View Full Version : Daniel: Random Comments

John Reece
02-21-2015, 04:44 PM
The following is the conclusion of the 'Introduction' to John J. Collins' Hermeneia Commentary on Daniel (Augsburg Fortress, 1993), page 123:

The great achievement of two centuries of historical criticism of the Book of Daniel has been to clarify the genre of the book, not only in the technical sense of the literary forms that constitute it but in the broad sense of the kind of writing that is involved and the expectations that are appropriate to it. Daniel is not a reliable source of factual information about either the past or future. This is apparent from the historical inaccuracies of the tales and the notorious problems of Darius the Mede and Nebuchadnezzar's madness, as well as from the unhistorical claim that the book recounts the visions of a Jew in the Exile. The unreliability of attempts to extract an eschatological timetable from the book is shown by the long history of failed expectations. The predictions of Daniel, like the stories of the past, are shaped by the literary conventions of the Hellenistic age, not by any deposit of revealed information. The time-bound character of the book cannot be evaded by vague statements that it is "a true witness to the end of the age" [So Childs, Introduction, 619.] that fail to explain how its witness is true.

Viewed in its historical and literary context, Daniel emerges as a religious document that is more akin to poetry than to historiography or futurology. It is, of course, an important historical witness to one strand of Judaism in the Hellenistic period, a strand that would be vitally important for the emergence of Christianity. Its witness, however, is largely in the language of legend and myth, which appeals to the imagination rather than to the rational intellect. That language has often been prone to misunderstanding by literalists, but it has nonetheless enriched the religious imagination of both Judaism and Christianity.