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Coii^posltion and Historical Value




Dr. Charles C. Torrey




Zeitschrift fiir die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft.



Composition and Historical Value




Dr. Charles C Torrey

Instructor in the Semitic Languages at Andover Theological Seminary.

G i e s s e n
J. Ricker'sche Buchhandlun



Composition and Historical Value


Ezra- N ehemiah.


Dr. Charles C. Torrey

Instructor in the Semitic Languages at Andover Theological Seminary.


J. Ricker'sche Buchhandlurig



1. The Composition

A. Analysis of Ezra i — 6 p. 4

B. The Source of Ezra 7 — 10, Neh. 8 — 10 p. 14

C. The Original Position of Neh. 7, 70' — 8,

18; 9, 10 p. 29

D. The Chronicler's Share in Neh, i — 7 . , p. 35

E. The Origin of Neh. 11 — 13 . . ... p. 42
Table of the Analysis P- 49

2. The Historical Value P- 51

I. The Composition of the Book.

It is at present generally agreed that Chr.-Ezr.-Neh.
originally formed one book, -Which was put in its final form
by the author of the book of Chronicles, commonly called
"the Chronicler". It is also agreed that a not inconsiderable
part of the Ezra-Nehemiah history was composed by this
same writer. The portions thus ascribed to him by common
consent are (with slight variations): Ezr. i. 3. 4, i — 5. 24
(Aramaic); 6, 16—22 (partly Aramaic); 7, i — lO; 8, 35. 36;
Neh. 12, I — 26. 44 — 47. Many of the foremost critics add
Ezr. 7, 12—26; Neh. 13, 1—3.

In nearly or quite all of these passages believed to have
been written by the Chr., he is supposed to have been
using older documentary sources; not because this is made
probable by anything in the passages themselves, or be-
cause the Chr. has the reputation of being a trustworthy
historian, — the reverse is the case, — but because he
seems to have preserved in the book Ezr. -Neh. at
three documents that give valuable information concerning
the history of the period; namely, the personal memoirs of
Ezra and Nehemiah, and a document written in Aramaic
dealing with events connected with the building of Jerusalem,
and especially the temple. From these sources, which he
generally reproduces verbatim, he is supposed to have
derived the information given in his own words.

I think it can be shown that the Chr.'s written sources
are represented only by the following sections: i. Ezr.

Beihefte z. ZATW. II. Torrey, The Composition &c. I

4, 8 — 6, 14, a free composition in Aramaic; 2, Neh. i. 2.
3, 33 — 6, 19, the authentic Memoirs of Nehemiah. It will
appear that we have no reason to suppose that any other
sources, written or oral, were used by the Chr. In parti-
cular, he is seen to have been the sole author of the
supposed "Memoirs of Ezra".

Attention has recently been called anew to the literary
and historical problems of Ezr.-Neh., chiefly through
the controversy between van Hoonacker and Kuenen
(1890 — 1892), and that between Kosters and Wellhausen
(1893— 1895). Van Hoonacker' attempted to prove that
Neh.'s career falls- in the reign of Artaxerxes L; that of
Ezra in the reign of Artaxerxes II. Kuenen, in his reply ^
defended the generally accepted view. The elaborate in-
vestigations of Kosters require especial mention here. In
his Herstel van Israel in Jiet Pcrzische Tijdvak (Leiden,
1893)^, he reaches the following chief conclusions: i. The
narrative contained in Ezra i — 4 is untrustworthy; even
the return of exiles under Cyrus is disproved by other
evidence. 2. The Aramaic portion of Ezra is the work
of three different authors; 4, 8 — 24 he assigns to the
Chronicler, while in 5. 6 he concludes that we have two
separate documents united by a redactor. 4 3. Ezra and
the company that returned with him are to be given greater

1 Nekemie et Esdras. Louvain, 1890. Also (in reply to Kuenen):
Nehemie en Van 20 cCArtax. I., Esdras en Van ^ifArtax. II. Gand, 1892;
Zorobabel et le Second Temple. Gand, 1892.

2 De Chronologie van het Perzische Tijdvak. Amsterdam, 1890. (Trans,
in Gesammelie Abhandlimgen, 1894, p. 212 ff.)

3 Tra.ns.hy '&2iSQdiOvf, Die Wiederhersiellung Israels. Heidelberg, 1895.
I have seen only this translation. Kosters has also published a reply
to Wellhausen in the Theol. Tijdschr., 1895, p. 549 ff.

4 This strange theory is disposed of by Wellhausen in his reply
to Kosters (see below), p. 176.

prominence than ever in the history of Jerusalem. 4. The
original order of the narrative is to be restored as follows:
Neh. I, 1—7, 5; II, 3—36; 12, 1 — 26; II, if; 12, 27—43.
44—47; 13, 4—31; Ezr. 7— lO; Neh. 9; lO; 13, i— 3;
7, 6—8, 18. The disturbance of this order in our present
1 text is due, not to accident, but to the deliberate purpose
of the redactor. Kosters' conclusions as to the composition
of the Ezra- Neh. part of the narrative do not differ
materially from those of other critics. He believes that we
have here, in the main, trustworthy history.

The most valuable part of Kosters' work is his exa-
mination of the evidence relating to the restoration under
Cyrus.' He argues with force that the testimony in its
favor is limited to the Chr.'s statements; and shows that
the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, as well as Ezra 5. 6,
know nothing of such a return of exiles. As for Kosters'
treatment of the history of Ezra and Nehemiah, it is not
so easy to feel confidence in it. His restored order of the
text is not justified even by his own hypothesis (/. c,
p. Ii6f.), which is itself improbable enough. Moreover,
Jiis whole theory falls to the ground unless he is allowed to
cancel or deny the date given in Ezr. 7, 7. 8. So he
himself acknowledges (p. 115). His attempt to get rid of
the difficulty is courageous, but by no means successful.
The same may be said of his treatment of the date in
Neh. 9, I (p. 85); and there are many examples of arbitrary
dealing with the text, some of which will be noticed
below. His work well illustrates the difficulties into which
a thorough -going historical criticism of Ezra -Neh. will
bring the man who tries to take the Ezra narrative

I Wiederherstellung, p. I7ff.

Wellhausen, in his reply to Kosters^ maintains the
generally accepted view of the post-exilic history; though
making certain concessions^ in the matter of the return
under Cyrus, and in regard to the possibility that Ezra's
work in Jerusalem may have followed that of Neh., as
claimed by Kosters.

A. Analysis of Ezra i — 6.

As the present investigation is concerned chiefly with
the part of the book relating to Ezra and Nehemiah, I
shall not attempt h^e to discuss at length the portion
contained in ch. i — 6. The problems connected with the
question of its original extent and form are complicated
and interesting, involving especially the inquiry into the
relation of i Esdras to our canonical Ezra. I shall endeavor
to omit here all that is not essential to my present purpose,
reserving for another time the further investigation of these
first six chapters. 3

Ezra I ff. is the continuation of Chronicles, by the same
writer, as external and internal evidence combine to show.
In one (the canonical) form of the text, the two books
overlap each other by several verses; in the other (i Esdras),
by two whole chapters. Moreover, the very noticeable
peculiarities of the Chr. narrative continue to show them-

1 Die Riickkehr der Jtiden aus dent babyl. Exil. (Nachrichten d.
Konigl. Gesellsch. d. Wissenschaften zu Gottingen, 1895, P- ^66 — 186).

2 Z. c, p. 185 f.

3 I hope to show in particular, if I have opportunity: i. That
1 Esdras exhibits in these six chapters a version somewhat nearer to
the archetype than our Ezra; and that it is throughout its whole extent
of the greatest importance for restoring the original text. 2. The Story
of the Three Pages, which is a secondary addition to the book, was
written in Aramaic. 3. The original form of this part of the narrative,
from Cyrus to Ezra, can be ascertained with practical certainty.


selves in Ezra; the style also (one of the most strongly
marked of any in the O. T.) is the same. These argu-
ments were set forth in a convincing way by Zunz, Die
gottesdienstlichen Vortrcige der Judcn, 1832, p. 21 ff., and
have been repeated many times since. It is now generally
agreed that ch. i; 3; 4, 1 — 5. 24; 6, 16 — 22 were written
wholly by the Chronicler, whatever may have been his

Ch. 2, which contains the list of those who came up
from Babylon with Zerubbabel, has been generally left out
of the discussion, because of the prevailing belief that it
was either borrowed from"Neh. 7, or else, like the correspond-
ing portion of that chapter, taken from the older source
that seems to be mentioned there (vs. 5). I think it will
not be difficult to show that this chapter also, like the
preceding and following, is from the hand of the Chronicler.
Obviously, the argument should beg^n with an examination
of the passage in its context in the book of Nehemiah.
As this can be done better in connection with the in-
vestigation of that book, and as some facts having an
important bearing on the question will come to light in
course of the study of the Ezra narrative, I will reserve
the discussion until Neh. 7 is reached.

With 4, 8 begins the long Aramaic section, extending
to the end of 6, 18. This contains: i. an account of how
the building of Jerusalem was hindered by enemies of the
Jews, in the reign of Artaxerxes; 2. an account of the
building and finishing of the temple in the reign of Darius.
To the first part of this Aramaic section the editor prefixed
a brief introduction of his own (vs. 6f.)'', which through

1 Vs. 6 is simply a historical patch, inserted by the Chr. to make
the history continuous (see below), and also to account for the inactivity
of the Jews (cf. vs. 5).

scribal blunders has become entangled with the beginning
of the following document.

Until vs. 8 there is no trace of an Aramaic source.
The document which there begins was in any case a piece
of narrative (cf. vs. 23), and probably began with the word
I'^'IK. Vs. 7 ("in the days of Artaxerxes") was, in all
probability, in its original form an introduction to the
Rehum-Shimshai correspondence which follows. As it now
reads, it is of no possible use to anybody. Vs. 8 — 11,
as they now stand, present a scene of the wildest con-

The simplest solution of this tangle is to suppose that
the names in vs. 7 originally stood in vs. 6; and that their
accidental omission there, and insertion at the next op-
portunity, caused further displacement. The original form
of the text would then have been the following: n"lD!?)3m (6)

"inriD imiD nstyi '?«nt3 rnnni: xh^i iniD^o n'pnnn t^^mti'n^^
Din-i nnD xntytynm^ ^fi^ni (7) x^m^^\ mirf "-^ty^ h^ nitaty

«nsD ^tyfityi nvtD ^v^ Dim )^^« (9) (n^ans) D:iin?2'i n^rsit^ mnD
innD nnni nnv "ixtyi i'^»ty •'T nnpa ^[j-'nn^ ^n] ]inmi3 i«tyi
ptyns nil (n) &

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Online LibraryCharles Cutler TorreyThe composition and historical value of Ezra-Nehemiah → online text (page 1 of 5)