Interpreting the Prophets

By James Luther Mays; Paul J. Achtemeier | Go to book overview

18
Is Daniel Also
Among the Prophets?

KLAUS KOCH*

By its inclusion in the prophetic corpus, the Book of Daniel with its
message of Cod's final control over human destiny sheds a significant
new light on the whole prophetic tradition.

In the Greek, the Latin, and all succeeding translations of the Bible, the Book of Daniel has been positioned as one of the four major prophets. That means that for fifteen hundred years there was no doubt among Christian theologians about the prophetic authority of the book and its author. Since the printing of the first Rabbinic Bible in the early sixteenth century A.D., however, scholars have become aware that in the Hebrew-Aramaic Bible Daniel was placed not among the prophets but among the Writings (Ketuvim). It was not until the growth of historical criticism in the eighteenth century and its applications to Daniel, however, that this issue was given serious consideration. The English deist Anthony Collins in his Scheme of Literal Prophecy Considered1 took up the issue. He quoted Maimonides with great pleasure: Unanimi consensu gens nostra retulit librum Danielis inter libros Hagiographos, non vero propheticosl2 Regarding the Rabbinic Bible and its order as older and more reliable than that of the Septuagint and its followers, Collins denied the prophetic character of the content of Daniels book. As did the anti-Christian Neoplatonist Porphyry (who died

*I would like to thank Dwight R. Daniels for improving my English. After completing this
essay, I received a copy of Robert D. Wilson's “the Book of Daniel and the Canon,” Princeton
Theological Review 13 (1915) 352-408. Wilson reached nearly the same conclusions seventy
years ago. After checking the testimonies he remarks, “Only one witness puts the book of
Daniel under any other heading than that of the prophets. This witness is the Baba
Bathra.… Even Origin and Jerome, who studied with the Jewish Rabbis of their time, place
Daniel among the Prophets” (p. 384). Cf. also the notice of a prophetical “pentateuch” (Minor
Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel) with Epiphanius (p. 368).

1. The Scheme of literal Prophecy Considered (London, 1727), pp. 153-54.

2. Moses Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed, trans. Shlomo Pines (Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1963), p. 400. The English translation softens the opposition: “For this reason
the nation has reached a consensus to put the Book of Daniel among the Writings, and not
among the Prophets.”

-237-

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