The Source Of Daniel’s Animal Imagery -- By: Ernest C. Lucas

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 41:2 (NA 1990)
Article: The Source Of Daniel’s Animal Imagery
Author: Ernest C. Lucas


The Source Of Daniel’s Animal Imagery1

Ernest C. Lucas

It is proposed to evaluate a number of suggestions concerning the source of the animal imagery in Daniel 7–8 viz. Mesopotamian iconography, Enuma Eliš, VAT 10057, Shumma Izbu, astrological geography and the OT, and then consider the implications the conclusions have for the authorship, date and provenance of these chapters.

I. Mesopotamian Iconography

The only modern scholar to make a detailed case for iconography as the background for the animal imagery of Daniel 7 is Noth.2 His own comments make clear the weakness of the case he argues. Speaking of the second beast, he says that the bear,

is but rarely depicted in the plastic arts of the ancient orient. . . It was seen only in the mountains, and the few reproductions of bears that are known come therefore from the Iranian mountains and their immediate vicinity.

Of the third beast he says, ‘The image as it stands, however, is not authenticated among examples of the ancient oriental plastic arts; here the seer’s power of imagination is given full rein’.

There is then little precedent in the plastic arts for the second beast, and none for the third. In view of this it is not surprising that no recent commentator or study of Daniel 7 has taken up Noth’s position, beyond pointing out the prominence of winged beasts, some with many heads, especially lions, in Mesopotamian iconography. Moreover, iconography cannot account for the sequence of lion, bear, panther, that is found in Daniel 7.

II. Enūma Eliš

Since Gunkel3 first expounded Daniel 7 in the light of Enūma Eliš, a number of scholars have pointed to that Babylonian myth as the source of the imagery of the beasts from the sea in Daniel. Recently this view has been adopted by Bentzen4 and Heaton5 . The arguments advanced by Heaton are:

  1. The four winds of heaven are mentioned in Daniel 7:2. In Enūma Eliš Marduk uses the fo...
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