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Stories surrounding Daniel



There are three major additions of Daniel to be found within the LXX and even the revision done by Theodotion[1].  Daniel in its Greek translation is found within these two forms, with most manuscripts reflecting the Theodotion, and two others the LXX form[2].  These three stories can be considered “haggadic folktales,” more akin to the beginning six chapters of Daniel, than the latter half of the book[3].

These story have not been found in either the Dead Sea Scrolls, or even the mentioned within the Talmud[4].

Depending on whether one sees the Greek version as the original or rather a Hebrew/Aramaic as the original changes somewhat where it is assumed these additions came from,  Alexandria for the former, or Israel/Eastern Diaspora for the latter[5].  Due to the number of Semitism found within the Greek one could argue for the origin to be in Hebrew/Aramaic[6].  Yet Susanna having puns makes one think that it first appeared in Greek, while the others having more of change to appear in a semantic language[7].

The works seemed to have been written prior to the Maccabean revolt, around the mid century BCE, but the earliest would have been around the Persian era.

These various editions seemed to be independent of one another, as there is no alluding to one another between them.  Thus it seems they only became attached fully to Daniel once the book had been translated into the Greek.

The Church fathers by and large used these additions as they would any other part of the canonical Daniel, only those who had held to the Hebrew canon, regarded them as apocryphal[8].

Prayer of Azariah

In each of the Greek versions, this prayer is found between Daniel 3.23 and 3.24[9].  In some of the various Greek manuscripts this prayer is also to be found at the end of the Psalter with differing titles[10].  (The prayer is both the seventh and eight “ode” of the additional fifteen odes)[11]. Of the three additions this is only one which directly places itself within the canonical book, as mentioned within the third chapter[12].

This addition seemed to have been based primarily on existing “liturgical prayers,” and adapted to follow the flow of the story[13].  Metzger notes that their prayer is quite similar, if not based upon Psalm 148, as well as Psalm 136’s form[14].

The theology of the song is one which well reflects the period, i.e. Yahweh is God over heaven and earth, it was the nation’s sin that has caused its current problems, and the author seems to reflect that instead of animal sacrifices, penitent is the way in which things now work, (cf. 16-17)[15].  Moreover this prayer is one which finds its place well within the other Second Temple period prayers, as other works such as Tobit and Judith, exemplified[16].

The story itself takes place directly in the ends of Daniel Chapter three.  Namely that Nebuchadnezzar having built a golden statue, after the one found in his dream called all of his officials to worship it.  Daniel’s three friends however refused to do so, thus angering Nebuchadnezzar, citing of course that their worship belonged to Yahweh.  In his anger the king of Babylonian thus decides to throw them into the fierier pit and this is where their prayer opens up.


Concerning Susanna this, like Bel and Dragon finds itself at the end of the Septuagint manuscript, although Theodotion places Susanna in the beginning as a sort of prologue while Bel remains at that end[17].  The Latin Vulgate follows the LXX in that, these additions are to be found at the end of the book of Daniel[18].  The reasoning for Susanna to have been found as a preamble of sorts is clear, since in it, Daniel is merely a youth[19].  The Theodotion’s version is longer, and more “dramatic,” of the translations, the LXX being shorter, and seems to be the abridgment[20].  Susanna has been called one the first detective story and is considered one gems of the period[21].

It should be noted that this story might not have been written originally to have include Daniel, (Daniel’s name being attached to Susanna’s rescuer later on)[22].  The story’s popularity is evident, for even outside the Church’s use it came to be used by Samaritan and Jewish writers in the middle ages[23].

The reason for Susanna seems to be to show that right actions will win (especially with Yahweh’s help) over those of wrong actions[24].  Although others seen in this story a kind of parable where the elders equate with pagans (and apostate Jews) who try to tempt righteous Jews (symbolized by Susanna) into sin[25].  Moreover it is thought that perhaps the story was a sort of treatise on the corruption in the legal system during the author’s lifetime, arguing against various abuses in the system at that point[26].

The story of Susanna depicts a beautiful girl, who decides to take a bath in private, although unknowingly is being watched by two elders.   At the peak of their lust they rush to her, and she caught in a most compromising of positions, either let the two elders have their way, or scream and bring notice to them.  Susanna screams and soon the Elders make up a charge which brings shame to her name.  Despite her innocents, it seems that she will face death, until young Daniel appears on the scene to save the day.  After questing both elders separately he finds that they’re witness reports are faulty and in this way proves the innocents of Susanna.  In it he curses the elders with a phrase something akin to this:  “‘Under a clove tree… the Lord will cleave you,’ and ‘Under a yew tree… the Lord will hew you[27].’”  In the end it proves the wisdom of Daniel even at a young age.

Bel and the Dragon

Although technically two different stories, in every Greek manuscript the tales are found together, with the second tale having been arranged to flow smoothly as the next tale[28].

In the first part we see what would be considered a “Jewish satire,” namely upon pagan worship[29].  It highlights the Jews attempt to avoid all things which might be considered idolatry, and the foolishness that considered it all[30].  All the while however, Daniel’s genius and in a way craftiness are highlighted as he shows the gods, to be anything but[31].   In the second part, we have a sort of variation upon the story told in the sixth chapter of the canonical book, but again it is another satire upon the foolishness of Idolatry[32].  Bel (more properly Marduk) was one the most admired gods within the Babylonian pantheon[33].  The snake as well has long been a part of the Near East as a “religious symbol[34].”

Habakkuk is found within this second tale, where it is implied to be the same prophet to be found in the minor prophets, with the Septuagint even prefacing the whole second story with “From the prophecy of Habakkuk, son of Jesus, of the tribe of Levi[35].”  (How he is here during the time of Cyrus however? His prophecies are during 612-597 BCE, with this story taking place around 550 BCE[36]).

In each of these tales Daniel proves to King Cyrus that the supposed gods are really nothing of the sort.  In the first story he proves that the statue of Bel does nothing, the eating is actually done by the priest and their family and the second he proves the snake ungodlike by killing it.  After which under duress the King throws Daniel into the lion’s den, where Daniel is saved by Yahweh and even fed by the prophet Habakkuk.  In the end the King sees Daniel god as the true God and the evil priest are thrown in the den to be eaten up.

Appendix A: Daniel in the Dead Sea Scrolls

There has been found within the Dead Sea Scrolls pieces of another “Daniel Cycle,” which help to show the widespread popularity of Daniel, in pre-Christian times[37].

At Qumran there has been found the “prayer of Nabonidus,” which reflects the story told of Nebuchadnezzar found in the fourth chapter of the canonical book.  In this tale Nabonidus has been afflicted by Yahweh with some sort of skin aliment, and it isn’t until God sends a “Jewish Soothsayer,” which teaches this king to confess his sins and follow Yahweh, the true god instead of the false idols that he is cured[38].  The difference between the stories besides the principal characters is also the fact that Nebuchadnezzar is healed directly by God, while Nabonidus is healed indirectly by the Soothsayer[39].

The other fragments found at Qumran are quite small indeed, most being unable to offer any significant translation[40].  Yet there Daniel is specifically mentioned three times, moreover another person appears in the text by the name of Balakros[41].

The Prayer of Nabonidus, combined with the others fragments, give testimony to the popularity of Daniel, and tales that sprung up about him, notably the three additions found within the dueterocanonical books[42].

[1] NOAB 188

[2] Alexander A. Di Lella and Louis F. Hartman, “Daniel,” in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, ed. Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer and Roland E. Murphy (Upper Saddle River: Prentice-Hall, 1990), 408.

[3] Di Lella, 419.

[4] NOAB 188

[5] Ibid.

[6] Di Lella, 419.

[7] Bruce M Metzger, An Introduction to the Apocrypha (New York: Oxford University Press, 1957), 100.

[8] Ibid.

[9] NOAB, 188.

[10] Metzger, 100.

[11] NOAB, 189.

[12] Metzger, 100-1.

[13] Di Lella, 412.

[14] Metzger, 103.  NOAB, 189

[15] Ibid., 104.

[16] NOAB 189

[17] Ibid., 188

[18] Metzger, 99.

[19] Ibid., 99-100.

[20] Di Lella, 419.

[21] Metzger, 108.

[22] NOAB 194

[23] Ibid.

[24] Di Lella, 419.

[25] Ibid., 419-20.

[26] Metzger, 111.

[27] Ibid., 111.

[28] Di Lella, 420.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] NOAB 198

[32] Di Lella, 420.

[33] Metzger, 116.

[34] Ibid., 119.

[35] Di Lella, 420

[36] NOAB, 198, 200.

[37] Di Lella, 419.

[38] Ibid., 413.

[39] Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, 4th ed. (New York: Penguin Books, 1995), 573.

[40] Ibid., 574.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Di Lella, 413.


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