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
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.
J. Cheryl Exum
In the Hebrew Bible human sexual desire is, for the most part, constructed as male and as dangerous. In the patriarchal economy of ancient Israel, in which women were subordinated to men and younger men to older men, desire poses a potential threat to the preservation of male status, privilege, and hierarchy, upon which the patriarchal system is based. It is viewed warily as an overwhelming urge that, unchecked, can cause a man to lose control and act in ways that might jeopardize his position in the patriarchal hierarchy and, if some texts are to be taken seriously (Proverbs, the story of Samson), even his life. Thus legal texts seek to regulate and control sexual behavior and thereby channel sexual desire in permissible directions; Proverbs responds to the threat that uncontrolled desire poses by offering the young man a patriarchally sanctioned object of desire, personified Wisdom, and narrative texts, such as the stories of Samson and Delilah and David and Bathsheba, provide object lessons in the dangerous consequences of desire. There are few places in the Hebrew Bible where one person is said to love (’ahab) another in an amorous or carnal sense, and in all these cases only one of the pair is said to love. This does not mean that love was not thought of as reciprocated in biblical times, but only that reciprocal love was not a concern of biblical writers, with the exception of the poet of the Song of Songs. The Song of Songs is the only text in the Hebrew Bible in which sex, desire, love, and romance can all be found. This short book, the Bible’s only love poem, gives its readers an unprecedented insight into what it is like to be in love from both points of view, a woman’s and a man’s.
Thomas B. Dozeman
The Pentateuch (“five books”) is the title for the first five books of the Bible in the Greek translation, known as the Septuagint (LXX). The more original title is the Hebrew, Torah, meaning “law.” The revelation and composition of the Torah is attributed to Moses, which is reflected in the additional designation of the books as the “Torah of Moses.” The authorship of the Pentateuch is central to its interpretation in Jewish and Christian tradition. The Mosaic authorship characterized the interpretation of the Pentateuch in the precritical period of research. The study of the Pentateuch in the modern era has been dominated by the quest to identify its anonymous authors and the changing social contexts in which the literature was written.
Mark S. Smith
The Ugaritic texts provide a rich resource for understanding the Late Bronze Age kingdom of Ugarit, located on the coast of Syria. The site has yielded about two thousand tablets in Ugaritic, the West Semitic language of this city-state, and about twenty-five hundred tablets in Akkadian, the lingua franca of the period, as well as many texts written in seven other languages. These reveal a cosmopolitan, commercial center operating in the shadow of two great powers of the eastern Mediterranean basin, the Egyptians and the Hittites.
The Ugaritic texts offer innumerable literary and religious parallels to biblical literature. The parallels are so rich and in some cases so specific that it is evident that the Ugaritic texts do not merely provide parallels, but belong to a shared or overlapping cultural matrix with the Hebrew Bible. Ugaritic literature may not predate the earliest biblical sources by much more than a few decades, but the bulk of biblical literature dates to centuries later. Moreover, unlike the coastal, cosmopolitan center of Ugarit, ancient Israel’s heartland lay in the rural inland hill-country considerably to the south in what is today Israel and occupied Palestinian territory. Despite these important differences, Ugaritic and biblical literature are not to be understood as representing entirely different cultures, but overlapping ones.