Friday, November 2, 2012

J. G. Baldwin
on the “pseudonymity”
of the book of Daniel /

Ο J. G. Baldwin
περί “ψευδωνυμίας”
του βιβλίου του Δανιήλ

But if one era before Christ had to be selected as demonstrating the same kind of expectations, so far as the Jews were concerned the sixth century would take precedence over the second. Deprived of a king, deported, interned, they lost all hope to a degree that was never true of the later period. In their state of alienation Ezekiel’s visions of the great and holy Lord, Who would reinstate the nation and so reveal his glory to the world, restored hope. Haggai and Zechariah ministered to the struggling community back in Judah. In that time of unrest and upheaval apocalyptic imagery flourished, and these writers, by their skilful use of symbolic language and literary forms, brought reassurance of God’s control in a chaotic world. On socio-historic grounds this is surely the period most likely to produce the book of Daniel.

As one who has endeavoured to write a commentary on Daniel I would claim that, whereas to postulate a second-century setting restricts the impact of the book’s prophecies to that century because they are regarded as fulfilled in the time of the Maccabees, a sixth-century date of writing allows a more flexible interpretation based on the book’s repeated claim to foretell the future. As Gordon Wenham points out, ‘The idea that God declares his future purposes to his servants is at the heart of the book’s theology’. The expositor who fails to take this seriously fails to take the book seriously. The whole of chapter 10, for example, describing the experience of Daniel as he was being prepared to receive his final vision, becomes so much local colour in support of an elaborate fiction, for almost all that was to follow in chapter 11 was a recital of history, much of it recent. Similarly the prayer of chapter 9 and descriptions such as those of 8:15-19; 12:7, 8 become so much padding to give the effect of reality.

Interpreted as history the predictions have no further claim on the reader. Any interest is on a purely academic level. So to rob a book of its impact invites eccentric interpretations such as have come to be associated at a popular level with this book.

* Joyce G. Baldwin,
Is There Pseudonymity in the Old Testament?
[“Υφίσταται Ψευδωνυμία στην Παλαιά Διαθήκη;”],
Themelios 4.1, 1978,
p./σ. 12 [6-12].
[English/Αγγλικά, PDF]

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