Thursday, March 29, 2012

Maccabean Chronology in the Pentateuch?

One idea that occasionally pops up in discussions of the stabilization of Hebrew scripture is that pro-Hasmonean scribes in the second century BCE redacted the chronology of the Pentateuch so that the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple by the Maccabees would fall in year 4000 anno mundi (in world history, from creation). The alleged motivation for this redactional move is that the Hasmonean government would somehow receive legitimation by being able to show that its rededication of the Temple occurred in such a propitious year.

According to some presentations of this view, the 'original chronology' of the Pentateuch aimed at validating the Solomonic temple. This was revised in the Samaritan Pentateuch with the goal of validating the temple on Mt. Gerizim. The Septuagint chronology perhaps aimed at validating the second (post-exilic) Jerusalem temple, and the MT aimed at validating the Hasmonean rededication of the temple. 

This is the way the argument runs, for instance, in Siegried Kreuzer, "From 'Old Greek' to the Recensions: Who and What Caused the Change of the Hebrew Reference Text of the Septuagint?" in Septuagint Research: Issues and Challenges in the Study of the Greek Jewish Scriptures, ed. Wolfgang Kraus and R. Glenn Wooden, SCS 53 (Atlanta: SBL, 2006), 232-33.The end of this post gives a list of some (not at all complete) other works that assume or argue for this idea of a Maccabean chronology in the Pentateuch.

In his 2005 book Writing on the Tablet of the Heart (Oxford), David Carr accepted this line of thinking.
Finally [i.e., the last point in a discussion of how the Hasmoneans gave the Hebrew Bible its final shape], the entire chronological system of the proto-Massoretic textual tradition of the historical books is structured so that the Hasmoneans' rededication of the temple falls exactly four thousand years after Creation, with the Exodus occurring in year 2666 after Creation--two-thirds of the way to the temple rededication. (p. 264)
[In my copy of Carr's book, in the margin beside this sentence, I find that I once wrote: "this would be awfully subtle, complicated, & pointless." I think that evaluation still holds, and perhaps Carr would now agree (see below)] 
In the footnote, Carr cites Jeremy Hughes, Secrets of the Times: Myth and History in Biblical Chronology, JSOTSup (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990), 233-37, which, Carr says, "provides a discussion of how the MT tradition deviates from other systems and possible problems with reading it as linked to the Hasmonean rededication."

But, in his more recent book The Formation of the Hebrew Bible: A New Reconstruction (Oxford, 2011), Carr reduces the argument to a footnote and signals a change in his view.
The most evocative proposal of Hasmonean-period revision of the Pentateuch (and Deuteronomistic history) is the observation that the sum of the dates of the proto-Massoretic biblical history, when combined with known dates for Persian- and Hellenistic-period rulers, gives exactly 4000 years from creation to the rededication of the temple by Judas Maccabeus (with the exodus placed at 2666 years after creation, two-thirds of the way to temple rededication). The problem with this proposal is that it depends on the authors of the proto-MT chronology having an accurate knowledge of the historical chronology extending from Cyrus to Judas, whereas our documented examples of Jewish historiography of the period (e.g., Ezra-Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel, Josephus) display apparent ignorance of that chronology. Cf. my Writing on the Tablet of the Heart [Oxford, 2005], 264 where I advocated this idea (building on earlier discussions by many others). I thank John Collins for bringing the problems with this proposal to my attention. (p. 171 n. 28, italics original)
This note is most interesting, mostly because it agrees exactly with my own thinking before reading Carr's book. My biggest problem with the idea that the MT chronology was redacted so that Judas' rededication of the Temple would fall in year 4000 anno mundi was that Second Temple Jewish authors seem not have had a good grasp of Second Temple chronology, and it was precisely John Collins, in his Commentary on Daniel (Hermeneia), that helped me realize this.

One proponent of the view does at least acknowledge this problem, though he does not give it its full weight. Marshall D. Johnson, The Purpose of the Biblical Genealogies (2d ed.; Cambridge, 1988), prefixes to his calculation the caveat: "Assuming that the post-exilic Jerusalem community in all probability kept historical records of some accuracy [...]" (p. 32).

One should note that the calculation of the exodus falling in year 2666 anno mundi is found already in Wellhausen, Prolegomena, 308, and he cites previous scholarship.

A Few Proponents of Maccabean Chronology in the Pentateuch 

A. Murtonen, "On the Chronology of the Old Testament," Studia Theologica 8 (1954): 133-37.

Philip R. Davies, In Search of "Ancient Israel", JSOTSup 148 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1992), 154.

Thomas L. Thompson, The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives: The Quest for the Historical Abraham, BZAW 133 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1974), 14-16.

Jeremy Hughes, The Secrets of the Times: Myth and History in Biblical Chronology, JSOTSup 66 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990), 234-35.

Klaus Koch, "Sabbatstruktur der Geschichte: Die Zehn-Wochen-Apokalypse (1 Hen 93:1-10; 91:11-17) und das Ringen um die alttestamentlichen Chronologien im späten Israelitentum," ZAW 95 (1983): 423-24; repr. in Vor der Wende Zeiten: Beiträge zur apokalyptischen Literatur, Gesammelte Aufsätze 3 (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1996), 68-69. 

Martin Rösel, Übersetzung als Vollendung der Auslegung: Studien zur Genesis-Septuaginta, BZAW 223 (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1994), 129-44.

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