[See corresponding title in Susanna.]
The indications of a Semitic original give this fragment, in that respect, a middle place between the other two. Less numerous than in the Song of the Three, they are more so than in the History of Susanna, though this is a shorter piece than that.
The non-discovery by Origen and others of Hebrew originals in their own day by no means goes so far as to prove that such never existed, as Rothstein in Kautzsch (I.179) truly says.
Since Gaster's discovery of an Aramaic text of the Dragon (not of Bel), the probability of a Semitic rather than a Greek original seems strengthened. But see what Schürer thinks, under the corresponding title in the Song of the Three, as also of the Syriac version at the end of Neubauer's Tobit. C. H. Toy, too, in his article in the Jewish Encyclopædia, Vol. II., says: |In the present state of knowledge it seems better to reserve opinion as to its antiquity.|
Delitzsch, at the end of his Commentatio de Hab. proph. vita atque ætate (Lips.1842), prints in Rabbinic characters a Persian rendering, |ex codice Paris-Reg. judaico-persico,| which he says |ex textu hebraico vel aramaico factam esse, ex crebris hebraismis patet| (p.105). And on pp.26, 27 he prints the LXX from v.28 to the end, and adds: |Hæc omnia ad verbum Hebraico vel Aramaico translata esse dictionis simplicitas, structura ac tota indoles clamat atque testatur.| But on p.41 he quotes the opinion of Prof. Solomon Munk, of Paris (Notice sur Bab. Saadia Gaon, p.84), that this Hebrew text, translated into Persian, was itself made by some European Rabbi from the Greek or Latin Bible. And a similar origin for Gaster's text is now thought far from unlikely.
It may be well here to give a few brief notes on the separate phrases as they occur:
v.3 Th. With edapanonto eis, cf. 'klh v of Deut. xxxii.23 (|I will spend my arrows upon,| etc.). Dapanao occurs with en and epi in N. T. Greek, but apparently not with eis, nor yet in the canonical O. T. Deissmann, however, attempts to shew that this use of eis, instead of 'dativus commodi,' is an Alexandrian idiom (Bible Studies, Eng. tr., Edinb.1900, p.127). kl' is also used in Aramaic in the same sense in Pahel.
v.6 O'. The same phrase as the last recurs, inverted: eis auton dapanatai.
v.7 O'. Here the accusative after omnuo might be taken as favouring a Greek original, since en for v would seem natural in a translation of Hebrew or Aramaic.
v.7 Th; v.11 O', Th; v.27 O'. The occurrence of basileu in these verses suggests a rendering of mlk' which is used several times in the Aramaic portion of Daniel, while it never occurs in the vocative in the Hebrew portion. This indication, small though it be, inclines of course towards an Aramaic rather than a Hebrew original.
v.10 O', Th. Scholz's suggestion that choris and ektos are translations of lvr is more probable than some of his ideas, for it is rendered by both these words more than once in the Greek O. T.
v.12 Th. ho pseudomenos kath' hemon might be a translation of sqr l or kdv l.? l is occasionally rendered by kata, as in Job xxxiii.10, in a hostile sense. Liddell and Scott, however, give one example of pseudo with kata, and Arnold an anonymous one in his Greek Grammar (1848, p.265).
v.13 Th. Diolou looks like a translation of tmyr (or tdyr'), as in I. Kings x.8, where it is so rendered.
v.14 O'. sphragisamenos presents a difficulty here, which may be solved by supposing that chtm had been read by mistake for stm, a kind of error characteristic of the LXX translators. To shut' seems more in place here than to seal,' which naturally follows later in the verse; shutting first, sealing second, seems the only intelligible order.
vv.14, 28 Th; vv.15, 33 O'. The kai egeneto of these verses is suggestive of vyhy in the original.
v.18 Th. (Dolos) oude heis has an ungreek' look, and may have been a rendering of d 'chd as in Exod. xiv.28. chdh) chd') for chzh) chz') might account for the king's rejoicing' in O' becoming his 'seeing' in Th.
v.19 O', Th. The reading of edaphos by Th instead of dolos by O' may be accounted for by supposing sqph' to have been substituted for sqr', as suggested in Hastings' Dict.
v.26 O', Th. The use of kai instead of hina, to begin a clause signifying purpose, is very Hebraic.
v.27 O', Th. The ingenious idea of A. Scholz that ta sebasmata humon and ou tauta sebesthe are renderings of hphchdykm and hphchdtm respectively, h in the first case being the article, and in the second merely the interrogative particle, like other conjectures on p.202 of his Commentary, can hardly stand. He appears to have forgotten that the article must not be placed before a noun with a pronominal suffix.
v.28 O', Th. epi looks like a translation of l (cf. Sus.29). In O' it is used against Daniel, and in Th against the king.
v.33 O'. Delitzsch suggests (p.2'7) hssy vyhy vyhy vyvm for the beginning of this verse, with much likelihood.
v.36 Th. The reading cheiros in A for koruphes may have arisen from qrqdv being corrupted by homoeoteleuton into qdv, for which A has read ydv. A. Scholz's notion of explaining this by Isai. xlv.7 (where dexia is used, not cheir) is unsatisfactory.
v.40 O', Th. The attempt to explain (Marshall in Hastings' D. B. art. Bel and the Dragon) the in medio' of Vulg. v.39 by a reading vgv for vgv is not very likely, since they do not occur in corresponding clauses.
v.42 O'. Exegagen is used of the king here in a good sense, in v.22 in a bad one. This is possibly a rendering of hvtsy' in the latter case, of hlh in the former.
The Greek of the writer is hardly such as we should expect, unless he was narrating a story which had reached him from a Hebrew source. The frequency with which verbs occur very early in the construction of sentences is a point in favour of a Semitic original, which does appear to have been dwelt upon, eg. vv.11, 20 (O'), and 14, 16, 22 (Th).
It is a matter of considerable nicety to estimate the value of these and similar indications. They are not decisive. They tell with varying force upon varying minds; but they distinctly tend, in the writer's opinion, to increase the probability of the Greek having been grounded upon a Hebrew or an Aramaic form of the story, the likelihood of the latter being slightly the stronger.
In view of the introduction of Habakkuk into the story of the Dragon, Delitzsch's opinion as to the similarity of Daniel's Hebrew to the Hebrew of that prophet (see Streane, Age of Macc. p.262) becomes of importance. A. Scholz, too, is of opinion (p.146) that the Habakkuk title makes for a Hebrew original, because the real prophecy of Habakkuk was undoubtedly Hebrew, and this piece, whether genuine or fictitious, would hardly have been appended in another language.
The LXX version was certainly known to Theodotion, since he copies much of it, yet not quite so largely as in the Song of the Three. But it is evident that he had other documents or traditions to use, of which he freely availed himself; possibly some previous translation other than LXX, as has been suggested under Susanna (Date and Place,' p.114). There seems nothing in either Greek recession to imply that the two parts of Bel and the Dragon (separated in Luther's version) are not by the same hand.
It is noteworthy that the word ekdoton, applied to Bel when handed over to Daniel (v.22, Th), is used of our Lord in Acts ii.23, these two being its only Biblical occurrences.
The style is that of simple, clear, and well-told narrative, with very little rhetorical embellishment about it, yet bearing somewhat of a dramatic cast, like much of the canonical book to which it is appended. It is not tedious (though there is much to tell which might have been easily spun out), but is brief and spirited. There is nothing superfluous to the aim of the story.
Moreover, the narrative is told in such a way as ever to be a story of captivating interest to the young, being full of movement and interesting incident. The style of the composition is much more in accordance with Syrian than with Alexandrian models. There is nothing of Hellenistic speculation or philosophy, though the subject of idolatry would have lent itself to such treatment (as that of injustice would in Susanna). No figurative or hyperbolic phraseology is employed.
An idea has been revived and maintained that the lions' den episode at the end is a mere adaptation and embellishment of that in Dan. vi. (Churton, 392; Streane, 109, |distortions of O.T. narratives|; J. M. Fuller, S.P.C.K. Comm. in loc.). This idea is successfully opposed by Ainald, who (on v.31) gives three reasons against it, and by, Bishop Gray (Introd. to O. T. in loc.). Delitzsch (p.30) calls this section of Th's version |partem dignissimam.| Attempts to prove the falsity of this martyrdom, if such it may be called, by first assuming the identity of these two events, treating the latter as an ornamental exaggeration of the former, and then pointing out what are taken for irreconcileable discrepancies, are beside the mark. Nor does the supposition that the one night in the den (of Dan. vi.) was increased to six, nor that the detail of withholding the lions' usual food to sharpen their appetites (in Th only), were added for the purpose of heightening the effect, carry much weight. The omission of Daniel's speech, with the detail of the angel closing the lions' mouths (vv.21, 22), tells in the opposite direction. It is no more necessary to reckon these two den episodes as one event than our Lord's feeding of the four and five thousand, or his healing of the centurion's servant and the nobleman's son.