Skip to main content

Daniel, Book of

DANIEL, BOOK OF

A book of the Old Testament that is named after its protagonist. In the Masoretic Text (MT) it is placed in the Writings, the third section of the Hebrew canon, after Esther and before Ezra and Nehemiah. In Christian Bibles, following the example of the Septuagint (LXX), "Theodotion-Daniel" (see below), and the Vulgate (Vulg), it is ranked as the last of the four Major Prophets (see pro phetic books of the old testament). This article will treat of the book's deuterocanonical sections, language, protocanonical sections, interpretation, composition, and literary genre.

Deuterocanonical Sections. Certain parts of the Book of Daniel are not in the MT (containing the protocanonical sections) but are in the two Greek versions, Vulg, and all Catholic Bibles and are known therefore as deuterocanonical. These parts are: (1) the prayers and hymns connected with the story of the three Jews in the furnace inserted in the LXX and the Vulg between 3.23 and 3.24 of the MT and reckoned as 3.2490 of the Greek versions and Vulg, so that 3.2533 of the MT is counted as 3.91100 of the Vulg (Greek versions 3.9197); this section was apparently inserted into the text to supply the seeming lacuna in the MT of 3.2425; (2) the story of Susanna (ch. 13 of the LXX and the Vulg, but before ch. 1 in "Theodotion-Daniel"); and (3) the stories of Bel and of the Dragon (ch. 14 of the LXX and the Vulg). The Catholic Church has always accepted these sections as canonical Scripture. The other additions are from a cycle of traditional stories about Daniel; for other similar tales preserved in fragments among the dead sea scrolls, see discussion by J. T. Milik, Revue biblique 63 (1956) 407415.

Language. The Book of Daniel is unique in that it is preserved in the three languages of the Bible: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The deuterocanonical additions are extant only in Greek, which is probably a translation from Hebrew or Aramaic originals. There are two distinct Greek forms of the book: LXX-Daniel and "Theodotion Daniel," the latter being a misnomer, for it is not related to the historical Theodotion of the 2d century a.d. (see A. A. Di Lella, "The Textual History of Septuagint-Daniel and Theodotion-Daniel," in The Book of Daniel: Composition and Reception [ed. J. J. Collins and P. W. Flint] 2. 586607. Of the protocanonical text, section1.12.4a and section 8.112.13 are in Hebrew. The text changes to Aramaic at 2.4b and continues to 7.28, reverting

to Hebrew at 8.1. No satisfactory explanation of this phenomenon has been given. The Aramaic section is certainly in its original language. Some scholars (e.g., H. L. Ginsburg) hold that the Hebrew is a translation from Aramaic (except 9.420, which is original Hebrew). Others take the two languages to be original, the change in 2.4b coinciding with the reply of the Chaldeans (presumed to have spoken in Aramaic), or take the two languages to be due to the sources used by the final editor (s) or to indicate that the author (s) first published the work in parts for a bilingual audience and later edited these in book form. If not original, this bilingual nature of the book is at least very old, since it is attested, as in MT, in the Qumran Daniel fragments from the end of the 2d century b.c. to a.d. c. 50.

Protocanonical Sections. These sections consist of two distinct parts, which, however, do not coincide with the division between the Hebrew and the Aramaic parts of the book.

First Part: Chapters 16. This section consists of episodes from the life of Daniel and his companions: the food test (ch. 1), the king's dream (ch. 2), the fiery furnace (3.197), the king's vision of the great tree and his madness (3.984.34), the writing on the wall (5.16.1), and Daniel in the lions' den (6.229).

Second Part: Chapters 712. This section sets forth the visions seen by Daniel and the revelations received by him during his exile. The first vision (ch. 7), from the first year of Belshazzar, tells of four monstrous beasts arising from the deep, the fourth being the fiercest, from which comes forth a "little horn" that acts and speaks arrogantly; the beasts are deprived of their power; then comes with the clouds of heaven "one like a son of man," i.e., "one in human likeness," symbol of "the people of the holy ones of the Most High" (7.27) who receive everlasting dominion; an angel explains that the monsters represent four kingdoms, and the "little horn" an individual king. The next vision (ch. 8), from the third year of Belshazzar, details further the persecution and arrogance of the "little horn." In the third vision (ch. 9), from the first year of Darius, an angel explains that Jeremiah's 70 years of exile are to be understood as seventy weeks of years, i.e., 490 years. The final vision (ch. 1012) gives the history of the Persian and Greek Empires, in particular the reigns of Antiochus III and IV and their relations with the Jews. The vision ends with a reference to the resurrection and final retribution.

Interpretation. A correct understanding of the book depends on a right interpretation of the "four kingdoms" with which the book is largely concerned.

In 2.3135 four world empires are symbolized by the metals gold, silver, bronze, and iron (or iron plus clay), which are destroyed and replaced by a fifth kingdom, symbolized by a stone. The dream of ch. 2 is paralleled by the vision of ch. 7, which tells of four kingdoms inimical to God, symbolized by four monstrous beasts, whose rule is replaced by a divine reign. In ch. 8 the he-goat that overcomes the ram is identified with the fourth kingdom of ch. 7 (cf. 8.89 with 7.8).

The four kingdoms of ch. 2 and ch. 7 are evidently the same. The first empire of ch. 2 is identified in 2.3738 as the Neo-Babylonian, represented by nebuchadnez zar. The fourth empire of ch. 7 and the last one of ch. 8 has as its most important king the "little horn,"; i.e., an tiochus iv epiphanes, and this empire is identified as the Greek in 8.21. The fourth empire is, then, the Greek one of Alexander and his successors. The second and third kingdoms must be empires intermediate between the Neo-Babylonian and Greek. The third (2.39: 7.6) can be identified from history and Dn 8.2021) as the Persian, defeated by Alexander. The second insignificant empire, mentioned in ch. 2 and ch. 7, must be that of the Medes, which, according to the chronology peculiar to the book (5.3031: 9.1; see also 8.1), followed on the Neo-Babylonian Empire.

History admits no such Median Empire between the Neo-Babylonian and the Persian, for the latter succeeded the former at the fall of Babylon (539 b.c.). The author (s) of Daniel adopted either a historically false chronology, or a purely fictitious one. Possibly, ch. 2 is dependent on a view of world history considered to be growing increasingly worse. In Hesiod (Works and Days 109201) four ages of such history are symbolized by the same four metals as in Daniel ch. 2. The true historical sequence is Assyria, Media, Persia, and Greece. It is quite possible that the book's chronology is due to the replacement of Assyria by the more relevant Babylon. On both questions see J. S. Swain, Classical Philology 35 (1940) 121. True chronology is secondary for the author (s) of Daniel, since the four empires are more important as symbols of world power before the inauguration of God's kingdom than as historical realities.

The identification of the empires given above appears most in keeping with the book and is the one now generally accepted.

Composition. The traditional view that the book is an exilic production about Daniel encounters serious difficulties. The earliest reference to the Book of Daniel is in 1 Mc 2.5960, written after the Maccabean persecution. Not even Ben Sira (c. 180 b.c.) refers to Daniel where he would be expected to do so (Sir 49.610). The book's place in the Jewish canon indicates a late date. The historical inaccuracies (a siege of Jerusalem in 605 b.c. [Dn 1.12]; Darius "the Mede" [6.1]; Belshazzar, the "son" of Nebuchadnezzar and "king" of Babylon, etc.) are scarcely conceivable in an exilic writer. The language and religious concepts of the book are postexilic and, in part, Maccabean. The perspective of ch. 712 is clearly Maccabean, and a revelation of the detailed course of history found there cannot easily be postulated. For these and other reasons, ch. 712 and the publication of the entire work as it now stands are now generally ascribed to the Maccabean age, c. 165 b.c., a date advocated by the pagan Neo-Platonist Porphyry (d. a.d. 304; see Jerome, Com. in Dan.: Corpus Christianorum. Series latina 75A.771).

The book shows signs both of unity and of plurality of authorship for its two parts. On the one hand, both parts show the same doctrine, similar phrases, and the same peculiar chronology. On the other hand, the background of ch. 16 is Babylonian, whereas the perspective in ch. 712 is Maccabean. This has led most authors to claim a pre-Maccabean (c. 300 b.c.) age for ch. 16, while they place the composition of ch. 712 c. 166 b.c. Some scholars (e.g., Ginsburg) postulate separate authors for each of the four visions in ch.712. In contrast, H. H. Rowley considers ch. 112 a unity, composed entirely by a Maccabean author, who, however, used earlier sources for ch. 16. (See Hartman and Di Lella, ch. III.)

Concerning ch. 4, similarities with the history of Nabonidus led P. Riessler (Das Buch Daniel [Vienna 1902]43), F. Hommel (Theol. Litteraturblatt 23 [1902] 145147), and E. Dhorme (Revue biblique 8 [1912] 3738) to surmise that the episode recounted of Nebuchadnezzar in ch. 4 is based on the history of King Nabonidus and his withdrawal from Babylon to the desert oasis of Tema in Arabia. That such is the case is clear from a Qumran parallel to ch. 4 (4QOrNab, published by J. T. Milik, Revue biblique 63 [1956] 407411), which recounts the cure of Nabonidus by an anonymous Jew at Tema. This 10-year desert sojourn is described in detail by Nabonidus himself in his Harran inscriptions, published and studied by C. H. Gadd (Anatolian Studies 8[1958] 3539). The Harran inscriptions of Nabonidus bear a remarkable similarity (e.g., in dreams and "fixed times") to Daniel ch. 4 and other chapters.

Belshazzar, who is called the son of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel ch. 5, was really son of Nabonidus.

Chapters 23 are also probably based on traditions connected with Nabonidus, a point already noted by Riessler, 1415, 2728. This king was worried by dreams he thought came from the moon-god Sin. He felt called to rebuild Sin's temple at Harran, which he did, probably in his 3d regnal year (see E. Vogt, Biblica 40 [1959] 57). The king's attention to Sin, his neglect of Marduk and a statue he made (presumably for the Harran temple, therefore in his 2d or 3d regnal yearcf. Dn 3.1) infuriated the Marduk clergy and estranged them from him; hence his withdrawal to Tema. In the history of Nabonidus there is the same sequence as in Daniel ch. 24.

The probable history of the book's composition may be stated as follows: ch. 16 are stories that once circulated independently, the Jewish protagonists being perhaps originally anonymous (cf. 4QOrNab), ch. 24 being connected with the reign of Nabonidus, ch. 6 with that of Darius. These stories probably originated in Babylon and were brought to Palestine in the 2d century b.c. (see D.N. Freedman, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 145 [1957] 31). The Maccabean author (s), c. 165 b.c., who composed ch. 712 (or ch. 812) to strengthen the faith of the persecuted Jews, probably rewrote the earlier stories of ch. 16, substituting Nebuchadnezzar for (the less known) Nabonidus and placing the entire work within the book's peculiar chronology. Other stories about Daniel also circulated, and from among them the Greek translators added the deuterocanonical sections, which had been composed some time between the 3d and 1st centuries b.c.

Literary Genre. Chapters 16 are stories, perhaps well-known, which are composed or recast for the sake of teaching some moralin the present case, for the purpose of reminding the persecuted Jews of God's providence toward the loyal adherent of the true religion.

Chapters 712 are apocalypses in which Israel's past history is presented as if it were prophecyin the present case, the postexilic history of Israel up to the tenth year of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (165 b.c.). The lesson intended here is the same as in ch. 16, namely, God's command of the course of human events.

Bibliography: Commentaries. s. r. driver (Cambridge, Eng. 1901; repr. 1922). j. a. montgomery (International Critical Commentary, 22, ed. s. r. driver et al.; Edinburgh 1927). r. h. charles (Oxford 1929). g. rinaldi (4th ed. Milan 1962). f. nÖtscher (2d ed. Echter Bibel: Die Hl. Schrift in deutscher Ubersetzung [Würzburg 1947] 3; 1958). l. f. hartman and a. a. di lella (Anchor Bible 23; Garden City, N.Y. 1978). a. lacocque (Atlanta 1979). p. grelot (Paris 1992). j. j. collins (Hermeneia; Minneapolis 1993). d. bauer (Neuer Stuttgarter Kommentar Altes Testament 22; 1996). a. a. di lella (Hyde Park, N.Y. 1997). Studies. h. l. ginsburg, Studies in Daniel (New York 1948); "The Composition of the B. of D.," Vetus Testamentum 4 (1954) 246275. w. dommerschausen, Nabonid im Buche D. (Mainz 1964). o. eissfeldt, The Old Testament: An Introduction, tr. p. r. ackroyd (New York 1965) 512529. w. baumgartner, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 195765) 2:2631; "Ein Vierteljahrhundert Danielforschung," Theologische Rundschau 11 (1939) 5983, 125144, 201228. h. o. thompson, The Book of Daniel: An Annotated Bibliography (Books of the Bible 1; Garland Reference Library of the Humanities 1310; New York/London 1993). t.m. meadowcroft, Aramaic Daniel and Greek Daniel: A Literary Comparison (Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 198; Sheffield 1995). t. mclay, The OG and Th Versions of Daniel (SBL Septuagint and Cognate Studies 43; Atlanta 1996). p. w. flint, "The Daniel Tradition at Qumran," in Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. c. a. evans and p. w. flint (Grand Rapids 1997) 4160. j. j. collins and p. w. flint, eds., The Book of Daniel: Composition and Reception (2 v.; Formation and Interpretation of Old Testament Literature; Vetus Testamentum Supplementum Series 83.2; Leiden 2001).

[m. mcnamara/

a. a. di lella]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Daniel, Book of." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Daniel, Book of." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/daniel-book-0

"Daniel, Book of." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/daniel-book-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.