maandag 4 februari 2013

Review of: J.J. Collins (& A. Yarbro Collins), Daniel (Hermeneia), Fortress, 1993, in: Biblical Theology Bulletin

J.J. Collins (& A. Yarbro Collins), Daniel (Hermeneia), Fortress, 1993

Review in: Biblical Theology Bulletin: A Journal of Bible and Theology 1995 25: 144
Review door: John Barclay Burns
Gevonden op:

John J. Collins, Daniel. Hermeneia; Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1993. Pp. xxxvi + 499. Cloth, $46.00.

The Hermeneia series is designed to produce commentaries on biblical books that emphasize the traditional disciplines of philology, textual and historical criticism, and the history of religion. The commentaries written, therefore, contain a wealth of information and scholarly detail, and Collins’ Daniel is a choice example of the series.

A lengthy introduction addresses basic issues in the interpretation of the book. Daniel divides naturally into two parts. The first is a collection of tales set during the Exile at the Babylonian court, written principally in Aramaic ( 1-6), and the second consists of accounts of revelations to Daniel in Aramaic (7) and Hebrew (8-12). While conceding that one of the court tales, recounted in the third chapter, may preserve some memory of the reign of Nabonidus (559-539 BCE), Collins dates their composition to the fourth or third centuries and locates them in the Eastern Diaspora. The latter chapters, written in Jerusalem, he assigns to the turmoil of the Seleucid monarch Antiochus Epiphanes’ repression and the Maccabean revolt between 167 and 163 BCE, when resurgent Jewish nationalism popularized Hebrew. They are, he asserts, an early example of apocalyptic literature.

Thereafter, he discusses the history of the book’s interpretation, indicating that its influence was greatest among groups that were hospitable to apocalypticism, especially Qumran. He demonstrates that the “son of man” (7:13) inspired visions of a heavenly savior figure in first-century Judaism (p. 82) and certainly it would assume enormous importance in Christianity. Adela Yarbro Collins contributes an essay on the influence of Daniel in the Second Testament, notably in the “Son of Man” title as it is ascribed to Jesus and in the book of Revelation. Daniel is also the oldest Jewish work to speak clearly about the resurrection from the dead, a subject that looms large in the Second Testament. A survey of the interpretation of Daniel in the patristic, medieval, and reformation periods, and how the book has fared with the rise of historical criticism and in contemporary scholarship concludes the introduction.

The commentary follows the pattern of the series. Each chapter is translated with notes in a parallel column covering variant readings in the versions and other matters of textual and linguistic import. A discussion of the structure and unity of the chapter gives way to a detailed commentary, ending with observations of genre, setting, and function. Since it is impossible to rehearse Collins’ entire work, attention is drawn, in what follows, to four excurses in which he deals with crucial issues.

The four kingdoms in Daniel 2, represented by the gigantic statue constructed of four metals (cf Dan 7 and the four beasts), Collins identifies as Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon, Media, Persia, and the Macedonian kingdoms that emerged in the wake of Alexander. He argues, however, that chapter 2 lacks the eschatological intensity of 7; the end is not seen as imminent, and Jewish life may be maintained even in a Gentile environment (p. 175). The complex and heavily mythological chapter 7 raises the perennial difficulties of the identification of “one like a human being” (NRSV) and the “holy ones of the Most High.” In the first instance and despite the traditional Christian interpretation, which identifies the figure with Christ, he determines that the phrase refers to an angelic figure (possibly Michael). In a related excursus, he concludes that the “holy ones” are angelic beings, though he admits this view is not without its detractors (p. 317). The final excursus contends that the hope for resurrection, not invariably of the body, was introduced to Judaism in the context of apocalyptic and spread from there. Two final parts survey the apocryphal additions to Daniel, the stories of Bel and the Serpent and that of Susanna, extant in the Greek translations of the Septuagint and Theodotion.

This series of commentaries, full of detailed technical material, is not for the fainthearted. This one is no exception; it has to be recognized as a definitive work of tremendous erudition. Yet it conveys that erudition in a courteous and readable manner. Scholars will certainly derive immense profit, but any interested reader, fascinated by Daniel, can browse and find sustenance. There are delicious nuggets of information: Sir Isaac Newton, the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge usually linked with apples and gravity, also produced Observations on the Book of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John. This prompted Voltaire to quip, “Sir Isaac Newton wrote his comment upon the Revelation to console mankind for the great superiority he had over them in other respects” (p. 121, n. 205). This commentary is a superior and consoling work.

John Barclay Burns
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

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