Another Stage in the Redactional History of the Bel Story (Dan 14:1-22): The Evidence of Polemic against Foreign Priests and the Focus on Daniel in the Old Greek

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism


It is the contention of this paper that a comparison between the Theodotion and Old Greek versions of the Bel narrative (Dan 14:1-22) gives indications about some specific stages of the textual history of the story. Many of the distinctive elements in the Old Greek story suggest that in its core narrative the Old Greek represents a more thoroughly modified version of the story and even a variant literary edition. In the Old Greek, evidence of the development of the Bel narrative can be seen in its very concentrated focus on (1) the deception of the priests of Bel and (2) the centrality and cunning of Daniel. Both of these emphases in the Old Greek are interconnected and, it will be argued, result in a more pronounced tension between Daniel and the priests of Bel as well as a concentration of control almost exclusively with Daniel in the Old Greek.

  • 3)

    For example, see Carey A. Moore, Daniel, Esther, and Jeremiah: The Additions (New York: Doubleday, 1977), 119. Moore summarizes his view by saying, “these two Greek versions are separate translations of two different Semitic texts which may not have been in the same Semitic language” (129).

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  • 8)

    T. Witton Davies, “Bel and the Dragon,” in APOT (Oxford: Clarendon, 1913), 1:652-64, esp. 654-55; John J. Collins, Daniel(Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 410-11; Alexander A. Di Lella, “The Textual History of Septuagint-Daniel and Theodotion-Daniel,” in The Book of Daniel: Composition and Reception (ed. John J. Collins and Peter W. Flint; Leiden: Brill, 2001), 586-607, esp. 598; Haag, “Bel und Drache,” 21. Wysny seems undecided on the matter (Die Erzählungen von Bel und dem Drachen, 145-48 and 223), while seeming to lean toward a Semitic original.

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  • 9)

    Davies, “Bel and the Dragon,” 654-55; Moore, Daniel, Esther, and Jeremiah, 119-20; Collins, Daniel, 410, 413.

  • 11)

    Moore, Daniel, Esther, and Jeremiah, 120.

  • 18)

    Wills, The Jew in the Court of the Foreign King, 130.

  • 23)

    Cf. Steussy, Gardens in Babylon, 96.

  • 33)

    See Moore, Daniel, Esther, and Jeremiah, 119-20. He claims, “That the literary differences between the LXX and Θ are not primarily the result of the work of their Greek translators but rather reflect differences in the respective Semitic Vorlagen of LXX and Θ is indicated, in part, by the fact that in both stories Θ consistently has many more Semiticisms, i.e. the nature and quality of the translation in each version remains consistent for both stories; it is in the substantive matter of “details of fact” where the real differences occur. To be sure, the evidence of a Semitic original for “Bel and the Snake” is primarily internal in nature” (119).

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