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date: 05 August 2020

Summary and Keywords

The Book of Daniel contains the only apocalypse in the Hebrew Bible. It is comprised of twelve chapters: 1–6, which are a series of six court tales describing the life of Daniel and his three friends, Judean exiles to the Babylonian court in the 6th century bce, and 7–12, which are a series of four apocalyptic visions, purportedly by this same Daniel. Despite the book’s 6th-century setting, it was probably only finalized during the Maccabean period, perhaps by 164 bce. The stories seem to be earlier than the visions, which reflect anguish under the persecution of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Seleucid king who oppressed Judea from 168–164 bce. Especially the last chapters employ the coded language of apocalyptic literature and thus interpret historical figures symbolically without giving their actual names. Combined, the court tales and the apocalyptic vision narratives seem to function as both encouragement and resistance literature.

The book was written in both Hebrew and Aramaic. The Greek editions of Daniel include additional material: a prayer and a hymn inserted into Dan 3, and two extra stories, Susanna and Bel and the Serpent. Daniel was placed in the Writings section of the Hebrew Bible but is located among the Prophets in the Septuagint as well as Catholic and Orthodox Christian Bibles. Among the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls, there are at least eight copies of the Book of Daniel, as well as parabiblical literature either focused on a character named “Daniel” or otherwise related to the biblical book.

Daniel’s main themes center mostly on its apocalyptic and eschatological features, such as the periodization of history, chronological predictions of end times, the sovereignty of God over earthly empires, martyrdom, and resurrection. These themes have influenced both Jewish and Christian views of eschatology. Within Christianity, the book is frequently read together with the Revelation or Apocalypse of John, an apocalyptic book in the New Testament that was greatly influenced by Daniel. Current research on the Book of Daniel not only utilizes some new approaches and methodologies but also continues to advance our understanding in these main areas: the relationship between the main texts of Daniel (the Hebrew-Aramaic as well as the Greek editions), Daniel’s composition history, its social setting and political theology, and its Ancient Near Eastern influences.

Keywords: Daniel, apocalypse, Maccabean Revolt, Babylonian Exile, Nebuchadnezzar, Nabonidus, Belshazzar, Darius the Mede, Cyrus, Antiochus IV

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