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Why the Rabbis Exiled Daniel (...to the Ketuvim)

by Paul Sumner

In Jewish Bibles, the book of Daniel is found in the Ketuvim or "Writings" portion. This is the last, least-authoritative portion.

By the time of Yeshua, the Hebrew Scriptures had been divided into three sections: Torah, Prophets, and Writings. Yeshua alluded to this order when he spoke of "all things written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms" (Luke 24:44).

These three sections made up the Tanakh, an acronym created by Medieval rabbis from the three Hebrew letters T (Torah), N (Nevi'im, Prophets), K (Ketuvim, Writings).

In Christian Bibles, Daniel is grouped among the "Prophets," after the book of Ezekiel. This location and organization follows the four book groupings in the Septuagint (or LXX), the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible done by Jewish scholars in Egypt: Law, History, Prophets, Poetry.

Why isn't Daniel among the Prophets of Israel in Jewish Bibles?

The major explanation given by Jewish tradition is that Daniel is never called a "prophet" (Hebrew, navi), nor are his visions called "prophecy" [Babylonian Talmud: Megillah 3a; Bava Batra 14b].

BT Sanhedrin 93b–94a argues that Daniel was greater than prophets such as Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi because he "saw the vision" of a heavenly priest, which they did not [Dan 10:7]. Yet the rabbinic text explicitly says Daniel "was not" [a prophet].

However, Daniel 9:24 reads:

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to close up the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to atone for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy thing [or most holy place; qodesh qadashim]. (Isaac Leeser translation)

The words "vision and prophecy" are hazon ve-navi, literally "vision and prophet." In context, the navi is Daniel himself.

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Are all prophets "prophets"?
The rabbis rejected Daniel as a prophet because he is not (according to them) explicitly called a prophet. But this criterion for his exclusion was not universally applied, for many of the prophets in the "Prophets" portion are never called navi either by themselves or by God himself.

The prophets who are named navi:

        Isaiah (37:2; 38:1; 39:3)
        Jeremiah (1:5; another 24x; Daniel 9:2 refers to "Jeremiah the prophet")
        Ezekiel (2:5; 33:33 only implied)
        Habakkuk (1:1; 3:1)
        Haggai (1:1, 3, 12; 2:1, 10)
        Zechariah (1:1, 7).

There are nine prophets not named a navi in the Bible:

       Hosea
       Joel
       Obadiah
       Jonah
       Micah
       Nahum
       Zephaniah
       Malachi
       Amos

Amos emphatically says: "No prophet am I, nor a prophet's son am I" [lo navi anokhi velo ben navi anokhi]. Rather, he says, he is a "herdsman and a gatherer of figs [or, grower of sycamore figs]" (Amos 7:14).

Yet the works of these nine not-named prophets are found in the Prophets section called "The Twelve (or Minor) Prophets" in Jewish Bibles. Why not Daniel?

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Prior to the publication of the Palestinian Talmud (400 CE) and Babylonian Talmud (500 CE), Daniel is called a prophet by these Jewish sources:

Dead Sea Scrolls
"This is the time of which it is written in the book of Daniel, the prophet." (4Q174 II.4; "Midrash on the Last Days" or "Florilegium")

New Testament (Yeshua)
"Therefore when you see the Abomination of Desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet [Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11], standing in the holy place . . . then let those who are in Judah flee to the mountains..." (Matthew 24:15-16)

Josephus
"Darius . . . took Daniel the prophet, and carried him with him into Media, and honored him very greatly, and kept him with him." (Antiquities 10.11.4 [249])
      "Daniel . . . was so happy as to have strange revelations made to him, and those as to one of the greatest of the prophets. . . Daniel was to them a prophet of good things." (Antiquities 10:11.7 [266, 268])

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If these Jewish authorities—before and during the first century—proclaimed Daniel to be a prophet, why did later rabbis remove him from that category? I believe there are two reasons:

(1) — Daniel's vision in chapter 7 depicts a human being (Aramaic, bar enash) who is brought into the throneroom of God, "the Ancient of Days," and given authority to co-rule with him (vv. 9-14). The imagery of inauguration of this Second Authority is used by Yeshua and his Jewish disciples to depict his own enthronement at God's right hand as Messiah, Lord, and King.

Matt 19:28; 24:27,30; 25:31; 26:64; 28:18; Mark 2:10; 8:38; John 5:22; Acts 7:55-56; Rev 1:14; 7:10; 11:15; 12:10

Rabbinic literature, as early as the Mishnah, contains several condemnations of the doctrine of "Two Powers", a teaching ascribed to the "Minim" or "believers" — a term often used by Yeshua's Jewish disciples for themselves. This doctrine seemed to undermine the emerging Jewish unitarian monotheism of that era. Official opposition to the heresy eventually led Jewish spiritual leaders to deny the very Scriptural, prophetic revelation that was to truly set them apart as channels of Messianic, world redemption.

Mishnah: Sanhedrin 4:5; Babylonian Talmud: Sanhedrin 38a; b. Megillah 25a; Others: Sifre on Deut. 379; Midrash Rabbah Gen. 1:7; Midr. Rab. Deut. 2:33; Pesiqta Rabbati 20, 4; 3 Enoch 16:1-5.

See Alan Segal, Two Powers in Heaven (Early Rabbinic Reports About Christianity and Gnosticism) (Leiden: Brill, 1977); R. Travers Herford, Christianity in Talmud and Midrash (orig. 1093; reprint: Philadelphia: Ktav Pub., 1975).

(2) — Daniel predicts that "an anointed one, a prince" [mashiach nagid] would come to Jerusalem in "sixty two weeks." According to some Qumran scholars, Jewish priests using the book of Daniel and the Book of Jubilees (in the Pseudepigrapha), calculated that the time window of this mashiach's arrival would be between 10 BCE and 2 CE. [See the study Messianic Texts at Qumran.]

Inquiring Jews, having a modicum of scriptural knowledge and historical awareness, would naturally confront their elders with the charge that they "missed" the coming of Mashiach and must be held accountable for not accepting him.

Generations of later rabbis had two choices: either confess the great sin of their first century elders (and their own) or engage in coverup of the biblical and historical evidence.

One way to quell interest in prophetic matters was to refocus and redefine what it meant to be Jewish. Maimonides (1135-1204) warned Jews of his generation not to obsess on prophecy and the times of the Messiah.

"A person should not occupy himself with...these and similar matters, nor should he consider them as essentials, for [study of] them will neither bring fear nor love [of God]. Similary, one should not try to determine the appointed time [for the Messiah's coming]. ... Rather, one should await and believe in the general conception of the matter."
[Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim Umilchamotheihem 12, 2; emphasis added]

To add authority to his admonition, he quoted the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 97b: "All the predestined dates [for redemption] have passed, and the matter [now] depends only on repentance and good deeds."

For these two reasons, I believe the spiritual leaders of Israel had to move Daniel out of the limelight to protect themselves from the charge of collusion against divine revelation and to protect the people of Israel from "the Minim," the Jewish followers of Yeshua.

So the rabbis exiled Daniel back into the third, last, and least authoritative portion of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Ketuvim.

[See the Three divisions of the Tanakh.]

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Paul Sumner


Notes

The order of books in the "Writings" or "Ketuvim" portion of modern Jewish Bible is: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 & 2 Chronicles.

Discussion by the rabbis of the Son of Man in Daniel 7 can still be found in portions of the Talmud and later literature:

• b. Sanhedrin 96b-97a, 98a
• Targum on 1 Chronicles 3:24
• 4 Ezra 13:1-9, 25-26, 35-36 [found in the Pseudepigrapha collection]

Some Sources
• Roger Beckwith:
— "The Significance of the Calendar for Interpreting Essene Chronology and Eschatology, in the journal Revue de Qumran, vol. 10 (no. 38, 1980): 179-80.

— "Daniel 9 and the Date of Messiah's Coming in Essene, Hellenistic, Pharisaic, Zealot and Early Christian Computation," Revue de Qumran 10 (1981): 523-25.

• Maimonides:
Mishneh Torah, tractate "Hilchot Melachim Umilchamotheihem" (trans. Eliyahu Touger; New York/Jerusalem: Maznaim Publishing, 1987).

• Raphael Patai:
The Messiah Texts (New York: Avon Books, 1979), 81-83. This is based on a study by Moritz Zobel, Gottes Gesalbter, Der Messiahs und die Messianische Zeit in Talmud und Midrash (1938).

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