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.

Endnotes

  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.
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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.” Bible.org. 2015. https://bible.org/article/introduction-book-daniel.
  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.

1 Peter 3:15: Do You have an Answer?

Introduction

It has long been observed that Christians must always be “prepared to make a defense” as to why we have “a reason for the hope” of Christ (1 Pet 3:15).[1] The high calling of God is a unique phenomenon (Eph 4:1; 1 Pet 4:4), so much so that those who are both antagonistic, and genuinely curious, of the Lord’s way will ask us questions. We must give them, in return, rational answers.

Before focusing attention on the Christian’s responsibility of knowing why there is hope, we must not overlook an implicit truth of this passage: confidence in the Lord and commitment to his doctrine are never to be divorced (Luke 6:46).

Christian Apologetics

Peter instructs Christians to give a “reason” for their faith and hope. What does this mean? The corresponding word for “reason” is apologia and it has a legal background, meaning the argumentation employed as a “verbal defense” in a court hearing.[2] From time to time, it will be demanded of Christians to defend their faith and explain why they live “differently” in contrast to the world. The apostles and early-inspired men of the first century likewise defended the Christian faith in two ways: (1) verbally (Acts 22:1; Phil 1:7, 16; 2 Tim 4:16) and (2) by means of literature (1 Cor 9:3).

The New Testament documents themselves often have a defensive purpose. One of the aspects of Luke’s two-volume work (Luke-Acts) is its defensive nature. By taking into account Paul’s judicial context in Rome, scholars have observed that Luke-Acts – as Paul’s defense brief – provides excellent testimony to the Greco-Roman world that the Lord’s way is a benefit to society and not a subversive politico-religious system as many claimed Christianity to be.[3]

The apostle John’s Gospel and his first epistle are both defensive documents, responding to different challenges that the early church faced. The Gospel establishes the rationale for our hope on the Christ as Deity (John 20:30-31); meanwhile, 1 John refutes misconceptions of how to live godly in the face of the docetic-gnostic teachers who infiltrated the church (1 John 2:1).

The apostle’s use of apologia demonstrates that the field of Christian defense is centuries old. This word is, in fact, the basis for our modern word apologetics. Its incorporation by Christians from the legal setting, where it was a “legal speech for the defense” to be delivered before the judicial authorities and subsequently published,[4] was therefore not a large leap (Acts 22:1; Phil 1:17). In fact, it partially explains the publishing of Luke-Acts, and fits well with trumped-up political hearings where Christians had to defend themselves verbally (cf. 6:10-15, 18:12-17, 22:1, etc.; Matt 10:19).

Besides biblical examples, from about 185-250 A.D. there was a series of apologies designed to “explain the origin, doctrine, and worship” (i.e. the historical basis) of the church to their contemporaries –antagonistic or supportive.[5] The works of Justin (his Apologies, Dialogue with Trypho), Athenagoras (Apology, On the Resurrection), and Tertullian (Against Marcion, Prescription of Heretics) are usually thought of in this light.

Christian Apologetics was not, however, limited to the study of science, philosophy, and evolution and creationism. These are topics that consume Christian Apologetics today; however, in the early church apologetics was more a defense of why Christians live they way they live. This is not a criticism of contemporary apologetics, but a call to providing a rational defense of Christian ethics – religious and moral. Before moving on, observe that historically emotions have never been the sole basis for a proper defense for one’s beliefs.

As the need arose in the first century, so our responsibility to give reasons for our hope to our modern neighbors has not diminished. Antagonists and genuine inquisitors are constant factors in the Christian’s life; consequently, Christians must provide solid well-studied responses. Likewise, every generation carries the responsibility of preaching the gospel to a dying world (Matt 28:18-20).

To fulfill this work Christians must study the Bible, believe and follow through with its instruction, and teach it rigorously so that the next generation can continue in this Divinely given cycle (2 Tim 2:1-2).

The Need for Personal Bible Study

To be sure, there are many Christians who are diligent and capable Bible students; some, however, engage in superficial study and have rendered themselves incapable of giving a defense of their faith – or even passing it on. For this reason, it is important to recognize the value of congregational Bible study; but we must understand that congregational Bible study is only a foundation to be built upon. It should not be the only time Christians are exposed to God or His instruction.

Again, congregational Bible study is not a substitute for personal spiritual maturing (2 Tim 2:15, 3:16-17); neither does it replace the daily light needed for living before God (Psa 119:11, 105). To be truly blessed, Bible study must be a part of one’s meditation and life – “both day and night” (Psa 1:1-2). God’s guidance must come from personal contact with His revelation.

Principles for Proficient Bible Study

It is sufficient to say, then, that in order to be proficient in one’s faith true Bible study cannot be superficial. Spiritually nurturing Bible study includes, at the very least: ample time for study, rigorous mental industry, a respect for the text, and a patient and prayerful consideration of all the facts. We will introduce and briefly consider these points below.

Our consideration here is limited of course; however, the points below are so vital to effective study that books are devoted to the pursuit of implementing each of them.

1. There must be ample time for study

Time is a valuable commodity. In the business world the phrase “time is money” illustrates how valuable time is. With regards to Bible study, we might coin the phrase “time is life.” There is no substitute for having plenty of valuable time with the word of God.

Renewing one’s mind requires proper time with the word (Col 3:9-10). However, the media-based culture we find ourselves in makes it difficult for some to spend time with the pages of inspiration. Nevertheless, we must make the time available (Rom 13:14).

We must remember that it takes time to read the biblical passage, it takes time to understand how a specific passage fits into the rest of Scripture, and it takes time to examine both the context and words employed. Just as it takes the time to mature through life, it requires time to mature spiritually (Psa 1:1-3).

2. There must be mental industry

This is not a matter of intellectual genius. This is a matter of determination, exposure, and focus. Here is an example: in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 Paul reminds the church of the Gospel that they received and believed. Now notice verses 3 and 4:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

This brief section of scripture yields an enormous amount of information. It is, as one scholar observes, a “busy” section of Scripture.[6] It is the basis of the Christian faith, the source of Christian evangelism, and the foundation to develop Christian spirituality upon.

As one determines to study the Scriptures, the level of exposure to biblical concepts increase. We must remain focused on the task of understanding the passage, noting unique phrases and points. For example, the phrase “in accordance with the Scriptures” above refers to a precise instance where Scripture has fulfilled prophetic passages regarding the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (Acts 2:24-36).

The next step, then, is to find what scriptures predicted these events (Isa 53:5-12; Psa 16:8-11). When these passages are found and studied in collaboration with the Gospel message, untold spiritual fortification will occur. But remember, this is a matter of mental industry, not of mental genius.

3. There must be respect for the nature of the text

In other words, we must recognize numerous aspects of a passage. There are, of course, numerous facets or angles that a passage may be studied, but some of the most significant ones are: the context of the passage, the original purpose of the passage, the method used to prove the author’s point, and the covenantal context of the passage (e.g. Patriarchal, Mosaic, or Christian).

See our article “The Divisions of the Bible: A Starting Place”

For example, animal sacrifice was offered both during the Patriarchal and Mosaic systems; however, the ramifications of the New Testament covenant demonstrates that this method of atonement is no longer a viable way for the forgiving of man’s sins (Heb 9:1-10:18). One cannot overestimate solid principles of interpretations.[7]

One more issue that must be considered separately is the acknowledgement that the Bible was not written in English. One must also respect the fact that the Bible English readers have is a translation of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek language. This fact must never be ignored, ridiculed, nor underestimated in the study of God’s word.

Jack P. Lewis expresses this caution in the following way:

In the ultimate analysis every significant Biblical question is to be solved on the basis of what a writer meant by a Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic expression.[8]

Observing this one principle can sometimes help distinguish biblical truth from both liberal and legalistic conclusions.

4. There must be patience and a prayerful consideration of all the facts

There is no value in jumping to conclusions. This is a fundamental principle to rational thinking. To understand the Bible’s teaching on a subject, we must take a slow and prayerful approach in coming to a conclusion. This way, one is as thorough as humanly possible.

James D. Thomas reminds us of the importance of thorough Bible study:

All facts must be considered. One white horse can ruin an hypothesis [sic] that all horses are brown, and one contrary fact can ruin any inductive-reasoning hypothesis, meaning that research must start again. This means that for perfect, absolute exegesis, every stone must be turned – every fact possible must be determined and taken into account, in order to complete scholarly research.[9]

No one of genuine concern wants to be wrong on what the Bible teaches. Therefore, we must be cautious and ready to see all the biblical evidence as slowly or quickly as it is analyzed.

In principle, it is what we find in Paul’s instruction to the Thessalonians:

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thess 5:19-22)

We must be patient and let the scriptural facts reveal themselves on their own terms.

Conclusion

The Christian will always be called upon to share their hope with the world; no matter what generation it is. Providing answers so that people may understand the nature of the Christian faith is the true purpose of Christian Apologetics. In order to comply with the apostle Peter’s instruction, Christians must be diligent Bible students; however this is not always the case.

While congregations are to be supporters of the truth (1 Tim 3:15), individual members must abide in the words of the Gospel (John 8:31-32). By engaging in proficient Bible study, Christians will have knowledge of their faith and hope, and therefore be able to share their faith.

Sources

  1. Unless otherwise noted all Scripture references are taken from the English Standard Version of the Holy Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Publications, 2001).
  2. Barclay M. Newman, Jr., A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament (Stuttgart: Deutsche Biblegesellschaft, 1993), 22.
  3. Donald A. Carson, James D. Moo, and Leon Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 196-97.
  4. G. L. Carey, “Apologists,” New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. J. D. Douglas (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1974), 57.
  5. F. W. Mattox and John McRay, The Eternal Kingdom, rev. ed., rev. John McRay (Delight, AR: Gospel Light Publications, 1961), 67-87; Ronald S. Wallace, “Apologetics,” New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, 56-57.
  6. Wayne Jackson, “The Gospel in Miniature,” Christian Courier 43.1 (May 2007): 3.
  7. Wayne Jackson, A Study Guide to Greater Bible Knowledge (Stockton, CA: Courier, 1986), 20-29.
  8. Jack P. Lewis, “Inspiration and Authority of the Bible,” Alternative 5.2 (1979): 6.
  9. James D. Thomas, Harmonizing Hermeneutics (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1991), 87.

This is a reformatted version of the article which originally published in The Words of Truth (Montgomery, AL: 6th Ave church of Christ).