Review in: JOURNAL OF THE EVANGELICAL THEOLOGICAL SOCIETY 41/1Review door: Edwin Yamauchi
Daniel. By John J. Collins. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993, xxxvi + 499 pp., $46.00.
This Hermeneia commentary is the culmination of two decades of research by Collins, who dedicates the volume to his former colleagues at Notre Dame. It is without doubt the most scholarly and thorough exposition of the mainstream approach to Daniel as a pseudonymous work, which was finally redacted during the Maccabean crisis in the second century BC. The ample bibliography (pp. 443–456) is not as extensive as that contained in John E. Goldingay’s Daniel (Word, 1989), which Collins praises as an indication that some evangelical scholars have turned from a rearguard defense of Daniel as an authentic prophecy of the Babylonian-Persian era (p. 26), a position that Catholic commentaries have long abandoned (p. 122).
The strengths of Collins’ commentary are numerous. An extensive general introduction (pp. 1–126) deals with the numerous problems of text, language and interpretation. Collins makes thorough use of the Qumran evidence; he makes the interesting observation that Dan 7:13, which was so crucial among Christians, was neglected at Qumran (p. 79). He also analyzes the textual variations in the Old Greek and Theodotionic recensions.
Collins has been a leading scholar in analyzing the apocalyptic literature of the intertestamental era. He comments on the additions to Daniel such as Bel and the Serpent and Susanna (pp. 405–456). He is well acquainted with commentaries by Jewish, patristic, medieval, Reformation and evangelical scholars. There are illuminating excursuses on “The Four Kingdoms,” “One Like a Human Being,” “Holy Ones” and “Resurrection” and an essay on “The Influence of Daniel on the New Testament” contributed by Adela Yarbro Collins. In addition to a linguistic and historical analysis of the text, each chapter is related to its genre, setting and function.
Collins concludes that the Hebrew of Daniel “falls in the range of Second Temple Hebrew, as exemplified by Chronicles and the Dead Sea Scrolls” (p. 20). He believes that the Aramaic of Daniel “favors a date in the early Hellenistic period” (p. 17). As to K.A. Kitchen’s argument that the Persian loanwords in the Aramaic favor an earlier date, Collins responds: “However, while a late sixth-century date is compatible with the Persian loanwords, a later date is more probable, because extensive linguistic borrowing does not occur instantaneously” (p. 19).
Collins concedes that Greek words do not “necessarily demand a date after Alexander” (p. 254 n. 121). He is aware that “there is, of course, abundant evidence of Greek influence in the East before Alexander, although evidence of Greek influence on Aramaic is sparse” (p. 20). He repeats S. R. Driver’s century-old argument that yalthvrion is not attested before Aristotle and that sumfwnCa occurs first in Plato. But as I have pointed out, the verbal root for the former occurs in Herodotus (5th century BC) and a cognate of the latter occurs in Pindar (6th century BC; see E. Yamauchi, Greece and Babylon [Baker, 1967] 19). One should also note the fragmentary nature of our inscriptional evidence for musical terms. An important article overlooked by Collins is T.C. Mitchell, “The Music of the Old Testament,” PEQ 124 (1992) 124–143.
To account for the puzzling mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic in Daniel, Collins posits the following scenario. He assumes that chaps. 2:4b–6 already existed in Aramaic in the pre-Maccabean period; chap. 7 was then composed in Aramaic in the Maccabean era. The Hebrew chapters (8–12) were added between 167 and 164 BC (p. 38). As both the author and the intended audience were bilingual, both languages were retained.
In conformity with the reasoning of the anti-Christian critic Porphyry (3d century AD), Collins interprets the remarkable correspondences of chap. 11 with the events of the Hellenistic era as most easily explained as a vaticinium ex eventu. An important article that challenges this reasoning—D. W. Gooding, “The Literary Structure of the Book of Daniel and Its Implications,” TynBul 32 (1981) 43–79—is cited by Collins in passing (p. 388 n. 173), but like other conservative scholarship (e.g. D. J. Wiseman, W.H. Shea) it is summarily dismissed.
Among the familiar objections to the historicity of Daniel that he discusses are the problems of “Darius the Mede” (pp. 30–31), the listing of Belshazzar as “the son of ” Nebuchadnezzar (p. 33), and the date of the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (pp. 130–131). Accurate references are viewed as touches of “historical verisimilitude” added to legends (p. 244).
Collins objects to the “anachronistic” use of so many Persian titles of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3. But inasmuch as the bulk of Old Persian texts such as the Behistun inscription and the Persepolis texts are from the 6th century and the early 5th century, why should the use of such titles be so anachronistic? Collins rightly rejects Persian influence as the background for the doctrine of resurrection in Daniel. But he is inconsistent in rejecting the Persian concept of the Gayomart for Daniel 7 (pp. 282–283) while arguing elsewhere that such late (9th century AD) Pahlavi materials should not be dismissed so facilely as too late (p. 163).
Like many other scholars Collins hails the Qumran “Prayer of Nabonidus” as the basis of the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s madness in chap. 4 (p. 32), despite the acknowledged differences between the two texts (p. 218). In contrast to other Jewish apocalyptic writings such as 1 Enoch, Collins concludes: “Daniel shows little interest in the movement of the stars, which was regarded as the primary expertise of the Chaldeans in the Hellenistic world, and there is no consultation of omens” (p. 139). See, however, Al Wolters, “The Riddle of the Scales in Daniel 5,” HUCA 62 (1991) 155–177, for possible references to Babylonian astrological elements.
Miami University, Oxford, OH