Literary Strategies And Authorship In The Book Of Daniel -- By: Branson L. Woodard, Jr.

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 37:1 (Mar 1994)
Article: Literary Strategies And Authorship In The Book Of Daniel
Author: Branson L. Woodard, Jr.

Literary Strategies And Authorship In The Book Of Daniel

Branson L. Woodard, Jr.*

*Branson Woodard is associate professor of English literature at Liberty University, Box 20000, Lynchburg, VA 24506–8001.

While seventeenth-century Englishman John Dryden was taking stock of his literary heritage, he was awed by the many vivid characters in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: “There is such a variety of game springing upon before me that I am distracted in my choice and know not which to follow. ‘Tis sufficient to say, according to the proverb, here is God’s plenty.”1 So too with the book of Daniel, displaying presumptuous monarchs, crafty soothsayers, a worldly-wise queen, and zealous Hebrews—in addition to the supernaturally wise Daniel himself. Moreover, as with Chaucer studies, scholarship on the book of Daniel has developed with relatively little biographical data, necessitating a modified new-critical approach that focuses upon the book itself in relation to and generally in deference to genre studies, linguistic analysis, and redaction and canon criticism. The results have extended Porphyry’s argument that the book was written during the Maccabean period, not during the Babylonian exile—and thus non-Danielic authorship and a fictional plot.2

These methodologies do function together quite well, and any particular one serves as an effective entree for supporting the Maccabean theory. The argument beginning with genre criticism, for example, proceeds along the following lines. Because Daniel 7–12 resembles apocalypse, a form that came into its own during the second century BC, surely these latter chapters were written no earlier and the author could not have been the sixth-century Daniel, if he even existed. In turn the “abomination of desolation” would refer to the desecration of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes, not to either a previous or a future such event. Further, a late date of composition excludes any possibility of eyewitness accounts of the neo-Babylonian court, so the “court tales” (chaps. 1–6), and perhaps the visions too, are not histories but fictional stories written by highly imaginative, pseudonymous editors. No wonder the Daniel text shows impressive literary depth: allusions to or borrowings from the Babylonian creation epic, the Joseph narrative in

Genesis, and the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Indeed, Chaucer holds no candle to the redactors of Daniel.

This scenario always has been hypothetical due to the limited range and depth of evidence from extra-Bi...

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