Chapter 9 Conclusions on the Formation of the Book

In: Aramaic Daniel
Benjamin D. Suchard
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Methodologically, we have seen good results from the combined, comparative-internal approach. In several instances, textual reconstruction based on non-MT evidence was used to restore parts of the text that then formed the basis for further, internal reconstruction. Another interesting result is that small differences in spelling and wording, which one might ordinarily ascribe to scribal variation, co-occur with other indicators of secondariness with great consistency. This supports the view that one and the same writer tended to spell names the same way and be consistent in his terminology (without implying that consistency in spelling and terminology must indicate that two passages derive from the same writer).

As is broadly recognized, Dan 1–7 combines many texts that were originally independent compositions. The editors who combined these texts often left traces of their own. I use the plural here, because we have seen several categories of redactional interpolations and frameworks. Each of these redactions resulted in a work with its own distinct focus and overall message.

Based on the great differences between MT and OG in Dan 4–6, including significant pluses in MT, it has often been suggested that these chapters circulated as a separate work for a while, forming an original core of the Danielic court narratives. This work consisted of the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s madness and restitution, itself a composite of various shorter texts; the story of Belshazzar’s feast and the writing on the wall; and the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. This collection is bookended by the letters in Dan 3:31–33 and 6:27–28. As is emphasized in this redactional material, the theme of this collection is God’s eternal sovereignty, which outranks that of human kings.

This original Daniel collection predicts a change of dynasty in the central chapter of Dan 5. This may be what prompted another editor to recast the work in the mold of the four kingdoms theory of history.1 Dan 2 was added to the beginning of the work, taking up Dan 4’s subject matter of dream interpretation and Dan 5’s theme of predicted regime change. The author of Dan 2 only explicitly identifies the first kingdom, which he equates with Nebuchadnezzar and hence the Neo-Babylonian Empire. But the identity of the following two is made clear by his additions to the transition between Dan 5–6, contrasting Belshazzar’s Chaldaean ethnicity with the Median one now ascribed to Darius, and to the end of Dan 6, where Cyrus ‘the Persian’ is mentioned. With the first three kingdoms now explicitly identified as the (Chaldaean) Neo-Babylonian, Median, and Persian empires, it would be obvious to the reader that the fourth one was that of Alexander. This editor was probably also responsible for Dan 5:12, which mentions Daniel’s skill at interpreting dreams (as seen in Dan 2 and 4), attributes this to his abundant spirit (a phrase originating in Dan 6:4), and explains how he got the name Belteshazzar (prominently featured in Dan 4), nicely tying Dan 2,4–6 together.

The promotion of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed Nego in Dan 2:49 was argued above to be secondary. This suggests that Dan 3 was added after Dan 2; Dan 2:49 was then added by the author of Dan 3. Dan 3:29 borrows the punishment from Dan 2:5 but varies the wording while at the same time further assimilating the story to Dan 6 by adding a royal decree. This verse is probably from a third hand, as it does not appear to be original in the chapter. Elsewhere, I have argued that the Greek words cited in Dan 3 can be dated to the early second century BCE.2 The inclusion of Dan 3 in the growing book of Daniel may thus reflect the desire for an updated version of Dan 6 to better match the deteriorating relationship between the Judeans and their new Seleucid rulers. It may also have been at this time that Dan 6 was partially assimilated to Dan 3.

Chapter 1 provides the protagonists of Dan 2–6 with an origin story and answers questions such as how Daniel gained his powers of interpretation and why he is called Belteshazzar in Dan 4 (contradicting the answer in Dan 5:12, which I have attributed to the author of Dan 2). This addition provides what had become a varied collection of court tales with a unifying introduction. As noted by Kratz and Davies, among others, the elements in Dan 1 anticipate features of Dan 2–6 but not obviously of 7–12.3 This supports the existence of Dan 1–6 as an independent composition.

To this collection of court tales, Dan 7 was added, taking the first-person narration of a dream already found in Dan 4 but making Daniel himself the recipient of the night vision. This called for the introduction of an angelus interpres to reveal its interpretation. Thematically, there are clear links between Dan 7 and Dan 2. In the version we have reconstructed above, however, it is not clear that Dan 7 discusses the same procession of world empires as Dan 2, as most commentators have assumed. As the only interpretation originally given of the four animals is that they represent four kings, it is equally possible that they were intended to represent the four main Hellenistic successor states.4 This would explain why they are all presented as coming from the Great Sea—which may still concretely refer to the Mediterranean, despite the image’s connotations of Chaoskampf5—and the function of the four winds, indicating their geographic distribution (cf. Dan 8:8, 11:4). It also explains their apparent coexistence up to the fourth animal’s execution (Dan 7:12). Dan 7 thus updates the picture of world history as a succession of empires given in Dan 2 with a description of several empires existing side by side, as was the political reality of the Near East and Eastern Mediterranean during the third and early second centuries BCE. This update presumably included the addition of clay as the fifth material of the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Dan 2. As in Dan 7, where the symbolism of the animals is left largely unexplained, the author seems to have been unconcerned about providing the readers with an explicit interpretation of this element, leaving room for later editors to provide their own.

While building on material from the court tales, Dan 7 introduced a new genre to the book, that of the apocalypse. As the book continued to include more apocalypses, Dan 7 became a hinge connecting the two genres. The same role was played to a lesser degree by Dan 2, the most apocalyptic of the court tales. Hence, it is in these chapters that we find the strongest traces of further editorial activity. As argued in the chapter on Dan 7, the addition of the ten horns and the little horn to Daniel’s vision may well be attributed to the author of the apocalypse that is most concerned with Seleucid history: Dan 10–12. This apocalypse also shows affinity with the four-kingdom scheme introduced by Dan 2: it is dated to the reign of Cyrus (10:1), mentions Darius the Mede (11:1),6 and discusses the succession of the Persian Empire by the Hellenistic ones (11:2–4). Unsurprisingly, this author also left his mark in Dan 2 itself. I propose that he added the scene in which the dream and its meaning are revealed to Daniel in a night vision and related verses (marked by strikethrough black text in the reconstructed text of Dan 2).7 Collins and Segal note that the element of the ‘night vision’ is shared between Dan 2:19 and Dan 7:2 (but note the different phrase: חזוא די ליליא lit. ‘the vision of the night’ vs. חזוי עם ליליא lit. ‘(my) vision with the night’, respectively).8 Another important element of this layer in Dan 2, however, is the emphasis on revelation as the source of insight: the matter ‘was revealed’ (גלי) to Daniel (v. 19) by a god who is ‘a revealer of mysteries’ (גלא רזין; v. 28). Outside Dan 2, the only place the root גלי (or a potential translation equivalent) is used in Daniel is in Dan 10:1. The latter verse refers to ‘Daniel, who was called Belteshazzar’, the only place this name is used in any of the apocalyptic chapters. This same phrase occurs in Aramaic in Dan 2:26, which we have also assigned to the ‘night vision’ layer. Another correspondence occurs in the phrase ‘the end of days’, found both in Dan 2:28 and 10:14. This layer thus shows multiple connections to Dan 10–12, both in contents and in phrasing. In the chapter on Dan 2, I suggested that the author of Dan 10–12 may also have added the interpretation of the mixed iron and clay representing the ‘mixing of the seed of mankind’ (Dan 2:43) based on his interest in dynastic intermarriage. Hence, we should assign this interpretation to the same ‘night vision’ layer. Finally, Nebuchadnezzar’s mysterious offering in v. 46 might be related to the author of Dan 10–12’s concern for the Temple cult; perhaps the intent is to ironically show Nebuchadnezzar reinstating sacrifices to the God of Daniel, presenting us with a foil to Antiochus.

In the same way, the author of Dan 8 can also be seen at work in Dan 7 and Dan 2. Based on some unique correspondences between the interpretation of the fourth animal and its horns in Dan 7, I have attributed this passage to the author of Dan 8. Segal has recently drawn attention to the correspondence between the description of the king represented by the little horn in Dan 7:24–25 and the hymn in Dan 2:20–23.9 This allows us to assign the ‘hymnic layer’ in Dan 2 to the author of Dan 8 as well and connect it with the interpretation of the iron and clay given in v. 41a, which notes the division of Alexander’s empire into less powerful successor states, as does Dan 8:22. Dan 2:41a’s ודי חזיתה ‘and that you saw’ uses the same construction as Dan 8:22’s והנשברת, probably a mistranslation of ודי תבירת ‘and that it was broken’.10 Further links between this layer in Dan 2 and Dan 8 can be seen in the verb הודע/הודיע ‘to make known’ and the titles ‘God of Gods and Lord of Kings’ (Dan 2:47) and ‘Chief of Chiefs’ (Dan 8:25), although these or similar phrases also occur elsewhere and thus do not conclusively show a textual relationship.

A number of interpolations that we have identified in Dan 1,3–6 are difficult to conclusively link to other textual layers. For the sake of minimizing the number of postulated editors, we may assign these to the authors of Dan 8 and 10–12, bearing in mind that the evidence is scanty. The author of Dan 10–12, who introduced the night revelation scene to Dan 2, may also be responsible for the intrusive mention of the king’s rations in Dan 1:5aα, which spells פת בג ‘victuals’ the same way as in Dan 11:26. This author may also have written the dialogue between Nebuchadnezzar and the three friends in Dan 3:13–18, which shares the expression מלכא נבוכדנצר ‘King Nebuchadnezzar’ spelled thus (v. 16) with Dan 2:28,46. And the same author may have introduced the mantic experts other than Belteshazzar to Dan 4. The motif of the court contest between mantic experts is also adduced in Dan 2:27, belonging to this layer, while the passage in Dan 4 includes the statement that “no mystery (רז) is too difficult for you” (v. 6), using a term that features prominently in this layer of Dan 2.

The author of Dan 8, who introduced the hymn and related material to Dan 2, may also be responsible for Nebuchadnezzar’s edict in Dan 3:29, which shares the use of the verb הצל/הציל ‘to save’ with Dan 8:4,7.11 The hymn in Dan 4:31–32 shares the mention of the host of heaven with Dan 8. Daniel’s recapitulation of Nebuchadnezzar’s madness in Dan 5:18–22 shares Dan 8:25’s focus on various kings’ exaltation or humbling of their hearts (i.e. arrogance or humility). And perhaps this author also added the secondary instances of “the law of Media and Persia which does not pass away” in Dan 6, which contrast with Antiochus’ intention “to change times and the law” in Dan 7:25.

The additions to the vision of the little horn in Dan 7 were ascribed above to the author of the base layer of Dan 9.12 No connections are apparent, however, between Dan 9 and Dan 1–6. Following Ginsberg, the author of Dan 9 also seems to have edited Dan 8 and 10–12.13 Together, this suggests that Dan 7–12 once circulated as a separate collection.14 Moreover, Dan 8(:26b) and 10–12(:4) both present themselves as secret revelations to Daniel which lay hidden for centuries before surfacing during the Maccabean crisis they foretell. They also both establish a connection to Dan 7 at the outset, whether explicitly (Dan 8:1bβ) or stylistically (Dan 10:1). These features create tension in any work that contains both apocalypses: after all, only one of them can directly follow Dan 7, and why should Daniel have received two separate secret revelations that largely cover the same period? Based on the priority of the interpolations in Dan 2,7 we have independently connected with Dan 10–12 over those related to Dan 8, all of this suggests the following scenario:

  1. An Aramaic book of Dan 1–7 was in fairly broad circulation before the Maccabean crisis.

  2. During the Maccabean revolt, Dan 10–12 were appended to this work, accompanied by various edits to the preceding chapters.

  3. Another writer produced a rival edition, replacing Dan 10–12 with Dan 8. This writer did not recognize the material in Dan 1–7 related to Dan 8, however, and left it intact, together with his own interpolations.

  4. The author of Dan 9 then created a ‘mantic anthology’ of collected apocalypses,15 with his own work at the centre.

The opening and closing verses of Dan 1 shed some light on how the court tales and apocalypses came to be reunited. I have argued that these verses were intended to recast the book of Daniel once again, presenting it as a source on the period between the end of the Kingdom of Judah described in Chronicles and the post-exilic restoration described in Ezra–Nehemiah. Linguistically, the opening verses of Dan 1 show some connections to Ezra–Nehemiah in particular. Hence, we may associate them with the secondarily inserted prayer in Dan 9:4–20, which is connected to similar prayers in Ezra 9 and Nehemiah 9 on the one hand and shares the use of אדני as a divine name with Dan 1:2 on the other hand. The prayer reflects on the pre-exilic history of Israel and Judah. Together with the additions to Dan 1, this solidifies the book’s new status as part of a larger corpus of historical works composed in the post-exilic period. This kind of historical interest may well have flourished after the Maccabean revolt resulted in a Hasmonean victory.16 Especially given the relevance of the latest versions of Dan 7–12 to this conflict, it is understandable that the historically-minded editor combined the court tales and the apocalyptic anthology, giving us MT’s full collection of Dan 1–12. Together with Dan 1–2:4a, Dan 8–12 were translated to Hebrew. The bulk of the court tales and Dan 7, on the other hand, may already have been too well known in Aramaic to translate without losing some of their perceived authenticity. While scholars have long debated whether certain parts of Daniel were composed before or during the Maccabean period, one of the book’s most notable features—its Hebrew-Aramaic bilingualism—may thus well be post-Maccabean in origin.


On this motif in other literature, now see Andrew B. Perrin and Loren T. Stuckenbruck, eds., Four Kingdom Motifs Before and Beyond the Book of Daniel, Themes in Biblical Narrative 28 (Leiden: Brill, 2020).


Suchard, “Greek in Daniel 3.”


Kratz, Translatio imperii, 37, 43; Davies, Daniel, 43.


Cf. Hugo Greßmann, Der Messias (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1929), 344–455, 366–67; Scott, “I Daniel,” 296; rejected by Baumgartner, “Danielforschung,” 203. Baumgartner’s arguments are that while Dan 8:8 notes the existence of the four dynasties that succeeded Alexander, only the Ptolemies and Seleucids were of real interest to the book’s authors; that Antigonid Macedonia ceased to exist in the summer of 168 BCE; and that in Dan 2, a succession of empires is also represented as coexisting. None of these objections are compelling. In Dan 7, most attention is paid to the fourth animal, representing the Seleucids. If one of the animals represents the Antigonids, this only supports the hypothesis that Dan 7 was originally composed before 168 in a pre-Maccabean context. And in Dan 2, it is explicitly stated that the various kingdoms succeed each other (בתרך ‘after you’ in v. 39), which is not the case in Dan 7. More recently, van der Woude, “Doppelsprachigkeit,” 6–7 has argued that a later editor of Dan 7 misunderstood the originally intended four world empires as four Hellenistic successor states.


Cf. John J. Collins, “Stirring Up the Great Sea. The Religio-Historical Background of Daniel 7,” in The Book of Daniel in the Light of New Findings, ed. A. S. van der Woude, BETL 106 (Leuven: Leuven University Press/Peeters, 1993), 121–36; Collins, Daniel, 280–92.


Ginsberg, Studies in Daniel, 34, however, sees this as a later addition.


Contrast Davies, Daniel, 46, who attributes Dan 2:13–23 to the author of Dan 1. Kratz, Translatio imperii, 61, on the other hand, assigns most of v. 28 (which I ascribe to the author of Dan 10–12) to the author of Dan 7.


Collins, Daniel, 153; Segal, Dreams, Riddles, and Visions, 51.


Segal, Dreams, Riddles, and Visions, 51–54.


Ginsberg, Studies in Daniel, 42; Zimmermann, Biblical Books Translated from the Aramaic, 19–20.


The subject of blasphemy forms a closer connection with Dan 10–12, but if the author of the latter was responsible for Dan 3:13–18, there is a contradiction in the spelling of Abed Nego with or without final aleph (עבד נגוא only in v. 29).


A stylistic connection between this layer and Dan 8, not 9, is noted by Scott, “I Daniel,” 294. Scott notes that the mixture of symbolic vision elements and real-world entities occurs both in Dan 7:21–22,27 and 8:9–12. Interestingly, this part of the vision is not directly taken up in the following interpretation, Dan 8:20–25. It may be connected with vv. 13–14, which repeat the terms תמיד ‘continuous offering’ and פשע ‘offense’ and are identified as an interpolation from the hand of the author of Dan 9 by Ginsberg, Studies in Daniel, 32; Hartman and Di Lella, Daniel, 230–31. Indirectly, this stylistic similarity may thus support the association between Dan 9 and the latest layer of Dan 7.


Ginsberg, Studies in Daniel, 37.


See also André LaCocque, Le livre de Daniel (Neuchâtel: Delachaux et Niestlé, 1976), 20.


See Katrina J. A. Larkin, The Eschatology of Second Zechariah: A Study of the Formation of a Mantological Wisdom Anthology, CBET 6 (Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1994).


2 Macc 2:14 is suggestive in this regard: “In the same way Ioudas [Makkabaios] also collected all the books that had been lost on account of the war that had come upon us, and they are in our possession” (NETS).

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