Additions to Daniel

‘The Additions to Daniel’ is a collective term for passages included in the ancient Greek texts of Daniel, but not in the Hebrew/Aramaic texts (chapters 1–12). In those Bible translations where the Old Testament is derived from the Hebrew/Aramaic, these portions (along with other books found in the Greek but not Hebrew scriptures), came to be known as ‘Deuterocanonical’ works, and collected in a separate section called the ‘Apocrypha’.

The Additions to Daniel consist of the following:
• The ‘Prayer of Azariah’ and the ‘Song of the Three Youths’. In Greek texts of Daniel these are embedded in chapter 3, the story of the ‘Fiery Furnace’. Azariah’s penitential prayer has a short narrative introduction, and after the miraculous delivery from the furnace, a song of praise issues from all three youths.

• The story of Susanna, appearing at the beginning of the book in Greek bibles, but as chapter 13 in the Latin Vulgate and subsequent Western Bibles, and celebrating Daniel’s judgment in acquitting an innocent young woman of a malicious charge of adultery by lecherous elders whose testimony the hero dismantles.

• Bel and the Dragon, forming the second part of chapter 12 in Greek bibles but chapter 14 in the Vulgate, containing two stories about idolatry. In the first episode, Daniel proves to King Cyrus that the food and drink left overnight to the god Bel is not consumed by him, but by the priests. In the second, Daniel kills a dragon or snake worshipped as a god by stuffing its mouth with cakes of tar, fat, and hair. As a consequence, he is placed in a lions’ den (not the same story as chapter 4), where the prophet Habakkuk is transported by an angel to visit him, and from which he is released unharmed.

Were these passages added later to an original book of Daniel or do they represent independent versions of the book? The book of Daniel itself is a collection of Aramaic tales (chapters 2–6), expanded by an introduction and a series of visions, mostly in Hebrew. Bel and the Dragon does not seem to be a Greek translation of an Aramaic or Hebrew original, and was most probably added when, or after, this book was translated. It is hard to be as definite with the additions in chapter 3, but all of the Additions may be said to introduce elements foreign to the Aramaic stories, which feature Daniel’s ability in interpreting omens or the deliverance from persecution of himself or his friends. Bel and the Dragon deals with the theme of idolatry, prominent in the Aramaic stories, but does not entail either interpretation or persecution. The fact that it and Susanna originally appear at the beginning and end of the book in Greek bibles rather confirms that they are both indeed later additions to a translation of an original Hebrew/Aramaic book.

While the Aramaic/Hebrew Daniel argues that the course of history is divinely preordained and cannot be influenced by intercession (even in chapter 9, which includes a penitential prayer from Daniel), the Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Youths seem to reinforce the role of intercessory prayer and of thanksgiving as proper to acts of divine deliverance, suggesting that their rescue from the furnace was the outcome of a plea to God. Bel and Dragon lampoons idols and their priests, reflecting a common Jewish perspective on Greco-Roman religious practice. All these additional stories (as is the case with Susanna also) appear to be designed to entertain, rather than to carry a serious message, as do the contents of the Aramaic/Hebrew book.

Further reading

This will mostly be found in treatments of the Apocrypha. Most modern commentaries on Daniel, confining themselves to the Hebrew canon, either omit these additions completely, or only mention them when considering the ancient textual versions. One fairly modern critical commentary providing substantial discussion of these is Louis Hartman and Alexander di Lella, The Book of Daniel (Anchor Bible 23; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1978). The same series, however, also offers Carey Moore, Daniel, Esther, and Jeremiah: The Additions (Anchor Bible 44; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1994).