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Books of Paralipomenon
(Paraleipomenon; Libri Paralipomenon).
Two books of the Bible containing a summary of sacred history from Adam to the end of the Captivity. The title Paralipomenon, books "of things passed over", which, from the Septuagint, passed into the old Latin Bible and thence into the Vulgate, is commonly taken to imply that they supplement the narrative of the Books of Kings (otherwise known as I-II Sam. and I-II Kings); but this explanation is hardly supported by the contents of the books, and does not account for the present participle. The view of St. Jerome, who considers Paralipomenon as equivalent to "epitome of the Old Testament", is probably the true one. The title would accordingly denote that many things are passed over in these books. The Hebrew title is Dibhere Hayyamim, "the acts of the days" or "annals". In the Protestant, printed Hebrew, and many Catholic bibles, they are entitled "Books of Chronicles".
UNITY AND PLACES IN THE CANON
The two books are really one work, and are treated as one in the Hebrew manuscripts and in the Massoretic summary appended to the second book. The division was first made in the Septuagint for the sake of convenience, and thence was adopted into the Latin Bibles. The Hebrew text was first divided in Bomberg's edition of the rabbinical Bible (Venice, 1516-7). Moreover, there is a probability that Paralipomenon originally formed part of a larger work which included the two Books of Esdras (Esdras Nehemias). For not only is there similarity of diction and style, of spirit and method, but I Esdras begins where II Paralipomenon ends, the decree of Cyrus being repeated and completed.
It should be remarked, however, that these facts can be explained by simple community of authorship. In the Septuagint and Vulgate, as well as in the Protestant bibles, the Books of Paralipomenon are placed immediately after the Books of Kings. In the printed edition of the Hebrew Bible they stand at the end of the third division, or Kethubhim.
The first part of I Paralipomenon (i-ix), which is a sort of introduction to the rest of the work, contains a series of genealogical and statistical lists, interspersed with short historical notes. It comprises: (1) the genealogy of the patriarchs from Adam to Jacob (i); (2) the genealogy of the twelve tribes (ii-viii); (3) a list of the families of Juda, Benjamin, and Levi dwelling in Jerusalem after the Exile, with the genealogy of the family of Saul repeated (ix). The second part of I Paralipomenon contains the history of the reign of David preceded by the account of the death of Saul (x-xxix). II Paralipomenon comprises the reign of Solomon (i-ix), and the reigns of the kings of Juda (x-xxxvi, 21). Part of the edict of Cyrus allowing the Jews to return and to rebuild the temple is added as a conclusion (xxxvi, 22-23). The historical part of Paralipomenon thus covers the same period as the last three Books of Kings. Hence naturally much of the matter is the same in both; often, indeed, the two narratives not only agree in the facts they relate, but describe them almost in the same words. The Books of Paralipomenon also agree with the Books of Kings in plan and general arrangement. But side by side with these agreements there are many differences. The Books of Paralipomenon narrate some events more briefly. or present them in a different manner, and omit others altogether (e.g., the adultery of David, the violation of Thamar, the murder of Amnon, and the rebellion of Absalom), while they dwell more on facts regarding the temple, its worship and its ministers, furnishing much information on these subjects which is not found in the other books. Moreover, they ignore the northern kingdom except where the history of Juda requires mention of it.
On comparing Paralipomenon with the Books of Kings we are forced to the conclusion that the writer's purpose was not to supplement the omissions of these latter books. The objects of his interest are the temple and its worship, and he intends primarily to write the religious history of Juda with the temple as its centre, and, as intimately connected with it, the history of the house of David. This clearly appears when we consider what he mentions and what he omits. Of Saul he narrates only his death as an introduction to the reign of David. In the history of David's reign he gives a full account of the translation of the ark to Mount Sion, of the preparations for the building of the temple, and of the levitical families and their offices; the wars and the other events of the reign he either tells briefly, or passes over altogether. Solomon's reign is almost reduced to the account of the building and the dedication of the temple. After the disruption of the kingdom the apostate tribes are hardly mentioned, while the reigns of the pious kings, Asa, Josaphat, Joas, Ezechias, and Josias, who brought about a revival of religion and showed great zeal for the temple and its worship, are specially dwelt on. Again, the additions to the narrative of the Books of Kings in most cases refer to the temple, its worship and its ministers. Nor is the decree of Cyrus allowing the rebuilding of the temple without significance. The same purpose may be noted in the genealogical section, where the tribes of Juda and Levi are given special prominence and have their genealogies continued beyond the Exile. The author, however, writes his history with a practical object in view. He wishes to urge the people to a faithful and exact adherence to the worship of God in the restored temple, and to impress upon them that thus only will the community deserve God's blessings and protection. Hence he places before them the example of the past, especially of the pious kings who were distinguished for their zeal in building the temple or in promoting the splendour of its worship. Hence, too, he takes every occasion to show that the kings, and with them the people, prospered or were delivered from great calamities because of their attachment to God's worship, or experienced misfortune because of their unfaithfulness. The frequent mention of the Levites and of their offices was probably intended to induce them to value their calling and to carry out faithfully their duties.
AUTHOR AND TIME OF COMPOSITION
The Books of Paralipomenon were undoubtedly written after the Restoration. For the genealogy of the house of David is carried beyond Zorobabel (I Paralipomenon, iii, 19-24), and the very decree of Cyrus allowing the return is cited. Moreover, the value of the sums collected by David for the building of the temple is expressed in darics (I Paralipomenon, xxix, 7, Heb.), which were not current in Palestine till the time of the Persian domination. The peculiarities of style and diction also point to a time later than the Captivity. The older writers generally attributed the authorship to Esdras. Most modern non-Catholic scholars attribute the work to an unknown writer and place its date between 300 and 250 B. C. The main reasons for this late date are that the descendants of Zorobabel are given to the sixth (in the Septuagint and the Vulgate to the eleventh) generation, and that in II Esdras (xii, 10, 11, 22) the list of the high-priests extends to Jeddoa, who, according to Josephus, held the pontificate in the time of Alexander the Great. These lists, however, show signs of having been brought up to date by a later hand and cannot, therefore, be considered as decisive. On the other hand, a writer living in Greek times would not be likely to express the value of ancient money in darics. Moreover, a work written for the purpose mentioned above would be more in place in the time immediately following the Restoration, while the position and character of Esdras would point him out as its author. Hence most Catholic authors still adhere to Esdrine authorship, and place the time of composition at the end of the fifth or at the beginning of the fourth century B. C.
The reliability of the Books of Paralipomenon as a historical work has been severely attacked by such critics as de Wette, Wellhausen etc. The author is accused of exaggeration, of misrepresenting facts, and even of appealing to imaginary documents. This harsh judgment has been considerably mitigated by more recent writers of the same school, who, while admitting errors, absolve the author of intentional misrepresentation. The objections urged against the books cannot be examined here in detail; a few general remarks in vindication of their truthfulness must suffice. In the first place, the books have suffered at the hands of copyists; textual errors in names and in numbers, which latter originally were only indicated by letters, are especially numerous. Gross exaggerations, such as the slaying of 7000 charioteers (I Paralipomenon, xix, 18) as against 700 in II Kings (x, 18) and the impossibly large armies mentioned in II Paralipomenon (xiii, 3), are plainly to be attributed to this cause. In the next place, if the sections common to Paralipomenon and the Books of Kings are compared, substantial agreement is found to exist between them. If the author, then, reproduces his sources with substantial accuracy in the cases where his statements can be controlled by comparing them with those of another writer who has used the same documents, there is no reason to suspect that he acted differently in the case of other sources. His custom of referring his readers to the documents from which he has drawn his information should leave no doubt on the subject. In the third place, the omission of the facts not to the credit of the pious kings (e.g. the adultery of David) is due to the object which the author has in view, and proves no more against his truthfulness than the omission of the history of the northern tribes. He did not intend to write a full history of the kings of Juda, but a history for the purpose of edification. Hence, in speaking of the kings whom he proposes as models, he naturally omits details which are not edifying. Such a presentation, while one-sided, is no more untruthful than a panegyric in which the foibles of the subject are passed over. The picture is correct as far as it goes, only it is not complete.