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The Book of Daniel: The Long and Short of it.

The Book of Daniel
The Long and Short of it.
James Scott Trimm

There are two versions of our Book of Daniel, a long version and a short version. The short version, is the one that appears in most Bibles today.

The long version contains the following additional material:

68 additional verses between Daniel 3:23 and 3:24 (this appears in the Apocrypha as the “Prayer of Azaiyah and the Song of the Three Young Men”).

An additional chapter 13 (this appears in the Apocrypha as the “Book of Susanna”). It appears just prior to chapter 1 in the Greek version of Theodotion.

An additional chapter 14 (this appears in the Apocrypha as the book of “Bel and the Dragon”).

The Long version appears in Catholic and Orthodox Bible Versions.

The question is, which version is most original? Was material taken out of Daniel, thus creating a shorter version? Or was material added to Daniel, creating a longer version?

The Masoretic Text lacks these “additional” sections, but it is not certain that they did not exist in the original Hebrew and Aramaic of Daniel. On the other hand, the long version appears in the Greek Septuagint, Greek Theodotion, Aramaic Peshitta and many other ancient versions.

Among the Dead Sea Scrolls eight fragmentary copies of Daniel were found. None of these contained any of the additional sections, though only one actually excludes the tex for certain. 1QDan(b) (1Q72) (one of the later Daniel mss. Found at Qumran 50–68 CE) spans Daniel 3:22-30 and does not contain the additional section. This is the only ms. that bears witness to the text running directly from 3:23 to 3:24. While none of the copies found at Qumran contain the additional chapters 13 or 14, none of them contain them bear witness to chapter 12 either. Yet another fragment (4Q551) is widely believed to bear witness to “Susanna” (Daniel chapter 13). Certainly the Qumran texts proves that the short version of Daniel existed as early as the First Century.

Of great interest is the fact that the long version appears in the Greek version of Theodotion (c. 200 CE). Theodotion sought to create a new translation, which updated the Greek text of the Septuagint to that of a pre-Masoretic Hebrew text. Theodotion not only included the “additional” sections, but with a Greek text which did not agree with the Septuagint. For example in the account of Bel and the Dragon (Dan. 14) in verse 10 the Greek word for “besides” in the Septuagint is choris while Theodotion renders the word ektos pointing to a single underlying Hebrew word. In Bel and the Dragon 1:14 (Daniel 14:14) the king is said in the Greek LXX to “seal (Greek: sphragisamenos) the door and seal it with the king’s signet.” The word “seal” probably points to an underlying Hebrew of chatham which was probably a scribal error for Hebrew catham (“shut”) which makes much more sense here.

The Book of 3rd Maccabees refers to Daniel citinging material found only in the long version:

When the three friends in the land of Babylon
of their own will exposed their lives to the fire
rather than serve vain things, thou didst send
a dewy coolness through the fiery furnace,
and bring the fire upon all their adversaries.
(3Maccabees 6:6)

And made the midst of the furnace
as it had been a moist whistling wind,
so that the fire touched them not at all,
neither hurt nor troubled them.
(Song of the Three 1:27 (Dan. 3:50 long version))

If authentic, 3Maccabees was written around 217 BCE. Skeptics date it to the First Century. Thus we know that the long version of Daniel existed by the first century as well. (and by 217 BCE as well).

Some form of the original Hebrew and/or Aramaic may have survived in Jewish circles apart from the Masoretic Text. Forms of the stories of Bel and the Dragon in Aramaic appear in a midrash on Genesis called Midrash Rabba De Rabba, which also contains an entire Aramaic text for the Book of Tobit. Aramaic versions of all the “additions” are preserved in the Chronicles of Yerahmeel (a 10th century chronicle by Jerahmeel ben Solomon, thought to have flourished in Italy around 1150 CE. Hebrew versions appear as well in the 10th century history of Yosippon.

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