In the mythic lore of the Ancient Near East, the trope of animalization contains a wealth of interpretive potential. The account of Nebuchadnezzar's madness in Daniel 4, the most potent example of this mythic trope in the Hebrew Bible, has provoked much fanciful elaboration among early biblical interpreters.
After a study of the many ancient variants of the ubiquitous tale, the book investigates the Ancient Near Eastern background of Nebuchadnezzar's transformation. The discussion then turns to the early reception of Daniel 4 in rabbinic Judaism, the Western Fathers and, most importantly, the Syriac tradition. A number of Syriac texts from the fourth century onward explicitly draw on the model of Nebuchadnezzar as the basis for a newly evolving ascetic discipline.
Matthias Henze, Ph.D. (1997) in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University, is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University.
Those interested in Biblical Studies, the Ancient Near East, particularly historians of biblical interpretation as found at Qumran, in rabbinic Judaism, among the Western Fathers, and in the Syriac tradition.