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The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies Provides a comprehensive survey of Biblical scholarship in a variety of disciplines.

Additions to Daniel

The Book of Daniel was written in Hebrew and Aramaic, and is found in two slightly different Greek forms: the Old Greek and Theodotionic translations. Both Greek versions contain additional material, which may derive from an alternative Semitic version of Daniel, now lost, though the Theodotionic text presents a longer version of the stories. In Daniel 3 there are three extra passages inserted between verses 23 and 24 (NRSV). These embellish the story of Daniel's three friends in the furnace of blazing fire: the Prayer of Azariah in the furnace, a short prose narrative describing the intervention of an angel to save the youths from the flames, and the Song of the Three Jews (elsewhere: Three Children), which is a canticle praising creation that proved popular in the churches. At the end of the Greek book of Daniel there are three further stories involving Daniel: the story of Susanna (ch. 13 in NRSV), the story of Bel (14: 1–22), and the story of the Dragon (14: 23–42).

The story of Susanna is a folk-tale set in the exiled Jewish community in Babylon. Susanna is the beautiful and God-fearing wife of a rich Jewish leader. Two wicked elders who have been appointed as judges try to force her to sleep with them by threatening to bring a charge of adultery against her. She refuses to yield to them, so they testify that they saw her embracing a young man in her husband's garden. In despair Susanna appeals to God. As she is led off to execution, a young lad called Daniel is stirred up by God to save her. When he questions the two elders separately, their stories do not tally, and Susanna is acquitted, while the elders receive the same punishment they had destined for her. It is to this story that Shylock refers in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice: ‘A Daniel come to judgement!’

As mentioned above, Tal Ilan (1999) argues that the books of Judith and Esther and the story of Susanna were all written as propaganda to support the rule of Queen Salome Alexandra (76–67 BCE). Clanton (2003) further refines this idea by suggesting that the attitude to perjury in Susanna reflects the position of the Pharisees, who were the dominant party during Salome Alexandra's reign. Moreover, there is a questioning of the assumption that male leaders are good and wise: Susanna's husband plays no role at all, and the two elders are not fit to be judges, while it is Susanna who is righteous and the youth Daniel who is wise. Others see it as a response to the wrongful execution of the son of the Pharisee Simon ben Shetah, a victim of perjured testimony, or as based on the two adulterous prophets mentioned in Jer. 29: 21–3, or even the Jewish form of a secular folk-tale (see Halpern-Amaru, in Spolsky 1996: 21–34). Like the book of Judith, the story of Susanna invites feminist, anthropological, and narratological analysis (Sered and Cooper, in Spolsky 1996: 43–55; Steussy 1993). There are also studies of its portrayal in art (Boitani and Spolsky, in Spolsky 1996: 7–10, 101–17). It was interpreted by early Christians as a parable of martyrdom, and though it was rejected by the rabbis, it was retranslated and ‘re-Judaized’ in an interpolation to the tenth-century Hebrew work Sefer Yosippon.

Daniel uses his forensic skills again in the story of Bel, when he proves that it is not the idol Bel, but the priests and their families, who eat the food and wine put out for Bel each night. When the king tries to make him worship a great dragon revered by the Babylonians, Daniel kills it by feeding it cakes of pitch, fat, and hair. The Babylonians therefore throw Daniel into the lions' den, where he is fed by the prophet Habakkuk, who has been miraculously transported from Judaea. After a week the king rescues Daniel and throws his enemies to the lions instead. Both stories parody idolatry and the worship of animals, and the latter feature has led some to suppose that the work must have been written in Egypt where zoolatry was common (Roth 1975: 43; cf. Steussy 1993: 47).

The authority of the additions to Daniel was being queried among Christians by the early third century, but largely due to Susanna's popularity, it was upheld by all but Jerome (Halpern-Amaru, in Spolsky 1996: 21–34).

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