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Jonker, Louis C.
Defining All-Israel in Chronicles. Multi-lev-elled Identity Negotiation in Late Persian-Period Yehud.
Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2016. XVII, 358 S. = Forschungen zum Alten Testament, 106. Lw. EUR 124,00. ISBN 978-3-16-154595-5.
Louis Jonker has emerged as one the leading scholars of the Book of Chronicles. Informed by the post-Apartheid context in South Af-rica, J. has taken a particular interest in identity issues within the biblical corpus. In Defining All-Israel in Chronicles, J. examines the Book of Chronicles for evidence of identity negotiation within the complex socio-historical context of its primary community. This systematic and thorough study proceeds through eight chapters.
In chapter 1, J. introduces the field within which his work is situated. He addresses preliminary issues related to the reliability, composition, and nature of Chronicles as well as its ideological and rhetorical aims. The discussions are succinct and intended to introduce J.’s own interest in identity negotiation within a broader trend towards ideological analysis. J. argues that the reformulation of history in Chronicles is a rhetorical strategy intended to impact the present and that this necessarily implies identity negotiation. J . subsequently provides a brief overview of identity studies on Chronicles and other textual corpora, drawing attention to the work of Jonathan Dyck, Jon Berquist, and Dalit Rom-Shiloni. As the discussion is concise, the notes are valuable references to the extensive literature on the various topics J. engages.
In chapter 2, J. surveys four methods or approaches that have influenced his own thinking on identity, namely postcolonial stud-ies, utopian studies, social memory studies, and social-psycholog-ical studies. The discussion provides a useful review of such studies as applied within biblical studies. The chapter gives an impression that the proceeding study will exhibit a heavy theoretical emphasis but, in fact, J. rarely engages these studies overtly as theoretical models for exegesis. Instead, the summary of these studies provides some of the presuppositions and vocabulary that more subtly inform J.’s work.
In chapter 3, J. argues that the rhetorical effect and function of a text is, at least in part, intimately related to its historical contexts. Largely by appeal to authority, J. dates Chronicles to the late Per-sian period (appealing to Knoppers, McKenzie, and Klein) and assigns authorship to the Jerusalem literati (by appeal to Ehud Ben Zvi). Most of the chapter is taken up by a discussion of what J. calls a multi-levelled socio-historical existence: imperial, regional, tribal, and cultic. Unpacking the Chronicler’s commentary on these levels of socio-historical existence is the purpose of the next four chapters and the heart of J.’s book. J.’s introduction to these levels of socio-historical context draws on a wide range of literature and gener-ally summarizes the current state of scholarship quite well.
J. does an admirable job teasing out the ways in which the Chronicler interacts with the imperial context in chapter 4. J. identifies seven themes or points of interaction and argues that the Chronicler engages in a polemic or even mockery of empire. Personally, I find this latter conclusion not entirely convincing as the adoption of Persian ideology is not necessarily, or even at all, an attempt to supplant or undermine but rather could be a form of elite emulation and a strategy of legitimatization. In a polytheistic, polyvalent imperial context, it seems unlikely that the adoption of imperial rhetoric would be taken as subversive, that is, applying the ideology of Persian monarchy to Yahweh or Solomon does not displace Ahura-Mazda or the Achaemenids but rather it is to argue for legitimacy by asserting that these are regional manifestations, proxies, or models of the same (Ristau, Reconstructing Jerusalem, Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2016: 191–194; Bolin, »The Temple of yhd at Elephantine and Persian Religious Policy,« in The Triumph of Elohim, Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1995: 127–144). Nevertheless, this chapter is highly engaging and thought-provoking.
In chapter 5, J. effectively elucidates the Chronicler’s perspective on regional affairs, including the tension between inclusivity and a greater »All-Israel« concept on the one hand and exclusivity, cen-tered on claims for the priority of Judah and Jerusalem, on the other. Chapter 6 broaches a similar tension but where chapter 5 focuses mainly on regional states, such as Samaria, chapter 6 fo-cuses primarily on tribal entities and, in particular, the relation-ship between Benjamin and Judah. In these chapters, J. detects evidence in Chronicles for hybrid, overlapping identities, continuity and discontinuity, in these regional and tribal contexts.
In chapter 7, J. argues that the primary level of identity negotiation in Chronicles occurs in the cultic context and centres on the importance of the Jerusalem cult and the role of the Levites in the post-exilic era. J. stresses the very positive view of the Levites, even vis-à-vis the priests, but seems to feel somewhat constrained by Knopper’s influential study that argues for a via media and nuanc-ed presentation, and no proof of absolute equality between priests and Levites (273–275, cf. fn. 103). J. is ultimately unable to decide if the Chronicler’s views of the Levites and the cult are utopian.
In the final chapter, J. summarizes the results of his investiga-tion and considers the potential of his approach for studies of other textual corpora in the Hebrew Bible, specifically, the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings.
As a synthesis of scholarship on Chronicles and especially the issues of identity and identity negotiation, J.’s study is an important contribution to the field. J. always strives to recognize and relay, often by substantial quotations, the arguments and positions of scholars in the field. He effectively proves his thesis that Chronicles is a site for extensive and complex processes of social identity negotiation and, therefore, offers significant insight on the social identity of the primary community in which and for whom Chron-icles was written. The book is primarily geared to a scholarly audience with extensive use of the ancient languages and quotations of recent scholarship untranslated in their original languages. The book contains helpful text, author, and subject indices and an extensive bibliography.