Book of Daniel

Book of Daniel
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The Book of Daniel (Hebrew: דניאל) is a book in the Hebrew Bible. The book tells of how Daniel, and his Judean companions, were inducted into Babylon during Jewish exile, and how their positions elevated in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. The court tales span events that occur during the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius the Mede. The book concludes with four Divine prophetic visions.

The introduction of the Book of Daniel is written in Hebrew, the body is written in Biblical Aramaic, then the Masoretic text concludes the book with a return to Hebrew.[1] The book consists of a series of six third-person narratives (chapters 1-6) followed by four apocalyptic visions in the first-person (chapters 7-12).

The Jewish Tanakh places the Book of Daniel with the Ketuvim writings, and Daniel in rabbinic literature is not counted in the list of Prophets of the Jewish canon. By contrast, Daniel is included amongst the major prophets in the Christian canon of the Old Testament.

The most widely accepted critical view posits that the author of the text was an anonymous writer living in the Maccabean period under Antiochus IV Epiphanes, during the 2nd century BCE,[2] who compiled ancient legends with a pseudepigraph of "visions."[3][4] Other more conservative textual scholars, however, maintain with the historic Judeo-Christian tradition that Daniel, the protagonist of the narrative set in the 6th century BCE, is likely also the historical author of the text.[5]


Authorship and dating

Maccabean author

The traditional theory that Daniel was the original author of the Book of Daniel is dismissed by critics who reject the book's prophetic claims.[5] Critics of Daniel view the Book of Daniel as a pseudepigraph dated around 165 BCE that concerns itself primarily with the Maccabean era and the reign of the Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes.[6] Those who share this view typically adhere to the Maccabean thesis when analyzing the Book of Daniel.[7] The stories of chapters 1-6 are considered to be a literary genre of legends that are older than the visions of chapters 7-12. The visions in the latter half of Daniel are theorized to be written by an anonymous author in the Maccabean era, who assembled the legends with the visions as one book, in the 2nd century BCE. According to this view, it is not considered to be read as a prophecy of western political history or of an eschatological future. Rather, the critical focus is on the witness to the religiosity of the Maccabean time period.[8]

Anonymous writer

Norman W. Porteous was one of the first to postulate that an anonymous writer wrote the book during the persecution under Antiochus. According to this theory, the anonymous author attributed these events to Daniel, as prophecies that were witnessed by this writer in the 2nd century BCE.[9][10] Paul Roche observes that the author abounded in mistakes and anachronisms, using Daniel as a symbol for the faithful Jew serving Yahweh, and the use of various pagan kings as symbols of heathenism.[11] Critics do, however, acknowledge that the author of Daniel was familiar with the history of Near Eastern imperial power from the sixth to the second centuries.[12] But, because the writer had an incomplete and erroneous view of historical details in the second half of the sixth century, Daniel’s era, such imbalances support the theory of a late date of writing.[12]

Encouragement under oppression

Porteous and Roche agree that the Book of Daniel is composed of folktales that were used to fortify the Jewish faith during a time of great persecution and oppression by the Hellenized Seleucids some four centuries after Babylonian captivity.[11][13] James VanderKam and Peter W. Flint further explain that the stories of Daniel and his friends, set in Babylon during the Exile, encouraged readers to remain faithful to God and to refuse compromise in the face of their oppressors, and offered the prospect of triumph over wickedness and idolatry. These themes may have brought encouragement to the Qumran covenanters who were persecuted by other Jews and also threatened by Hellenism.[14] However, from a conservative approach, Joyce G. Baldwin argued that "old, authentic stories would have provided comfort to sufferers of later generations far more convincingly than a book of new parables."[15]

Dating to Hellenistic period

The presence of three Greek loanwords that only occur in Daniel chapter 3, have supporters of a late date say that Daniel had to have been written after Alexander the Great’s conquest of the Orient, from 330 BCE. They claim that it would be impossible for Greek loanwords to appear two centuries before then.[12] These loanwords are three Greek musical terms. Frank Gaebelein argues that the non-existence of other Greek words does not support the theory of Daniel being written in the Hellenistic period. Gaebelein states that "it is inconceivable that Greek terms for government and administration would not have been adopted into Aramaic by the second century BC."[16] Even John Goldingay, a proponent of the late date, concedes, "the Greek words hardly necessitate a very late date."[17] The earliest known use of the Greek word symphonia, dates back to Pythagoras, born in the 6th century BCE, who has used the term. The adjectival use of symphonia meaning, "in unison", is found in the Hymni Homerica, ad Mercurium 51; both instances date from the 6th century BCE.[18][19]

Qumran 4QDanc

Use of the Aramaic language was also popular in the 2nd Century BCE and was widely spoken amongst Jews in Palestine. With the discovery of the Dead Sea scroll, Qumran, dating 125 BCE, it does not reassure critics that Daniel was written in the 2nd century BCE. Even the critic G. R. Driver recognized that "the presence and popularity of the Daniel manuscripts at Qumran" conflicted "with the modern view which advocates the late dating of the composition of Daniel". [Wegner, 116] This scroll contains the oldest reference to Daniel, only as an abbreviated text: a prayer of Daniel at (9:4b-19). 4QDanc does not strictly qualify as a copy of the book itself.[20]

Support for earlier authorship

Kenneth Kitchen, Louis F. Hartman and Alexander Di Lella, for example, date the Aramaic portion more broadly within the Persian period (i.e., before the 330s BC), as based on Persian loanwords.[21] There are about 19 Persian loanwords that occur in the Aramaic portions of the Book of Daniel.

Texual sources