A Study of the Language Shifts in the Book of Daniel : A Comparative Narrative Analysis of Daniel 1 and 2, 7 and 8
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
Religion, Old Testament Studies PhD
The problem this dissertation seeks to address is the use of bilingualism in the book of Daniel. Previously, scholars have utilized diachronic methods to explain the phenomenon of bilingualism in Daniel and have concluded that it is the product of compositional redaction. However, such studies have not produced a consensus in scholarship. In the last 40 years, several studies have emerged that conclude the use of bilingualism in the book of Daniel may best be explained as a rhetorical device. In contrast to the diachronic methodologies of prior studies, these examinations utilized methodologies that addressed rhetorical elements. Chapter One of this study briefly addresses the background to the problem of the use of bilingualism in Daniel and reviews five studies that conclude the occurrence of bilingualism is best explained as an intentional rhetorical device.
In response to the positive results of the five studies noted above, this study uses a synchronic method, narrative analysis, to analyze the rhetorical use of bilingualism in the book of Daniel. This analysis seeks to determine whether the language shifts in Daniel affect the narratives that occur before and after the shifts, specifically in Daniel 1 and 2 (Daniel 2:4b; Hebrew to Aramaic) and Daniel 7 and 8 (Daniel 8:1; Aramaic to Hebrew). Chapter Two includes a brief overview of the narrative elements in the book of Daniel and of the prior use of narrative analysis in Old Testament studies and in the study of the book of Daniel. Since there exists a variety of views regarding the elements of narrative analysis, the methodology used in this study follows the narrative analysis outlined in Shimon Bar-Efrat’s book, Narrative Art in the Bible. An outline of this study’s methodology is delineated at the end of the chapter.
In Chapter Three, an analysis of plot and character in the narratives in the chapters located before and after the first language shift at Daniel 2:4b (Daniel 1 and 2) is presented. The results of the analysis are reviewed and the existence of a narrative shift in plot and character that corresponds to the first language shift is identified. Next, the subsequent chapters in Aramaic (Daniel 3-7) are examined to determine whether the narrative shift is repeated throughout the Aramaic section. In Chapter Four, an analysis of plot and character in the narratives located before and after the second language shift at 8:1 (Daniel 7 and 8) is presented. The results of this second analysis are reviewed and the existence of a narrative shift in plot and character that corresponds to the second language shift is identified. Afterwards, the ensuing chapters in Hebrew (Daniel 9-12) are examined to determine whether the narrative shift is repeated throughout the Hebrew section.
Chapter Five consists of a discussion of the findings of this study. According to this study’s analysis, the two language shifts at Daniel 2 and Daniel 8 correspond to two narrative shifts at the same location. First, as the language shifts from Hebrew to Aramaic (and as one moves from Daniel 1 to 2), a narrative shift in plot and character emerges. Furthermore, the ensuing chapters in Aramaic (Daniel 3-7) repeat several plot and character elements that emerge in the narrative emphasis identified in Daniel 2. Second, as the language shifts from Aramaic to Hebrew (and as one moves from Daniel 7 to 8), a narrative shift in plot and character emerges. Furthermore, the ensuing chapters in Hebrew (Daniel 9-12) repeat several plot and character elements that emerge in the narrative emphasis identified in Daniel 8.
As a consequence of this study’s findings, narrative and theological conclusions may be noted. In a narrative sense, this study suggests three conclusions. First, Daniel 2 and 8 function as points of narrative reconfiguration. Specifically, in Daniel 2 and 8 narrative elements in the previous chapters (Daniel 1 and 7) are appropriated and reconfigured (primarily through the use of a dream/vision) to create a specific narrative emphasis. Second, the narrative emphases identified in Daniel 2 and 8 are repeated in the subsequent chapters, namely Daniel 3-7 in Aramaic and Daniel 9-12 in Hebrew. This repetition creates a complex narrative progression that reaches a climax at the point at which each language concludes, specifically at Daniel 7 for the Aramaic section and at Daniel 12 for the Hebrew section. Thus, the book of Daniel consists of a complex narrative progression that is engendered by the language shifts. Therefore, although the chapters in the book of Daniel are self-contained narratives, the repetition of the narrative elements identified in Daniel 2 and 8 functions as a narrative progression through repetition that reaches a climax at the end of each progression in the respective languages. Third, within the complex narrative progression engendered by the language shifts, Daniel 7 performs three narrative functions. First, it functions as a climax for the Aramaic section, second, it functions as a central point of reconfiguration between Daniel 2 and 8, and third, it functions as the narrative source for the reconfiguration in Daniel 8. Such conclusions are compatible with prior research on the book of Daniel, which notes that Daniel 7 is the center of the book.
In a theological sense, this study suggests two conclusions. First, the complex narrative progression that the language shifts engender depict God's resolution to the problem of the divine-human conflict introduced in Daniel 1:1-2. In these programmatic introductory verses, the conflict between kingly-cultic pride and God's sovereignty is broadly presented. Subsequently, the complex narrative progression noted in the language shift-narrative shift correspondence (LS-NSC) depicts God’s resolution to this conflict. In the Aramaic section (Daniel 2 and 3-7) the narrative of conflict between kingly-cultic pride and divine sovereignty emphasizes the kingly context. In the Hebrew section, (Daniel 8 and 9-12) the narrative of conflict between kingly-cultic pride and divine sovereignty emphasizes the cultic context. In both contexts, divine judgment resolves the overriding divine-human conflict. Second, within this overall context of conflict, God's representatives experience religious and mortal threats. However, as they align themselves with God through their faithfulness in the Babylonian exile and in the extended exile depicted in the Hebrew section, they experience the positive results of God’s sovereignty, depicted through his acts of deliverance and judgment. Finally, this study concludes with Chapter 6, which consists of a summary and conclusion, limitations of the study, and recommendations for future research.
Bible. Daniel 1-2--Criticism, interpretation, etc.; Bible. Daniel 7-8--Criticism, interpretation, etc.; Bible. Daniel--Language, style; Bible. Daniel--Criticism, Narrative
Morrow, Laura K., "A Study of the Language Shifts in the Book of Daniel : A Comparative Narrative Analysis of Daniel 1 and 2, 7 and 8" (2022). Dissertations. 1768.
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