Daniel (book of the Bible)

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Daniel (book of the Bible)

Daniel, book of the Bible. It combines "court" tales, perhaps originating from the 6th cent. BC, and a series of apocalyptic visions arising from the time of the Maccabean emergency (167–164 BC), which clearly presuppose the history of Palestine in the Hellenistic era after Alexander the Great (d.323 BC). In its canonical form, the book reads as a divine vindication of the exiled Daniel and the Kingdom of God for which he suffers as the representative of the people of God. A long passage from a point near the beginning of chapter 2 through chapter 7 is written in Aramaic; the rest is in Hebrew. The Septuagint not only inserts the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men into the third chapter, but adds two more chapters containing the stories of Susanna and of Bel and the Dragon. The additions are found in Catholic Bibles and the Protestant Apocrypha. The common theme of chapters 1–6 and 7–12 is the clash of the Kingdom of God and kingdoms of the earth. Despite the apparent powerlessness of the Kingdom of God and its human champion Daniel—a victim of the exile and Babylonian might—the kings of the earth come to acknowledge that they rule only by divine permission. Chapters 7–12 are to be read on two levels. Events on earth have their heavenly counterparts. In these chapters the supernatural power behind the kings of this world is revealed. For all his ferocity and might, he is a doomed adversary of Israel's God, the King of kings, who vindicates his beleaguered people on earth. The book is both an assurance to the faithful and a summons to perseverance in light of superhuman efforts to eradicate the people of the heavenly King. The book can be divided as follows: Daniel and his friends are taken to the Babylonian court, where they remain faithful to the Law; a dream of King Nebuchadnezzar is interpreted by Daniel; Nebuchadnezzar, demanding divine honors, tries to punish three recalcitrant Jews by burning them in a furnace; a second dream of Nebuchadnezzar is interpreted by Daniel to foretell the king's madness; Daniel interprets the handwriting on the wall at Belshazzar's feast; he escapes alive from the lions' den; Daniel has four apocalyptic visions. Fragments of the book of Daniel have been found at Qumran (see Dead Sea Scrolls).

See J. J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Vision of the Book of Daniel (1977); A. Lacocque, The Book of Daniel (1979); J. Goldingay, Daniel (1989). See also bibliography under Old Testament.

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