Constructing Fear and Pride in the Book of Daniel: The Profile of a Second Temple Emotional Community

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism
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  • 1 Yeshiva University, 500 West 185th Street, Belfer Hall 1118, New York, ny 10033, USA

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This paper examines the seminal role that emotions, particularly fear and pride, play in the book of Daniel. Drawing upon the idea of “emotional communities,” I view the book’s final redactor as engaged with the views of one such community during the period of the Antiochan persecutions. The redactor’s emotional community responded to the persecutions with fear, an emotion that he simultaneously validated and challenged. The emotions of pride and fear both reflect beliefs about one’s power relative to others. The prideful kings portrayed in the book and the redactor’s fearful emotional community shared what the redactor claimed were unwarranted beliefs about the relative power of each group. In order to jettison the fear of his community, the redactor first had to address the beliefs that supported that emotion. The book constitutes a sustained effort to construct an alternative emotional norm for members of the redactor’s community by providing them with a new way of evaluating their situation: even if redemption has been delayed, faithful Jews who resist Antiochus to the point of martyrdom are in fact the powerful ones.

  • 1

    Claire Armon-Jones, “The Thesis of Constructionism,” in The Social Construction of Emotions (ed. Rom Harré; Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988), 32-56. For a recent attempt to employ a social-constructionist line of analysis in the context of ancient Judaism, see Ari Mermelstein, “Love and Hate at Qumran: The Social Construction of Sectarian Emotion,” dsd 20 (2013): 237-63.

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  • 6

    Rosenwein, Emotional Communities, 2. The fact that much of our evidence for the redactor’s community comes from the work of the redactor need not prevent us from situating him within an emotional community, a point that Rosenwein argued in studying the writings of Pope Gregory the Great as expressions of an otherwise unknown emotional community: “Gregory allows us to see his emotional community . . . even though we know about that community from him alone. No individual is isolated from his or her social context” (ibid., 80; emphasis in original).

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  • 7

    See John J. Collins, Daniel (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 66-68.

  • 8

    On textual communities, see Brian Stock, The Implications of Literacy: Written Language and Models of Interpretation in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987). On the scribal nature of Daniel’s community and the value that is placed on literacy and writing, see P. R. Davies, “Reading Daniel Sociologically,” in The Book of Daniel in the Light of New Findings (ed. A. S. van der Woude; Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1993), 345-61, esp. 352-55.

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  • 15

    Kenneth J. Dover, Greek Homosexuality (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989), 35 n. 15. In his monograph on hubris in the Hebrew Bible, Donald E. Gowan, When Man Becomes God: Humanism and Hybris in the Old Testament (Pittsburgh: Pickwick, 1975), 4, adopts a similar definition of hubris in the context of the Hebrew Bible, which, according to him, refers to human “efforts at encroachment” on divine “prerogatives.” More recently, John T. Strong has explored the theme of hubris, which, following Gowan, he defines as “presumption toward the gods,” in the book of Ezekiel; see his “Sitting on the Seat of God: A Study of Pride and Hubris in the Prophetic Corpus of the Hebrew Bible,” br 56 (2011): 55-81.

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  • 18

    Jessica L. Tracy and Richard W. Robins, “The Nature of Pride,” in The Self-Conscious Emotions: Theory and Research (ed. Jessica L. Tracy, Richard W. Robins, and June Price Tangney; New York: Guilford, 2007), 263-82, at 265.

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  • 19

    Ibid., 265.

  • 20

    Ibid., 267 (emphasis in original).

  • 24

    David Konstan, The Emotions of the Ancient Greeks: Studies in Aristotle and Classical Literature (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007), 142.

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  • 25

    Marlene K. Sokolon, Political Emotions: Aristotle and the Symphony of Reason and Emotion (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2006), 92.

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  • 26

    Martha C. Nussbaum, The New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the Politics of Fear in an Anxious Age (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap, 2012), 27.

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  • 27

    See ibid., 33-34. That fear is an unreliable emotion is one of the major theses of Nussbaum’s book, which focuses on that aspect of emotion in the context of contemporary Islamophobia.

  • 30

    Sokolon, Political Emotions, 89. See also Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky, Risk and Culture: An Essay on the Selection of Technological and Environmental Dangers (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), 8: “Common values lead to common fears . . . risk taking and risk aversion, shared confidence and shared fears, are part of the dialogue on how best to organize social relations.”

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  • 38

    Nussbaum, Upheavals of Thought, 28.

  • 39

    Sokolon, Political Emotions, 92.

  • 45

    So Collins, Daniel, 242.

  • 60

    See C. L. Seow, Daniel (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2003), 113.

  • 71

    Anathea E. Portier-Young, Apocalypse Against Empire: Theologies of Resistance in Early Judaism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011), 240.

  • 74

    Konstan, Emotions of the Ancient Greeks, 142.

  • 75

    Johns, “Identity and Resistance,” 266.

  • 77

    John Corrigan, “Introduction: Emotions Research and the Academic Study of Religion,” in Religion and Emotion: Approaches and Interpretations (ed. John Corrigan; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 3-31, at 11.

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  • 80

    See Bill T. Arnold, “Word Play and Characterization in Daniel 1,” in Puns and Pundits: Word Plays in the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Literature (ed. Scott B. Noegel; Bethesda, Md.: cdl, 2000), 231-48. For examples of wordplay later in the book, see Arnold, “Wordplay and Narrative Techniques in Daniel 5 and 6,” jbl 112 (1993): 479-85.

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  • 82

    Seow, Daniel, 153-54.

  • 84

    See, e.g., John J. Collins, “Daniel and His Social World,” Int 39 (1985): 131-43, esp. 134-35. An older view identified the authors of the book as the Hasideans; see, e.g., Martin Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism (2 vols.; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1974), 1:175-80. An emerging consensus among scholars instead attributes the editing of the book to a group that labeled itself the maśkîlîm, though their identity remains obscure; see Collins, “Daniel and His Social World,” 132.

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  • 86

    Barbara Rosenwein, “Problems and Methods in the History of Emotions,” Passions in Context 1 (2010): 1-32, at 11-12.

  • 87

    See Willis, Dissonance and Drama, 61-180.

  • 88

    Peter N. Stearns, American Fear: The Causes and Consequences of High Anxiety (London: Routledge, 2006), citation from p. 8.

  • 89

    See Ari Mermelstein, Creation, Covenant, and the Beginnings of Judaism: Reconceiving Historical Time in the Second Temple Period (JSJSup 168; Leiden: Brill, 2014).

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