Little Did They Know: The Prose Sections of Job (1:1-2:13; 42:7-17)

college papers

The prose section of the book of Job receives a variety of approaches, but the most consistent approach is to treat it as a separate folk-tale which existed independently than the present canonical form. This “campfire” tale, or this moral free legend, had grown sufficient credibility to take on a permanent form within a community. Then an unknown poet emerges who takes the folk-tale[1] and formalizes it with a series of poetic discourses and creates an extended edition, the present form of the book of Job. As such, questions emerge as to the continuity between the prose sections (1:1-2:13; 42:7-17) and the poetic sections (3:1-42:6). This source critical approach makes an assumption that the book of Job is the result of significant editorial activity, suggesting that the book has undergone considerable layering and updating. Robert Fyall argues that such a possibility does not “in itself” deny divine inspiration but it only makes poor sense in Job’s connection to the biblical canon.[2] As such, “the question of the relationship of the prologue (chs. 1-2) and the epilogue (42:10-17) to the poetic dialogue must be explored.”[3]

Nevertheless, despite the reticence among some scholars to see a significant degree of continuity vital to understanding the tensions, themes, and argument of the present form of the book of Job, it is argued here that a proper understanding of Job does not rely upon the theoretical pre-canonical form of the two independent traditions.[4] Instead, there is a “logical coherence” between the prologue, the poetic discourses, and the epilogue.[5] It is argued here that the prose sections play an integral part to understanding the canonical form of the book of Job. The style and vocabulary purposely represents an ANE setting apart of Israelite religion in the tradition of the dramatic epic, and sets the wisdom and theodicy debate in a historical context like that of the Hebrew patriarchs (Abraham, Moses). The prose sections place a large emphasis upon the heavenly court which anchors the theology and drama of the poetic discourses.

The Integral Nature of the Prose Sections

First, the prose sections play an integral part to understanding the canonical form of the book of Job. In proportion to the bulk of the book this may seem to overstate the weight of the prose sections in Job. As Bernhard Anderson argues, “if we are to understand the viewpoint of the author of Job we must rely primarily on the poems rather than on the prologue and epilogue.”[6] Nevertheless, Anderson concedes that the poems are only effective because they are “framed within the context of the folk story.”[7] The book of Job is framed by “the life-situation that occasions the poetic meditations.”[8] In general, the framework of narrative transitions are, as Robert Alter observes, an act of conscious narration “in order to reveal the imperative truth of God’s works in history.”[9] The function of the prologue and the epilogue, then, is to bracket in the core discussion of Job and this is accomplished by setting the plot, the tensions, and the characters which will enter the fray of the poetic discourses in Job 3:1-42:6.

The limits of the prose sections of Job are substantially agreed upon.[10] The usual limits of the prologue of Job are from 1:1-2:13. First, the prologue has natural and literary limits. A reading of the first chapters of Job lends its to a natural outline of a narrative that transitions to a series of discourses, but as James Patrick observes there are a series of “speech ascriptions” which provides a literary limit to the prologue in particular and the speech cycles in general (“Job opened his mouth… Job said”[11]).[12] This marks the closing limit of the prologue, which as “the frame-story of Job”[13] will find its themes continued in the poetic body of the Jobine discourses (3:3-42:6).[14] Second, the prologue, then, introduces the tension of the worthiness of God to be served, the sincerity of Job’s faith, the heavenly court and the “wager” (so Anderson), the earthly trials and suffering of a pious and prosperous patriarch, and the interaction among the heavenly realms (Yahweh, The Satan, Heavenly Court) and the earthly realm (skeptic wife, the three friends, Job the hurting) where the narrative will transition to the core discussions of the book.

The epilogue, on the other hand, is generally considered to begin in Job 42:7 and ends in 42:17.[15] First, reading the closing chapters of Job, the transition from discourse (“I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes”) to the actions agrees with the usual outline of Job. There are however literary markers to distinguish between 42:6 and 7. John Hartley’s observation gives a semantic starting point to the epilogue with words from the Lord in favor of Job reminiscent of 1:7, and concludes in verse 42:17.[16] Although 42:7 may be viewed as a potential ascription by the narrator before a statement, it lacks the same verb phrase (וַיַּ֖עַן) used to introduce the Lord’s speeches (38:1, 40:1) and Job’s response (42:1). Second, the epilogue, then transitions from the repentance of Job and the demonstration of the wisdom of God and serves as a narrative of resolution. The epilogue the humility and restoration of Job, the tensions removed, and Yahweh honoring Job and dishonoring the three friends who “have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7).

Robert H. Pfeiffer, however, nuances the prose sections (“prose folk tale”) by trimming the traditional prologue to 1:1-2:10 and the epilogue as 42:10b-17. Pfeiffer takes 2:11-13 as the introduction to the entire dialogue exchange; meanwhile, 42:7-10a as a part of the dialogue structure of Job.[17] That there is an obvious shift between 2:10 to 2:11 and 42:10a to 42:10b in content is readily conceded. Pfeiffer’s discussion of the structure of Job demonstrates the quality of his imagination to reconstruct the literary development of the book, but it fails to appreciate these verses in the prose sections as transitions within the same narrative event respectively. It is here that a significant warning finds validity: “Dissecting the book of Job into its component parts actually may diminish one’s understanding of its message.”[18] Instead, it is best to appreciate the “harmony and dissonance” between the prose and poetic discourses which force a critical rereading of the themes presented in Job.[19] The prose sections then are a vital part for understanding Job.

The Genre and Hebrew of the Book of Job

Second, the genre and vocabulary of Job represents an Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) setting apart of Israelite religion, set forth in the tradition of the dramatic epic, and sets then the discourses on the wisdom and theodicy in a historical context like that of the Hebrew patriarchs (Abraham, Moses). Epic literature centers upon episodes in the life of a known figure from history, conveying “didactic instruction concerning the gods and their relations with humanity.”[20] This area of study which has some implications for the dating and setting of Job, an area which has as many dates as interpreters. Dates range from late pre-exilic, a period between Jeremiah and Isaiah, or anywhere from the eighth century to the fourth-century B.C.E.[21] Nevertheless, another warning is called to the student of Job: “it is a mistake to infer the age of the writer from the circumstances of the hero of the book.”[22]

The Genre. Craig Broyles reminds that “the Bible must be read literarily before it can be read literally. If we think of Scripture as light (cf. Psa 119:5), exegesis acts like a prism revealing its colors.”[23] The style of the prologue and epilogue show marks of the dramatic narrative genre of the epic placed in the historical setting of reminiscent of the biblical patriarchs. Many scholars concede the point that Job defies specific genre classification (sui generis “self genre”), but on a macro-level it falls generally into the wisdom literature genre which has parallels in Babylon and Egypt.[24] The prose sections, however, seem to have points of contact with the epic elements of Genesis and Ugaritic literature suggesting that the author was either influenced by preexistence literary genre of the epic, or by specific examples.[25] In keeping with epic narratives in Genesis, Job is painted as a patriarch. His wealth is measured by his cattle and servants (1:3; 42:12), he is the head of his family in both paternal and religious aspects (1:5), and his life-span is comparable to known biblical patriarchs (42:16). Also, the Sabeans and the Chaldeans are in the land of Uz (1:15, 17). In general, then, the internal evidence portrays Job “as a Bedouin sheikh, living in the land of Uz, in northwest Arabia.”[26] It is not clear that Job is directly connected to Hebrew family; aside his connection to Uz, which may imply he is an Edomite, not much can be said of his ethnicity.[27] Most likely, Job is not an Israelite and probably predates the Abrahamic covenant.[28]

The epic genre[29] is further seen in the literary structure of the prose sections fit the literary type of epic, which are directed to an “audience” rather than “reading” public. Elements such as repetition and reiteration are symmetrically constructed throughout these sections following the “epic archetype.” These elements are seen in the celestial council (1:6-12, 2:1-7), in detailing the character of Job (1:1, 8, 22, 2:3, 10), and the three successive blows with “formulaic introduction” and “concluding refrain.” Also, the significant use of numbers within the prose sections (1:2, 42:13) is a Near Eastern literary feature, supported externally in Ugaritic epics. Furthermore, the mythology represented by the celestial beings in 1:6 and 1:21 also is a feature of epic drama. Such a concept of an assembly of celestial beings (“the assembly of the gods”) “are well attested,” according to Sarna, “in the Northwest Semitic literary sphere.” There is also the “prominence of women in epic literature” as seen in the daughters of Job. The naming of the daughters in contrast to the sons is inexplicable aside from its parallel use with Baal’s daughters over his seven named sons and other Ugaritic parallels. Moreover, in Mosaic law daughters receive an inheritance in the absence of sons (Num 27:8), Job’s daughters, however, receive theirs along with their brothers (42:15). This particular point details “quite a different social milieu” like that of Ugaritic epics. Internally, Job is placed in an ancient setting which may reflect the truth about his antiquity but may not have sufficient weight in its determining date.

The Vocabulary and Hebrew. Also, the vocabulary and type of Hebrew employed in the prose covers a significant amount of syntactical and semantic ground in the philological history of the Hebrew language and its connection to the Hebrew canon. Avi Hurvitz, however, disputes this assertion. In fact, he developed criteria to inform the Old Testament exegete whether the Hebrew volume under consideration is composed in Late Biblical Hebrew (LBH), as opposed to Early Biblical Hebrew (EBH). After Hurvitz evaluates seven terms and phrases he concludes are LBH in the prologue and epilogue, argues that “in spite of his efforts to write pure classical Hebrew and to mark his story with ‘Patriarchal colouring’, [sic] the author of the Prose Tale could not avoid certain phrases which are unmistakably characteristic of post-exilic Hebrew, thus betraying his actual late date.”[30]

Ian Young reassesses[31] this study by the criterion Hurvitz developed. In order for there to be identifiable LBH the terms must meet the following: linguistic distribution, linguistic contrast, extra-biblical attestations, and accumulation of the evidence.[32] Young’s own assessment of Hurvitz’s work was both negative and reaffirming. Young dismisses three of Hurvitz’s submissions and supplements three additional phrases as LBH. The total numbered tallied by Young is seven between these two scholars. Young questions whether or not this is sufficient accumulation to establish a LBH imprint on the prose sections of Job to warrant a late date for them and for the book as a whole.[33] To put the matter into perspective, Young places literature known for its LBH with a 500 word sample in a comparative chart to find the astonishing finding that does not line up with post-exilic LBH core books; instead, it is situated low and close to Genesis. Young then concludes, “according to Hurvitz’s own criterion of accumulation, the Prose Tale of Job is not in LBH.”[34]

This is not to say that this is evidence for an early date of the prose sections of Job. Instead, Young argues that LBH and EBH are overlapping styles of Hebrew, rather than EBH being a chronological precursor to LBH. “EBH and LBH would thus turn out to be two styles of post-exilic Hebrew.”[35] Whether Young is correct regarding overlapping styles of Hebrew, it has not been established. It would not seem outside the realm of possibility; yet, in terms of a written language a developmental Hebrew from earlier to later seems legitimate along with the fact that oral developments tend to have their history, nuances, and trajectories.[36] At this point, though Young’s suggestion is inviting, it may be best to accept that EBH and LBH are post-exilic writings styles as tentative until more information arises. As Derek Kidner observes in the face of the “inconclusiveness” of the linguistic evidence, “Happily, this open question is academic, in every sense of the word. This book is no prisoner of time.”[37]

Little Did They Know: Elements of the Prologue and Epilogue

The prose sections place a large emphasis upon the heavenly court which anchors the theology and drama of the poetic discourses.[38] This emphasis is seen in several aspects which arch over the thematic issues addressed in the poetic discourses of Job. This emphasis is more pertinent to the reader than it is to hero Job.

First, there is the setting of the heavenly court (1:6; 2:1). The heavenly court introduced in the prologue recalls to the reader that “there are powers in the universe other than God and that they exercise great influence on the course of events.”[39] The heavenly court motif in Job echoes Canaanite mythology of a council of the gods,[40] or, as Alter describes it, a “celestrial entourage” as in Psa 82:1 (1b “in the midst of the gods he holds judgment”). In the prologue, the heavenly court scene appears twice where a defense of Job’s honest fidelity to God is made to rebut “the Adversary” (“the Satan”); however, in the epilogue, it is the Lord who descends upon the early court apart from the entourage and heavenly Adversary and restore’s Job’s faith and standing.

Second, this leads to a discussion of the main characters of the prose sections which are uniquely bound to each other in Job; namely, the Lord (יְהוָ֑ה), Job, and the Satan (הַשָּׂטָ֖ן). The interaction between God and the Satan place a wager upon Job’s life that he is fully unaware of; in fact, Job is never told in epilogue. The heavenly court is the stage where the celestial adversary emerges, “the Satan” (1:6-9, 12; 2:1-4, 6-7). While it is thought by some that the articular “Satan” suggests a proper name,[41] Alter argues that the use of the definite article (הַשָּׂטָ֖ן) “indicates a function, not a proper name.”[42] Hartley also agrees, this use “functions as a title rather than as a personal name.”[43] This adversary (“the Satan”), then, functions as a celestial prosecutor against Job in response to the Lord (יהוה) proposal that Job is a unique human specimen of spiritual fidelity. This brings two particular elements into play which arch over the discourse cycles.

The drama is set, on the one hand, when Job becomes the subject of a “wager” that has his genuine devotion to the Lord questioned.[44] On the other hand, in the face of Job’s ignorance of the impending hard knocks which will challenge his faith, the Lord’s “justice is on the line and everything depends on the final verdict. God must act to vindicate not only Job but himself.”[45] This places the burden of the outcome upon God rather than Job. The Satan accuses, in essence, that positive rewards yield religious/pious service; hence, is not the person of God but instead a combination of divine bribery and human egocentric desire for these rewards which had motivated Job’s fidelity. It appears that the ideology of retribution builds upon these metrics.

In the epilogue, this theme is returned to after the series of discourses and a showing of Job’s penitence but the adversary is nowhere to be seen; instead, the Lord reinforces the righteousness and faithfulness of Job. It is the friends who have been arguing for the form of retribution the Satan argues for in the prologue, and now that they have been approaching it from the opposite angle. Job is indeed suffering. So, is Job suffering for no reason? The friends argue it is a response (Job 3:23) to Job’s hidden wickedness, so in order to return the hedge of rewards the patriarch must repent (5:17-27). But appeasing God in a religious transaction (repentance, sacrifice, etc.), or by piety, is not a foolproof plan to escape the hardships of life. Job, then, is not convicted to repent but holds to his integrity (Job 27:4-6). In the epilogue, though Job is not truly the victor of the debates, the friends have not changed their words and maintain Satan’s argument. Hence, in the friends the Satan’s accusation is proven inadequate and a great offense to the relationship God actually maintains with humanity.

Third, there is a level of “dramatic irony” which is shaped in the prologue and hangs through the discourses and ultimately returns in the epilogue. One the one hand, Job is completely unaware of what is about to happen to him; whereas the reader is fully knowledgeable of the perils which have been agreed to which are now coming upon Job. Yet, despite this lack of information, Job senses that there is a divine court to plead his case when his faith comes under scrutiny and serious questions about God and justice. This, however, is his longing and a position he is ultimately led to since the court of his contemporaries is already quite hostile and prejudicial towards him due to their conventional wisdom based upon their retributive theology.

On the other hand, the narrator establishes the irony of the story and its theological questions by granting permission to the intended audience of Job.[46] Job and the reader have completely different motivations as the discourses develop. Job’s questions emerge as seeking a better answer to his questions. The reader knows these are the wrong questions. For Job, the man, it is God who has hand picked Job (though this is true) to tear him down (this is not true). In fact, it is the Satan who has touched Job (though by God’s permission), to prove that humanity symbolized in Job will reject God faced with this unjust treatment (which Job refuses to do because of his own sense of integrity). It is Job who finds and exposes the inconsistencies of the conventional wisdom of retribution. In the midst of Job’s sense of indignity for his suffering as a senseless act of God, the reader knows the conversation is all wrong because God champions for Job.Job’s ignorance is the reader’s understanding of reality are carried from the prologue, hang during the poetic discussions, and returns in the epilogue.

It is Job’s ignorance which informs the reader’s understanding of reality. The world is not a tidy place, the good sometimes suffer despite being good, and the bad sometimes enjoy more good they do not “deserve.” The reader is carried along with this tension in mind from the prologue, as it hangs during the poetic discourse cycles, and returns in the epilogue only to be met with the knowledge that humanity does not have the depth of wisdom, the power of control, nor the skill to balance the wild and domesticated world. The epilogue benefits from Job’s confessions of his “smallness” in comparison to what he was critiquing (40:3-5) and that he spoke out of considerable ignorance (42:1-6). This is staggering since the reader supposes that in order to resolve the tension of the book, God would explain to Job why he is suffering. But that is not how the book ends. The resolution is found in the fact that instead of judgment upon Job and his friends for what they “deserve,” God forgives them all. This shows that God relates to humanity in terms of grace, but grace in a real world with hardships that are not always connected to, nor demonstrative of, their relationship with God.

Fourth, there is some foreshadowing in the prologue of the final verdict for Job reflected in the epilogue.[47] In Job 1:22 and 2:10 the narrator demonstrates the fortitude of Job’s faithfulness to God in the face of tragedy. After the first challenge to Job’s genuine devotion to God, the narrator observes, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (1:22); furthermore, after the second challenge, the narrator writes again, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (2:10). These foreshadows are realized when the Lord himself validates Job’s words, “or you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (42:7). It is not that Job is sinless, but that Job committed —albeit off and on — that God was not mechanical in his wrath as his friends had been arguing in their dialogues. This is the underlying argument of the three friends, asserting an unbalanced doctrine of retribution, a “doctrine of rewards and punishments that was widespread in the wisdom literature of antiquity.”[48] In the shorthand, their view amounted to two principles: virtue is rewarded and sin is punished. The prologue reveals heaven’s sabotage of this doctrine with, as Clines observes, “a most shocking infringement.”[49]

The poetic discourses did not center on the premise that “If you sin, then you will suffer,” instead the three friends “reversed the cause and effect to reach the belief that: If you suffer, then you have sinned.”[50] This theological failure on the part of the three friends demonstrates that although they claimed to “understand the meaning of life in terms of this doctrine of retribution,”[51] they lacked wisdom. In fact, they share the same problem as Job in that they are woefully ignorant of reality and are attempting to explain it with impoverished wisdom. This speaks to why Job laments his friends, “miserable comforters are you all” (Job 16:2), and why, in the epilogue, the Lord rebukes them and asks Job to intercede on their behalf (Job 42:8-9). Although the doctrine of retribution does not feature in the prose section, nor are there the explicit answer to why humans suffer, the events in the prologue create a series of events which allow the book to “disabuse one common belief, the so-called doctrine of retribution.”[52] In the end, the verdict on Job’s disparaged piety is seen in his response to the Lord in 42:5-6, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job’s piety is maintained and his wisdom is asserted for now he sees the Lord who provides at the cosmic level down to the human earthly level and acknowledges his relationship is based upon the charitable and gracious hand of God.

Concluding Thoughts

It has been said that Job is “the greatest monument of wisdom literature in the Old Testament.”[53] Yet, for such an epithet Job requires a demanding reservoir of critical skills to grapple with its structured tensions. The prose sections of Job require tremendous skill and patience to evaluate their contribution. There is a “logical coherence” between the prologue, the poetic discourses, and the epilogue. The prose sections play an integral part in understanding the canonical form of the book of Job. The epic genre and vocabulary places the wisdom and theodicy debate in a historical context like that of the Hebrew patriarchs. Finally, they place a large emphasis upon the heavenly court which anchors the theology and drama of the poetic discourses.


  1. The prologue is often considered the “oldest” element of Job, originally existing as a “simple folk tale” then forming the basis of the current story. See Raymond B. Dillard and Tremper Longman, III, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 202.
  2. Robert S. Fyall, Now My Eyes Have Seen You: Images of Creation and Evil in the Book of Job, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 19.
  3. Fyall, Now My Eyes Have Seen You, 19.
  4. This does not disregard the fact that there are a variety of serious critical questions which must be considered; however, since even the consensus view as to the pre-literary origin of the prose-discourse-prose format of Job is theoretical and limited, it seems best to treat Job in its canonical form.
  5. Dillard and Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 202.
  6. Bernhard W. Anderson, Understanding the Old Testament, 4th ed. (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1986), 590.
  7. Anderson, Understanding the Old Testament, 590. Irving F. Wood disagrees. Arguing from a source-critical point of view, the poetic discourses “displace the heart of the story” of Job found in the prologue and the epilogue. See his “Folk-Tales in Old Testament Narrative,” JBL 28.1 (1909): 39-40.
  8. Anderson, Understanding the Old Testament, 590.
  9. Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1981), 46.
  10. Due to space and the complexity of the issues, the prose elements which attend to the introduction of Elihu (Job 32:1-5) and his discourses will not be discussed in this essay. Milo L. Chapman, “Job,” in vol. 3 of Beacon Bible Commentary (Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1967), 101. Chapman sees this section as “part of the prose introduction of Elihu’s speeches.” See also, Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament, 665, and John E. Hartley, The Book of Job (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988), 429.
  11. Unless otherwise stated all Scripture citations are from the English Standard Version of The Holy Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2001).
  12. James E. Patrick, “The Fourfold Structure of Job: Variations on a Theme,” VT 55.2 (2005): 186. Patrick demonstrates the use of “regular speech ascriptions” throughout Job (4:1, 6:1, 8:1, 9:1, 11:1, 12:1, 15:1, 16:1, 18:1, 19:1, 20:1, 21:1, 22:1, 23:1, 25:1, etc).
  13. Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, 74.
  14. These themes are principally found in the lengthy arguments made by The Satan against Job (1:9-11, 2:4-5).
  15. There are some variations on the epilogue but in general this is how many outline the epilogue.
  16. Hartley, The Book of Job, 539. “Whereas Yahweh has accused Job of darkening knowledge (38:2), his charge against the friends is much stronger. Job has been genuinely groping for the truth, but the friends have spoken falsely in their attempt to defend God.”
  17. Robert H. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament (New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1941; repr., New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1948), 660.
  18. William S. LaSor, David A. Hubbard, and Frederic W. Bush, Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament, 2d ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 474.
  19. Anderson, Understanding the Old Testament, 590-91.
  20. John H. Walton, Ancient Israelite Literature in its Cultural Context: A Survey of Parallels Between Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Texts (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1989), 46.
  21. Anderson, Understanding the Old Testament, 593; Dillard and Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 200.
  22. Avi Hurvitz, “Date of the Prose-Tale of Job Linguistically Reconsidered,” HTR 67.1 (Jan. 1974): 31-32.
  23. Craig C. Broyles, “Interpreting the Old Testament,” in Interpreting the Old Testament: A Guide for Exegesis, ed. Craig C. Broyles (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 28.
  24. Fyall argues that “we cannot force the book into a straightjacket. The nature of the book is such that into one form can cover the variety of situations, emotions, questions, protests and characters that it introduces” (Now My Eyes Have Seen You, 23). Anderson, Understanding the Old Testament, 573; Walton places Job along side many ANE parallel wisdom texts in Ancient Israelite Literature in its Cultural Context, 169-87.
  25. See LaSor, Hubbard, and Bush, Old Testament Survey, 472. “Our prologue and epilogue contain a considerable amount of epic substratum and that our prose version would seem to be directly derived from an ancient epic of Job.” See Nahum M. Sarna, “Epic Substratum in the Prose of Job,” JBL 76.1 (March 1957): 15. Leland Ryken, however, does not list these prologues as examples of the epic in How to Read the Bible as Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: Academic Books, 1984), 78-81.
  26. Frederick F. The Wisdom Literature of the Bible: The Book of Job,” The Bible Student 23.2 (April 1952): 58.
  27. Anderson, Understanding the Old Testament, 592.
  28. Tremper and Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 200-01. Still, Job as a historical figure is known to Ezekiel and his reputation is comparable to that of Daniel (Ezek 14:14, 20).
  29. Sarna, “Epic Substratum in the Prose of Job,” 15-24. Many other features and parallels of epic literature are discussed in Walton, Ancient Israelite Literature in its Cultural Context, 58-63.
  30. Hurvitz, “Date of the Prose-Tale of Job Linguistically Reconsidered,” 18.
  31. Ian Is the Prose Tale of Job in Late Biblical Hebrew,” VT 59.4 (2009): 606-29.
  32. Young, “Is the Prose Tale of Job in Late Biblical Hebrew,” 608.
  33. Young, “Is the Prose Tale of Job in Late Biblical Hebrew,” 621-26.
  34. Young, “Is the Prose Tale of Job in Late Biblical Hebrew,” 626.
  35. Young, “Is the Prose Tale of Job in Late Biblical Hebrew,” 626.
  36. A. Jeffery, “Hebrew Language,” IBD 2:555-56.
  37. Derek Kidner, The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes: An Introduction to Wisdom Literature (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 76. Indeed, Tremper Longman, III, argues that it best to remain “agnostic about the date of composition” because “fortunately the answer to this question does not bear on its interpretation,” “Poetic Books,” in The IVP Introduction to the Bible, ed. Philip S. Johnston (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 98.
  38. The following discussion follows the lead of Fyall, Now My Eyes Have Seen You, 34-38.
  39. Fyall, Now My Eyes Have Seen You, 34.
  40. Fyall, Now My Eyes Have Seen You, 34.
  41. Wayne Jackson, The Book of Job: Analyzed and Applied (Abilene, TX: Quality Publications, 1983), 20. He connects the goings of “the Satan” with 1 Pet 5:8 and argues for the Devil; in fact, Jackson opposes the view taken here that “the Satan” is a celestial member of the heavenly court describing it as “baseless.” Fyall likewise takes “the Satan” as the personal Devil (Now My Eyes Have Seen You, 36). Outside of Job, but within the Hebrew canon, the articular “the Satan” only appears in Zechariah (3:1-2). Both contexts are legal in setting which gives weight for a legal/courtroom Adversary – the prosecutor.
  42. Robert Alter, The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes — A Translation with Commentary (New York, NY: Norton & Co., 2010), 12.
  43. Hartley, The Book of Job, 71.
  44. Fyall, Now My Eyes Have Seen You, 35.
  45. Fyall, Now My Eyes Have Seen You, 35.
  46. Fyall, Now My Eyes Have Seen You, 37-38.
  47. Fyall, Now My Eyes Have Seen You, 38.
  48. Anderson, Understanding the Old Testament, 595.
  49. David J. A. Clines, “A Brief Explanation of Job 1-3,” in Sitting with Job: Selected Studies on the Book of Job, ed. Roy B. Zuck (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1992), 250.
  50. Dillard and Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 209.
  51. Anderson, Understanding the Old Testament, 595.
  52. Dillard and Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 209.
  53. Anderson, Understanding the Old Testament, 588.

On the Relationship between 2 Peter and Jude

college papers

[Note: This is an independent study Advanced Critical Introduction to the New Testament graduate course paper from 2005. Aside from some reformatting and stylistic emendations, the viewpoint argued for has not been altered. Furthermore, the thesis is still held to have the merit as maintained here. Not all will be satisfied with the argumentation, but I’m sharing this paper in hopes it will help others who come across this question in their biblical studies. I may return to this subject again.]


It has been suggested that in recent years the epistolary genre has received greater academic attention among scholars than in previous generations.[1] These advancements in the nature, function, and composition conventions which have been made in the last century, is demonstrated by the works of  E. Randolph Richard (1991, 2004), Jerome Murphy-O’Connor (1995), William G. Doty (1988), and Stanley K. Stower (1989).[2] The overall impact of the New Testament genre of the letter is demonstrated by Simon Kistemaker’s observation that in the letters, “the writers develop the teachings of the gospels and apply those teachings to churches and individuals,” and with regard to 2 Peter and Jude, they “address themselves to the perseverance of the saints and to the doctrine of the last things.”[3] This importance embedded within them, in addition to canonical considerations, has called attention to this genre, providing an impetus to analyze this part of the New Testament canon.[4]

Among the 21 New Testament letters, eight of them are normally called “Catholic,” or “General,” because the Christian audiences of the epistles have been taken to be universal in scope.[5] They are Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude. Despite the recognition of their universal application for Christian living, it appears that, in both academic and ministerial circumstances, they have been neglected considerably for their individual contributions and context. This is not to say the General Epistles have been totally abandoned, but that in comparison to the Gospel accounts and Pauline literature, they have suffered practical orphanage.[6] So much so that J. Daryl Charles applies Rowston’s infamous declaration that 2 Peter is the most neglected book in the New Testament to the entire General group.[7] Unfortunately, due to this lack of attention, the General letters are a troublesome spot in New Testament analysis; especially, because these letters “are sufficiently different from one another to preclude any general treatment of those historical features that may group these letters into a discrete and coherent collection.”[8]

Of the several trouble spots within the General letters is the relationship between 2 Peter and Jude. The basic problem of this relationship is the similarities which exist in 2 Peter 2 and Jude regarding their treatment of certain libertine opponents (2 Peter 2:1-3:3; Jude 2-16). It is to this relationship that this paper will address itself; however, this is simply one among a number of problems. For example, within some academic circles, the authorship of 1 and 2 Peter is questioned and the conclusions drawn from that study impacts how one examines the relationship between the latter and Jude.[9] Moreover, Jude’s use and reliance on certain Hebrew sources (pseudepigrapha) move some to call into question the use of Jude by an inspired apostolic author;[10] thus, granting a rationale to see non-apostolic authorship of 2 Peter. This paper by necessity will hint at these issues; however, they cannot be discussed at length, as they do not necessarily bear upon the investigation at hand.[11]

The basic problem being addressed is as follows: how shall the similarities of 2 Peter and Jude be explained. Academic circles are divided, as is common with any issue of a critical nature, but many sources I am aware of assert or assume that these similarities are best explained by Judaic priority. This priority is typically advanced to mean that the author of 2 Peter depends upon Jude for the bulk of his denunciation of the false teachers. As will be described below, this position is not unassailable; furthermore, there are other solutions to the evidence. This critical matter shall be examined in a three-fold matter.

First, the question of whether or not dependency exists shall be examined. Second, an evaluation of key solutions to the dependency question shall be developed. Third, following the analysis of the dependency problem conclusions shall be drawn regarding the compatibility between the solution proposed and the dogma of inspiration.

Evidence Considered Germane to the Dependency Question

When 2 Peter 2:1-3:3 are studied it is a rather difficult matter to dismiss the contribution and illumination that Jude 2-18 provide;[12] however, it can be studied independently with great profit,[13] and it should be.[14] Despite these remarks, the subject matter and vocabulary are so similar that many students have suspected a dependency issue of some between them. Douglas J. Rowston states:

If one compares Jude 4-16 and 2 Pet 2:1-18, one is led to the conclusion that there is a literary relationship between Jude and 2 Peter. The parallels may be accounted for in four ways. It is possible, not probable, to explain the parallels as coincidental. By the very nature of the parallels this is most unlikely.[15]

The argument is that the similarities between 2 Peter and Jude are so strong that scholars suggest this “literary relationship” cannot be explained away as “coincidental.” Michael Green observes that, “of twenty-five verses in Jude no less than fifteen appear, in whole or in part, in 2 Peter” and that “many of the identical ideas, words and phrases occur in parallel in the two writings.” Consequently, this makes it difficult to “doubt that there is some sort of literary relationship between them.”[16]

The question faced here is whether or not this similarity demands that dependency exists. This will be accomplished by evaluating the evidence typically advanced to affirm dependency. The lines of evidence typically advanced are following in two broad argumentations: thematic content and language. Udo Schnelle provides an example of the argument:

How heavily dependent 2 Peter is on Jude is seen in the numerous details of subject matter and vocabulary as well as in the similarities in the structure of the two letters: after the introductory greeting both authors remind their churches of the faith transmitted in the tradition, a faith that now must be preserved in view of the threats of the false teachers. Then follows a description of the heretical teachers, to which are joined admonitions to hold firmly to the right faith and to be vigilant.[17]

Denial of the similarities is, consequently, impossible and it is obvious that some type of relationship explains the similarities existing between 2 Peter and Jude.

The false teachers of 2 Peter 2 are described in five ways. Jerome H. Neyrey discusses this matter in balance to Jude.[18] The theme of a denunciation against the opponents is developed as the author of 2 Peter describes them as false teachers (2 Pet 2:15, 19, 3:3-4, 15-17), who deny authority and judgment (2 Pet 2:10-11, 20, 3:4, 9; Jude 4, 8, 10, 16), whose faulty theology leads to immorality (2 Pet 2:13-14, 18, 20-22; Jude 4, 8, 16), for which judgment and ruination await (2 Pet 2:4-10, 12, 16-17, 3:5-8, 10, 16; Jude 4). With such thematic parallels, it is understandable to see the evidence for an impetus to affirm a dependency of some kind. Those like Bauckham believe that dependency flows from 2 Peter upon Jude, principally because of the brevity of Jude and comparatively larger size of 2 Peter.[19]

Guthrie, likewise, points out that the problem between these two documents is “how it came about that both epistles use such similar descriptions of these people [i.e. false teachers] and the natural conclusion is that one has used the other.”[20] Consider Guthrie’s last clause, “the natural conclusion is that one has used the other.” This conclusion has given rise to the certainty that the parallels being so strong, literary dependency then automatically seems to imply one author had to use the epistolary work of another. However, Guthrie reminds, that there exists another possibility – “that both have used the same source, incorporating the materials into their epistles in different ways.”[21] Still even here, Guthrie implicitly accepts that this source is of a literary variety, which it seems is rarely disputed. However, this assumption may prove to be more of a weakness, than it is a strength.

It is interesting to observe how proponents of Judaic priority argue with the evidence. Often an expression of certainty is made regarding the conclusion that 2 Peter 2 is based upon Jude, and then the author proceeds to detail how actually it is not that certain. This line of thinking applies not only the thematic issues between the two epistles but also within the vocabulary similarities as well. Terrance Callan is an excellent example; he writes:

It seems obvious to all readers that there is some kind of close relationship between Jude and 2 Peter. For good reasons it is now widely accepted that 2 Peter is dependent on Jude. This is so much the case that authors at times overstate this dependence, saying that 2 Peter has simply incorporated Jude. A closer examination shows that the relationship is not this simple. The author of 2 Peter adopted Jude 4-18 in 2 Pet 2:1-3:3.[22]

What is commonly described as a dependency of Jude by the author of 2 Peter is actually an adaptation, not a literary dependency; in fact, Callan continues by observing that 2 Peter “has not adapted Jude by quoting it directly.”[23] Instead, it is regarded as a redaction of Jude by the author of 2 Peter, which means it is a “free paraphrase.”[24]

Before a complete evaluation is rendered towards the thematical similarities between Jude and 2 Peter, the second line of reasoning, being vocabulary, must be considered. Statistics vary regarding how much is similar, but one thing remains constant, there are exact points of contact between Jude and 2 Peter. This may appear impressive; however, even Richard Bauckham, a proponent of Judaic priority and pseudepigraphical origin for 2 Peter, writes:

Despite the large number of rare words in Jude, it is relevant to notice that 2 Peter has, in taking over material from Jude, taken over few rare words. Of thirty-eight words in 2 Peter which occur only once or twice elsewhere in the NT, only four occur in Jude and these are only four words which are found exclusively in Jude and 2 Peter in the NT (asebeîn, empaíktēs, suneuōcheísthai, hupérongkos, and of these asebeîn is probably not borrowed from Jude). This suggests that, despite its dependence on other sources as well as Jude, few of 2 Peter’s rare words are likely to derive from sources. They belong to the author’s own vocabulary.[25]

Now observe, out of these 38 words found in the 2 Peter, only four are in Jude at the most, and quite possibly only three. What sort of dependency is this then, if the author of 2 Peter can only be said to have employed three words for “certain”? Not to mention Bauckham’s belief that these particular rare words belong to the author of 2 Peter’s own vocabulary.

Donald A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo and Leon Morris likewise have questioned this argumentation; though, they have decided to remain somewhat moderate on the issue. They suggest that there is nothing inherently opposed to 2 Peter incorporating some verbiage that is Judaic, a moderation that Michael J. Gilmour has argued for at length.[26] Guthrie presents the following evidence regarding the verbal parallels, and seems to have the last word on the impact of such matters:

It is often overlooked that although the parallels between these epistles stretch to a wide range of subject-matter, yet verbal agreements are not impressive. If statistics are any guide, the following data may supply some indication. Out of the parallel passages comprising 2 Peter 1:2, 12; 2:1-4, 6, 10-12, 15-18; 3:2-3 and Jude 2, 4-13, 17-18, the former contain 297 words and the latter 256 words, but they share only 78 in common. This means that if 2 Peter is the borrower he has changed 70% of Jude’s language and added more of his own, whereas if Jude borrowed from 2 Peter, the percentage of alteration is slightly higher, combined with a reduction in quantity.[27]

The matter for Guthrie must still remain open because the evidence to “too short to lead to certainty”; however, he affirms based upon this evidence that “neither author can be considered more concise than the other.”[28]

The question remains, if thematic and linguistic considerations that are the ground upon which dependency is based, how does this evidence point exclusively to any other kind of dependency other than 2 Peter borrowing from Jude when the dependency is not air tight as is generally believed to be? The question has merit because even the proponents of Judaic priority observe, “despite the great similarity of theme and terminology one detects here, as elsewhere, very different agenda on the part of the two authors.”[29] Furthermore, they argue forcefully, that “Jude and 2 Peter are very different works, from very different historical contexts,” thus it is suggested, “the literary relationship between 2 Peter and Jude does not justify the common habit of classing these two works together as similar works.”[30] With the testimony of this nature it is difficult to be persuaded that literary dependence between the two epistles is as viable as it is popular.

Furthermore, much is made of the similarities between 2 Peter and Jude; meanwhile, there are considerable matters that are distinct between the two epistles, at least six.[31] Jude 1-4 and 20-25 (the beginning and close) are distinct from 2 Peter 2 and are not parallel, being the “most important and distinctive parts of Jude.”[32] Jude exclusively employs triplet constructions (Jude 1-2, 4-8, 11-13, 20-23, 25), while 2 Peter breaks them up. Jude quotes the Pseudepigrapha (9, 14-16), while 2 Peter does not (2:2-22). In fact, he is very vague in his allusions to such traditions. 2 Peter refers to the false teachers in the future tense (2:1-3); meanwhile, Jude does not (5-7, 9). Jude’s Greek is less difficult than that of 2 Peter. In fact, Daniel C. Arichea and Howard A. Hatton write:

As to style, scholars have noticed that 2 Peter is characterized by long sentences and elaborate constructions. These are all attributed to Greek influences, which have also somewhat influenced the contents of the letter. But in contrast to 2 Peter, Jude seems to use simpler constructions, although not lacking in eloquence and in figurative language […].[33]

Finally, mockers in Jude do not ridicule the delay of the Lord’s coming; however, it is abundantly clear that the opponents in 2 Peter do (3:1-7).

What may be said then about the facts and the proposals given by scholars regarding the relationship between Jude and 2 Peter? Is there reason to believe that there is a dependency issue? Little could be said which would shift the attention away from the fact that Jude and 2 Peter have similarities, but again, do these similarities demand literary dependence? Moreover, what may be said of their differences? It appears that this is not necessary to conclude that there is a literary dependency where one had the other’s epistle before them as they composed their letter. This last point will be examined when the four solutions often proposed to explain this critical problem are considered. But for now, it is sufficient so summarize that despite the thematic similarities and some vocabulary parallels, the testimony of the evidence and those who promote a literary model of dependency concede the point that such is not the solid ground upon which to build a wholesale use of Jude by 2 Peter.

An Evaluation of the Key Solutions to the Dependency Question

There are four basic proposals that have been used to explain the relationship that exists between Jude and 2 Peter. Michael Green succinctly notes them when he writes “that there is a dependence either of 2 Peter on Jude or of Jude on 2 Peter, of both on some lost document, or that both share a common author, is certain”:[34]

  1. Dependence of 2 Peter on Jude
  2. Dependence of Jude on 2 Peter
  3. Dependence of 2 Peter and Jude on a lost document
  4. 2 Peter and Jude share a common author

Others would reclassify Green’s third proposals more generally, suggesting that Jude and 2 Peter may be based from a common source. Generally speaking, scholarship tends to argue that dependency flows from the author of 2 Peter. Powerful presentations of the 2 Peter dependency proposal is represented in commentaries by Richard J. Bauckham (1983) and Jerome H. Neyrey (1993).[35] These works, among others, demonstrate that there is weight behind this proposal. Although there is a general scholarly consensus that the author of 2 Peter employed the epistle of Jude to compose the bulk of 2 Peter 2, a case can be adequately presented which argues that 2 Peter and Jude drew upon a common source to combat a common problem. The case is based upon the clear problem with defining the nature of dependency involved and the strength of some kind of common source theory.

The Problem of Defining Dependency

Arguing for literary dependency can be a misleading enterprise, especially in epistolary material. As noted above, it is difficult to argue that there is no relationship between Jude and 2 Peter, but this difficulty does not within itself demand an exclusive means to explain dependency. Literary dependency is not as foolproof as it is often assumed to be as G. Barr explains:

Beyond the area of literary dependence which is involved in direct copying, there lies a large grey [sic] area in which an author may use many synonyms of words found in another’s work, and may employ parallel syntactical constructions. In such cases it is difficult to distinguish between material which shows familiarity with the written work of another author and material which has been produced after shared discussion, each author writing up the discussion in his own way.[36]

An exclusive means to explain dependency is, therefore, unnecessary since there is another valid explanation. It is very true that at least two types of dependency exist: literary and thought (i.e. Barr’s “shared discussion”), and sometimes it is difficult to distinguish familiarity from literary dependence. Consequently, for all its prominence as a viable explanation, a weakness is evident which suggests that literary dependency is not the only appropriate explanation for the similarities that exist between Jude and 2 Peter.

It is a virtually uniform approach to Jude and 2 Peter where scholars advance that the author of 2 Peter 2 employed the bulk of Jude in their argumentation. It is interesting, though, that it is proposed that Jude’s argument and language were copied, and yet modifications are accepted and assumed and explained as the letter writer making adjustments to fit the purposes of a pseudepigraphic argument. Callan employs phrases such as “no sentence of Jude is quoted in 2 Peter,” “2 Peter re-wrote Jude, avoiding direct quotation,” “2 Peter has changed Jude’s critique,” Callan constantly claims 2 Peter changed, rewrote, omitted a phrase or a verb and as a final example 2 Peter 2:4-10a is “a thorough revision of Jude 5-8a.”[37] Such description betrays more assumption than critical analysis because the case can be easily explained as familiarity with the subject at hand rather than literary dependence upon a letter.

To affirm dependency on a literary basis Barr’s case must be acknowledged, which is that instead of low calculations such as Guthrie pointed out above, demonstrating a low level of contact, there should be a high level of contact. For dependency of a literary nature is the:

copying of vocabulary, phrases, sentences and ideas, [but it] will not be rich in synonyms as the copyist is in a position of dependence and may be unsure of precise shades of meaning. The points of contact may well cluster in the original, as some particular passages are likely to appeal to the copyist as containing the essence of the work. The borrowed portions of text may also preserve something of the order of the original.[38]

In a sense, it is what may be called “synoptical dependency.” In the Gospel narratives, there is strong verbal agreement and arrangement. The “points of contact” are so strong that there is virtually no other way to explain the relationship except the wholesale employment of a previous document, no matter which arrangement of dependency is argued for among the Gospel narratives. Among the Gospels,

not only is the wording almost exact (as is true in the Greek original), but each of the three evangelists inserts an abrupt break in Jesus’ words at the same point. Such duplication of unusual or awkward constructions occur at other places, along with passages in which tow or three of the evangelists use precisely the same words, in the same order, over several lines of text.[39]

However, the relationship between Jude and 2 Peter is such that it does not enjoy the same literary dependency, as does the synoptical record. Instead, exact “points of contact” are few, but this paucity is rationalized as redaction.[40]

In truth, the literary dependency, which supposedly exists between 2 Peter and Jude, is rather weak since it requires a significant theory of revision. On such grounds, it must be it stands or falls. The premises upon which the Judaic priority theory is based must be constantly reevaluated in light of fresh thinking and research. Here it is argued that it should be rejected, on the grounds that the relationship can be well explained through another theory which best explains the relationship. As Merrill Unger argues in his article, “Scientific Biblical Criticism and Exegesis”:

True scientific approach to the Bible must also severely test the validity of its presuppositions and the hypotheses it advances. […]. It must question relentlessly any hypothesis of literary criticism, […] that is constructed on the assumption of not only the fallibility but the actually falsity […] of the Sacred Record. […] In other words, a true scientific approach to Biblical criticism must be erected on the proper foundation of authority with its expression directed by this guiding star into channels of constructive research where human reason, enlightened and liberated by faith, will make a fair and honest effort to harmonize this sound position with the inductive difficulties of the text. ‘But in no case is the doctrine of inspiration accommodated to the difficulties. If orthodoxy were to tolerate such accommodation, it would forfeit the principle by which any Christian doctrine is established.’”[41]

Despite the fact that a majority published scholars accept a certain view on the literary relationship between 2 Peter and Jude, such a consensus must not automatically dictate opinion to any investigator of truth. Thus, the dependency solutions, for “one of the most vexing issues” of the New Testament, has been briefly reevaluated here.[42]

Three of the proposals in Green’s list and an additional proposal will be considered below. (1) Is is possible that 2 Peter and Jude independent of each other? (2) Did Jude write his letter based upon 2 Peter? (3) Was it the other way around as many believe; did Peter depend upon Jude in writing 2 Peter? (4) Or, are these two letters bound by a common source(s) which can account for the similarities and the differences?

2 Peter and Jude wrote Independently

One of the presuppositions of the present author is that revelation and inspiration can explain and support that 2 Peter and Jude were composed independently of each other. If the Holy Spirit guided all inspired writers into all truth (John 14), then it is not a stretch to affirm that each was composed independently. As Donald Fream observes:

The inspired writings of the Scriptures have a supernatural relationship that is not found in secular writings. Inspiration of the Holy Spirit gives each book of the Bible a common source and a common planner […] Thus quotations and imitations of the different writers in the planned revelation of God are not to be judged on the same basis as the writings of uninspired authors.[43]

However, since we are evaluating this relationship rationally, it must be evaluated if independent composition is still a viable alternative.

From a rationalistic point of view, we would be hardpressed to explain away the thematic and linguistic relationship – which is strong but not decisive. It may be advanced that both authors based their argumentation from contemporary Jewish exegesis of the Old Testament and Hebrew sources.  J. Daryl Charles’ work on the General letters offers some insight to this point of view.[44] Charles argues that the authors:

Reflect a conspicuous debt to the OT and to contemporary Jewish exegesis of the OT. They are rich in their appropriation of characters, events, and imagery associated with Israel’s history. In the main it is the literary tendency of the General Epistles to display their relationship to the OT technically through indirect allusions rather than direct citations.[45]

This includes non-canonical tradition material where “they mirror a Jewish religio-cultural matrix to which their message as well as mode of literary expression are owing.”[46] E. Earle Ellis likewise follows this line of reasoning in his analysis of Jude, and labels this method as “midrash patterns common to first century Judaism.”[47]

Consequently, the ability to argue in a similar fashion, and yet remain distinct can be explained through this medium. However, ancient methods of hortatory exegesis cannot unassailably stand, because there are moments within the two letters that demonstrate a similar vein of argumentation and this may weaken the case of impendent authorship.[48] Particularly, because there are words which are common between the two epistles, even if few. Still Green observes that if the two epistles are based upon a style of preaching and teaching (i.e., “catechesis”), the similarities and differences between the two presentations will be easy to understands since neither writes in slavish dependence on his outline.”[49] Ultimately, although this is a valid possibility because first century Jews were “accustomed to accept rabbinical explanations and additions to Scripture,” it is currently not widely held.[50]

Jude used 2 Peter

In his fourth century work, Eusebius chronicles the “current” status of “canonical affairs” and writes:

At this point it may be appropriate to list the New Testament writings already referred to. The holy quartet of the Gospels are first, followed by the Acts of the Apostles. Next are Paul’s epistles, 1 John, and 1 Peter. The Revelation of John may be added […]. These are the recognized books. Those that are disputed yet known to most are the epistles called James, Jude, 2 Peter, and the so-named 2 and 3 John, the work of the Evangelist or of someone else with the same name.[51]

Eusebius continues this discussion with another brief list, of spurious and heretical works under which the book of Revelation (some viewed it spurious) was listed since it was still not fully recognized. Eusebius’ work is of great value since it demonstrates that the early church had difficulty with a majority of the general epistles; of which, 2 Peter and Jude are named as disputed.[52]

However, J. Neyrey makes the observation that the early church tradition accepted that Jude was dependent upon 2 Peter. This, of course, makes sense in a context where a higher premium was given to an apostolic source, a time of pre-critical naiveté.[53] “Those who favour [sic] the priority of Peter lay stress on the unity of style in 2 Peter which makes it unlikely that he made wholesale borrowings from another author.”[54] Nevertheless, “it is also difficult to understand why, if he had the whole of 2 Peter before him, the author of Jude restricted his borrowings so drastically (it surely contained much else that he could have exploited profitably), and why he speaks vaguely (17) of ‘the apostles of our Lord’ instead of mentioning Peter by name.”[55]

One might argue based on a parody of 2 Peter that Jude should have acknowledged Peter by name if he were depending upon his second letter for composing Jude. Peter employs and calls upon the letters of Paul in 2 Peter 3:14-16 as a spiritual foreground for his letter. It allows the reader to understand that Peter’s discussions allude to and rest upon in some fashion the writings of the beloved Paul. Meanwhile, Jude makes no such allusion to Peter individually in v. 17, only the collective “apostles” who similarly predicted “scoffers/mockers” (based on same root empaiz-) as in 2  Peter 3:1-3. If Jude was using 2 Peter as part of the spiritual foreground for his letter, the lack of inclusion of Peter’s name is a curious omission.

Kistemaker suggests two weaknesses to further dismiss this option. Despite the antiquity of this view, there appears to be a subjective bias that rules out “that [1] Peter could not have borrowed passages from Jude and [2] that Jude had to consult 2 Peter.”[56] Moreover, since little is known about Jude, the widespread impact of Jude’s ministry is a mystery. This may be similarly said regarding the historical context of his letter.[57] Consequently, historical ambiguity and perceived “inconsistency” in dependence by Jude to not mention Peter when he refers to the apostles (Jude 17) suggests this as an unconvincing solution –though not outside the bounds of possibility.

2 Peter used Jude

What benefit is there to discuss a matter that is viewed by a great deal of New Testament scholars to be so self-evident[58] that rejection of the priority of Jude in the dependency question of Jude and 2 Peter implicates one as being a theologically biased student?[59] Perhaps this is a pessimistic appraisal of the academic atmosphere regarding this topic. It cannot be overlooked, however, that Jude’s priority is so widely accepted that many assume it as orthodoxy and propose how the author of 2 Peter used, augmented, revised, or omitted portions of Jude’s letter without even an equally balanced consideration of genuine Petrine articulation.[60] This is somewhat alarming since to a great extent, the explanations proposed are based upon possibilities and probabilities, not upon crisp fact.[61]

Michael Green observes that “those who favour [sic] the priority of Jude stress the freshness and vitality of the letter compared with the more restrained style of 2 Peter and the probability that the longer letter, 2 Peter, drew from the shorter, rather than vice versa.”[62] Especially is this possible when Jude is viewed as having the more “simpler constructions” than the 2 Peter’s elaborate constructions.[63] Fornberg writes, “the incidence in 2 Peter 1 and 2 Peter 3 of parallels to Jude strongly suggests that Jude, or possibly a text very like it, was the original for 2 Peter 2 rather than vice versa. There is also a general consensus that Jude can be regarded as a direct source for 2 Peter.”[64] Of this, Terrance Callan repeatedly affirms 2 Peter redaction of Jude;[65] however, Jerome Neyrey makes the observation, “The difficulties for an accurate interpretation of the redaction lie in the historical and theological scenario which commentators imagine to be the background of each document.”[66]

This means one’s reconstruction of the church setting plays a large role in interpreting the relationship between these two letters. If 2 Peter is viewed to be a pseudepigraph (lit., “false writing”), then the document is traditionally thought to be a late first-century to early-second-century document written in the power, weight, and theological tradition and authority/name of Peter. It would then be no stretch to see a Christian author writing a commemorative letter for the church to advance an “orthodox” point of view, and basing it upon the letter of Jude to do so. Hence, if one reconstructs the setting for 2 Peter as a pseudepigraph, then dependency upon Jude naturally flows.

For more on First-Century Evidence for 2 Peter read my article, “Canonization of Scripture and 2 Peter 3:15-16”

It is impressive when one stops to contemplate that a majority of biblical scholars believe that 2 Peter incorporated to some extent, Jude. Not all conclude that 2 Peter is pseudepigraphical, such as Green; however, this is a minor consideration. Nevertheless, those who promote Judaic priority, concede the inability to have completely closed the gap on this theory’s validity. In other words, as Neyrey observes, “these studies have all added weight to the hypothesis of Jude’s priority by offering convincing interpretations of 2 Peter’s use of Jude, but they have by no means proven it.”[67] And as mentioned earlier above, there are serious weaknesses in affirming that 2 Peter borrowed from Jude; namely, that “it is difficult to distinguish between material which shows familiarity with the written work of another author and material which has been produced after shared discussion.”[68] How does one tell the difference with any degree of certainty? It appears, then, that one may still appeal to another solution to the dependency issue with academic credibility intact.

2 Peter and Jude used a Common Source

If taken here that there is no rationale that requires Jude’s dependence on 2 Peter, nor that there is a necessity to conclude that 2 Peter employed in some fashion Jude; but instead, there was probably a common source of some kind rendering composition of each epistle somewhat independently. A common source is usually considered to be a written source. For example, Norman Hillyer writes that the explanation where “both writers have employed a common written source, seems more probable, for while the same topics are touched upon in the same sequence, the differences in treatment are palpable” and it just seems unlikely that they copied from one another.[69] Yet, J. N. D. Kelly remarks that while, “one point advanced in favor of this is the fact that, for all their close correspondences, actual verbal agreement is rare; the only clauses where they are identical are 2 Pet 2:17b and Jude 13b”; nevertheless, the uniformity of the logical framework of the argument in both weakens this solution.[70]

The parallels being so strong, dependency then automatically seems to imply one author had to use the epistolary work of another. After all, as Guthrie points out that the problem between these two documents is “how it came about that both epistles use such similar descriptions of these people [i.e. false teachers] and the natural conclusion is that one has used the other.”[71] Observe Guthrie’s last clause, “the natural conclusion is that one has used the other.” This natural conclusion has given rise to the certainty that the dependency issue is literary, meaning that one had to borrow from the other. However, even as Guthrie reminds, “But there is a third possibility – that both have used the same source, incorporating the materials into their epistles in different ways.”[72] Guthrie seems to implicitly accept that this source is of a literary variety, but Barr and Charles independently demonstrate this is an unnecessary limitation for the source may be a preaching style or shared theological discussion on false teachers. Since the former has already been introduced, that latter will be discussed.

Dependency may be base upon “shared theological discussion” and articulation. Again Barr is quite useful here for the definition and explanation of this type of dependency; in which he observes that while the epistles:

May show points of contact without there being any question of literary dependence, synonyms may be more commonly used as both authors are fluent in the subject. It is more difficult to distinguish between the latter case [i.e. fluency in the subject] and one in which an author is familiar with the written work of another [i.e. literary dependence], rather than having engaged in discussion with him.[73]

The case Barr makes is that “points of contact” may exist, particularly if it is allowed that the author may be fluent in the subject being addressed, which may have been obtained through discussion. There are examples of this within the New Testament.

Adding to the concept of dependence based upon previous dialog and articulation among the apostolic or inspired circles of the New Testament canon, Barr contributes substantially when he pens:

The writers of the New Testament epistles were […] original researchers breaking in new ground, developing new vocabulary in discussion of giving old words (such as agápē) new meanings. They had to tackle rival philosophies and heretical tendencies. […] Much discussion must have taken place in the group of apostolic writers as the expression of the Christian faith developed, and each writer reflected the discussion in his own way. If dependence of one upon another is to be established, then it must be shown that there is a difference between the kind of literary dependence in which one writer has before him the text of another author and copies key terms, ideas or syntactical rhythms from it, and the kind of similarities which arise from the sharing of thought and terminology among partners engaged in research and discussion.[74]

The quotation is lengthy but vital to the present discussion. Validity must be given to this observation; otherwise, the apostolic circle of authors is viewed extremely one-dimensional exempt from the communications which modern day preachers and Bible students enjoy today. This seems particularly impractical; especially, since such occasions have existed within church history during apostolic times (cf. Acts 15).

It appears that the only thing next to consider is how this latter position, which appears to explain the similarities, differences, hermeneutical preaching styles, exact word choices of each epistle, and agrees with pre-existent situations, is to consider it in light of the dogma of inspiration. Does the “Pre-existent discussion” theory, as developed here, alter the dogma of inspiration? It will be argued that it does not.

The Impact of the “Pre-Existent Discussion” Theory upon Inspiration

A common misconception regarding the Bible has to do with its origin and production. There are many who allege that the Bible originated through the sole ingenuity of humanity. The statement, “the Bible was written by men,” is a common affirmation by those who often wish to reject its message. A more accurate rendition of this negative epithet is that “that Bible was written by God-guided men.” However, how does this conception of the Bible interact with the “Pre-Existent Discussion” Theory suggested here to bring about a solution for the supposed tension between 2 Peter and Jude? In order to answer this question the nature of both revelation and inspiration will be examined, and then a discussion will be generated to see if this theory is compatible with the dogma of inspiration.

The Nature of Revelation

The word revelation is a rather expressive term which clearly distinguishes an individual preacher from another. When Paul is demonstrating the independent and authentic nature of his preaching, in contrast to those that were troubling the Galatian Christians (1:6-9), he discusses the concept of revelation. He affirms:

[11] For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. [12] For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal 1:11-12).[All Scripture references are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.]

In fact, he mentions his encounter with the Apostles in Jerusalem, and that after he rehearsed to them his preaching, they “added nothing” to his preaching (2:1-10).There are several points of interest in this passage contributing to an appropriate understanding of revelation. The word revelation comes from

There are several points of interest in this passage contributing to an appropriate understanding of revelation. The word revelation comes from apocalúpsis, an “uncovering,” but when applied to the gospel means, “an expression of the mind of God for the instruction of the church.”[75] Again, revelation “has to do with that which could not be known except by direct communication from Jehovah.”[76] Consequently, revelation is God unveiling his mind to his people. Furthermore, Galatians 1:11-12 provides three more observations: First, Revelation is received it is not a religious epiphany; second, revelation has not derived from human intellect; and third, revelation is received from Jesus Christ.

The Nature of Inspiration

Revelation is God’s action of expressing his message to his prophets (1 Cor 2:11-16); inspiration, however, is a related but somewhat distinct term. The apostle Paul’s second letter to Timothy provides the clearest case of what inspiration is. Paul writes to Timothy the following words:

[14] But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it [15] and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. [16] All Scripture is breathed by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, [17] that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:14-17)

As Paul encourages his young friend to have confidence in his ministry and his training, placing all confidence in the “sacred writings” (here the OT), Paul uses one of the most unique words in the entire New Testament –used only once, theópneustos (“God-breathed”).

The word has often been translated as inspired, an English word that needs some clarification as to its origin. Jack P. Lewis discusses this point in Questions You’ve asked about Bible Translations. Latin translators of the New Testament used, Lewis observes, the phrase divinitus inspirata, meaning “Divinely breathed in,” not “God breathed,” and this rendition has affected English translations for subsequent generations.[77] The difference between the two is this: First, “Divinely breathed in” refers to a characteristic of Scripture; while second, “God breathed” is a statement of how Scripture came to be. To capture the meaning of “God breathed” Scripture, Louw and Nida suggest that the phrase “all Scripture God breathed” be understood as: “Scripture, the writer of which was influenced by God.”[78] Ultimately, inspiration is a characteristic of every ounce of Scripture, but this is not Paul’s point here. Paul’s point is that the origin of Scripture is due to God’s guidance.

Revelation and Inspiration

Although revelation and inspiration overlap in some aspects of their meaning, it is important to keep them distinct. It has been correctly noted, “all revelatory material contained in the Bible is inspired of God, but not all inspired material was revelatory in nature.”[79] Meaning, there are parts of Scripture that did not need God to reveal a thing, as in the case of eyewitness testimony. For example, the apostle Matthew would not have needed revelation per se to produce his Gospel account; however, he would need God’s guidance to select the appropriate narratives and emphases. Furthermore, there are examples where Paul quotes poets (Aratus in Acts 17:28), play-rights (Menander in 1 Cor 15:33), and philosophers (Epimenides in Titus 1:12). Inspiration secures that when a writer uses non-biblical literature or “un-revealed” sources, such will be selected and reproduced on God’s terms.

Turning attention to the question regarding how revelation and inspiration impact one’s perception of the Bible, it is important to recognize that God revealed and secured the accuracy of the message penned. It is interesting to reflect upon the fact that what God had his prophet preached, is the substance of what God had his prophets pen (Isa 30:8-17). The Bible is the product of revelation (a God-given message) and inspiration (God’s message accurately reproduced). The written word is as authentic and authoritative as the spoken word because each avenue of communication was Divinely guided, observe:

[19] And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, [20] knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. [21] For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Pet 1:19-21)

Any student of the Scriptures must understand that its message is God given, produced through the guiding hand of God, and finally committed to written form. “God’s Word is thus not limited to books or scrolls, the prophetic words are known only because they were committed to writing.”[80] This implies that one should not suppose that it is within the epistolary documents themselves that are found the origin for all that is contained within them.

Concluding Thoughts on the Dependency Question and Common Source

Attention must now be turned to inspiration and the discussion theory. Earlier Barr was quoted defining the theory, underscoring that “points of contact” may exist, particularly if it is allowed that the author may be fluent in the subject being addressed. Moreover, this would have been obtained through discussion. Furthermore, it was advanced that examples exist within the New Testament. In the book of Acts, an example exists where Apostles, elders, and preachers gathered together to discuss what shall be done with the Gentiles who had obeyed the Gospel (Acts 15:6-21). Were they to submit to the rite of circumcision or just the fundamental laws of holiness instructed within the Hebrew Bible? There was an interchange between several individuals which some would feel had no need to discuss the matter; however, Paul and Barnabas who had been preaching the Gospel came to discuss the matter, and Peter along with the Jerusalem leadership – which consisted of apostles (Acts 15:6).

Paul and Barnabas “declared all that God had done with them” (Acts 15:4). Peter and James likewise stood up before a multitude and provided impute on this matter, regarding the Gentiles reception into the kingdom. Each provided positive testimony as to why the Gentiles should need to submit to the rite of circumcision. As a consequence of this shared discussion, “the apostles and the elders, with the whole church” (Acts 15:22) sent a letter with the results of their conference. In fact, they place in their epistle two unique phrases: first, they say, “it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you […]” (Acts 15:25); and second, “it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements” (Acts 15:28). The requirements were consistent with the conclusions drawn in the “conference” at Jerusalem.

The fact that such an example exists, without any negative and derogatory statement on the part of Luke, demonstrates that quite possibly when difficult issues arose Holy Spirit lead men would come together to discuss the matter. Shared discussion from such events would create the common vocabulary and common argumentation methods. Thus, it is quite within reason, and Scripture demonstrates that such has happened, that discussion can generate epistolary action and theological vocabulary to address doctrinal matters. Indeed, it almost sounds like modern conferences on biblical themes; however, their advantage is that they were guided by God to produce Scripture. Consequently, the “Pre-Existing Discussion” Theory as we have developed it is very valid and possible. In fact, it appears to have been a convention of the early church to gather together and discuss the matter. Despite the paucity of evidence, Acts 15 is a strong positive evidence for this theory. Inspiration, therefore, is preserved and buttressed as this solution theory maintains the traditional approach to 2 Peter and Jude, and the inspiration of these letters.


  1. Richard R. Melick, Jr., “Literary Criticism of the New Testament,” in Foundations for Biblical Interpretation, eds. David S. Dockery, et al. (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 436; Richard N. Longenecker, “On the Form, Function, and Authority of the New Testament Letters,” Scripture and Truth, eds. Donald A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge (1983; repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 101-12.
  2. E. Randolph Richards’s landmark study, The Secretary in the Letters of Paul (Tübingen: Mohr, 1991), later supplemented with his Paul and First-Century Letter WritingSecretaries, Composition, and Collection (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004); Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, Paul the Letter-Writer: His World, His Options, His Skills (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 1995); William G. Doty’s introduction Letters in Primitive Christianity (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, 1988); Stanley K. Stower’s Letter Writing in Greco-Roman Antiquity (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1989).
  3. Simon J. Kistemaker, “The Canon of the New Testament,” JETS 20 (1977): 12.
  4. E. Iliff Robson, “Composition and Dictation in New Testament Books,” JTS 18 (1917): 288-91.
  5. Arthur G. Patzia, The Making of the New Testament: Origin, Collection, Text and Canon (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1995), 92-93.
  6. J. Daryl Charles, “Interpreting the General Epistles,” in Interpreting the New Testament: Essays on Methods and Issues, eds. David A. Black and David S. Dockery (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2001), 34.
  7. Charles, “Interpreting,” 434; Douglas J. Rowston, “The Most Neglected Book in the New Testament,” NTS 21 (1975): 554-63.
  8. Robert W. Wall, “Introduction to Epistolary Literature,” NIB 10:377.
  9. Richard J. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter  (Waco, TX: Word, 1983), 143-47.
  10. Rowston, “The Most Neglected Book,” 562-63.
  11. Consequently, a few items are assumed to be well within the framework of academic reality; such as: (1) it will be assumed that the authorship question between 1 and 2 Peter can be well explained by similar Petrine authorship (Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction., 4th rev. ed. [Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 1990], 762-81, 812-34), E. Randolph Richards’s strong argumentation notwithstanding (“Silvanus Was Not Peter’s Secretary: Theological Bias in Interpreting dià Silouanoûégrapsa,” JETS 43:3 [Sept. 2000]: 417-32); (2) the pseudonymous theory for the authorship of 2 Peter is without substantial merit (James I. Packer, Fundamentalism and the Word of God: Some Evangelical Perspectives [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1958], 182-86); and (3) the role of an amanuensis plays a fundamental role in examination of epistolary literature (Murphy-O’Connor, Paul the Letter-Writer, 6-40).
  12. D. Edmond. Hiebert, “Selected Studies from 2 Peter Part 3: A Portrayal of False Teachers: An Exposition of 2 Peter 2:1–3,” BSac 141.563 (July-Sept. 1984): 255-63.

  13. Duane A. Dunham, “An Exegetical Study of 2 Peter 2:18–22,” BSac 140.557 (Jan.-March 1983): 40-51.

  14. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, 143.
  15. Rowston, “The Most Neglected Book,” 562-63.
  16. Michael Green, The Second Epistle of Peter and the Epistle of Jude: An Introduction and Commentary, 2d ed. (1987; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 23-24
  17. Udo Schnelle, The History and Theology of the New Testament Writings, trans. M. Eugene Boring (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1998), 429.
  18. Jerome H. Neyrey, 2 Peter, Jude: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1993), 186-93.
  19. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, 142.
  20. Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 917
  21. Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 917.
  22. Terrance Callan, “Use of the Letter of Jude by the Second Letter of Peter,” Bib 85 (2004): 42.
  23. Callan, “Use of the Letter of Jude,” 42.
  24. Earl J. Richard, Reading 1 Peter, Jude, and 2 Peter: A Literary and Theological Commentary (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2000), 303-05; Callan, “Use of the Letter of Jude,” 43.
  25. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, 136.
  26. Donald A. Carson, James D. Moo, and Leon Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 438; Michael J. Gilmour, “Reflections on the Authorship of 2 Peter,” EvQ 73.4 (Oct.-Dec. 2001): 299-302.
  27. Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 925 footnote 1.
  28. Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 925.
  29. Richard, Reading 1 Peter, Jude, and 2 Peter, 303.
  30. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, 143.
  31. Green, 2 Peter and Jude, 59.
  32. Green, 2 Peter and Jude, 52.
  33. Daniel C. Arichea and Howard A. Hatton, A Handbook on the Letter from Jude and the Second Letter from Peter (New York, NY: United Bible Societies, 1993), 3.
  34. Green, 2 Peter and Jude, 23.
  35. Richard J. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter  (Waco, TX: Word, 1983) and Jerome H. Neyrey, 2 Peter, Jude: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1993).
  36. George K. Barr, “Literary Dependence in the New Testament Epistles,” IBS 19.4 (Oct. 1997): 149.
  37. Callan, “Use of the Letter of Jude,” 42-52.
  38. Barr, “Literary Dependence,” 153.
  39. Carson, Moo, and Morris, An Introduction, 26.
  40. Tord Fornberg, An Early Church in a Pluralistic Society: A Study of 2 Peter (Lund: Gleerup, 1977), 33-59.
  41. Merrill F. Unger, “Scientific Biblical Criticism and Exegesis,” BSac 121.481 (Jan.-March 1964): 62-63. Unger here cites E. J. Carnell, A Case for Orthodox Theology, 110.
  42. Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2003), 415.
  43. Donald Fream, A Chain of Jewels from James and Jude (1965; repr., Joplin, MO: College Press, 1987), 246.
  44. J. Daryl Charles, “Interpreting the General Epistles,” in Interpreting the New Testament: Essays on Methods and Issues, eds. David A. Black and David S. Dockery (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2001), 433-56.
  45. Charles, “Interpreting,” 438.
  46. Charles, “Interpreting,” 440.
  47. E. Earle Ellis, Prophecy and Hermeneutic in Early Christianity (1978; repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1993), 221-36.
  48. J. N. D. Kelly, The Epistles of Peter and of Jude (1969; repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1993), 226.
  49. Green, 2 Peter and Jude, 62.
  50. Walter M. Dunnett, “The Hermeneutics of Jude and 2 Peter: The Use of Ancient Jewish Traditions,” JETS 31.3 (Sept. 1988): 290.
  51. Paul L. Maier, trans., Eusebius: The Church History – A New Translation with Commentary. (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1999), 115.
  52. It is highly important to stress here that simply because they are labeled “disputed” does not mean that they can be capriciously rejected as non-canonical –i.e., not inspired.
  53. Neyrey 2 Peter, Jude, 121.
  54. Green, 2 Peter and Jude, 59.
  55. Kelly, Peter and Jude, 226.
  56. Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and of the Epistle of Jude (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1987), 222.
  57. Douglas J. Moo, 2 Peter, Jude (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 28.
  58. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, 142-43; Callan, “Use of the Letter of Jude,” 42; Neyrey, 2 Peter, Jude, 122; Ben Witherington, III, “A Petrine Source in 2 Peter,” SBLSP (1985): 187.
  59. Gary B. Ferngren, “Internal Criticism as a Criterion for Authorship in the New Testament,” BSac 134.536 (Oct.-Dec. 1977): 331.
  60. Callan, “Use of the Letter of Jude,” 42-64.
  61. Ferngren, “Internal Criticism,” 334-38; Gilmour, “Reflections,” 673-78.
  62. Green, 2 Peter and Jude, 60.
  63. Arichea and Hatton, Handbook, 3.
  64. Fornberg, Early Church in a Pluralistic Society, 34.
  65. Callan, “Use of the Letter of Jude,” 63.
  66. Neyrey, 2 Peter, Jude, 121.
  67. Neyrey, 2 Peter, Jude, 122.
  68. Barr, “Literary Dependence,” 149.
  69. Norman Hillyer, 1 and 2 Peter, Jude, rev. ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1992), 14, 18.
  70. Kelly, Peter and Jude, 226.
  71. Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 917.
  72. Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 917.
  73. Barr, “Literary Dependence,” 153.
  74. Barr, “Literary Dependence,” 152-53.
  75. William E. Vine, et al., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: Nelson, 1986), 2:532.
  76. Wayne Jackson, Essays in Apologetics, eds. Bert Thompson and Wayne Jackson (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press, 1984), 2:236.
  77. Jack P. Lewis, Questions You’ve Asked about Bible Translations (Searcy, AR: Resource, 1991), 74-76.
  78. L&N 1:418
  79. Jackson, Essays in Apologetics, 2:236.
  80. Ken Cukrowski, Mark Hamilton, and James Thompson, God’s Holy Fire: The Nature and Function of Scripture (Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 2002), 28. This volume appears to be on the spectrum of a neo-orthodox view of Scripture, but this quote is dead right on the importance of the shared weight and authority of the prophetic word and the written word.


Arichea, Daniel C., and Howard A. Hatton. A Handbook on the Letter from Jude and the Second Letter from Peter. New York, NY: United Bible Societies, 1993.

Barr, George K. “Literary Dependence in the New Testament Epistles.” Irish Biblical Studies 19.4 (Oct. 1997): 148-160.

Bauckham, Richard J. Jude, 2 Peter. Word Biblical Commentary. Vol. 50. Gen. eds. David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker. Waco, TX: Word, 1983.

Callan, Terrance. “Use of the Letter of Jude by the Second Letter of Peter.” Biblica 85 (2004): 42-64.

Carson, Donald A., James D. Moo, and Leon Morris. An Introduction to the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992.

Charles, J. Daryl. “Interpreting the General Epistles.” Pages 433-56 in Interpreting the New Testament: Essays on Methods and Issues. Edited by David Alan Black and David S. Dockery. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2001.

Cukrowski, Ken, Mark Hamilton, and James Thompson. God’s Holy Fire: The Nature and Function of Scripture. Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 2002.

Doty, William G. Letters in Primitive Christianity. Guides to Biblical Scholarship. New Testament. Edited by Dan O. Via, Jr. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, 1988.

Dunham, Duane A. “An Exegetical Study of 2 Peter 2:18–22,” Bibliotheca Sacra 140.557 (Jan.-March 1983): 40-51.

Dunnett, Walter M. “The Hermeneutics of Jude and 2 Peter: The Use of Ancient Jewish Traditions.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 31.3 (Sept. 1988): 287-92.

Ellis, E. Earle. Prophecy and Hermeneutic in Early Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978. Repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1993.

Ferngren, Gary B. “Internal Criticism as a Criterion for Authorship in the New Testament.” Bibliotheca Sacra 134.536 (Oct.-Dec. 1977): 329-42.

Fornberg, Tord. An Early Church in a Pluralistic Society: A Study of 2 Peter. Lund: Gleerup, 1977.

Fream, Donald. A Chain of Jewels from James and Jude. Bible Study Textbook. 1965. Repr., Joplin, MO: College Press, 1987.

Gilmour, Michael J. “Reflections on the Authorship of 2 Peter.” The Evangelical Quarterly 73.4 (Oct.-Dec. 2001): 291-309.

Green, Michael. The Second Epistle of Peter and the Epistle of Jude: An Introduction and Commentary. 2d edition. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Vol. 18. Edited by Leon Morris. 1987. Repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002.

Guthrie, Donald. New Testament Introduction. 4th revised edition. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 1990.

Hiebert, D. Edmond. “Selected Studies from 2 Peter Part 3: A Portrayal of False Teachers: An Exposition of 2 Peter 2:1–3.” Bibliotheca Sacra 141.563 (July-Sept. 1984): 255-63.

Hillyer, Norman. 1 and 2 Peter, Jude. Revised ed. New International Biblical Commentary. New Testament Series. Vol. 16. Edited by W. Ward Gasque. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1992.

Jackson, Wayne. Essays in Apologetics. Edited by Bert Thompson and Wayne Jackson. Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press, 1984.

Kelly, J. N. D. The Epistles of Peter and of Jude. Black’s New Testament Commentary. London: A & C Black, 1969. Repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1993.

Kistemaker, Simon J. “The Canon of the New Testament.” Journal of Evangelical Theological Society 20 (1977):  3-14.

—. Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and of the Epistle of Jude. New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1987.

Lewis, Jack P. Questions You’ve Asked About Bible Translations. Searcy, AR: Resource, 1991.

Longenecker, Richard N. “On the Form, Function, and Authority of the New Testament Letters.” Pages 101-14 in Scripture and Truth. Edited by Donald A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge. 1983. Repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992.

(L&N) Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene A. Nida. Editors. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains,. 2d edition. New York, NY: United Bible Society, 1989.

Maier, Paul L. Trans. Eusebius: The Church History – A New Translation with Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1999.

Melick, Jr., Richard R. “Literary Criticism of the New Testament.” Pages 434-53 in Foundations for Biblical Interpretation. Edited by David S. Dockery, Kenneth A. Mathews, and Robert B. Sloan. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1994.

Moo, Douglas J. 2 Peter, Jude. The NIV Application Commentary. Edited by Terry C. Muck. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996.

Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome. Paul the Letter-Writer: His World, His Options, His Skills. Good News Studies 41. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 1995.

Neyrey, Jerome H. 2 Peter, Jude: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible. Vol. 37 C. Gen. Edited by William F. Albright and David Noel Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1993.

Packer, James I. Fundamentalism and the Word of God: Some Evangelical Perspectives. 1958. Repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, n.d.

Patzia, Arthur G. The Making of the New Testament: Origin, Collection, Text and Canon. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1995.

Richard, Earl J. Reading 1 Peter, Jude, and 2 Peter: A Literary and Theological Commentary. Reading the New Testament Series. Edited by Charles H. Talbert. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2000.

Richards, E. Randolph. Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition, and Collection. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004.

—. The Secretary in the Letters of Paul. Tübingen: Mohr, 1991.

—. “Silvanus Was Not Peter’s Secretary: Theological Bias in Interpreting dià Silouanoûégrapsa.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 43:3 (Sept. 2000): 417-41.

Robson, E. Iliff. “Composition and Dictation in New Testament Books.” Journal of Theological Studies 18 (1917): 288–301.

Rowston, Douglas J. “The Most Neglected Book in the New Testament.” New Testament Studies 21 (1975): 554-563.

Schnelle, Udo. The History and Theology of the New Testament Writings. Translated by M. Eugene Boring. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1998. Translation of Einleitung in das Neue Testament. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1994.

Schreiner, Thomas R. 1, 2 Peter, Jude. New American Commentary. 37. Edited by E. Ray Clendenen, Kenneth A. Mathews, and David S. Dockery. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2003.

Stowers, Stanley K. Letter Writing in Greco-Roman Antiquity. Library of Early Christianity. Vol. 8. Edited by Wayne A. Meeks. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1989.

Unger, Merrill F. “Scientific Biblical Criticism and Exegesis.” Bibliotheca Sacra 121.481 (Jan.-March 1964): 58-65.

Vine, William E., Merrill F. Unger, and William White, Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Nashville, TN: Nelson, 1984.

Wall, Robert W. “Introduction to Epistolary Literature.” Pages 369-91 in vol 10 of The New Interpreter’s Bible. Edited by Leander E. Keck. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 2002.

Witherington, III, Ben. “A Petrine Source in 2 Peter.” Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers (1985): 187-92.

Ascertaining the Date of Daniel: A First Look

college papers

Discussion concerning the date for the composition of Daniel is controversial. The traditional view is that it is of 6th century B.C. origin, while the critical view argues for a late 2nd century B.C. time frame of completion. On the surface, it seems that critical scholars have removed any thought of retaining a traditional view towards the composition of the book of Daniel. Supporters of the traditional view, however, have responded in numerous scholarly ways. Yet, it appears to be the case that the majority of biblical scholars, i.e. the critics, agree that the traditional view is saturated with egregious errors (interpretive and historical) and consequently is not a feasible alternative. Traditionalists have combated further by exploiting the weaknesses of critical approaches to date the composition of Daniel. The controversy, though, still wages and the effects of the implications of each model are felt in biblical academia.

The Points of View

The roots of each model run deep into certain presuppositions relative to supernaturalism. While each view will be given consideration below, here it seems necessary to make mention of this because it plays such a vital role in evaluating the available evidence. Generally speaking, the critical approach brings to the evaluation of the evidence the supposition that the production of Biblical books is solely the product of human enterprise to the exclusion of Divine guidance and revelatory intervention. This view is in practical terms, deistic. Meanwhile, traditionalists usually believe that Divine guidance and revelatory intervention coupled with the utility of man are possible and the means by which God makes his will known to humanity.

Issues such as predictive prophecy and inspiration are therefore readily accepted by traditionalists, but this is denied by the critics, for they take a naturalistic (or rationalistic) approach because they view supernatural intervention as incapable of occurring. The two approaches are diametrically opposed. Ultimately, one is false and the other is the correct approach. The proposition under discussion here is that although the critical position of a late Maccabean period for the date of composition of the book of Daniel is predominately accepted by biblical scholars, the traditional position that the book of Daniel is of an early 6th century B.C. composition is adequately supported by the linguistic and historical evidence.

The approaches for dating the composition of the book of Daniel are composed of numerous methods of argumentation, with varying degrees of complexity. In general, though, the two basic approaches can be condensed with some generalizations. The traditional approach for ascertaining the date of composition for the book of Daniel argues that the book is a literary product of the 6th century B.C., composed by Daniel (the book’s hero) by the inspiration and guidance of the God of Israel. According to this approach, the story is both a historical and a prophetic document; consequently, it is not a mythological book of imagery. The historical setting of the book and its composition, then, is in Babylonian captivity and subsequently into the early years of Medo-Persian imperial rule (c. 603-536 BC).[1]

This view is the earliest extant view held between Hebrew and Christian writings to date. Harold Ginsberg, who is in favor the critical approach, concedes in the Encyclopaedia Judaica that the traditional view is the earliest position concerning the date of composition for Daniel. He writes:

Both the rabbis of the Talmudic Age and the Christian Church Fathers accepted the book’s own statements that the four apocalypses of Daniel B [chapters 7-12] were written by a man named Daniel in the last years of the Babylonian Age and in the first ones of the Persian Age, […] and they did not question the historicity of any part of Daniel A [chapters 1-6].[2]

Even though no other position is known earlier than the Hebrew tradition, it has not remained unchallenged by critical scholars. Raymond Dillard and Tremper Longman, however, observe that it was not until the 1900s that things changed, because up until the 20th century the book of Daniel was viewed as being composed by the historical Daniel (statesman and prophet of God) who ministered prominently in the 500s B.C. and who revealed the future political progression of four kingdoms and the implementation of God’s kingdom.[3]

In contradistinction to the traditional approach stands the critical approach for ascertaining the date for the composition of Daniel. As the antagonist to the traditional view the critical position affirms that the book of Daniel is a rather late production by some unknown author or editor of the 2nd century B.C. Critical scholars view the book of Daniel as a pseudepigraph (a false writing)[4] and consequently cannot have been written by Daniel nor capable to predict the future, because the critical approach does not believe that predictive prophecy can occur. Instead of relating history and future events, Daniel was written to inflame the patriotic muscles of the Israelites in order to confront Antiochus IV Epiphanes (a Seleucid) and his people from Syria for Antiochus’ desecration of the temple in Jerusalem. The prophecies are said to be written “after the event” (vaticinium ex eventu).

The earliest denial of the traditional view is found in the writings of a Neoplatonic philosopher named Porphyry. About 2 centuries after Jesus Christ had described Daniel as “the prophet” (Matt 23:15), Porphyry put his stylus to the maximum level of labor and produced a 15 volume work entitled, Against the Christians.[5] According to Jerome’s commentary on Daniel, which is the only source which reproduces Porphyry’s arguments, in his 12th volume Porphyry attacks “the prophecy of Daniel” and affirms that there are characteristics of the book which betray a late 2nd century B.C. period for composition.[6] Prominent critical scholar J.J. Collins observes that while Porphyry’s argument was resisted for about a millennium, modern critics from the 18th century to today acknowledge their “validity” and his “insight.”[7] Yet those who still resist Porphyry’s work do so principally on the grounds that his reasoning is based upon the a priori supposition that predictive prophecy is impossible.[8]

The Present Approach

With these two approaches being considered, a working knowledge of both the approach to the book and the evaluation of evidence are acquired. The burden to provide adequate evidence to substantiate the claims made above falls upon the shoulders of each approach. Majority consensus is not to be confused with absolute certainty, and the term “conservative approach” need not blind one’s eye of discernment in the evaluation of the data. The case must stand based upon the evidence available and proper critique of what it means and substantiates. This shall presently be done.

There are numerous avenues of approaches to dating the materials in the book of Daniel. For example, the earliest extant tradition of the date of composition can greatly aid in approaching the problem, however, there are more issues to deal with than just tradition. As is typical with the critical approach, various issues are raised dealing with the history of both the text and its composition, linguistic analysis, theological development, and any possible discrepant exegetical material. Edwin Yamauchi has discussed some on these issues in 1980.[9] The scope of this discussion is large, so attention will be given to the issues relative to linguistics and history.

Linguistic Concerns

Linguistic analysis is a broad field of analysis that looks at the languages employed, the grammar used, the literary genre implemented to carry out the production of the document. As in practically every book placed under the scalpel of criticism one of the areas of discussion and controversy is the literary characteristics of the given book. Daniel is no exception.

Critics argue that the language and stylistic materials in Daniel betray a late date. In staunch disagreement stand scholars taking the traditional approach, asserting that the literary content of Daniel is best explained by an early date. The last century and a half (roughly) reflect this debate. It seems evident, however, that the growing data relative to the literary content of Daniel weighs in strongly for an early date. In 1976, Bruce K. Waltke observed:

From [S.R.] Driver’s classic statement of the linguistic evidence in 1897 to the commentary by [Norman W.] Porteous in 1965, there has been no reappraisal of the evidence by the literary critics of Daniel in spite of the increasing mass of evidence that the language of Daniel can no longer be regarded as belonging to the second century B.C.[10]

It is, therefore, important to analyze this line of reasoning to observe the nature of the evidence and make a conclusion as to what the details suggest in order to make an educated assertion. Two major areas of contention are the mixture of Hebrew (Dan 1:1-2:4a; 8:1-12) and Aramaic (2:4b-7:28) languages in the book of Daniel and the loan words from the Persian and Greek languages.

The book of Daniel is the product of two languages; Hebrew and Aramaic. This book does not stand alone in having this admixture of languages, however, for the book of Ezra is of similar composition (Aramaic sections Ezra 4:8-6:18; 7:12-26).[11]

Critical scholars allege that the book was originally composed in Aramaic and later the present transitions (1:1-2:4a and 8:1-12) were translated into Hebrew.[12] Neil R. Lightfoot remarks that the Hebrew to Aramaic and Aramaic to Hebrew sections in Daniel has been confirmed by the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS).[13] While Lightfoot does not identify the specific fragments, Gerhard Hasel identifies them in his work as 4QDan1QDana (Dan 2:2-6), 4QDana (7:25-8:5), 4QDanb (Dan 7:26-8:1-8).[14] Overall, “we have at our disposal from the Dead Sea scrolls parts of all chapters, except Daniel 9 and 12.”[15] This is striking information because when the scrolls were discovered one of the main questions was concerning what precise sections were preserved. Moreover, the earliest extant text before the DSS was the Masoretic Text (MT c. A.D. 980), the accuracy of which was seriously challenged by critical scholars because of the great gap between the MT and the autographs. The transitions in Daniel received equal criticism; however, there is no reason to argue against, except if one is biased toward the critical view, that the Hebrew and Aramaic sections are authentic. The authenticity of the composition of Daniel argues strongly that the book is one whole unit.[16]

Critics typically argue that Daniel is the result of a long process of composition. They argue that Daniel A, that is Daniel 1-6, is the first and oldest unit of the book, and Daniel B, that is Daniel 7-12, is principally of late authorship or redaction.[17] The critical scholar John G. Gammie has argued that there have been three stages in the growth of the book.[18] Hasel observes that the oldest scroll published before 1992 is 4QDanc dating to the late 2nd century B.C. The manuscript evidence for Daniel is 50 years closer to the supposed Maccabean date of composition than anything extant.[19] Moreover, “there is great harmony between the MT and the Cave 4 finds of the book of Daniel” and Hasel notes 4 powerful lines of supporting material.[20] The unity and early date for the DSS is far more problematic to the critic than the traditionalist because:

Is there enough time for the supposed tradition-historical and redaction-critical developments [as mentioned above] allegedly needed for the growth of the book? […] The verdict seems negative, and an earlier date for Daniel than the second century is unavoidable.[21]

The rather simple observation is that the language transitions are original and a mark of an authentic production, and consequently of an earlier date than is supposed by critics. Yet the critic is not content with this conception; instead, it appears that the critic must contrive another hypothesis.

The book of Daniel has Persian and Greek loanwords along with one Egyptian loanword. This has served as a source of contention between both approaches. The only agreement as of yet is that they exist; the evidence that they provide is interpreted distinctively. Critics argue that these words reflect a late period. In fact, it has been argued that their placement in Daniel is the result of a deliberate desire to give the impression of being really from the 6th century B.C. but not done consistently.[22] According to S.R. Driver’s classical arguments, critics argue that Greek loanwords objectively support the case; moreover, as Peter W. Coxon argues, it is the “strongest evidence in favor of the second century B.C.” position.[23] Traditional scholars are not impressed with such assertions on the grounds that there is no need to limit the utility of the each respective language to the 2nd century B.C.; therefore, the argument (based upon a precise but faulty linguistic chronology) falls by the wayside as compelling “proof.”

The Egyptian word is hartummin (Dan 2:10, 27; 4:4), another formation is rab hartummayya (Dan 4:6, 5:11), which is the Egyptian word for “magician.”[24] L. F. Hartman, in “The Great Tree and Nobuchodonosor’s Madness,” argues that this loanword should “strictly” only apply to “Egyptian magicians” who would are not to be found in the Babylonian court of Nebuchadnezzar.[25] In response, Yamauchi suggests two lines of evidence to demonstrate how frail the argument is. First, the Jehoiachin ration tablets illuminate the setting by noting that among other nations “Egyptians were given provision by the royal court.” Second, I. Eph’al demonstrates that there were Mesopotamian Egyptians professionally serving as lubare (“diviners”) and luhartibi (“dream interpreters”) in the 5th and 6th centuries B.C. Luhartibi is a cognate of the word in question. While Yamauchi argues that the word does not necessarily have to be a reference to Egyptian nationals, “the idea that there were Egyptian magicians and soothsayers in Mesopotamia is not so far fetched as Harman believes.”[26]

The Persian and Greek loanwords are said, respectively, to “presuppose a period after the Persian empire had been well established” and “demand […] a date after the conquest of Palestine by Alexander the Great (B.C. 332).”[27] Yet, Montgomery is said to point out that allowance must be made for the influence of cultures to be more widespread than earlier presumed.[28] In other words, the classical linguistic argument is not as strong as it used to be. In fact, Driver’s famous linguistic conclusion abbreviated above included Aramaic that is now known to be difficult to distinguish between early and late periods.[29] Nevertheless, some would still use this argument in support of a late date, but to this there is an answer. Yamauchi has completely crippled this notion by chronicling the channels of transmissions (i.e. musical notation, merchant exchange, and that of foreign captives).[30] Moreover, he has demonstrably chronicled there has been Grecian contact with Mesopotamia from even before 1000 B.C. to at least the 400s B.C.,[31] and any appearance of these Greek words “is not proof of Hellenistic date, in view of the abundant opportunities for contact between the Aegean and the Near East.”[32]

The Persians words fare no better as evidence of a late date. Waltke gleans three observations from Kenneth Kitchen’s 1965 work “The Aramaic of Daniel” published in Notes on Some Problems in the Book of Daniel.[33] First, by way of objectivity, it must be noted that the Persian words are “old Persian words” which typically are found in the 300s B.C. Second, it is egregious to assume that it would take an absorbent amount of time for Persian words to be borrowed into Aramaic, because if Daniel did exist he would have become acclimated to the Persian vocabulary sooner rather than later. Third, four of nineteen Persian words the old Greek translations are mere guesswork which bears this implication: “if Daniel were wholly a product of 165 B.C., then just a century or so in a continuous tradition is surely embarrassingly inadequate as a sufficient interval for that loss (or change) of meaning to occur by Near Eastern standards.”[34] In 1976, Millard, citing this work, notes that these loanwords are “quite at home in a sixth century context” and that Kitchen’s observations “have been accepted by leading linguists.”[35]

Based upon the placement of Daniel among the Ketubim (Writings) of the Hebrew Bible and not among the Nebhim (Prophets), critics dismiss Daniel because it is mere wisdom literature with no true prophetic import instead it is a pseudepigraphic work utilizing vaticinium ex eventu prophecy (i.e. utterances appearing prophetic but were composed post-event). Klaus Koch notes that by “presupposing” an early date for the completion of the canon around c.200 A.D., “scholars made the incorporation of Daniel among the writings a cornerstone of the so-called Maccabean Theory.”[36] First, the placement of the book does not illegitimate it from being both wisdom and prophetic. David Malick argues that Daniel is historical literature along the lines of Ezra (an accepted book by the critics) and therefore “applies because the prophetic visions are also a record (in advance) of the sovereign work of God in history.”[37] Second, after evaluating the positive and negative evidence of the placement of Daniel, Kloch argues that there is the negative evidence is inconclusive,[38] while the positive evidence suggests an earlier “Jewish diaspora canon”[39] and “at some point the rabbis transferred the book from the prophetic corpus to the last third of their collection of Holy Scripture. That probably happened long before the fifth century” A.D.[40] In other words, there appears to be a strong case that Daniel was initially in the Nebhim and was later transferred to the Ketubim, which is in total disagreement with the critical attack.

Historical Concerns

Since the historical issues is directly related to the issue of the date of composition, it is important to evaluate the faulty view that archaeology has revealed everything relative to historical studies of the biblical narratives. It must be understood that not all of the desired archaeological data is available to the Bible student. However, what is available impressively agrees with the biblical narrative. In discussing the fragmentary nature of the archaeological evidence, Yamauchi briefly and candidly lays out the situation. In summary, he lists 4 factors.[41] First, artifact remains (written or manufactured) are minute. Second, a small fraction of the possible sites were surveyed or excavated. Third, generally speaking only a small fraction of these sites are even excavated. Fourth, a small percentage of what has been found has been written upon, and even when they are there is typically a great delay of time between excavation and publication. This is important to recognize because it is typically the case that the critics argue that “since we do not have certain corroborative evidence for something mentioned in the textual tradition, the reference must be anachronistic.”[42]

For example, Daniel 5:30 mentions Belshazzar, a person whom for years was a personage relegated to myth by critics, therefore being a serious divergence in the biblical account from historical veracity. However, as Gonzalo Baez-Carmargo writes “the problem continued until new archaeological evidence showed that the two reports [from history and the Bible] could be reconciled.”[43] It is not being foolish to suggest, therefore (when there is a lack of evidence on a given point of contention) that one must wait for new evidence to arrive. Sadly, that is not what typically occurs, and instead as H. C. Leupold observes whenever the Bibles is the sole source for reporting history, the “prevailing tendency is to discredit the biblical statement” never mind that in other situations single statements from other sources are received without much alarm.[44]

Robert A. Anderson, taking the critical approach, comments upon Daniel 1:1 and writes that “reference is often made to a historical inaccuracy within these opening verses.”[45] Anderson refers to the alleged contradiction between Daniel 1:1 and Jeremiah 25:1. Anderson also represents the naturalistic critical mindset when he writes that “historical inexactitudes are not infrequent in” Daniel.

First among the supposed historical blunders to be considered is the invasion into Judah by Nebuchadnezzar. Bruce K. Waltke asks the following question:

How can one square the statement in Daniel 1:1 that Nebuchadnezzar in his first year as king besieged Jerusalem in the third year of Jehoiakim with the statement in Jeremiah 25:1, 9; 46:1[-2] that Nebuchadnezzar defeated Pharaoh Necho in the fourth year of Jehoiakim?[46]

After all, if they cannot be harmonized then this is an occasion of a “historical inexactitude” which would underscore a purely human enterprise in the composition of either Daniel or Jeremiah which implicitly affirms that there was not a supernatural guidance in their production as the dogma of inspiration necessitates.

Waltke suggests that the superficial discrepancy between Daniel and Jeremiah is the result of comparing the use of two distinct systems of dating, citing Edwin Thiele’s work The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings. Waltke further writes:

In Babylonia the year in which the king ascended the throne was designated specifically as “the year of accession to the kingdom,” and this was followed by the first, second, and subsequent years of rule. In Palestine, on the other hand, there was no accession year as such, so that the length of rule was computed differently, with the year of accession being regarded as the first year of the king’s reign.[47]

Likewise, based upon R. K Harrison’s 1973 work on Jeremiah and Lamentations (Tyndale Old Testament commentary) Wayne Jackson notes that critics “once alleged that this passage was in conflict with Daniel 1:1, but archaeological discoveries have demonstrated that Jeremiah used the Jewish method of computing reigns, while Daniel employed the Babylonian system.”[48] If this harmonization is correct then it becomes a line of argumentation for the early 6th century B.C. date of composition because the dating is not in conflict.[49]

System 1st Sovereign 2nd Sovereign 3rd Sovereign 4th Sovereign
Babylonian Year of Ascension 1st Year of Reign 2nd Year of Reign 3rd Year of Reign
Palestinian 1st Year of Reign 2nd Year of Reign 3rd Year of Reign 4th Year of Reign

The next issue under consideration encircles the identity of the illusive personage of Darius the Mede. Critics basically assert that “no such figure as Darius the Mede is known to history,”[50] or as Frost words it, Darius the Mede “never existed.”[51] Collins argues that it is the confusion by the Maccabean author for Darius I of Persia (522-486 B.C.).[52] Frost notes two options that are: this illusive one does not exist or he “is known to history by some other name.”[53] Frost lucidly summarizes Rowley’s work on ascertaining the Mede’s identity and notes that it could not be Astyages (too early), Cambyses (not a Mede), Gobryas (either Babylonian or Persian), nor Cyaxares (a fictional person).[54] Since no one fits that description, coupled with the discovery of two dated overlapping Babylonian tablets by two months depicting that after Nabonidus reigned, succeeded only by Belshazzar, Cyrus ruled; consequently, Frost’s either-or scenario seems to imply that the illusive Mede is fictitious.

However, Dillard and Longman present the work of Shea conducted from 1971-1982 which affirms that there was a unique situation in the 1st year of the reign of Cyrus noting that he did not take on the title “king of Babylon” only until as late as the end of his 1st year. This has led Shea to conclude that there is space to put in a possible vassal, biblically identified as Darius the Mede.[55] Moreover, there is room for debate, however, Shea’s second option is that consistent with the Babylonian dating system, the Cambyses-Cyrus co-regency is “dated to the latter’s second year,” which is consistent with “Cambyses’ participation in the Babylonian New Year’s festival” placed at the beginning of Cyrus’ second year of reign. This is, as Shea writes, “tantamount to designating him as king.”[56] The point is, the issue can be given a soluble response enmeshed in historical facts. This answers Frosts either-or position, leaving another possible persona Rowley’s work perhaps had not considered.

The last historical evidence is the testimony of Jesus, the founder of the Christian religion. Jesus regards exilic Daniel as a prophet (Matt 24:15), and many have seized upon this as proof that Daniel is prophetic, thereby arguing for a 6th century B.C. date of composition. Samuel A. Cartledge, observing this, affirms that this is not definite proof that Daniel is the author of the book which bears his name. “Jesus may have known that the book was written by someone else and still have spoken of it in a popular way.”[57] For Cartledge it may conceivably be this or another occasion where the Lord has limited his knowledge as in the case of the time of his return.[58]

However, the grammar of the passage is rather vivid. It is observed that dia with the genitive (as is the case in verse 15) “is common for the intermediate agent in contrast with” hupo with genitive (“the immediate agent”) as in hupo kurioo dia too profetoo “by the Lord through the prophet.”[59] This intermediate agency of Daniel in the predicting of the “abomination of desolation” (Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11) has made Gleason Archer observe the following:

Christ was not simply referring to some book in the Old Testament named “Daniel” but rather to the agency of Daniel personally, since dia with the genitive always implies personal human agency [emphasis added]. If these words of Christ are reliably reported […] we can only conclude that Christ personally believed that the historic personage Daniel was the author of the book that contained this eschatological phrase.[60]

It must be conceded that the context must determine that human participation is in view; however if Archer’s argument is sound in general (and it appears that it is) then this is a strong case for Daniel to be regarded as a prophet. Also, it underscores what the Apostle Matthew and the church under his leadership believed concerning Daniel’s prophetic office. Daniel would consequently satisfy the prophetic criteria of Deuteronomy 18:22. It seems appropriate to suggest that Cartledge assumes far too much when he provides his fanciful options. He also explains away what would be obvious to the 1st century reader of the Greek text.

Initial Conclusions

In brief, the major linguistic issues are not demonstrably in favor of the late 2nd century B.C. view. The evaluation of such data is not easy and is meticulous; however, the linguistic transitions from Hebrew to Aramaic and Aramaic to Hebrew are only separated (if taking the critical approach) from the autographs by 50 years; thus, the earliest extant testimony to their authenticity and the early unity of Daniel. The Egyptian, Persian, and Greek loanwords do not demonstrably prove that the composition is of a late date. Instead, there are vast amounts of opportunities for these terms to be used throughout the captivity, exploding the small window of opportunity for usage provided by the critical position. The evidence does not prove or substantially support the critical approach, meanwhile the traditional view in light of the data the foregoing research does, however, stand in a stronger position.

Likewise, the controverted historical data, while at times difficult to sort through, can be harmonized to the point that it does not contradict history. It must be recognized that everything available from archaeology is not uncovered, and that even that which is recovered is a small fraction of a bygone world. Consequently, patience and watchfulness must be given in affirming a conclusion based upon that evidence. Be that as it may, the historical data relative to Daniel better supports for the traditional literal approach to Daniel. The relegation of Daniel to a mere wisdom literature with no true prophetic import is fallacious at best and a biased interpretation at worst. Attacks upon the biblical account of the invasion of Jerusalem can be harmonized satisfactorily. The great difficulty of identifying Darius the Mede is not insoluble, but critical scholars have no demonstrable right to affirm that this character must be relegated to mythology as a historical confusion. Finally, the testimony of Jesus affirms that Daniel is considered a prophet by the 1st century Jews which, at least for the Lord, had unfinished prophecy to be fulfilled. At worst this is the testimony of a Rabbi living earlier than the Christian antagonist Porphyry and a little under two millennia earlier than the modern critics, and at best the testimony of the God in the flesh.

One might conclude with the “Danielic” words “MENE, MENE, TEKEL” (Dan 5:25), but instead consider some observations by Robert D. Wilson and Harry Rimmer. Rimmer writes that a scientific approach to the Bible inquiry is to adopt a hypothesis and then to test it and see if there is supportive data that establishes it.  Rimmer writes:

If the hypothesis cannot be established and if the facts will not fit in with its framework, we reject that hypothesis and proceed along the line of another theory. If facts sustain the hypothesis, it then ceases to be theory and becomes an established truth.[61]

Wilson makes a similar argument and ties an ethical demand to it. After ably refuting a critical argument against Daniel, Wilson remarks that when prominent critical scholars make egregious affirmations adequately shown to be so, “what dependence will you place on him when he steps beyond the bounds of knowledge into the dim regions of conjecture and fancy?”[62]

This important to consider when the Bible is supported by abundant evidence of its authenticity (as is the case for Daniel), for “upon what ground of common sense or law of evidence are we to be induced to believe that these documents are false or forged when charges absolutely unsupported by evidence are made against them?”[63] There is no reason to. Yet many will be subdued by critical scholarship spouting that it holds the majority view of the date of composition. For those who look at the evidence, there really is no cause to accept the critical view of a late date of Daniel.

Works Cited

  1. J. Carl Laney, Concise Bible Atlas: a Geographical Survey of Bible History (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1998), 153. 
  2. Harold Louis Ginsberg, “Daniel, Book of,” in Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem: Judaica, 1973), 5:1281.
  3. Raymond B. Dillard and Tremper Longman, III, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 330.
  4. For a strong critique see Gleason L. Archer, “The Aramaic of the ‘Genesis Apocryphon’ Compared with the Aramaic of Daniel,” in New Perspectives on the Old Testament., ed. J. Barton Payne (Waco, TX: Word, 1970), 160-69.
  5. Bruce K. Waltke, “The Date of the Book of Daniel” BSac 133 (1976): 319.
  6. J. J. Collins, “Daniel, Book of,” Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1992. 29-37), 2:30.
  7. Collins, “Daniel, Book of,” ABD 2:30.
  8. Waltke, “The Date of the Book of Daniel,” 319.
  9. Edwin M. Yamauchi, Hermeneutical Issues in the Book of Daniel,” JETS 23 (1980): 13-21.
  10. Waltke, “The Date of the Book of Daniel,” 322.
  11. Neil R. Lightfoot, How We Got the Bible, 2d ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001), 30.
  12. Robert A. Anderson, Daniel: Signs and Wonders, eds. George A. F. Knight and Fredrick Carlson Holmgren (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1984), 13.
  13. Lightfoot, How We Got the Bible, 30.
  14. Gerhard Hasel, “New Light on the Book of Daniel from the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Archaeology and Biblical Research 5.2 (1992): 45-53.
  15. Hasel, “New Light on the Book of Daniel from the Dead Sea Scrolls,” 46.
  16. On this point, see Hasel,“New Light on the Book of Daniel from the Dead Sea Scrolls,” 50.
  17. Collins, “Daniel, Book of,” ABD 2:31, 33.
  18. John G. Gammie, “The Classification, Stages of Growth, and Changing Intentions in the Book of Daniel,” JBL 95.2 (1976): 196-202.
  19. Hasel, “New Light on the Book of Daniel from the Dead Sea Scrolls,” 47.
  20. Hasel, “New Light on the Book of Daniel from the Dead Sea Scrolls,” 50.
  21. Hasel, “New Light on the Book of Daniel from the Dead Sea Scrolls,” 48.
  22. Gammie, “The Classification, Stages of Growth, and Changing Intentions in the Book of Daniel,” 199.
  23. Edwin M. Yamauchi, “The Archaeological Background of Daniel.” BSac 137.545 (1980): 11.
  24. Gammie, “The Classification, Stages of Growth, and Changing Intentions in the Book of Daniel,” 199.
  25. Yamauchi, “The Archaeological Background of Daniel,” 10.
  26. Yamauchi, “The Archaeological Background of Daniel,” 10.
  27. Stanley B. Frost, “Daniel,” Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, ed. George Arthur Buttrick (New York, NY: Abingdon, 1962), 1:768.
  28. Frost, “Daniel,” IDB 1:763.
  29. Frost, “Daniel,” IDB 1:763.
  30. Edwin M. Yamauchi, “The Greek Words in Daniel in the Light of Greek Influence in the Near East,” in New Perspectives on the Old Testament, ed. J. Barton Payne (Waco, TX: Word, 1970), 176.
  31. Yamauchi, “The Greek Words in Daniel in the Light of Greek Influence in the Near East,” 177-92.
  32. Yamauchi, “The Greek Words in Daniel in the Light of Greek Influence in the Near East,” 192.
  33. Waltke, “The Date of the Book of Daniel,” 323-24.
  34. Waltke, “The Date of the Book of Daniel,” 234.
  35. Allan R. Millard, “Daniel” in The International Bible Commentary, rev. ed., ed. Frederick F. Bruce (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 848.
  36. Klaus Kloch, “Is Daniel also Among the Prophets?” Int 39 (1985): 118.
  37. David Malick, “An Introduction to the Book of Daniel.” 2015.
  38. Kloch, “Is Daniel also Among the Prophets?,” 119-20.
  39. Kloch, “Is Daniel also Among the Prophets?,” 121.
  40. Kloch, “Is Daniel also Among the Prophets?,” 122.
  41. Yamauchi, “The Greek Words in Daniel in the Light of Greek Influence in the Near East,” 171-74.
  42. Yamauchi, “The Greek Words in Daniel in the Light of Greek Influence in the Near East,” 170.
  43. Gonzalo Baez-Carmargo, Archaeological Commentary on the Bible, trans. American Bible Society (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1984), 180.
  44. H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis: 1-19 (repr. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975), 365-66.
  45. Anderson, Daniel, 1.
  46. Waltke, “The Date of the Book of Daniel,” 325-26.
  47. Waltke, “The Date of the Book of Daniel,” 326.
  48. Wayne Jackson, Jeremiah and Lamentations (Stockton, CA: Courier, 1997), 61.
  49. Waltke, “The Date of the Book of Daniel,” 326.
  50. Collins, “Daniel, Book of,” ABD 2:30.
  51. Frost, “Daniel,” IDB 1:765.
  52. Collins, “Daniel, Book of,” ABD 2:30.
  53. Frost, “Daniel,” IDB 1:765.
  54. Frost, “Daniel,” IDB 1:765.
  55. Dillard and Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 336.
  56. Dillard and Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 337.
  57. Samuel A. Cartledge, A Conservative Introduction to the Old Testament (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1944), 221.
  58. Cartledge, A Conservative Introduction to the Old Testament, 221.
  59. Archibald T. Robertson and W. Hersey Davis, A New Short Grammar of the Greek Testament, 10th ed. (repr. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), 254.
  60. Gleason L. ArcherNew International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1982), 284.
  61. Harry Rimmer, Internal Evidence of Inspiration, 7th ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1946), 36.
  62. Robert D. Wilson, A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament, rev. ed., ed. Edward J. Young (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1967), 98.
  63. Wilson, A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament, 99.