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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Daniel, Book of

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1. Authorship and Date . The first six chapters of this book contain a series of narratives which tell of ( a ) the fidelity of Daniel and his friends to their religion, and ( b ) the incomparable superiority of their God to the deities of Babylon. The remaining six chapters relate four visions seen by Daniel and the interpretation of them. Chs. 1 6 speak of Daniel in the third person; in 7 12 he is the speaker (yet see Daniel 7:1 , Daniel 10:1 ). But both parts are from the same pen, and the primâ facie impression is that of an autobiography. Porphyry argued against this in the 3rd cent. a.d., and it is now generally abandoned, for such reasons as the following: (1) In the Jewish Canon Dn. stands in the third division, ‘the Writings.’ Had it been the production of a prophet of the 6th cent. it would have been put in the second division, ‘the Prophets.’ (2) Neither the man nor the book is mentioned in the list of Sir 44:1-23; Sir 45:1-26; Sir 46:1-20; Sir 47:1-25; Sir 48:1-25; Sir 49:1-16; Sir 50:1-29 ( c [Note: circa, about.] . b.c. 200): and Sir 49:15 seems to have been written by one who was not acquainted with the story. (3) There is no reason for believing that a collection of sacred writings, including Jer., had been formed in the reign of Darius, as is implied in Daniel 9:2 . (4) The Heb. of Dn. is of a later type than even that of Chronicles. The Aramaic is a West-Syrian dialect, not in use at the Bab. [Note: Babylonian.] court in the 6th century. More Persian words are employed than a Heb. author would be familiar with at the close of the Bab. [Note: Babylonian.] empire. In a document composed prior to the Macedonian conquest we should not have found the three Greek words which are here used. (5) There are inaccuracies which a contemporary would have avoided. It is doubtful whether Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem in b.c. 606 ( Daniel 1:1-2 ). The name ‘Chaldæans’ as designating the learned class is a later usage ( Daniel 2:2 ). Belshazzar was not ‘the king’ ( Daniel 5:1 ), nor was Neb. his ancestor ( Daniel 5:2; Daniel 5:11 ). Darius the Mede never ‘received the kingdom’ ( Daniel 5:31 ). Xerxes did not follow Artaxerxes ( Daniel 11:2 ) but preceded him. (6) The relations between Syria and Egypt, from the 4th to the 2nd cents. b.c., are described with a fulness of detail which differentiates Daniel 7:1-28; Daniel 11:1-45 from all OT prophecy: see the precision with which the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes is related in ch. 11; the events from 323 175 occupy 16 verses; those from 175 164 take up 25; at Daniel 11:34 the lines become less definite, because this is the point at which the book was written; at v. 40 prediction begins, and the language no longer corresponds with the facts of history. There can be little doubt that Dn. appeared about b.c. 166. Its object was to encourage the faithful Jews to adhere to their religion, in the assurance that God would intervene. The unknown writer was intensely sure of the truths in which he believed: to him and to his readers the historical setting was but a framework. Not that he invented the stories. We saw in the preceding article that the exiled Jews knew of a Daniel, famous for piety and wisdom. Round his name, in the course of the ages, stories illustrative of these qualities had gathered, and the author of our book worked up the material afresh with much skill.

2. Language, Unity, Theology . (1) From Daniel 2:4 b to Daniel 7:26 is in Aramaic . Four explanations have been offered: ( a ) This section was originally written in Aramaic, about b.c. 300, and incorporated, with additions, into the work of 166. ( b ) The corresponding portion of a Heb. original was lost and its place filled by an already current Aram. [Note: Aramaic.] translation. ( c ) The author introduced the ‘Chaldees’ as speaking what he supposed was their language, and then continued to write it because it was more familiar than Heb. to himself and his readers. ( d ) The likeliest suggestion is that the entire book was Aramaic, but would not have found admission into the Canon if it had not been enclosed, so to speak, in a frame of Heb., the sacred language.

(2) The unity of the book has been impugned by many critics, but it is now generally agreed that the question is settled by the harmony of view and consistency of plan which bind the two halves together. The text has suffered more or less in Daniel 1:20-21 , Daniel 6:20 , Daniel 7:5 , Daniel 9:4-20 , Daniel 10:4; Daniel 10:8-9 , Daniel 10:20 to Daniel 11:2 , Daniel 12:11 f.

(3) The theological features are what might be expected in the 2nd cent. b.c. Eschatology is prominent. The visions and their interpretations all culminate in the final establishment of the Kingdom of God. And in this connexion it should be mentioned that Dn. is the earliest example of a fully developed Apocalypse . The doctrine of the Resurrection is also distinctly asserted: individuals are to rise again; not all men, or even all Israelites, but the martyrs and the apostates. At no earlier period is there such an angelology. Watchers and holy ones determine the destinies of an arrogant king. Two angels have proper names, Gabriel and Michael. To each nation a heavenly patron has been assigned, and its fortunes here depend on the struggle waged by its representative above.

3. Text . The early Church set aside the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] in favour of the less paraphrastic version of Theodotion. In both translations are found the Additions to Daniel. (1) 67 verses are inserted after Daniel 3:22 , consisting of ( α ) the Prayer of Azarias . ( β ) details concerning the heating of the furnace , ( γ ) the Benedicite . These teach the proper frame of mind for all confessors, and dilate on the miraculous element in the Divine deliverance. (2) The History of Susanna , which demonstrates God’s protection of the unjustly accused and illustrates the sagacity in judgment of the youth who is rightly named Daniel , ‘El is my judge.’ (3) Bel and the Dragon , two tracts which expose the imbecility of idolatry, and bring out Daniel’s cleverness and God’s care for His servant in peril. Swete ( Introd. to OT in Greek , p. 260) rightly remarks that internal evidence appears to show that (1) and (2) originally had a separate circulation.

J. Taylor.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Daniel, Book of'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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