Monday, November 09, 2009

The Bible as autobiography

I. Introduction

i) This post will be something of an annotated bibliography of some worthwhile books, essays, and articles regarding internal evidence for the canon of Scripture. It’s just a sampling of the literature. It can be supplemented by other sources (e.g. commentaries, Bible introductions, monographs). The arguments are subject to various refinements.

But the material I cite here gives a good overview of the issues. A good way to frame the issue.

ii) The Bible is partly a history and biography other people and events But it’s partly autobiographical well inasmuch as it not only tells a story about other people and events, but it also tells a story about itself. About its writers. About their life and work. For they wrote as they lived. And when we consider the evidence for the canon of Scripture, we should include the internal evidence for the canon of Scripture–in addition to the external evidence.

iii) In Catholicism, the internal evidence is irrelevant, for what ultimately counts in Catholicism is the external verdict of the church. Of the various contenders, the church had to determine which candidates to include or exclude.

iv) Ironically, Bart Ehrman begins with the same premise as Catholicism. He regards the canon as an arbitrary collection. The product of power politics in the church.

v) The Catholic argument generates a dilemma. Either these particular books belong together or they don’t. If they belong together, then you shouldn’t need an ecclesiastical fiat to constitute or justify that collection. Conversely, if you need an ecclesiastical fiat to constitute or justify that collection, then it must be fairly arbitrary.

vi) Another problem with the Catholic orientation is that it directs us away from the Bible to church history. We’re no longer looking at the primary source material. Yet the canon of Scripture is, itself, a primary source datum for the canon of Scripture. It contains within itself a certain amount of internal evidence regarding its own composition and codification.

vii) Yet another problem with the Catholic orientation is that tradition doesn’t speak with one voice on the scope of the canon. The deliberations at Trent simply reopened old questions. Although it handed down a verdict, that was a split decision.

viii) We might expect the principles of canonicity to be somewhat different for the OT and the NT. The books of the NT were composed by first or second-generation Christians. By contrast, the OT was written over a span of many generations.

ix) Something as apparently superficial as the order of the books might also be a historical witness to the date and/or identity of the canon as a whole. Take the OT. In principle, there’s more than one way to arrange the books. Different organizing principles could be employed. Still, even if the sequence of the Hebrew canon is somewhat artificial and traditional, this raises the question of when that convention was standardized. If, say, it was standardized well before NT times, then that pre-Christian canon would be the default canon used by Jesus and the Apostles. And any evidence we have for the identity of that pre-Christian canon would also be evidence for the OT canon of the NT speakers and writers.

II. The NT witness to the NT canon

1) Ellis, E. The Making of the New Testament Documents (Leiden: Brill, 2002).

i) His basic thesis is that all 27 books of the NT can be grouped under four coordinated missions, each headed by a leader of the NT church:

Petrine Mission

Gospel of Mark
1-2 Peter

Pauline Mission

Gospel of Luke
Book of Acts

Johannine Mission

Gospel of John
1-3 John

Jacobean Mission

Gospel of Matthew
Letter of James
Letter of Jude

ii) Ellis uses the Book of Acts as a lynchpin to identify and synchronize the key players.

iii) He also defends the traditional authorship of the NT books.

So Ellis does a good job of considering both the individual units and collective dynamics of the NT canon.

2) Porter, S. “Paul and the Process of Canonization,” C. Evans & E. Tov, eds. Exploring the Origins of the Bible (Baker 2008), 173-202.

As Porter summarizes his own argument, in somewhat understated fashion: “[Paul] would have been the only person, apart from his few closest associates, who would consistently have access to the many copies produced by his scribes and companions. The only other person or persons who would have had such access would probably have been his closest followers, such as Luke, or possibly Timothy. If Paul were not the initiator of the collecting process, and if there were not copies of the letters readily available, then the act of instigating the Pauline collection must have fallen to one of these close companions…Thus, the collection process must have involved a close follower or advocate of Paul, who perhaps undertook such action near the end of Paul’s life, possibly when he was in prison in Rome, or very soon after his death. Luke is the most likely figure for such a scenario, on the basis of the internal Pauline evidence (Col 4:14; Philem 24; 2 Tim 4:11), church tradition regarding Luke’s relation to Paul (especially in Acts, but also in Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.23.1; 3.10.1; 3.14.1; etc.), and even much critical scholarship regarding the authorship of Acts. In any case, there is reasonable evidence to see the origin of the Pauline corpus during the latter part of Paul’s life or sometime after his death, almost assuredly instigated by Paul and /or a close follower or followers, and close examination of the early manuscripts with Paul’s letters and of related documents seems to support this hypothesis,” ibid. 201-202.

You’d have to read the entire essay for the detailed, supporting evidence, but that gives you the basic idea.

Porter’s essays is concerned with the specifics of the Pauline corpus, but that has some general relevance to other literary subsets which combine to form the NT canon.

III. The NT witness to the OT canon

Beale, G. & D. A. Carson eds. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Baker 2007).

The NT canon is a witness to the OT canon. This monograph is not specifically about the OT canon. However, a fringe benefit of this monograph is the way in which it documents the OT canon of the NT writers. And it does this at two levels:

i) A descriptive level, at which it identifies the various NT citations and allusions to the OT.

ii) A normative level, at which examines the way in which NT writers make use of OT literature. And the way they use the OT supplies testimonial evidence for the divine authority as well as the specific identity of the OT.

This doesn’t settle every possible question. But it’s a very important line of evidence.

IV. The OT witness to the OT canon

1) G. Goswell, “Order of the Books in the Hebrew Bible,” JETS (December 2008).

Goswell discusses the way in which the OT canon is put together. While his article is not attempting to make a case for the Hebrew canon, his analysis furnishes a lot of documentary evidence which is applicable to that question. To quote a few examples from his article (available online):

“The ordering of books can be classified according to a number of principles. These principles need not be mutually exclusive but one may reinforce another, and there may be more than one possible principle reflected in a particular order. Unless stated by the author or editor, it is left to the reader to surmise what rationale is at work in the ordering of the literary blocks that make up a larger whole. It is not necessary to know or decide how deliberative the process of ordering was,3 for the focus of this study is the effect on the reader of the order, not its historical production.4 It is not my aim to second-guess what was in the mind of those responsible for the ordering of the biblical books. The following are some possible principles of order as inferred by the reader after an examination of the biblical material:

(1) Size of the book, e.g. the sequence: Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Book of the Twelve (= Minor Prophets) in the Babylonian Talmud (B. Bat. 14b) may be arranged according to decreasing book length.
(2) Chronological setting, e.g. Ruth 1:1 (‘In the days when the judges ruled’) would seem to explain the LXX placement of this book following Judges, seeing that it is set in the same era of Israelite history.
(3) Common authorship, either stated or assumed, e.g. Jeremiah-Lamentations in the LXX, though the text of Lamentations does not explicitly name Jeremiah as its author.
(4) Storyline thread (e.g. Joshua-Kings), with successive books narrating what happened next, remembering, however, that it is the next significant thing that happened which is featured, not just the next thing, given the necessarily selective nature of narrative.
(5) Genre, e.g. the bringing together of different books into a prophetic corpus, and the collecting together of Wisdom books (though a convincing definition of what is ‘wisdom’ is notoriously difficult).
(6) Thematic considerations, though any book is likely to have a number of major themes, so that alternative placements are possible on this basis, e.g. Proverbs followed by Ruth (BHS) with the figure of Ruth providing a real-life example of the ‘good wife’ described in Prov 31:10-31.
(7) Literary linkages, e.g. by means of catchwords, such as used in the Book of the Twelve (as Hosea-Malachi is viewed in the Hebrew canon).”;col1

“The liturgical character of the Megillot is an appropriate arrangement in a section leading up to the book of Chronicles (or beginning with Chronicles as in Aleppensis and Leningradensis) and consists of five festal scrolls. The five scrolls are connected to the five main festivals (following the festal order, assuming the year starts with the month Nisan): Song of Songs (Passover), Ruth (Weeks), Lamentations (the ninth of Ab), Ecclesiastes (Tabernacles or Booths), and Esther (Purim).”

“The books that follow Chronicles, that is, the Psalms73 and Proverbs, are directly connected with the founding dynasts, David and Solomon. Chronicles followed by Psalms gives the poetic pieces of the Psalter a liturgical setting in the musical cult (re)-organized by David (cf. 1 Chronicles 23-27; 2 Chr 7:6; 8:14; 23:18; 29:2530; 35:15), and a number of psalmic titles help to cement such a connection (e.g. the titles of Psalms '42-50, 62). 74 Ruth may be treated as a ‘Davidic biography,’ since Ruth and Boaz are the great-grandparents of David (Ruth 4:18-22). Song of Songs (e.g. 3:11) and Qoheleth (read as royal autobiography75) each have connections with Solomon. The liturgical role of the Megillot also suits the Chronicles frame. Esther provides a happy ending to the Megillot, especially when read after the tragic expressions of Lamentations.”;col1

“With regard to the order(s) of the books that make up the Hebrew Bible, the following may be said by way of summary. The ordering of books according to storyline would seem to explain the sequence of books in the Pentateuch and the Former Prophets. The books of the Latter Prophets also are ordered according to chronology, whether the sequence is Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve, or Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the Twelve. The highs and lows of the covenant relationship between God and Israel are thereby plotted through time. The order of books in the Writings may in part reflect (presumed) order of composition, with Davidic and Solomonic works at the beginning and Persian period compositions at the end (Esther onwards). It is not true, therefore, that only the Greek OT has a dominating historical principle.”

“The placement of Joshua-Kings after the Torah and in the section labeled ‘Former Prophets’ suggests an understanding of these four books as illustrating and applying the teaching of the Pentateuch, and so, too, the prophets whose oracles are recorded in the Latter Prophets are viewed as preachers of the Law.”

“The reader also perceives that the grouping of books according to common genre explains the enjambment of Psalms-Job-Proverbs and this has the effect of declaring the Psalter to be a wisdom book. So, too, juxtaposing Daniel-Esther-Ezra/Nehemiah suggests that all three books are being read as court tales. Thematic considerations explain those lists that put Ruth before Psalms or have Ruth following Proverbs, and the pairing of Ecclesiastes with Lamentations or of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. The fact that there are alternative orders reminds the reader that book order is a paratextual feature, and that different orders suggest alternative ways of reading the same book.”

“The placement of either Chronicles (1 Chronicles 1-9) or Ezra-Nehemiah (Nehemiah 9) at the close of the Hebrew Bible implies that these books recapitulate and evaluate (from certain viewpoints) the entire sweep of biblical history. In almost every case, the location of a biblical book relative to other canonical books, whether in terms of the grouping in which it is placed, or the book(s) that follow or precede it, has hermeneutical significance for the reader who seeks meaning in the text. Consciously or unconsciously, the reader's evaluation of a book is affected by the company it keeps in the collected library of Scripture.”;col1

2) Freedman, D. The Unity of the Hebrew Bible (University of Michigan Press 1995); “The Symmetry of the Hebrew Bible,” Divine Commitment and Human Obligation: Selected Writings of David Noel Freedman (Eerdmans 1997), 1:496-520.

Before presenting some of Freedman’s case, I’ll make a few preliminary comments:

i) Unlike the other scholars I’ve cited, Freedman is a liberal. However, to somewhat oversimplify our classification, there are two kinds of liberals. On the one hand, there are copycat liberals who simply regurgitate the latest fad in Bible criticism. On the other hand, some liberals are genuine scholars. They know their way around the primary sources. They do their own research. As a result, they may stake out iconoclastic positions which buck the liberal groupthink. Freedman is that kind of liberal. A fairly independent and very erudite scholar.

ii) From what I can tell, his work on the OT canon has been rather neglected. My best guess for this neglect is that his assumptions are too liberal for conservatives while his conclusions are too conservative for liberals.

iii) In assessing his case, we need to distinguish between the raw data which he presents, and the historical reconstructions by which he attempts to explain the data. The data stand alone–apart from his historical reconstruction.

iv) Apropos (ii-iii), it’s quite possible to agree with his general conclusions even though you disagree with some of his explanations or operating assumptions. You can present an alternative explanation to account for the same data.

v) Even some of his operating assumptions are harmonious with conservative presuppositions. For example, here is one of his working principles:

“In the Bible, historical narratives generally come down to the time of the author(s); therefore the latest episodes recorded are roughly contemporary with the writers(s)of the stories. Put another way, the work is composed or completed shortly after the last of the stories is finished, and the work may be dated accordingly. A significant burden of proof rests with those who wish to extend the period between the end of the narrative and the composition of the work,” The Unity of the Hebrew Bible, vi.

a) This principle is quite reasonable. Even conservative. If applied consistently, it would lead to the early dating of various books which liberals typically date much later.

b) It does, however, suffer from one oversight. Given his methodological naturalism, Freedman is unable to make allowance for the possibility (much less actuality) that a work might also record an episode before it occurs. But dating a book of Scripture must take into account the prophetic dimension.

Freedman also says: “the work of the final editor was mainly in organizing and arranging already existing books and even larger collections certainly not in composing any books, and perhaps only to a very limited extent in what we would call editing of manuscripts. The symmetry of the two parts is thus all the more remarkable, for the compiler was working with a whole set of already completed pieces…The tools available to the compiler were limited essentially to the selection and arrangement of the constituent units and perhaps a modicum of editorial adjustment of particular passages,” "The Symmetry of the Hebrew Bible," 507.

Once again, this quite consistent with conservative assumptions.

I’ll address the more liberal aspects of his presentation in a separate excursus (see below).

vi) Freedman’s basic thesis is that the entire OT canon, exclusive of Daniel, was codified by Ezra and Nehemiah c. the 5C BC. Much of his supporting evidence involves the bilateral, chiastic symmetry of the Hebrew OT, which is patterned after the acrostic numerology of some OT Psalms and other poems. (e.g. Pss 25; 34; 37; 119; 135; Prov 31:10-31; Lam 1-4) As such, the OT canon forms a carefully and delicately balanced, literary unit. He also draws attention to various correlations between one book and another.

The only monkey wrench in Freedman’s analysis is Daniel, which throws the numerical symmetry out of balance. I’ll address that issue separately (see below).

I can’t reproduce all of Freedman’s supporting arguments, but here’s a sampling of summary statements or representative claims:

“Ezra [Neh 8] is reading from the first books of the Bible, which reflects that the Bible is not only the story of the people of the Bible, i.e., Israel, but that it is also the story of the Bible itself,” The Unity of the Hebrew Bible, 1-2.

“The similarities between Jeremiah (in its present form) and the D-work [Deuteronomy thru Kings], on the one hand, and between Ezekiel and the P-work [Genesis thru Numbers] on the other, have long been noted,” ibid. 46.

“I also think that First Isaiah was associated with this reform and that the first C-Work [Chronicles] and the first Book of Isaiah were connected in that fashion. First Isaiah, while a denunciatory prophet in the tradition of Amos (and possibly his disciple), nevertheless was remembered in the tradition as the one who collaborated with the King, Hezekiah, in the salvation of Jerusalem,” ibid. 49.

“We can thus line up the Major Prophets with the major historical works of the Hebrew Bible as indicated. In the case of Isaiah…we have two points of contact: First Isaiah with Hezekiah and the First Chronicler’s Work…Overall, we find numerous points of agreement in both works, especially in the emphasis on Jerusalem, the Temple, the dynasty of David, and the continuous commitment and support of Yahweh,” ibid. 49-50.

“Third, I wish to purse the matter of literary associations a little further and at the same time include in the overall picture the collection of Minor Prophets. First of all, I think we can link groups of Minor Prophets with Major Prophets, just as we have tried to show a significant connection between the Major Prophets and the major historical narratives in the Hebrew Bible. Thus, in the final form of the Book of the Twelve, we can recognize certain groupings with natural affinities…Thus the last three books of the Twelve belong to the postexilic period…Fourth, with regard to the rest of the Minor Prophets, we can assign the three 8C prophets to the domain of First Isaiah…namely, Hosea, Amos, and Micah. This group balances the association of the last three,” ibid. 50-51.

“The reverse order places Ezra-Nehemiah first, followed by Chronicles, thus producing an odd circular effect if the books are read consecutively. In this present order, the Chronicler’s Work begins with the account of the Edict of Cyrus, in which the Jews in captivity were not only permitted but encouraged to return to their homeland in Judah and also to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. The narrative continues to the end of Ezra-Nehemiah; then it begins all over again at the beginning of Chronicles with Adam the genealogies derived from the Book of Genesis. The whole history of the people is covered once more, with particular emphasis on Judah from the time of the accession of David until the end of the kingdom. Then the last entry in Chronicles repeats the Edict of Cyrus to the Jews in captivity with which Ezra-Nehemiah began, thus forming an envelope around the whole work and echoing an even of central importance to the author or editor,” ibid. 76.

“Instead of being at the end of the Writings, Chronicles is at the beginning of this whole unit, thus making Ezra-Nehemiah the last book of the section and of the Bible itself. The Chronicler’s Work, therefore, forms an envelope around the Writings, encompassing all of the other books previously mentioned and constituting a unifying and ordering framework for them. At the same time, the connection between the two is stressed by the repetition of the paragraph that comes at the end of Chronicles…At the beginning of Ezra-Nehemiah, we find the same paragraph as an echo, reminding the reader that Ezra-Nehemiah is the sequel to or continuation of the book with which the section opened. The idea inherent in this arrangement–namely, that the Chronicler’s Work encompasses the interior works–is also appropriate with respect to their contents and themes. Thus, the Chronicler’s Work covers the whole span of the Hebrew Bible, from the beginning to the present day (the time of Ezra-Nehemiah), and everything within the framework fits into that time span. More than this, the major themes and emphases in the Chronicler’s Work are exemplified in the other associated works,” ibid. 77.

“What these numbers [e.g. word counts] show beyond any question is the precise built-in symmetry the whole work, including its major and minor parts. I call the underlying pattern bilateral symmetry; by this I mean that the whole Hebrew Bible is divided into two equal halves, and these in turn are subdivided into relatively equal or proportionate parts, with further subdivisions also exhibiting similar patterns,” "The Symmetry of the Hebrew Bible," 496.

“The symmetry we posit is not only bilateral but also chiastic. We begin therefore with the Prophetic collection, consisting of two parts, Former and Latter Prophets, each containing four books,” ibid. 503.

“To summarize, briefly, we interpret the numerical data to mean that the Hebrew Bible as we know it, with the single exception of the book of Daniel, existed in its present form as early as the end of the 5C BCE, and consisted of two precisely symmetrical halves, which in turn were made up of four subsections of five and four books respectively, matching parts in chiastic order, with a supplement of five more small books to make the numbers come out evenly…” ibid. 505.

“The crucial fact for me is the lack of any historical account after the time of Nehemiah. That is a prime indicator of the end of the literature, as it is hard to imagine that the Jewish community could live through the times of the late Persian kings, the coming of Alexander, and the massive changes all over the Near East without referring to them at all. Only the book of Daniel bridges the gulf between the Persian period Bible and the new age of tumult and ferment, from the Persians to the Romans,” ibid. 506.

“Whatever the origin of the division of the Torah into five books, this number clearly has a leading role in the selection and arrangement of the books of the Writings. Thus there are five major books: Chronicles (which comes first in the major medieval manuscripts, including the Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex), Psalms (which itself is divided into five books, doubtless to correspond to the five books of the Torah), Job, Proverbs, and Ezra (including Nehemiah; they are each on book in the Hebrew Bible). To these are added the five Megilloth: Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, and Esther,” ibid. 508.

“As just mentioned, in the great medieval Manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible the Writings begin with Chronicles and end with Ezra-Nehemiah, which together constitute a single continuous narrative and thus form an envelope around this whole division of the Bible,” ibid. 508.

“We conclude that the compiler settled on the number twenty-three to juxtapose the fours and fives of the two halves, to emphasize the association with the alphabetic numbers, i.e., 22 and even 22+1=23, and to reinforce the alphabetic principle. The use of successive numbers, especially in Hebrew poetry, both for parallelism and for enhancement, is well known,” ibid. 514.

“We affirm that there is a connection between a presumed Hebrew Bible containing twenty-three books in the Persian period, and that it was correlated with the ‘augmented’ Hebrew alphabet reflected in at least two alphabetic acrostic Psalms (25 and 34). We argue that the 23-book Bible already existed in that arrangement in the latter part of the Persian period (around 400 BCE) and was organized with the augmented alphabet in mind,” ibid. 516.

“We attribute the conception and execution to the Scribe Ezra and the Governor Nehemiah, who may have worked partly in tandem, but also in sequence, with Ezra responsible chiefly for the conception and Nehemiah for the execution and completion of the project. The separate memoirs of these men were attached to the end of the work, thus ending and completing the whole work,” ibid. 517.

V. The OT witness to the NT canon

It’s natural for us to think of the NT as a witness to the OT. But that cuts both ways. If the OT is prophetic, and if the NT represents the literary fulfillment of the OT, then the OT is also a witness to the NT. Some of the best authors on OT prophecy are T. D. Alexander, Derek Motyer, O. P . Robertson, and John Sailhamer.

VI. Excursus

i) Although Freedman subscribes to the pseudonymity of Daniel and “Second Isaiah” (as well as “Third Isaiah”), he makes some statements along the way which undermine that contention:

a) ”The pseudepigraphic material was never as popular as the old writing and only by accident or dissimulation was it accepted into the canon. Daniel is in fact the only genuine pseudepigraph in the Hebrew Bible,” Divine Commitment and Human Obligation, 276.

But if, by his own admission, Jews rejected the canonicity of pseudepigraphic materials, then how did Daniel slip through the net?

b) ”Chronicles ends with the Edict of Cyrus (2 Chron 36:22-23) and Ezra-Nehemiah beings with it (Ezra 1:1-4). These are the only two works in the Hebrew Bible that speak of Cyrus at all (apart from Daniel, which does not enter into consideration for various reasons),” The Unity of the Bible, 48.

But if the Book of Daniel was written in the 6C by a Jewish exile who served under Cyrus (Dan 1:21; 6:28; 10:1), then we’d expect him to mention that fact.

c) ”It is widely agreed by scholars that, in its canonical form, this book [Daniel] is a product of the Greek or Hellenistic Age, dating from about 165/4 BCE, although it undoubtedly incorporates older materials,” ibid., 78.” (Cf. “Because doubtless is incorporates some older sources,” 95.)

But if it “undoubtedly” incorporates older sources, then why be so sure of the Hellenistic provenance?

d) ”With Daniel, we enter into the world of apocalyptic visions, coded messages, revelations through dreams, and angelic interpreters,” ibid. 96.

But there’s nothing distinctively Hellenistic about such phenomena.

e) ”Taking both works [Isaiah; 1-2 Chronicles] in their present forms, we can point to the fact that both are postexilic in date, and both make much of the return from the exile in the reign of Cyrus the Great. While I believe that the event itself is still in the future in the so-called Second Isaiah (chaps. 40-55), it is clearly expected, and the role of Cyrus is very important (see chaps. 44-45),” ibid. 48.

It’s fascinating that a liberal like Freedman nevertheless accepts the Isaian oracles about Cyrus as genuinely predictive rather than vaticina ex eventu. But, in that case, why not accept the 8C date of Isaiah in toto?

f) ”Second Isaiah is a throwback to the earlier period of poetic prophetic oracles,” ibid. 55.

Wouldn’t be simpler to say he reflects an earlier period because, in fact, he lived back then?

g) ”In any case, however, it is striking that Jeremiah and Ezekiel supply precisely the information lacking in [Second] Isaiah provides the framework within which the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel can best be understood,” ibid. 60.

But if Isaiah is preexilic, whereas Jeremiah and Ezekiel speak from their exilic experience, then we’d expect them to fill in the general framework with topical details.

ii) Freedman also commits a basic fallacy. He seems to infer that if the 5C edition of the OT canon didn’t include Daniel, then Daniel must have been written some time after the 5C. But that hardly follows.

Suppose that Daniel was written before Ezra and Nehemiah (allegedly) codified the OT canon. This doesn’t mean we’d expect Daniel to be canonized a century later. Since Daniel contains a number of prophecies, Jews might have taken a wait-and-see attitude. Postponed the canonization of Daniel until they had a chance to tell whether or not some of his predictions came true. Considering the prophetic character of the book, such a delay, to give his futuristic oracles some shakedown time, is completely understandable.

iii) There are alternative explanations for the exact placement of Daniel in the canon. Goswell accounts for that by noting the motif of palace intrigue (involving Jewish exiles at the mercy of pagan rulers) that Daniel shares in common with the adjacent writings:

“Daniel is in this position because of the court tales (Daniel 1-6) that connect with similar tales in Esther and Ezra-Nehemiah.76 Daniel following Esther (in the Talmud the order is reversed) provides a theological explanation for the confidence expressed in the book of Esther concerning the survival of the Jewish race, with the lesson of that book put in the mouth of Zeresh, the wife of Haman the archenemy of the Jews (Esth 6:13: ‘If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not prevail against him but will surely fall before him’).”;col1

iv) Moreover, there are glaring problems with giving Daniel a Maccabean date. As one scholar explains:

“Finally, we may look at that section of the book which more than all others raises the question of its dating. It is the majority view that the long, detailed prophecy of chapters 10-12 must be, and is, largely a vaticinium ex eventu. By creating the impression that all these historical events, which his readers would know had actually taken place, had in fact been predicted in detail and fulfilled inexorably to the letter, the author aimed, on this view, to produce in his readers overwhelming confidence in his few, but
major, real predictions. These were that Antiochus would make a third invasion of Egypt, this time very
successfully, but that on his return journey he would suddenly meet his end, when encamped between
Jerusalem and the sea; that there would then follow a time of unprecedented trouble for Israel, out of which nonetheless they would be delivered; that then the resurrection of the dead would take place, and thus the End would have arrived; and that all this would take place within a period of about 3 years measured from Antiochus' setting up of the abomination of desolation."

"But this last event, according to the majority view, must have already taken place before the book was
written and published (for had the book been published before that event, the prediction of it would have been a genuine predictive prophecy). How long after the setting up of the abomination of desolation it took our author to compile this book with its remarkably complex structure the majority view does not tell us; nor how long it took to get it published and into circulation."

"Practical sense suggests that by the time it was written and published, a considerable part of the 3 years must have gone by. The book would now be promising that the End would occur within an even shorter time than 3 years. Fortunately, when the book was published, Daniel's reading public, close-knit though they must have been, never realized who the author was - the publisher never spilt the beans - and took the book for an ancient book without wondering why they had never heard of it before. They believed its vaticinium ex eventu to have been a genuine prophecy, and put their faith in the author's prediction, were very encouraged by it, and prepared to meet the End. Unfortunately, of course, nothing happened. Antiochus did not invade Egypt again. He did not encamp between Jerusalem and the sea. He died, but not there: he died in fact far away out east. There was trouble for Israel as always, but nothing unprecedented. And the resurrection of the dead did not take place. The other things which other chapters in Daniel had promised would happen at the End, did not take place either: all Gentile imperial power was not everywhere removed, and universal dominion was not given to Israel.26 The only thing that took place within the time was the deliverance and cleansing of the sanctuary."

"Nevertheless the faithful having discovered the predictions to be false were not discouraged. They still accepted the predictions as genuine predictions and the whole book as authoritative; and they carefully preserved it and quoted it (e.g. 1 Macc. 2:60). Later they canonized it.”

v) Finally, Sailhamer has interacted with Freedman's position on Daniel. Sailhamer's treatment furnishes a useful corrective to Freedman's defective analysis at this juncture. Sailhamer demonstrates the pivotal significance of Daniel to the OT canon. Cf. J. Sailhamer, The Meaning of the Pentateuch (IVP 2009).


  1. In Catholicism, the internal evidence is irrelevant, for what ultimately counts in Catholicism is the external verdict of the church.

    I think the internal evidence is relevant to Catholicism, at least to some degree, but you're right, what ultimately counts is what the Magisterium declares.

    Ironically, Bart Ehrman begins with the same premise as Catholicism. He regards the canon as an arbitrary collection. The product of power politics in the church.

    Well, there are Catholic historians who will stipulate that the Church (or their Church) engages in power politics. They won't deny it.

    The Catholic argument generates a dilemma. Either these particular books belong together or they don’t. If they belong together, then you shouldn’t need an ecclesiastical fiat to constitute or justify that collection. Conversely, if you need an ecclesiastical fiat to constitute or justify that collection, then it must be fairly arbitrary.

    If I was a skeptic, it would certainly appear to be arbitrary. Because aren't the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant canons all different?

    Another problem with the Catholic orientation is that it directs us away from the Bible to church history. We’re no longer looking at the primary source material. Yet the canon of Scripture is, itself, a primary source datum for the canon of Scripture. It contains within itself a certain amount of internal evidence regarding its own composition and codification.

    Practically speaking, it does appear that way. But I think (good) Catholic historians would painstakingly ensure that their readers don't conflate exegesis and hermeneutics and various doctrines of Scripture with ecclesiology.

  2. Arduous, methodical and comprehensive, ug!

    One good thing, though, is we have Our God Who will guide us through the reading of His Words!

    It is interesting to read just how some got their angle on what goes before what.

    I like what Beale wrote here:::>

    "....“The ordering of books can be classified according to a number of principles. These principles need not be mutually exclusive but one may reinforce another, and there may be more than one possible principle reflected in a particular order. Unless stated by the author or editor, it is left to the reader to surmise what rationale is at work in the ordering of the literary blocks that make up a larger whole....".

  3. Steve-

    I am reading through the NT this year according to Ellis's 4 mission scheme, and I was wondering:

    How convincing do you find Ellis' arguments for Hebrews as part of the Pauline mission? I thought they were quite thin, and that Hebrews fit better with the Jacobean mission.

    Where do you think Hebrews fits into the 4 mission scheme?