What is said as to Susanna on this point holds almost entirely good here. Both pieces have been called in question on nearly the same ground, and have stood or fallen together. Possibly this one presents rather more difficulty in some of its details.
It is often included in Scripture lists under the title Daniel; and is often quoted in the same manner, e.g. by St. Cyprian, ad Fortunatum, § 11, |Daniel, Dec, devotus & sancto spiritu plenus exclamat et dicit,| v.4. The quotations given under Early Christian Literature and Art' will shew how strong a hold this story had in many quarters, and what use was made of it.
Pseudo-Athanasius, in his Synops. S. S., mentions the story at the end of § 41 as included in Daniel, but he does not name it at the close of the Synopsis as being outside the canonical books, as he does in the case of Susanna. The writer of De Mirabilibus Script. Sacr., often attached to St. Augustine's works (Migne, Patr. lat. xxxv.; Benedict. ed. appx. to Vol. III.), expressly declares against its canonicity. This treatise is thought to have been composed in England or Ireland in the 7th or 8th century (Loisy, O. T. p.154).
The hesitation of the earlier Church, however, found no counterpart in the canonizing decree of the Council of Trent; while, on the other hand, Protestant opinion has run almost entirely against canonicity. Diametrically opposite views are steadily maintained by authorities on both sides; although among English-speaking Protestants there is perhaps a decrease in the contempt with which this story was once treated.
Among the Syriac-using Christians of the Malabar coast, Bel and the Dragon, with the other additions, is reckoned as |part and parcel of the book of Daniel| (Letter to present writer of Aug.8, 1902, from Rev. F. V. J. Givargese, Principal of Mar Dionysius Seminary, Kottayam). Bar-Hebræus, too, comments on it, but says at the head of his remarks that |some do not receive this story| (op. cit. p.27).
The many resemblances and coincidences between this and the canonical book pointed out under other heads (Language and Style,' Religious and Social State,' etc.) of course tell, so far as they go, in its favour.
Schrader (Schenkel's Bibel Lex.1869, art. Habak. p.556) classes Bel and the Dragon with pseudo-Epiphanius' and Rabbinic legends of the same tale, as |reine Fabeln and Legenden zu erkennen.| This seems too positive an opinion of their untrustworthiness. It is agreed with, however, by Orelli (Introd. to Hab., Clarke's Transl.), who styles Bel and the Dragon, or at least the Habakkuk incident in it, |an idle story.| A. B. Davidson also (Encyclop. Brit. ed.9, II.181) writes of it as being |completely fabulous;| and Ewald speaks of the episode of Habakkuk as an example of an unhistoric spirit, growing rapidly and dangerously (v.487).
Cloquet's plea that non-canonicity is proved' (XXXIX Arts.1885, pp.112, 113) by six days being named here, and one day in the canonical book, as the length of Daniel's incarceration in the den, is beside the mark. It assumes for controversial purposes that the two passages must refer to the same event. This writer also speaks generally (p.115) of Bel and the Dragon's |direct contradictions of Scripture.| Such strictures are only worth noticing as specimens of many instances in which possible discrepancies between canonical and uncanonical books are treated by a particular class of writers as certain, in the hope of depreciating the latter. These are sometimes attacked with extreme violence as full of fables, superstitions, and impieties -- apocryphal in the worst sense. But they deserve to be saved from this unmerited contempt, indulged in usually for polemical purposes, and only rendered possible by an insufficient study of the works themselves and the many admirable points which they contain.
Our own Church indulges in no rash or sweeping assertions, but follows the golden mean. She states in Art. VI. her present practical view of this and the other Additions in common with the rest of the Apocrypha. While not making any special doctrine to turn upon an apocryphal text, she directs the perusal of this, with the other books of its class, for purposes of practical edification. In singularly guarded and cautious terms she is careful not to commit herself to anything more than a statement of her authorized practice. Thus she has not closed the door, as the Council of Trent is supposed to have done, against the entry of fresh knowledge, with its corresponding changes of view or modifications of usage.