The Book of Daniel in the Canon of Scripture -- By: Thomas J. Finley

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 165:658 (Apr 2008)
Article: The Book of Daniel in the Canon of Scripture
Author: Thomas J. Finley

The Book of Daniel in the Canon of Scripture

Thomas J. Finley

Thomas J. Finley is Chair and Professor of Old Testament and Semitics, Talbot School of Theology, La Mirada, California.

Several canonical issues are involved in the Book of Daniel. In English Bibles it is the last of the Major Prophets, while in the Hebrew Bible it is part of the Writings, or Ketubim. Protestant Bibles are based on the Hebrew and Aramaic of Daniel, while Roman Catholic Bibles include several additions found only in Greek (“The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Holy Children,” “Susanna,” and “Bel and the Dragon”). The Greek version itself has further canonical issues. The Old Greek of Daniel diverged somewhat drastically from the Hebrew, and it was replaced at an early date by another translation commonly called Theodotion.1

This article examines the position of Daniel within the canon of Scripture and suggests some implications and directions for further study. Steinmann defines “canon” as “a collection of authoritative and divinely inspired books accepted as such by an overwhelming majority in a religious community.”2 The early religious communities in question for which the Old Testament was authoritative include intertestamental Judaism, Jesus and His disciples, the early church, and early Judaism in the first five hundred years after Christ.

Is Daniel among the Writings or among the Prophets?

The Hebrew Bible used by the Jewish people today has three divisions: the Law (the five books of Moses); the Prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and The Twelve); and the Writings (Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles).3 In this method of dividing the canon there are twenty-four books, and they correspond exactly to the same thirty-nine books included in the Old Testament. The standard Christian canon places Daniel with the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Ezekiel. From a canonical perspective, then, Daniel should either be among the Writings (as in the Hebrew Bible) or among the prophetic books (as in the Christian canon). Why, then, was Daniel not included in the Prophets section of the Hebrew Bible?

The most ancient evidence for the ordering of books in the Hebrew Bible comes from a statement found in the Babylonian Talmud. After mentioning the five books of Moses it lists the “Prophets” (Nebiim) in the order Josh...

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