Daniel - Part II

Ancient and Modern Perspectives:


The interesting thing about Daniel is the attitude toward it. The Old Testament (as Christians know it) is for Jewish folk called Tanakh, which is an acronym taking the T from torah, N from navi (im) (prophet(s)), K for ketuvim (written things, writings) and adding some vowel sounds. It is somewhat telling that Daniel is not grouped in with the prophets but rather the writings

“Daniel is classified with the Major Prophets in the LXX and was regarded as a prophet already in antiquity (Matt 24:15; Ant 10.11.7 [266]). Yet in the Hebrew Bible the book of Daniel is found in the Writings, in the fourth place from the end (before Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles). The position in the Hebrew Bible reflects the late date of Daniel (after the collection of Prophets had been standardized) but may also reflect an awareness that Daniel does not belong with the Prophets in genre” (Anchor Bible Dictionary, ii:31).

Why? David Flusser takes up the challenge in an attempt to answer the question as to why Daniel – the only full-fledged apocalyptic book (Anchor, ii:31) – was incorporated into the canon. He writes, 

“Ultimately this came about because of the first part of the book, chapters one through six, which contain legends about Daniel as a man, seer and healer from the end of the Babylonian era and the beginning of the Persian. . . . As for the tales in the first part of the book, they were dear to the hearts of the Jews of the day because they contain the two earliest accounts of Jewish martyrs” (Flusser, Judaism of the Second Temple Period, The Jewish Sages and Their Literature, ii:5).

The majority of scholars date the book to the second century B.C.:

“The book of Daniel can be dated with relative precision between the second campaign of Antiochus Epiphanes against Egypt in 167 BCE and his death in 164” (J. Collins, SBL, Semeia 14, 30). 

It is also typically considered vaticinium ex eventu, although this is not the case for all. John Walton, for instance, states that this 

“appears to face considerable problems. The four-year time span (168-164 B.C.) is far too short for a book of that time to be written, copied, circulated and adopted as truth and then preserved as canon.”

He continues on,

“the presuppositional rejection of supernaturalism is largely responsible for the rejection of a sixth-century date for the book.”

He also goes on to say that

“the linguistic evidence (in regard to the both the Hebrew and Aramaic of Daniel) points toward a earlier time than the second century, as does the appearance of Daniel in the Septuagint (usually dated as early as the third century B.C.) and the Dead Sea Scrolls (from the first and second centuries B.C.)” Walton, Survey of the OT, Zondervan, 2nd ed., 454.

Jesus did refer and quote Daniel as a prophet, but in reality it’s not as clean-cut and easy as it may first appear. For example, scholars know that Enoch 1 is depicted in the content of at very least a couple NT writers and an influence on others (like Paul). Does this mean that those individuals believed the book of Enoch to be literally penned by the historical individual or was rather eponymous?

The role of a prophet was not merely or always predictive. They were messengers from the God of Israel to deliver words of hope, reassurance and more than not, repentance. If we are to be good expositors of any text – including Daniel – we need to ask the questions of why and how this message functions within the social and ethical context of the Hebraic community.

Skip Moen in a recent blog post on exegesis put it this way:

“Exegesis is a linguistic-theological project. It begins with what the author of the text meant in the cultural framework of his world. It must begin there since there is no other way to understand the words that he wrote. This may lead to theological assertions (or it may not) but the theology is secondary. Theology is abstraction from the text, just as the speeches of Romeo and Juliet are not directly applicable to our generation. Doctrines that regulate what the text must mean hinder exegesis. They are the stuff of paradigms and typically prevent us from seeing anything in the text except what the paradigm says is in the text. The biggest obstacle to learning God’s word is thinking that we already know what He says. We must practice spiritual suspended animation, putting what we think we know on the shelf, if we are going to re-think what the text teaches. Hopefully we will find that what we thought we knew is still the case. But not always. Sometime our most cherished beliefs are the very things that prevent us from hearing what the original author said.”

Christianity has little conception of the reality that in the Hebraic world of literature, authority rather than autograph was of greater significance. In other words, in an oral as opposed to a textually dominant culture, attempting to link the origin of a book itself to a specific individual is not as important as the tradition and authority on whom it is based. John Walton remarks, 

“We should remember, however, that this canonical final form does not override the authority figures or the traditions that preceded it. . . . Authority is not dependent on an original autograph or on an author writing a book. Recognition of authority is identifiable in the beliefs of a community of faith (of whom we are heirs) that God’s communications through authoritative figures and traditions have been captured and preserved through a long process of transmission and composition in the literature that has come to be accepted as canonical” Walton, Lost World of Scripture, 68.

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