New Light on the Book of Daniel from the Dead Sea Scrolls -- By: Gerhard Hasel

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 24:2 (Spring 2011)
Article: New Light on the Book of Daniel from the Dead Sea Scrolls
Author: Gerhard Hasel

New Light on the Book of Daniel from the Dead Sea Scrolls

Gerhard Hasel

In the 1980s, two articles of vital interest on the Hebrew and Aramaic texts of the book of Daniel were published from among the Dead Sea scroll textual finds made originally in 1952 in Cave 4 at Qumran. The publication by Professor Eugene Ulrich, “Daniel Manuscripts from Qumran” (1989), gives us full insight into these pivotal textual finds and follows the one published two years earlier on other parts of these finds (Ulrich 1987).

From Discovery Until Publication

Let me first briefly describe the outrageous delay that occurred in the publication of many of the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered way back in 1947-1948. Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) played a major role in pushing for publication in a number of articles over the years, especially in 1989 and 1990 (Shanks 1989a, 1989b, 1989c, 1989d, 1990). There had been charges of a scandal because there were about “400 separate unpublished texts arranged on 1,200 different [photographic] plates” hidden for some 40 years from the scrutiny of the scholars. Hershel Shanks, the editor of BAR, said that “a reasonable guess is that 100 of these [unpublished texts] are Biblical texts on 200 plates” (1989c: 20).

The charges regarding the non-publication of these Dead Sea Scroll texts were taken up in the summer of 1989 by the public press. For example, the New York Times in a July 9, 1989, editorial, “The Vanity of Scholars,” complained that “the scrolls were discovered in 1947, but many that are in fragments remain unpublished. More than 40 years later a coterie of dawdling scholars is still spinning out the work while the world waits and the precious pieces lapse into dust.”

Fortunately, various developments subsequently took place since the summer of 1991, which allowed the expedited publication of the remaining scroll fragments and texts.

The significance of the Daniel fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls was voiced first in 1958 when professor Frank M. Cross of Harvard University published The Ancient Library of Qumran, a comprehensive survey of the scrolls. In the second edition of the book (1961), Professor Cross referred to the fragments of the Daniel scrolls: “One copy of Daniel is inscribed in the script of the late second century BC; in some ways it is more striking than that of the oldest manuscripts from Qumran” (43).

This was fantastic news from a scholarly point of view, for the text of Daniel had long been considered suspect by many scholars on various grounds we’ll be discussing below. The question now was: How much of the book of Daniel is on this scr...

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