuel-Kings uses the infinitive absolute but Chronicles does not (pp. 47–52). In other words, synoptic material that is unrevised “in the direction” of Samuel-Kings' style, and also the synoptic material, which is revised in this way, are both used to support the common-source hypothesis. The “revised” synoptic material could conversely be explained as follows: 1) the Chronicler has appropriated Samuel-Kings material but reworked it without resorting to the infinitive absolute, which he does not seem to have favored (18x) nearly as much as the author(s) of Samuel-Kings (124x);[4] or, 2) the Chronicler used an earlier version of Samuel-Kings (which did not use the InfA frequently) and Samuel-Kings subsequently was subject to stylistic revisions (including liberal use of the InfA).

A weakness in the word counts used to make the initial case for Samuel-Kings supplementing a preexisting BTH is that they are mainly absolute counts of words/constructions, rather than frequency relative to total word count, or frequency of usage by genre—narrative, poetry, lists, direct speech, etc. Auld does “zoom in” to consider individual uses of words/constructions, but those “zoom in” moments tend to read as unconvincing attempts to explain away exceptions in defense of an arbitrary rule.

In chapter 6 (“Toward the Synoptic Narrative”), Auld proposes to use this linguistic evidence to produce a plausible reconstruction of how the USKM came to be added to the synoptic material. In chapter 7, summarizing from his OTL commentary, he shows how 1 Sam 1–30 and the Bathsheba material contain allusions to SM in 1 Sam 31 to 1 Kgs 2, and thus could have been supplements to SM. This yields some interesting literary observations: for example, 1 Sam 12 is not Samuel's farewell address but a “relaunch of his career” as a prophet rather than a political ruler (p. 114). In chapter 8, Auld seeks to explain why the Northern Israelite kings accounts in Kings are an expansion on SM by the author of Kings rather than an omission by the Chronicler. He argues that the major elements for constructing the Northern kings' narratives were already present in shared material. In chapter 9, the assessment of non-synoptic material concerning Judah's kings is similar: such material “is developed out of the resources of synoptic [material concerning] Judah—but influence also from the Latter Prophets generally, especially Jeremiah” (p. 159). Chapter 10 finally addresses the complexities of the Hezekiah/Isaiah narratives in the books of Isaiah, Kings and Chronicles. Contra the accepted wisdom that Chronicles is a late interpretation of the Isaiah/Kings material (p. 174),[5] Auld suggests that 2 Chr 32 can be viewed as an earlier stage in the development of tradition (p. 175). The character “Isaiah” in the book of Kings is more “proactive” than other prophets who speak to kings, patterned after non-synoptic Elijah and Elisha rather than synoptic Micaiah or Huldah (p. 182).

Chapter 11, “Reading the Written Kings,” summarizes the preceding arguments and suggests implications for the relationship between a “Book of Two Houses” (BTH), Deuteronomy, and Kings. Most significantly, Auld argues that Deuteronomy “appropriated much of the language of Kings and of its predecessor in the BTH, together with many of their concerns” (p. 201), but also “despecified” and “anonymized” the “place where YHWH would choose for his name to dwell,” so that Deuteronomy's teachings could be “available to a new situation or to different communities” (p. 199). Chapter 12 is by far the longest chapter in the book (pp. 205–78) and is an attempted reconstruction of the shared text of Samuel-Kings and Chronicles.

The back matter includes a ten-page bibliography, a Hebrew Bible index, and an abbreviated index of modern authors. There are very few typos or technical errors. With regard to editing, Auld's style throughout the book is rather terse, making the arguments difficult to follow in places. Several chapters begin without any sort of introduction, merely launching into the presentation of word usage totals or examination of individual instances; chapter conclusions are similarly brief or non-existent. I found it difficult to follow the larger argument when the individual data were not sufficiently interpreted or explained so as to relate them to the argument. This is partly due to my own weaknesses as a reader, no doubt—but it seems incumbent upon an author who marshals data in support of a bold claim to provide clear interpretations at each stage.

Among scholars who take the “consensus” view, it is now widely acknowledged that the Samuel-Kings Vorlage used by authors/editors who are responsible for the book of Chronicles (“the Chronicler” as a shorthand) likely differed from Masoretic versions of these books.[6] So, there is agreement between the consensus and the common-source theorists that each of these books underwent stylistic and substantive editing and rewriting after they diverged from one another. The question is whether that divergence is at an “early” (in terms of development, not time of composition) point from which USKM and UCM were added onto core material—the common-source view—or at a “later” point after Chronicles had used Samuel-Kings as a source (copying, revising, adding, and omitting). The linguistic arguments that Auld makes are intriguing, but many could be explained by 1) the pre-Chronicles development of Samuel and Kings from a variety of disparate sources; or 2) a lighter stylistic revision of Samuel-Kings at a later stage. For my part, though I remain mostly convinced of the consensus view, I find Person's general approach (explaining divergences based on oral performances of the same material)[7] more promising than Auld's, at least as summarized in Life in Kings.

Nevertheless, Auld is to be admired for such a thorough attempt to demonstrate a common source. A great deal of scholarship on Chronicles is based on the traditional view, but the work of Auld and others against the scholarly current has brought welcome caution and nuance to the study of the formation of these books. In the first chapter, Auld acknowledges how difficult it is for scholarly consensus to be overturned in any area—a key development or breakthrough in another area is often necessary. Perhaps with the wealth of studies on oral culture and scribal techniques, and with the development of electronic tools for stylistic analysis, the time is right for reevaluation. Heresies can serve to sharpen and strengthen orthodoxies—and can even replace orthodoxies, in time. Even those of us who are unconvinced of the substance of the common-source hypothesis will need to take account of the evidence in Life in Kings as we seek realistic models for the development of these ancient literary works.

Benjamin D. Giffone, LCC International University

[1] Aside from several of Auld's doctoral students, R. F. Person, Jr. is the most prominent advocate of the common-source idea; see Person, The Deuteronomic School: History, Social Setting, and Literature (SBLStBL, 2; Atlanta: SBL, 2002); The Deuteronomic History and the Book of Chronicles: Scribal Works in an Oral World (AIL, 6; Atlanta: SBL, 2010); “‘Identity (Re)Formation as the Historical Circumstances Required,’” in Louis C. Jonker (ed.), Historiography and Identity (Re)formulation in Second Temple Historiographical Literature (LHBOTS, 534; New York: T&T Clark, 2010), 113–21.

Auld highlights the following works of his doctoral students that have built on his position: J. R. Linville, Israel in the Book of Kings: The Past as a Project of Social Identity (JSOTSup, 272; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1998); L. Kucová, “Common Source Theory and Composition of the Story of the Divided Monarchy in Kings with Special Emphasis on the Account of Josiah's Reform” (PhD thesis, Edinburgh University, 2005); C. Y. S. Ho, “The Troubles of David and His House: Textual and Literary Studies of the Synoptic Stories of Saul and David in Samuel-Kings and Chronicles” (PhD thesis, Edinburgh University, 1994); Ho, “Conjectures and Refutations: Is 1 Samuel XXXI 1–13 Really the Source of 1 Chronicles X 1–12?” VT 45 (1995), 82–106; R. Rezetko, Source and Revision in the Narratives of David's Transfer of the Ark: Text, Language and Story in 2 Samuel 6 and 1 Chronicles 13, 15–16 (LHBOTS, 470; London: T&T Clark, 2007). reference

[2] A. G. Auld, I & II Samuel: A Commentary (OTL; Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011). Auld specifically highlights Person, The Deuteronomic History and the Book of Chronicles; D. M. Carr, The Formation of the Hebrew Bible: A New Reconstruction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); R. F. Person, Jr., and R. Rezetko, eds., Empirical Models Challenging Biblical Criticism (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2016).

Other significant works in this growing literature include: K. van der Toorn, Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007); R. Müller, J. Pakkala, and R. B. ter Haar Romeny, Evidence of Editing: Growth and Change of Texts in the Hebrew Bible (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2014); J. A. Berman, Inconsistency in the Torah: Ancient Literary Convention and the Limits of Source Criticism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017). reference

[3] Auld is defending his long-held view of the shared material in Samuel-Kings and Chronicles as a preexisting, coherent “Book of the Two Houses” (BTH). He frequently uses the more neutral descriptions “synoptic material” or the “shared narrative;” I abbreviate “SM” in this review. I designate the material unique to Samuel and Kings as “USKM” and the material unique to Chronicles as “UCM.” reference

[4] Auld anticipates this particular answer and argues that other pluses in these eight synoptic passages (in which Samuel-Kings uses InfA but Chronicles does not) are indicative of a common source, rather than Chronicles revising and abbreviating Samuel-Kings as a source. reference

[5] See, for example, the commentaries of Japhet, Klein, and Levin: R. W. Klein, 2 Chronicles: A Commentary (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012), 459; S. Japhet, I & II Chronicles (OTL; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1993), 975–980; Y. Levin, The Chronicles of the Kings of Judah: 2 Chronicles 10–36 (London/New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016), 350–51. reference

[6] G. N. Knoppers, 1 Chronicles 1–9: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (Anchor Bible; New York: Doubleday, 2004), 68. reference

[7] Person, The Deuteronomic History and the Book of Chronicles. reference