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

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This article was republished in an full-color format in the Spring 2011 issue of Bible and Spade.

Excerpt This article was originally published by Dr. Hasel in 1992, and was reproduced in Bible and Spade with permission. Though the article is 20 years old, it has still significant information about the Book of Daniel found amongst the Dead Seas Scrolls. Most importantly, the existence of Daniel in the DSS disproves the skeptical position that Daniel was originally written in the 2nd century BC. This position has been taken by skeptics to avoid the detailed prophecies in Daniel that ultimately came to pass, strong evidence for the divine authorship of Scripture. Continue reading

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In the 1980's, 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 has occurred in the publication of many of the Dead Sea scrolls, discovered way back in 1947–1948. Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) has played a major role in pushing for publication in a number of articles over the past few years, especially in 1989 and 1990 (Shanks 1989a, 1989b, 1989c, 1989d, 1990). There have been charges of a scandal because there are about “400 separate unpublished texts arranged on 1,200 different [photographic] plates” hidden for some 40 years from the scrutiny of the scholars. Hershel Shanks, the editor of BAR, says that “a reasonable guess is that 100 of these [unpublished texts] are Biblical texts on 200 plates” (1989c:20).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“The Vanity of Scholars,” complained that “the scrolls were discovered in 1947, but many that are in fragments remain unpublished.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 encouraging developments have taken place since the summer of 1991, and we can look forward to a speedy 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 refers 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 has 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 scroll, and precisely what sections are preserved and how does it compare with the rest of the Hebrew text of the book of Daniel?

 

In November 1989, more than 35 years after its discovery and more than 25 years after Cross made his astounding declaration, this text, along with others from Cave 4 on the book of Daniel, were finally published. Only a few scraps of fragments from Cave 4, which contain but “five tiny fragments, all from the prayer in chapter 9 but none with more than one complete word” (Ulrich 1989:3), remain to be published (i.e., the fragments of the scroll designated 4QDane).

 

The fragments of the Daniel scrolls from Cave 4 were assigned for publication to Cross (Cross 1956:86) as long ago as 1951 (Benoit 1956:76). He was a member of the original group of editors of the Dead Sea scrolls appointed in 1953 (Shanks 1989c:18). But some time ago Cross entrusted the Daniel materials from Cave 4 to Eugene Ulrich of the University of Notre Dame (Shanks 1989a:57), a former student of his. In 1987 Ulrich published the materials from one scroll of Cave 4, namely, 4QDana. Now he has published the materials of the two other major scrolls, 4QDanb and 4QDanc.

 

Contents of the Dead Sea Scroll Daniel Manuscripts

 

While these exciting new publications will have our major attention in this paper, we need to mention the other previously published Qumran materials on Daniel.

 

  • In 1955 D. Barthélemy published two scroll fragments: 1QDana and 1QDanb (Barthélemy and Milik 1955:150–52). These contain parts of 22 verses from Daniel 1–3, that is, Daniel 1:10–17; 2:2–6 (1QDana) and 3:22–30 (1QDanb).
  • In 1962 Maurice Baillet published a papyrus fragment from Cave 6, containing possibly parts of Daniel 8:16, 17, 21, 22; and clearly 10:8–16; 11:33–36, 38 (Baillet and Milik 1962:114, 115; pl. 23).
  • The most extensively preserved scroll of the book of Daniel from Qumran is one from Cave 4: 4QDana, which contains large portions of Daniel. Preserved are parts of Daniel 1:16–20; 2:9–11, 19–49; 3:1, 2; 4:29, 30; 5:5–7, 12–14, 16–19; 7:5–7, 25–28; 8:1–5; 10:16–20; 11:13–16. Scroll 4QDanb contains Daniel 5:10–12, 14–16, 19–22; 6:8–22, 27–29; 7:1–6, 11(?), 26–28; 8:1–8, 13–16; and 4QDanc has Daniel 10:5–9, 11–16, 21; 11:1, 2, 13–17, 25–29 (Ulrich 1987:18).

This means that we have at our disposal from the Dead Sea scrolls parts of all chapters, except Daniel 9 and 12. Of course, the unpublished 4QDane is to have a few words of various parts of Daniel 9. There is also an overlap of a number of passages in Daniel 1, 5, 7, 8, 10, and 11. Reference to Daniel 12 is made in 4QFlorilegium, an anthology of midrashic materials [rabbinical commentaries] on 2 Samuel and Psalms 1, 2.

 

Significance of the Scrolls

 

It is a highly surprising phenomenon that no fewer than eight manuscripts of Daniel have been identified among the materials discovered in three of the 11 caves of Qumran. In order to appreciate the significance of this fact, we need to compare it with the manuscript finds of other Biblical books from the same caves.

 

To my knowledge, the most recent listing of published materials (as of 1992) from the Dead Sea scrolls appeared in 1977. The listing speaks of 13 fragments of scrolls from the Psalms; nine from Exodus; eight from Deuteronomy; five from Leviticus; four each from Genesis and Isaiah (Fitzmyer 1977:11–39); and no fewer than eight scrolls representing Daniel. Although we have no sure knowledge yet of the total scrolls that have been preserved from the Bible at Qumran, it is evident from this comparison that the book of Daniel was a favorite book among the Qumran covenantors.

 

At this juncture we need to make another point. According to current historical-critical opinion, the book of Daniel originated in its present form in the Antiochus Epiphanes crisis, that is, between 168/167–165/164 BC. It seems very difficult to perceive that one single desert community should have preserved such a significant number of Daniel manuscripts if this book had really been produced at so late a date. The large number of manuscripts in this community can be much better explained if one accepts an earlier origin of Daniel than the one proposed by the Maccabean hypothesis of historical-critical scholarship, which dates it to the second century BC.

 

Date of the Daniel Dead Sea Scrolls and Its Significance

 

Dates for the Daniel scrolls, published in 1955, were given by John C. Trever as the Herodian period for 1QDana and late Herodian period for 1QDanb (1964-1966:323–36). In other words, these manuscripts could come from about 60 AD or earlier (Hartman and Di Lella 1978:72).

 

This date is still very significant because the Masoretic text (MT) from which our Bibles are translated comes from a major manuscript that is dated to 1008 AD (Wurthwein 1979:35). In other words, we are able to compare for the first time in history the Hebrew and Aramaic of the book of Daniel with manuscripts of the same book that are about 1,000 years older. A comparison between the MT and the earlier manuscripts contained in 1QDana, 1QDanb, and 6QDan, based upon a careful study of the variants and relationships with the MT, reveals that “the Daniel fragments from Caves 1 and 6 reveal, on the whole, that the later Masoretic text is preserved in a good, hardly changed form. They are thus a valuable witness to the great faithfulness with which the sacred text has been transmitted” (Mertens 1971:31).

 

These textual witnesses demonstrate that the MT was faithfully preserved and confirm that the Hebrew and Aramaic text of Daniel is reliable.

 

The date for the three Daniel manuscripts published by 1989 is also of great importance, along with those of the earlier publications. Some of the recently published scrolls on Daniel are even older than the previously published ones. The date of 4QDana is assigned to about 60 BC and 4QDanb to about 60 AD (Ulrich 1987:17). The oldest manuscript of Daniel by far is 4QDanc, which Cross dated in 1961 to the “late second century BC” (Cross 1961:43). Scholars who support a date for the writing of the book of Daniel in the Maccabean crisis at about the middle of the second century BC will be able to say that 4QDanc is “only a half century later than the composition of the book of Daniel” (Ulrich 1987:17). This means for supporters of this dating that the manuscript evidence for Daniel is as close to the autograph as the Rylands Papyrus is to the Gospel of John. I quote: “It is thus, for the Hebrew Bible, comparable to the Rylands manuscript of the Johannine Gospel for the New Testament” (Ulrich 1989:3). The latter comparison means that the papyrus fragment of the Gospel of John, published in 1935, that is, Rylands 457, which was dated in the first half of the second century AD, effectively refuted claims of scholars who had attempted to date the Gospel of John to the latter part of the second century AD. The Rylands papyrus was within 25 to 50 years of the writing of the Gospel of John.

A reconstruction of 4QDanc., the oldest manuscript of the book of Daniel (second half of the second century BC). Shown are the positions of the fragments of 4QDanc across four columns of the original scroll (reading was from right to left). Linda Manies

 

For those supporting the historical-critical date of the book of Daniel new issues are being raised. Since there is a manuscript of Daniel that supposedly dates within 50 years of the autograph, is there enough time for the supposed traditio-historical and redaction-critical developments allegedly needed for the growth of the book? Supporters of the Maccabean dating hypothesis of Daniel will be hard put to explain all of this in their reconstructions. To express it differently, do the early dates of the fragments from Cave 4 leave enough room for the developments, editorial and redactional as well as others, that are so often proposed (e.g., Koch 1986:20–24)? The verdict seems to be negative, and an earlier date for Daniel than the second century is unavoidable.

 

Dead Sea Scrolls and the Original Hebrew/Aramaic Text of Daniel

 

Before the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls, many scholars questioned the faithfulness of the Hebrew text and took great freedom in amending, changing, and adjusting the Hebrew text. This freedom has been significantly curtailed by the Qumran findings.


With regard to Daniel, many scholars have regarded the Hebrew and Aramaic text as of no greater authority than other ancient translations such as the Septuagint (the oldest Greek translation of the Old Testament) and the version attributed to Theodotion. Among the reasons given is that the Septuagint treatment of Daniel is less literal, less closely related to the MT, than the treatment given to the rest of the Old Testament. This fact has led some to assume that the MT of Daniel is of relatively little value.

 

Fragments 1 and 2 of 4QDanc with Daniel 10:5–11:12. IAA

 

Moreover, the Septuagint version of the book of Daniel, available in only two ancient manuscripts, is said to be periphrastic [use of many words] and expansionistic, containing considerably more material than the MT, aside from such deuterocanonical additions as the Story of Susanna, the Prayer of Azariah, and the Song of the Three Young Men (Moore 1977).

 

The official Greek translation of Daniel used in ancient times was that of Theodotion, an Ephesian (ca. 180 AD). His translation, which has antecedents (Schmitt 1966), has “the distinction of having supplanted the current version of the book of Daniel” (Jellicoe 1968:84). Further, around 400 AD Jerome ventured the opinion that the Septuagint “differs widely from the original [Hebrew], and is rightly rejected.”

 

Thus we have two ancient Greek versions of Daniel, and only the one by Theodotion has a close affinity with the MT. These, along with some other considerations, have caused leading modern scholars to have little confidence in the MT. Professor Klaus Koch is a supporter of the hypothesis that there is no authoritative, original text for the book of Daniel available. He suggests that while we have a Hebrew/Aramaic text and two Greek versions, none of these three is original, and that an original text is to be reconstructed with the best tools available (Koch et al. 1980:22, 23; Koch 1986:16–21). This essentially is also the view of L. Hartman and A.A. Di Lella, who point out that there are “no iron rules or golden rules” in this process of textual reconstruction (Hartman and Di Lella 1978:75). These and other scholars assume that the book of Daniel in its entirety was written originally in the Aramaic language and that the Hebrew parts of the book are translations from Aramaic into Hebrew.

 

 

Fragment 3 of 4QDanc with Daniel 11:13–17, 25–29. IAA

 

Other scholars, however, oppose this hypothesis.


Evidently this is a complex picture. The newly published Daniel materials from Qumran appear to throw important new light on the issue of the original text of Daniel. We say this because there is great harmony between the MT and the Cave 4 finds of the book of Daniel. Thus it no longer seems permissible to dismiss the Hebrew-Aramaic text as unreliable.

 

We need to note the following:


1. When it comes to variants, the eight Dead Sea scroll Daniel manuscripts, for the most part, are very close to each other.


2. There is no significant abbreviation and no lengthy expansion in any of the manuscript fragments. “The text of Daniel in these [Cave 4] Daniel scrolls conforms closely to later Masoretic tradition; there are to be found, however, some rare variants which side with the Alexandrian Greek [Septuagint] against the MT and Theodotion” (Cross 1956:86).


3. These manuscript fragments do not contain any of the additions that are in all the Greek manuscripts, such as the Prayer of Azariah, the Song of the Three Young Men, and the Story of Susanna.


4. The change from Hebrew into Aramaic is preserved for Daniel 2:4b in 4QDana as it was previously in 1QDana. Thus two different manuscripts give evidence to this change. The change from Aramaic into Hebrew in Daniel 8:1 is clearly manifested in both 4QDana and 4QDanb, just as in the MT.

 

Based on the overwhelming conformity of these Qumran Daniel manuscripts with each other and with the MT, despite the few insignificant variants that agree with the Septuagint, it is evident that the MT is the well-preserved key text for the book of Daniel. An eclectic approach, using the Hebrew/Aramaic text, the Greek, and other versions as if they were all on the same level without giving priority to the Hebrew text is no longer supportable, if it ever was previously. The Hebrew/Aramaic Masoretic text of the book of Daniel now has stronger support than at any other time in the history of the interpretation of the book of Daniel.

 

The Daniel Dead Sea Scrolls and Canonical Book of Daniel

 

When Professor D. Barthélemy published in 1955 the first fragmentary Daniel manuscripts from Cave 1 of Qumran, that is, 1QDana and 1QDanb, he ventured the opinion that “certain indications permit the thought that Daniel had perhaps not yet been considered at Qumran as a canonical book” (Barthélemy and Milik 1955:250). This idea perpetuated itself for years afterward. In 1964, however, F.F. Bruce stated that the book of Daniel “may well have enjoyed canonical status among them [the Qumran sectaries]” (Bruce 1964:57). In his 1989 Daniel commentary, written before the newest publications of the Qumran Daniel manuscripts were accessible, John Goldingay stated, “There are no real grounds for suggesting that the form of the Qumran manuscripts of Daniel indicates that the book was not regarded as canonical there, though neither for affirming that it was (Goldingay 1989:xxvii).

 

These doubts and uncertainties about the canonicity of Daniel among the Qumran people can now be laid aside for good. They have been based largely on the “roughly square proportions of the columns of 1QDana and because Pap6QDan is written on papyrus” (Ulrich 1987:19). But professor Ulrich now says,

 

From Cave 4 we now have overriding evidence on both points from manuscripts of books indisputably authoritative or ‘canonical,’ including Deuteronomy, Kings, Isaiah, and Psalms.. .. However one uses in relation to Qumran the category of what is later explicitly termed ‘canonical,’ the book of Daniel was certainly in that category (Ulrich 1987:19).

 

Canonicity is supported also by the so called 4QFlorilegium, a fragment that employs the quotation formula “which written in the book of Daniel the prophet.” Such a formula is typical of quotations from canonical Scripture at Qumran. It is similar also to Matthew 24:15, where Jesus refers to “Daniel the prophet.”

 

Inasmuch as Daniel was already canonical at Qumran at about 100 BC, how could it have become so quickly canonical if it had just been produced a mere half century before? While we do not know exactly how long it took for books to become canonical, it may be surmised that insofar as Daniel was reckoned to belong to the canonical books, it had a longer existence than a mere five decades, as the Maccabean dating hypothesis suggests. Both the canonical status and the fact that Daniel was considered a “prophet” speak for the antiquity of the book of Daniel. An existence of a mere five decades between the production of a Biblical book in its final form and canonization does not seem reasonable.

 

Thus the canonical acceptance of the book of Daniel at Qumran suggests an earlier origin of the book than the second century BC. In 1969, based on the evidence available at that time regarding the Qumran Daniel texts, Roland K. Harrison had already concluded that the second century dating of the book of Daniel was “absolutely precluded by the evidence from Qumran, partly because there are no indications whatever that the sectaries compiled any of the Biblical manuscripts recovered from the site, and partly because there would, in the latter event, have been insufficient time for Maccabean compositions to be circulated, venerated, and accepted as canonical Scripture by a Maccabean sect” (Harrison 1969:1127).

 

Subsequent to this, he stated that based on the Qumran manuscripts, “there can no longer be any possible reason for considering the book as a Maccabean product” (Harrison 1979:862). The most recent publications of Daniel manuscripts confirm this conclusion.

 

Gerhard Hasel (1935-1994) was a Seventh-day Adventist theologian, and Professor of OT and Biblical Theology as well as Dean of the Seventh Day Adventist Theological Seminary.

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Baillet, M. and Milik, J.T.

1962 Les ‘Petites Grottes’ des Qumran, 1. Texte, 2. Planches, Discoveries in the Judaean Desert of Jordan, 3 (Oxford: Clarendon).

 

Barthélemy, D. and Milik, J.T.

1955 Qumran Cave 1. Discoveries in the Judaean Desert of Jordan 1 (Oxford: Clar-endon).

 

Benoit, P., et al.

1956 Editing the Manuscript Fragments from Qumran (4Q). Biblical Archaeologist 19:75–96.

 

Brooke, G.J.

1985 Exegesis at Qumran. 4QFlorilegium in Its Jewish Context. JSOT 29 (Sheffield: JSOT Press).

 

Bruce, F.F.

1964 Second Thoughts on the Dead Sea Scrolls, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).

 

Cross, F.M., Jr.

1956 Cave 4 of Qumran (4Q). Biblical Archaeologist 19:83–86.

1961 The Ancient Library of Qumran, 2nd ed. (Garden City NY: Doubleday).

 

Fitzmyer, J.A.

1977 The Dead Sea Scrolls. Major Publications and Tools for Study (Missoula MT: Scholars Press).

1990 The Dead Sea Scrolls. Major Publications and Tools for Study, Revised Edition (Atlanta: Scholars Press).

 

Geissen A.

1968 Der Septuaginta-Text des Buches Daniel 5–12 sowie Esther 1–2, 15 (Bonn: R. Habelt).

 

Goldingay, J.E.

1989 Daniel, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 30 (Dallas: Word Books).

 

Hamm, W.

1969 Der Septuaginta-Text des Buches Daniel 1–2 (Bonn: R. Habelt).

1977 Der Septuaginta-Text des Buches Daniel 3–4 (Bonn: R. Habelt).

 

Harrison, R.K.

1969 Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).

1979 Daniel, Book of. Pp. 859–66 in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).

 

Hartman, L.F. and Di Lella, A.A.

1978 The Book of Daniel, Anchor Bible, vol. 23 (Garden City NY: Doubleday).

 

Hasel, G.F.

1990 The Book of Daniel Confirmed by the Dead Sea Scrolls. Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 1/2:37–49.

 

Jellicoe, S.

1968 The Septuagint and Modern Study (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

 

Koch, K.

1986 Daniel, BKAT 22/1 (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchner Verlag).

 

Koch, K. et al.

1980 Das Buch Daniel, Ertage der Erforschung 144 (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft).

 

Mertens, A.

1971 Das Buch Daniel im Lichte der Texte vom Toten Meer, Stuttgarter Biblische Monographien 12 (Wurzburg: Echter Verlag).

 

Moore, C.A.

1977 Daniel, Esther, and Jeremiah: The Additions, Anchor Bible, vol. 44 (Garden City NY: Doubleday).

 

Schmitt, A.

1966 Stammter soqenannte “Theodotion” - Text bei Daniel wirklich von Theodotion? (Gottingen: Vanden-hoeck and Ruprecht).

 

Shanks, H.

1989a At Least Publish the Dead Sea Scroll Timetable. Biblical Archaeology Review 15/3:56–58.

1989b The Dead Sea Scroll Scandal. Biblical Archaeology Review 15/4.

1989c What Should Be Done About the Unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls? Biblical Archaeology Review 15/5:18–22.

1989d New Hope for the Unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls. Biblical Archaeology Review 15/6:55–56, 74.

1990 Dead Sea Scroll Variation on “Show and Tell”—It’s Called “Tell, But No Show.” Biblical Archaeology Review 16/2:18–21.

 

Swete, H.B.

1912 The Old Testament in Greek According to the Septuagint, vol. 4, 4th ed. (Cambridge: Clarendon).

 

Trever, J.T.

1964–1966 Completion of the Publication of Some Fragments From Qumran Cave 1. Revue de Qumran 5:323–44.

 

Ulrich, E.

1987 Daniel Manuscripts From Qumran, Part 1: A Preliminary Edition of 4QDana. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 268:17–37.

1989 Daniel Manuscripts from Qumran, Part 2: Preliminary Editions of 4QDanb and 4QDanc. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 274:3–26.

 

Wurthwein, E.

1979 The Text of the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).

 

(Originally republished in Bible and Spade with permission from Ministry, January 1992.)

 

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