The Literary Structure of the Book of Daniel -- By: J. Paul Tanner

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 160:639 (Jul 2003)
Article: The Literary Structure of the Book of Daniel
Author: J. Paul Tanner


The Literary Structure of the Book of Daniel

J. Paul Tannera

To determine the message of the Book of Daniel, it is first necessary to understand the composition and design of the book as a whole. However, many critical scholars have questioned the book’s unity and authorship. Although there are exceptions, critical scholars generally maintain that chapters 7–12 were written after the earlier chapters by an author living at the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the second century B.C.1 Many also say that the author’s purpose was to encourage his fellow Jews who were suffering persecution under Antiochus. This is said to be the controlling purpose of the book, and the other material (particularly chapters 1–6) is then explained in some secondary way.

Thus Beyerle, who distinguishes the court tales in chapters 1–6 from the visions in chapters 7–12, argues that these major blocks arose from different social settings. “If the text is taken as a starting-point, the court-tales and visions—representing two different genres—go back to different social settings (Sitze im Leben):

the court-tales reflecting the fate of Jews in the diaspora, and the visions offering examples of persecuted, pious Jews in Jerusalem.”2

Not all critical scholars, however, have rejected the book’s unity, two exceptions being Otto Eissfeldt and H. H. Rowley.3 Rowley in particular has argued strongly for the unity of the book, though he also seeks to explain the entire book in light of Antiochus and the Maccabean revolt (the whole composition having been written, he says, in the second century B.C.). But most critical scholars have rejected the idea of a single author and a unified composition of the book.4 For them chapters 7–12 are primary, and the author of these chapters added chapters 1–6 to the book. The implication of such an approach, of course, is that the purpose and meaning of chapters 1–6 are now different from what they originally were.

For those who reject the authorship of the book by Daniel in the sixth century B.C., theories abound as to h...

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