12 Responses to Qumran Scrolls and the Date of Daniel

  1. Jason September 6, 2010 at 8:49 am #

    I find these arguments unconvincing. (I have not read Hasel’s article, so my comments are based on the quotes in the original post, which I trust to be accurate summaries of Hasel’s argument and the most significant points.)

    First, his statement that the Daniel manuscripts were preserved ‘in a single desert community’ no longer reflects scholarly discussion about the community. Scholars are moving more to seeing the community as widespread with the Qumran site representing a headquarters or a more exclusive form of the Essene movement. Additionally, several leading Dead Sea Scrolls scholars have suggested that the majority of the scrolls came from Judea and were deposited at Qumran around the time of the war with Rome. This means that a single community had not acquired all the Daniel scrolls within 50 years of its publication. The number of scrolls found is irrelevant.

    Second, so far as I can tell (and I do not have the DJD volume available to check this) 4QDane does not contain all of Daniel. It contains only parts of chapter 9. It is incorrect therefore to claim on the basis of this fragment that Daniel had been ‘developed into its present form and become canonical!’ (emphasis original above). The Daniel manuscripts do cover almost the totality of the book as we now have it, but we cannot conclude that it was in its present form at this early date of BC 125. I may be wrong on this point if it can be shown that 4QDane contained more, so others may correct me here. If, however, we cannot show that it contained more, than Hasel’s argument is unconvincing.

    Third, Hasel’s statement does not demonstrate that Daniel was accepted as ‘canonical’ at this early stage. Harrison’s logic (in the quote in the original post) creates problems for the NT. If Daniel could not ‘be circulated, venerated, and accepted as canonical Scripture’ within 50 years of its composition, than we must say the same for the NT writings. But the fact is that many (myself included) accept that the NT writings were ‘circulated, venerated, and accepted as canonical Scripture’ (although some might prefer to drop the term ‘canonical’ as too loaded) within 50 years of their production. There is no reason to think that what happened with the NT could not happen with Daniel as well. This is further emphasised given the geographical spread of Christianity in comparison with the narrow limits of Judea and those connected with the Qumran/Essene community.

    Having said all this, I personally hold an early date for Daniel, but I don’t see how these arguments by Hasel actually advance the case for the early date.

    • Jim Hamilton September 6, 2010 at 9:24 am #


      1) What you’re saying here actually makes the argument stronger, and this is more clear in Hasel’s full presentation. Beckwith shows how sectarian literature was not accepted in all of Judaism–for instance there were some writings that were only valued by certatin groups. With Daniel, by contrast, even though there was violent disagreement among these groups, they all accepted it as canonical, as evidenced by its presence at Qumran.

      2) Textual critics commonly posit that if an earlier fragmentary text is sufficiently similar to a later, fuller text, the earlier text can be assumed to have been in the same family of witnesses as the later. Thus, the small fragment of the earlier ms can demonstrate exactly what Hasel, Beckwith, and others claim.

      3) The problem here is that if Daniel is Maccabean, contemporary literature (Sirach, 1 Macc) is essentially declaring that prophecy has ceased. I think this would make the claim that Daniel was inspired and thus should be included in the canon a very tough sell in the schismatic debates among the Jews of that time.



      • Jason September 6, 2010 at 10:20 am #

        Thanks for the reply Jim.

        1) Maybe I can reply with a question: Should we regard the Hodayot as canonical since eight scrolls were found, thus making it one of the highest number of scrolls in the Qumran collection? Surely we all accept the Hodayot as part of the sectarian literature. My point is that sheer number does not tell us about canonical status for anyone beyond the single group that used the text, nor does number tell us about date, which was Hasel’s claim and what generated my first reply. Assuming that the scrolls were the collection of a single Jewish group (although not an isolated one like Hasel held), we cannot say much about Daniel’s status outside this group. I just don’t see how its presence at Qumran indicates that ‘they [i.e. the Jewish groups] all accepted it as canonical’ as you have stated.

        In fact, what evidence is there outside of the group that hid the scrolls that other Jewish groups at roughly 100 BC accepted Daniel as authoritative? This is a genuine question, for which I don’t know the answer. But it seems to me that the evidence from Qumran only tells us about the opinion of one group. The evidence from the NT, all of which is obviously post- AD 1, gives us evidence of another group that regarded Daniel as sacred literature. But none of this actually helps with dating Daniel, which was the primary issue of the original post.

        2)Your point two does not apply to Dead Sea Scrolls studies where one can study the limits of the scrolls (see the work of Stegemann on scroll reconstruction). A case in point is the Hodayot scrolls found in caves 1 and 4. If my memory is correct, only one (if any) of the cave 4 scrolls could have been long enough to contain all of the material found in the longest scroll 1QHa. The question is not really about family relations but about the limits of what one scroll contained versus another. Also, we know that tales about Daniel (or quite similar to the ones found in Daniel) circulated since they have survived in the scrolls. It is possible that the earliest Daniel scrolls only contained individual stories or parts. They may not have contained the whole.

        3) Regarding your point 3: the statements from Sirach and 1 Macc only give us the perspective of certain Jews or Jewish groups. I am hesitant to generalise to the claim that all Jews thought prophecy had ceased. This seems to conflict with what scholars suggest about the Teacher of Righteousness (assuming that this was a real person).

        Overall, it seems to me that the discussion is moving more in the direction of the canonical status of Daniel and whether it was accepted as authoritative by more than a single community rather than the date of its authorship. My first reply argued that canonical status is not determined by date, otherwise we are in trouble with the NT (point 3 in my first reply). I am happy to accept that Daniel was regarded by many Second Temple Jews as authoritative, divine revelation, canonical (or whatever we want to call it), but I don’t think that Hasel’s arguments for date actually advance the argument for Daniel’s canonical status nor help us in demonstrating an early date for Daniel.

  2. G. Kyle Essary September 6, 2010 at 8:53 am #

    I’ve wondered about this as well. Furthermore, since the dating of the manuscripts is largely relative, how much of a factor in the dating is the assumption that the earliest date is 167?

    • Jim Hamilton September 6, 2010 at 9:24 am #

      I’m not sure I understand the question . . .

      • G. Kyle Essary September 6, 2010 at 11:31 am #

        Let me clarify. The texts at Qumran are dated based largely on relative factors (like script styles and textual evolution, location of the find alongside other more easily dated texts, etc.). I’m wondering how much the assumption that Daniel was written post-167 influence the dating of the Daniel texts at Qumran.

        For instance, 4Q114 is dated around 125, and 4Q115 and 116 are dated similar but show severe decay. My question would be, “Since the same cave has texts in similar script from throughout the late 3rd and 2nd century (and into the 1st), how much does the assumption of a post-167 date factor into dating these texts after that date?”

        • Jim Hamilton September 6, 2010 at 1:13 pm #

          Possibly . . . but those who have dated the scrolls have used several different methods, and these methods have confirmed one another. . . Ultimately I don’t know,


  3. John September 6, 2010 at 10:01 am #

    1. There is no God who predicts the future.
    2. The events of Daniel happened in the Maccabean era.
    3. Ergo, Daniel was written post-maccabean.

    Wow that was easy. I could totally get into this historical-critical thing.

  4. RD September 7, 2010 at 8:22 am #

    I’ve wondered why Daniel was not included in the Hebrew Bible section of prophets.

    • Jim Hamilton September 7, 2010 at 8:30 am #

      Roger Beckwith argues that it’s put in the Writings because it was classed as history rather than prophecy and thus picked up the historical storyline after the poetic interlude. So in the Law, Prophets, Writings arrangement, you get history from Genesis thru Kings, then Poetry from Isa through the middle of the Writings, then the last part of the Writings resumes the History with an Apocalyptic flair . . .


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