James Dowden's Biblioblog

An Anglican layman and total Biblical Studies amateur posts on stuff he finds interesting in the Bible

Month: July, 2013

Is the Pericope Adulterae Lucan?

1. Boring PSA

Blogging’s been non-existent for the last fortnight or so thanks to your author’s going and getting married. It may continue to be a little sparse, but some posts just have to be made, even if they’ll be very preliminary in nature, briefer than usual, and without accents and breathings on the Greek.

2. Get on with it

I’ve just read an article by Kyle R. Hughes about Lucanisms in the Pericope Adulterae (conventionally, but thoroughly bogusly labelled as John 7.53-8.11).

I see a few problems with these alleged Lucanisms.

Firstly, there is the issue that Luke and Acts are written in relatively good Greek compared to the rest of the New Testament. Comparing any well-written Greek to the New Testament will therefore resemble the works addressed to Theophilus more than, say, Matthew or Mark or Paul (or, μη γενοιτο, John of Patmos). It’s not necessarily remarkable that some unknown author uses ορθρου, rather than a genitive absolute with a verb meaning “to dawn”; or indeed the “having sat down, he taught” construction — these are just examples of good Greek style. Somewhat relatedly, απο του νυν is characteristic of the LXX as well — for instance, it appears four times in Isaiah and twice in Tobit — if one were to try to write good Biblish Greek, this is exactly the sort of phrase one would throw in. To put it plainly, I am not seeing anything that is specific to a Lucan community, as opposed to a general highly-literate Christian millieu of the early centuries (and, indeed, a major point of the story is suspiciously to point out that Jesus too was literate).

Secondly, some of the supposed Lucanisms are features on which Luke and Acts do not cohere well. Luke and PA use the genitive ορθρου (at dawn), whereas Acts goes for the clunky prepositional phrase υπο τον ορθρον. Likewise, Luke and PA indeed favour δε, but Acts’ sweetheart conjunction is τε.

Thirdly, there is the issue that Lucan special material’s distinctive vocabulary coheres statistically (see Dave Gentile’s recent work) with the vocabulary units that Luke uses to redact Mark. The simplest explanation for this is that the author of the L source is the same person who redacted Mark to form Luke. Looking for a literary L source may well be a mirage, and that PA’s appearances in Luke in the manuscript tradition are all in clearly secondary locations is highly suggestive that it does not originally belong to the same collection of material.

Psalm 77

This post is going to be a little different. We sang Psalm 77 at Evensong tonight. It reminded me of quite how fond I was of the Asaph Psalms and their literary artistry. Rather than harp on and on about it, I’m going to paste the ESV text, highlight where key words show up in the Hebrew, and underline thematic parallels. So without further waffle:

77. To the choirmaster: according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph.

1 I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
3 When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah

4 You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5 I consider the days of old,
the years long ago.
6 I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart.”
Then my spirit made a diligent search:

7 “Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
8 Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah

10 Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
12 I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.

13 Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
15 You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

16 When the waters saw you, O God,
when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
indeed, the deep trembled.
17 The clouds poured out water;
the skies gave forth thunder;
your arrows flashed on every side.
18 The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lighted up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.

19 Your way was through the sea,
your path through the great waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.
20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Visualizing the Psalter


After that series of rather heavy posts, I thought I’d post something rather lighter today: my visualization of the structure of the Psalter.Psalter StructureKey:

  • Magenta: David (desaturated outside collections)
  • Green: Korah (desaturated outside collection)
  • Brown: Asaph (desaturated outside collection)
  • Purple: Solomon
  • Blue: Moses
  • Dark Grey: Heman and Ethan
  • Light Grey: Anonymous
  • Yellow Quartering: Psalms with evidence of complex textual histories (not simple joins (e.g. 19) or splits (e.g. 42-43))
  • Blue Rings: Maskils (desaturated: implicit through doublets)
  • Gold Rings: Mikhtams (desaturated: implicit through doublets)
  • Background Aleph: Alphabetic acrostics
  • Illegible word below numeral: “Hist” — the five predominantly historical Psalms


Firstly, I should state my indebtedness to Casper Labuschagne, whose website first put me on to the groups of seven, eleven, and fifteen that so characterize the Psalter.

What should be immediately obvious about this visualization is that it does not follow a five-book structure. I see that structure as having arisen over a number of stages:

  1. The initial 2 David group consisting of a penitential psalm (51), maskils (52-55), mikhtams (56-60), and another penitential psalm (61) was formed as a group of eleven.
  2. Several stages of accretions followed (possibly first with four more to form a group of fifteen, then another three to make 11+7, and then another four), with whoever finally added Psalm 72 wanting to finalize the accretions with (a) making 2 David up to two groups of eleven; (b) adding a doxology; (c) adding a note that the prayers of David are ended; and (d) ascribing it to Solomon.
  3. 2 David was incorporated by the Elohistic editor with the Korah Psalms (42-49), the Asaph oracle (50), and the Asaph Psalms (73-83), possibly on the basis that the Davidic Psalms should be the centre of the structure.
  4. The Yahwistic coda to Part Two of the Psalter was added (84-89).
  5. Part Three of the Psalter was added.
  6. Someone reinterpreted the end of Psalm 72 as closing 42-72 rather than 51-72, creating four books.
  7. In imitation of the resultant seventeen-psalm Book Three and the Pentateuch, someone counted seventeen psalms into Part Three and inserted a copy of 41.13 at the end of Psalm 106.

Whilst we are on the Solomon ascription, the other instance of this is peculiarly meaningful as well: Psalm 127 forms a centrepoint to the Songs of Ascents just as the Temple formed a focus for pilgrimage.

The other element I would particularly like to highlight is what I have termed the Great Inclusion. This breaks the eleven psalms of 3 David into two parts. It is tied in with: (a) incipits; (b) the theme of material preceding 3 David material; and (c) an internal structure of a pair, a group, the Great Psalm, another group, and another pair. On that last basis, Psalm 137 seems rather anomalous.

And if nothing else, this is a pretty picture.


Χριστός in Luke (Part 3)

1. Summary of what’s gone before

In Part 1, we examined Luke’s use of χριστός. A consistent pattern emerged of its being a title, rather than another name for Jesus.

In Part 2, we looked at how Luke had redacted his sources. Although individually the data may look like mere selection of material, or influenced by differing eschatologies, the overall tendency to omit conflicting usages or modify them (e.g. with “of God”) looks like a redactional pattern.

Now, if the gospels were the only potentially relevant documents in determining Luke’s usage of a word, then that would be that. But traditionally — based on the prefaces and on being in good Greek deploying a wide vocabulary — Luke is also thought to have written the Acts of the Apostles.

2. A boring note about text types

Looking at any word in Acts quickly runs into the issue of divergent text-types: the Western text is about a tenth longer than the Alexandrian one. The Western text is particularly characterized by concatenating κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, which makes the use of χριστός in that version of Acts look extremely divergent from Luke. Critical opinion tends to favor the shorter Alexandrian text, and it is that text that is represented by the SBL edition that I have used for this post — this should be the less divergent of the two from Luke.

3. Let’s get on with it

Χριστός appears in Acts 25 times — or about twice as frequently as in the gospel. Let’s jump in with a simple scorecard for our four criteria:

Generic 12 (including 2 ambiguous instances)
Byname 13

Definite Article 12 (including 1 ambiguous instance)
No Article 13

Part of a Copula Predicate 5 (including 1 instance where εἶναι is understood)
Other 20 (including 1 instance as the direct object of ποιέω)

Genitive Modifier 1 (τοῦ χριστοῦ αὐτοῦ at 4.26, quoting Psalm 2.2)
No Genitive Modifier 24

The potentially ambiguous instances are those at 3.20 and 5.42, and they bear some similarity to one another:

3.20 καὶ ἀποστείλῃ τὸν προκεχειρισμένον ὑμῖν χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν
and that he might send the Messiah appointed for you, Jesus
OR: and that he might send the one appointed for you, Christ Jesus

5.42 καὶ εὐαγγελιζόμενοι τὸν χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν
and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah (this is that understood εἶναι)
OR: and proclaiming the good news of Christ Jesus

At once, this is a very different picture from the one seen in the Gospel. God’s anointed has completely disappeared, apart from a solitary Old Testament quote. And although the identity of the Anointed still occurs, it is lost in a sea of other uses.

The groups with and without the article near-perfectly align with generic/byname usage (2.31 and 2.36 flip). So let’s look at how χριστός is used in each group:

With the definite article (total 12):

  • 5 as part of a copula predicate (5.42; 9.22; 17.3(ii); 18.5,22)
  • 3 that the Anointed should suffer (3.18; 17.3; 26.23), cf Luke 24.26,46
  • 2 royal proclamations (3.20; 8.5)
  • 1 quote from Psalm 2.2 (4.26)
  • 1 allusion to Psalm 16.10 (2.31)

Without the article (total 13):
11 instances of Ἰησοῦς Χριστός:

  • 4 baptism in the name of (2.38; 3.6; 8.12; 10.48)
  • 3 healings and exorcisms (4.10 (name of); 9.34; 16.18 (name of))
  • 1 peace through Jesus Christ (10.36)
  • 3 instances of {the|our} Lord Jesus Christ (11.17 (believing in); 15.26 (men risking lives for the name of); 28.31 (teaching about))

2 other instances:

  • the object of ποιέω, to make, at 2.36
  • faith in Χριστός Ἰησοῦς at 24.24 (as this is reporting speech by Paul, maybe this is deliberately adopting an obvious Paulinism)

The former group looks relatively similar to the Gospel, albeit a bit more apt to introducing quotations, and for the absence of God’s anointed; this could, however, be the result of imitation, or even a Lucan school. The second group is characterized by totemic use of Ἰησοῦς Χριστός at baptisms, healings, and exorcisms; but the other, narrative uses of this combination are more problematic for maintaining the identity of the author of Acts with the author of the Gospel (or at least of most of chapters 3-24).

4. Conclusion

There is a real problem with the use of χριστός in Acts being inconsistent with that of Luke. It’s almost as if Luke is the Farrer Theory’s careful redactor in the Gospel, then becomes the Two-Source Theory’s comedy dim-witted bodger, the Reverend Mr Luke, in the Acts. Rather than drawing a firm conclusion, let me throw out some alternative hypotheses:

  1. that there were two redactors: one who carefully fashioned most of the gospel, and another who adopted the gospel and various other things he liked virtually wholesale, giving us Luke-Acts as we know it;
  2. that proto-Western corruptions are already present in the Alexandrian text of Acts;
  3. that there is some literary significance in the use of χριστός changing after the Ascension.

Of course, this isn’t the only argument for the first of these positions. Perhaps I’ll get onto some of the others some time. But for now, I’ll just leave this as a problem that arises from taking Luke’s redaction seriously.

Χριστός in Luke (Part 2)

Last time, we looked at Luke’s use of χριστός. We saw that — with the possible exception of the first two chapters with their different style — Luke consistently uses χριστός as a title (the anointed (one), the Messiah) rather than as another name of Jesus.

This post will look at the two other synoptic gospels, which under the Farrer Theory Luke used as sources. The question is whether Luke’s use of χριστός is characteristic of his redaction. For advocates of the other main theory of synoptic origins, viz the Two-Source Theory, just read Q for Matthew and most of it should fit nicely into your world-view.

This will inevitably be a rather heavy post, as it will cover a lot of data.

1. The Sources of Luke’s material

Firstly, we should consider the types of context in which each of Luke’s instances of χριστός is found:

2.11: Infancy Narrative
2.26: Infancy Narrative
3.15: Lucan expansion of Triple Tradition material
4.41: Triple Tradition
9.20: Triple Tradition
20.41: Triple Tradition
22.67: Triple Tradition with Matthaean influence
23.2: Lucan expansion of Triple Tradition material
23.35: Triple Tradition
23.39: Lucan expansion of Triple Tradition material based on Matthew
24.26: Special Lucan material
24.46: Special Lucan material

The unparalleled instances are of course limited in what light they can shed on Luke as a redactor. These can be summed up as follows:

  • the two instances in the Infancy Narrative are more distinctive from the rest of Luke than distinctively Lucan as we saw last time;
  • Luke 3.15 contextualizes the Baptist’s “I baptize with water” with the question of whether he was the Messiah or not, setting up the whole Lucan theme of the Messiah’s identity;
  • Luke 23.2 is his special framing of the accusation before Pilate, identifying the term χριστός with the βασιλεύς that all the Gospels agree is the term the Romans used;
  • Luke 23.39 is fascinating: formally, it is a doublet of 23.35/Mk15.32/Mt27.42; Mark then adds that those who were crucified with Jesus reproached him, which Matthew expands (27.44) “with the same reproach”; the Lucan form then spells out the same reproach in full;
  • Luke 24.26,46 share a particular Lucan theme: that the Messiah should suffer; they round off Luke’s understanding of χριστός.

With those out of the way, all five remaining instances of χριστός in Luke come in the Triple Tradition: i.e. they are all in contexts that originated in Mark. So, one by one:

  • Luke 4.41 expands Mark 1.34, in which the demons “knew him”, to “knew him to be the χριστός”. On the scribal level, this redaction often finds its way back into manuscripts of Mark.
  • Luke 9.20 once more slightly expands Mark 8.29. Whereas Mark had Peter identify Jesus as the χριστός, Luke turns this into “God’s χριστός”.
  • Luke 20.41 simply tidies up Mark 12.35’s Greek. He retains the question “How do {the scribes|they} say that the Messiah is David’s son?”
  • Luke 22.67 takes Matthew 26.63’s redaction of Mark 14.61’s simple question into “if […], tell us”, and tidies up the word order somewhat. He also omits “the son of {the Blessed (Mk)|God (Mt)}”, which may serve some redactional purpose; but if it does, this would then generate a magnificent piece of editorial fatigue at 22.70.
  • Luke 23.35 once again takes Mark’s simple “the χριστός, the King of Israel” and turns it into “God’s χριστός” (whereas Matthew had omitted the other half of Mark’s pair).

So out of five instances, one is entirely new, two include a new emphasis that it was by God that Jesus was anointed, and two are broadly the same with some tidying.

2. Mark

If you’ve been keeping count, we have already covered four of the seven instances of χριστός in Mark’s Gospel. The remaining three (with the sole instance of ψευδόχριστος thrown in for free!) are:

  • 1.1 Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ. (The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.)
  • 9.41 Ὃς γὰρ ἂν ποτίσῃ ὑμᾶς ποτήριον ὕδατος ἐν ὀνόματι ὅτι χριστοῦ ἐστε, ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐ μὴ ἀπολέσῃ τὸν μισθὸν αὐτοῦ. (For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in the name that you are of Christ, Amen I say to you that he will not lose his recompense.)
  • 13.21 καὶ τότε ἐάν τις ὑμῖν εἴπῃ· Ἴδε ὧδε ὁ χριστός, Ἴδε ἐκεῖ, μὴ πιστεύετε· [22] ἐγερθήσονται γὰρ ψευδόχριστοι καὶ ψευδοπροφῆται καὶ δώσουσιν σημεῖα καὶ τέρατα πρὸς τὸ ἀποπλανᾶν εἰ δυνατὸν τοὺς ἐκλεκτούς· (And at that time if someone says to you, “Look, here’s the Messiah! Look, there he is!” don’t believe him; for false messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders so as to lead astray, if possible, the chosen.)

The first two seem to treat χριστός as a name, in as much as 9.41 makes any sense at all. Returning to the last post’s criteria, neither are conceivably generic, neither are concerned with “being the χριστός”, neither are modified by a genitive (anointed by someone), both lack the article. And in both cases, Luke completely omits the verse.

Neither case is particularly convincing in and of itself. It is hardly earth-shattering redaction for Luke just to choose to begin his gospel rather more artistically than having a sentence saying “the beginning of the Gospel”. Nor is it surprising that Luke could simply pass over 9.41 for just being an ugly verse that added little. But both instances of χριστός as a name in Mark disappear as a result.

The third of the additional Marcan instances of χριστός is heavily reworked in Luke 17.20-23 to refer to the Kingdom of God and not to the χριστός. This takes the saying away from an apocalyptic hope to something that militates against it, viz the Kingdom of God’s being “within you”, a magnificent piece of Lucan theology.

3. Matthew (aka Q)

Matthew has a lot of instances of χριστός, sixteen in the SBL text. The can be briefly categorized as follows:

1.1 Matthaean Genealogy
1.16 Matthaean Genealogy (first instance of ὁ λεγόμενος χριστός, “the one called Christ”)
1.17 Matthaean Genealogy
1.18 Matthaean Infancy Narrative
2.4 Matthaean Infancy Narrative
11.2 Double Tradition
16.16 Triple Tradition (Peter’s Confession, =Mk8.29=Lk9.20 above)
16.20 Matthaean expansion of Triple Tradition
22.42 Triple Tradition (David’s Son, =Mk12.35=Lk20.41 above)
23.10 Matthaean expansion of Triple Tradition
24.5 Triple Tradition (Matthaean insertion of χριστός)
24.23 Triple Tradition (Look, here’s the Messiah! =Mk13.21 above; also ψευδόχριστος v24 =Mk13.22)
26.63 Triple Tradition (If you’re the Messiah, tell us! =Mk14.61=Lk22.67 above)
26.68 Double Tradition expansion of Triple Tradition (Matthaean insertion of χριστός)
27.17 Matthaean expansion of Triple Tradition (ὁ λεγόμενος χριστός)
27.22 Matthaean expansion of Triple Tradition (ὁ λεγόμενος χριστός)

Four of these, we have met already: in two cases (Peter’s confession and David’s son) Luke preferred a more Marcan form; in one (if you’re the Messiah, tell us) a more Matthaean one; and in one (look, here’s the Messiah!) going of in his own special direction.

Five more are from sections Luke did not find to his taste in their entirety, the Matthaean Genealogy and Infancy Narrative. Nevertheless, these are useful to show what Matthaean usage of χριστός looks like: they are all specific to Jesus, none have genitive modifiers, none of them are instances of “being the χριστός”, and only two of the five have the article — the remaining three being two instances of the compound name Jesus Christ, plus one of Matthew’s favourite “Jesus, the one called Christ”.

This therefore leaves seven further examples to consider:

  • 11.2 Ὁ δὲ Ἰωάννης ἀκούσας ἐν τῷ δεσμωτηρίῳ τὰ ἔργα τοῦ χριστοῦ (“But John, having heard in prison the works of (the) Christ”); Luke completely reworks this, removing the ambiguity: Καὶ ἀπήγγειλαν Ἰωάννῃ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ περὶ πάντων τούτων. (And his disciples reported all these things to John.) Given the enquiry at Mt11.3=Lk7.19, Luke may have felt that χριστός rather prejudiced the question.
  • 16.20 A simple expansion of Jesus in Mark instructing them not to tell anyone, Matthew adding “that he was the Christ” — Mark’s initial meaning that Matthew had interrupted with a long expansion on Peter’s Confession; Luke simply follows Mark.
  • 23.10 μηδὲ κληθῆτε καθηγηταί, ὅτι καθηγητὴς ὑμῶν ἐστιν εἷς ὁ χριστός· (“neither be called ‘master’, for you have one master, (the) Christ”) Thus ends Matthew’s long expansion of the Condemnation of the Scribes; Luke follows Mark instead in this pericope.
  • 24.5 “saying, ‘I am he'” (Mk/Lk) vs “saying ‘I am (the) Christ'” (Mt); Luke is closer to Mark than Matthew in the Eschatalogical Discourse; indeed Luke and Matthew’s eschatologies could be argued to diverge from Mark in opposite directions.
  • 26.68 The famous “Prophecy! Who is it that hit you?” Minor Agreement. Matthew adds, or rather Luke removes, the vocative χριστέ. This is consistent with our preliminary conclusion that Luke uses χριστός as a title and not as a name; he would not have Jesus addressed as “O Christ”.
  • 27.17,22 Matthew calls Barabbas “Jesus Barabbas”; he therefore throws in two instances of “the one called Christ” to differentiate between his two Jesuses. Luke doesn’t get into this tangle.

Many of these extra instances can be simply explained in terms of Luke’s tidiness. But preserving his use of χριστός seems to have been a factor at Mt26.68=Lk23.64, and may have played a part in not giving Barabbas a forename and in reworking his introduction to the Baptist’s Enquiry.

4. Luke as a Redactor

So although most of the individual instances are capable of being explained away, the overall picture in Luke’s redaction of both Mark and Matthew is one consistent with his having a distinctive use of χριστός.

Next time, in Part 3, we’ll have a look at the Acts of the Apostles.

Χριστός in Luke (Part 1)

1. Introductory bit in which I observe how unrevolutionary this methodology is

Way, way back in 1953, Nils Dahl wrote an essay entitled “Die Messianität Jesu bei Paulus”, in which he made four observations of how Paul used the term χριστός:

  • it is never a general term (rather than a byname for Jesus of Nazareth)
  • it is never part of a copula predicate (“to be the χριστός”)
  • it is never modified by a genitive (“God’s χριστός”)
  • the definite article is usually absent

On this basis, Dahl concluded that in Paul, χριστός was a proper name, i.e. Christ.

So what happens if we look at these four criteria in Luke?

2. Let’s get on to Luke

In the SBL text of Luke, the word χριστός appears twelve times (the Textus Receptus adds a thirteenth), namely at 2.11,26; 3.15; 4.41; 9.20; 20.41; 22.67; 23.2,35,39; 24.26,46.

A. General term or byname

In ten of the twelve cases, χριστός is clearly a general term. The exceptions are 2.11 and 23.2, which will be further discussed at C and D below respectively.

B. Copula predicate

Eight (2.11; 3.14; 4.41; 9.20; 22.67; 23.2,35,39) are part of a copula predicate. Three more (20.41; 24.26,46) discuss the identity of the χριστός without using this grammatical structure.

C. Modified by a genitive

On three occasions in the text (and in a variant of another), χριστός is modified by a genitive:

  • the Lord’s χριστός at 2.26 (κυρίου without article, which coupled with the so-called Septuagintal style of chapters 1-2…)
  • God’s χριστός at 9.20 and 23.35

UBS3 notes a variant at 2.11. Although it presents χριστὸς κύριος (“Christ the Lord”) in the main text and gives it an A rating, some Old Latin and Syriac manuscripts, along with the Diatessaron and a quotation in Ephraem have χριστὸς κυρίου (“the Lord’s anointed”).

D. Presence of definite article

The definite article is present in ten of the twelve cases. The exceptions are 2.11 and 23.2.

The absence of the article is easily explicable at 23.2, due to the juxtaposition with another noun without the article:

καὶ λέγοντα αὑτὸν χριστὸν βασιλέα εἶναι
and saying he is the Messiah, a king

Nevertheless, this clause is genuinely ambiguous: it could also be read as:

  • a proper name: “and saying he is Christ, a king”
  • an adjective: “and saying he is an anointed king”

3. Preliminary conclusion

These four criteria are good evidence that Luke’s use of χριστός is diametrically opposite to that Dahl found in Paul. At least from chapter 3 onward — we will leave the peculiar style of chapters 1-2 aside for now — Luke consistently uses χριστός as a title, and not as a name.

Coming up in Part 2: can we tell anything from Luke’s redaction of Mark and Matthew*?
* aka “Q” for two-source hypothesis fans.

Did Bel and the Dragon predate Daniel 7-12?

On the basis that introductory blog posts about blogging are boring and rarely fail to disappoint, here’s jumping straight in with something interesting.

1. The Basics (skip this bit if it sounds patronizing)

The Book of Daniel can be found in your Old Testament. If you’ve got a Jewish edition, it’s located among the Ketuvim (or Writings), the latest of the three collections that form the Tanakh (or Hebrew Bible). Christian editions promote Daniel to being the fourth of the Major Prophets.

The Book of Daniel falls into two parts in two unhelpfully different ways. One is a simple matter of language: chapters 2-7 exist in Aramaic, whilst chapters 1 and 8-12 are in a late and heavily Aramaicized Hebrew. Whether this is because it is translation Hebrew, presumably executed to win Daniel a place in the Canon, or whether there is a deeper significance to these odd language shifts is not the point of this post.

The other way it falls into two parts is the sharp change of narration and genre after chapter 6. Chapters 1-6 are slightly fantastic stories about a prophet — much like the Book of Jonah — written in the third person (so Daniel is “he”); these have conventionally been called the Court Tales. Chapters 7-12 are a series of strange apocalyptic visions, narrated in the first person (so Daniel is “I”). The chronological setting also jumps back in time at this point: for instance, chapters 7-8 come before chapter 4 in the book’s chronology.

The other issue is that not all Christian versions of Daniel are the same: as well as the Hebrew/Aramaic version, there are two Greek versions, conventionally called the Old Greek or Septuagint (abbreviated Οʹ, the Greek number 70) and Theodotion (abbreviated Θ, the first letter of his name in Greek). Both “Septuagint” and “Theodotion” are technically misnomers in this case: the name “Septuagint” refers to a myth about the translation of the Torah in the assorted translations grouped together under that name; and there is good reason to believe that Θ in this case is at least based on an older translation. (There is also a curious case of verbatim agreements in Greek between Θ Daniel and Baruch, but that is one for another post.)

The most obvious characteristic of both Greek versions is that they are significantly longer. During the Protestant Reformation, these (and generally Θ rather than Οʹ) were supplanted by the Aramaic/Hebrew version, leading to denominational differences in the text form presented in English Bibles. In Anglican Bibles, the three big plus passages in the Greek versions are included in the Apocrypha. These are:

  • The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Children — otherwise known as the Benedictus Es and the Benedicite — these canticles and small bits of connecting text go in the middle of Daniel 3. It’s entirely possible that at least the Benedicite predates the rest of Daniel, as its aptness for the situation seems somewhat questionable (although it is omitted in 1QDanª, the Qumran manuscript including Daniel 3.22-30).

And two stories starring our hero, Daniel:

  • Susanna — a lovely stand-alone wisdom story that variously floats around before or after Daniel and has absolutely no connection to the main book. It’s well worth reading, but isn’t anything to do with this post.
  • Bel and the Dragon — this, like Susanna, seems to stand alone and is of variable location before or after Daniel; it consists of two episodes, further developing the anti-idolatry theme of Daniel.

So, all in all, we have evidence of a complicated textual history.

2. A Variant in the Opening of Bel

The two Greek versions have significant differences between them. For instance, the first four verses of Bel and the Dragon reads as follows in Οʹ:

From a prophecy of [Habakkuk] the son of
[Joshua] of the tribe of [Levi].
2 There was a certain person, a priest, whose
name was Daniel son of Habal, a companion of
the king of Babylon.
3 And there was an idol, Bel, which the Babylonians
would revere. Now, every day they were
squandering on it twelve bushels of choice flour
and four sheep and six measures of oil. 4And the
king would revere him, and the king would go
every day and would do obeisance to him. But
Daniel would pray to the Lord.
And the king said to Daniel, “Why do you not
do obeisance to Bel?” (NETS, proper names changed to conventional forms)

But Θ has:

And King Astyages was added to his ancestors,
and Cyrus the Persian received his kingdom.
2And Daniel was a companion of the king and was
honored beyond all his friends.
3 And the Babylonians had an idol, whose
name was Bel, and each day they would spend on
him twelve bushels of choice flour and forty sheep
and six measures of wine. 4And the king would revere
him and would go every day to do obeisance
to him. But Daniel kept doing obeisance to his
And the king said to him, “Why do you not do
obeisance to Bel?” (NETS)

Although these have little contact on the level of the Greek, one’s ancestor will ultimately be a modification of the other’s ancestor.

As a stand-alone text, the opening of Θ is more than a little odd. Who’s this Daniel? Come to think of it, who’s this Astyages, who turns up in the very first clause only to promptly die? This doesn’t look like the start of a book at all.

For our purposes, it doesn’t matter whether the ancestor of Οʹ redacted the ancestor of Θ to make it look like the start of a book, or whether the ancestor of Θ redacted the ancestor of Οʹ to fit it into another text, the obvious candidate for which is the Book of Daniel.

The question is therefore: where did Θ Bel fit into Daniel?

3. A Variant in Daniel 6

We are used to the last verse of Daniel 6 (variously numbered 28 or 29) reading as follows:

So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. (NRSV following Aramaic)

Θ is essentially identical:

And Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and
in the reign of Cyrus the Persian. (NETS)

But Οʹ is very different:

And King Darius was added to his fathers,
and Cyrus the Persian received his kingdom. (NETS)

Here I think we can be more confident about the direction of redaction. On a superficial level, the Aramaic and Θ work as an “and they all lived happily ever after” ending. But there are problems:

  • Why mention Cyrus at all, if there is nothing to note of Daniel’s interaction with him?
  • The Aramaic word מַלְכּוּ (malku) occurs 39 times in Daniel, and on 37 of these occasions is used in the sense of “kingdom”; the other two, in the sense of “reign”, are only in this verse. This verse just isn’t in the author’s style.
  • The alternative reading of Cyrus receiving the kingdom, then being immediately followed by a much earlier chronological situation in 7.1 is difficult enough to invite redaction.
  • The wording of Οʹ Daniel 6.last should be very familiar.

4. Very familiar words

So let us compare Οʹ Daniel 6.last:

And King Darius was added to his fathers,
and Cyrus the Persian received his kingdom. (NETS)

With Θ Bel 1:

And King Astyages was added to his ancestors,
and Cyrus the Persian received his kingdom. (NETS)

Now, in the Greek there are minor variations in word order between the two, which are so insignificant that they cannot be translated into English. The only meaningful difference is the dead king’s name.

I have been careful throughout this post to avoid the word “historical” (generally preferring the word “chronological”). The point is of course that the Court Tales are thoroughly historically implausible. Darius the Mede is an even worse blooper: he is unknown outside the book of Daniel, and seems to be the result of some confusion on the part of the author (there were later Persian kings called Darius).

There are plenty of instances of ancient “corrections” to the name Darius in manuscripts of Daniel. Οʹ substitutes Xerxes or Artaxerxes at the verse variously numbered as 5.31 or 6.1. Θ reads “the king” for “Darius the king” at 6.16 and 19. And Josephus (Antiquities 10.11.4) explains that Darius was the son of Astyages and “had another name among the Greeks”, which seems to be a contorted exit from precisely this variant.

5. A Contention

I therefore contend that Bel and the Dragon was removed from after Daniel 6 by the editor who appended chapters 7-12.

There are plausible reasons for this removal: Bel and the Dragon amplifies themes and incidents from Daniel 1-6, and particularly the repeated Lions’ Den incident makes it look clearly secondary.

The redacted form of 6.last not only makes the chronological transition after the removal of Bel and the Dragon slightly less awkward, but also denies the premise of Bel and the Dragon by stating that Daniel prospered under Cyrus.

So on the basis of this contention, two questions remain:

  • Is the Οʹ form of Bel and the Dragon’s opening the original from before its attachment to the Book of Daniel, or redaction from after it was removed? (My instinct is the latter, as it has a faint air of an attempt to associate it with Habakkuk instead.)
  • Can we say anything about the relative dates of the Bel and the Dragon addition and the apocalyptic chapters prior to their inclusion with the Court Tales? Did either work have any prior existence before their inclusion, or were they added by their respective authors?

So welcome to my blog.