Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Daniel 7:13 OG

Daniel 7:13 in the Old Greek reads ως παλαιος ημερων παρην usually rendered 'like an ancient of days was present', which seems an unusual rendering of the Aramaic עד עתיק יומיא מטה 'unto the ancient of days arrived'. I reflected today that the Greek could be explained as a literal rendering of the Aramaic (with some misunderstanding) if it were allowed that the translator understood the word עד as meaning 'while', a sense that ως can easily bear. עד can mean 'while' in Syriac and CAL also mentions 'Palestinian Aramaic'. Learned colleagues, please inform me whether this proposal is likely.


  1. From the study done on this passage, it seems like this being a rendering of that text to be the most unlikely option. L. Stuckenbruck thinks it is a result of theological motivation to equate the SoM and Ancient of Days together. Adela Collins and Sharon Jeansonne think it is a result of one initial scribal error followed by several hyper correction (this is the solution that Munnich/Ziegler chooses in the Göttingen critical edition). U. Luz thinks the vorlage of the OG is different. I'm most sympathetic to Luz's argument, and Stuckenbruck's as well. I don't think the scribal error theory works well.
    The differences between the OG and the MT in ch.7 are more substantial than just this particular line you cited.
    I am presenting a paper at SBL on the distinctives of OG Daniel 7:13-14 and its influence on Matthew. Although the thrust of my paper is on the reception in Matt, I do deal with the text of the OG. The long and the short- Matthew knew the OG version of Daniel and made use of it and it is highly unlikely that a Greek translator would have translated the Aramaic of 7:13 the way it is now.

    As an aside, I haven't had a chance to develop the idea yet, but I think the OG of Dan may be preserving the eariest version of Dan 7- but I don't want to wade too far into that without doing my study of it.
    If your interested in reading my paper, I'd appreciate any feedback I can get.


  2. Dear Pete,

    accordign to the HAL,
    'ad is sometimes explicitly used
    in the sense of "while" in Dan 6:8.13; cf. also
    Dan 4:5.
    The same applies to inscriptions, according to Beyer, ATTM.

  3. Danny, Thanks for yours. By way of response I'd say that we should always prefer simpler solutions rather than more complicated ones. Simply to say that the Vorlage of the OG was different is to postulate a further entity and explain nothing (you still have to explain how two different Aramaic texts came into existence). Can you give the reference to Luz? As you present it Luz's view is not an 'argument' but an opinion.

    Of course the view that the OG could be derived from MT is in no way incompatible with the view that there is theological motivation behind the interpretation (Stuckenbruck).

    You said: 'The differences between the OG and the MT in ch.7 are more substantial than just this particular line you cited.'

    It is also possible that the OG was made before literal translation had even been invented or spread as a technique (cf. Barr, Typology of Literalism, 1979), i.e. at a time when a technique for consistently making one word or element in the original correspond to one word in the translation simply was not common and when translators did not consistently 'segment' (Barr's word) their translations as they translated them. If so, our inability to match the segments of a translation with an extant Vorlage would not necessarily mean that one was not made from the other.

    How many places in Daniel 7 can you show me that the OG definitely diverges in Vorlage from MT? I doubt whether there are many issues that cannot be explained by appeal to translation. The question then becomes how we decide between the competing explanations of variant Vorlage or translation technique.

  4. Martin, thanks for these references. The Daniel ones aren't quite parallel to 7:13.

  5. 'ad also means "while", as far as I can see, in Jonah 4.2.

  6. Pete,
    The simplest answer may not lie in the translation from Aramaic to Greek but in the copying of the OG text. In his 1927 commentary on Daniel, Montgomery suggested that a scribe mistakenly wrote hws instead of hews.

  7. Ben, I like the simplicity of this, but the construction is rather awkward. If εως were governing the following noun we would expect the noun to be in the genitive, but it also doesn't seem likely that it governs the verb.

  8. As far as I have been able to determine Daniel OG uses WS to translate two words, by far the most common is k but see Daniel OG 2:41,43 where KAI WS is used to translate wdy. It does not take a lot of imagiantion to see how wdy might be corrupted to w(d in Dn 7:13b or vise versa.

  9. Luz= Johan Lust, “Daniel 7:13 and the Septuagint,” ETL 54 (1978), 271

    I'll admit I'm an amature at this up front, but I do think a case can be made that there were sterotypical translations of Hebrew words into Greek. It wasn't always 100%, but significant percentages can help us understand Greek stereotypes. Using the MT/LXX parallel database, meta is by far the stereotypical translation of 'im - making epi an unlikely (but not impossible!) choice for the translator.

    The end of the verse also is telling (I'm giving away too much of my paper :) "attendants were present with him" - or as I have translated it in my paper "attendants were at his disposal". Again, these changes in the critical edition has been attributed to one initial scribal error (dropping of the epsilon from ews) and several hyper-corrections.

    I agree that my proposal may seem a little more difficult and sometimes the simpler answer is best, but in my opinion the simple answer just doesn't make sense. I recognize positing another semitic vorlage may be difficult, but we have ample evidence that this is the case with other texts (Jeremiah being our best example) so this is not a far off suggestion. I sometimes wonder if there is a bias running the back of our mind that the Hebrew always receives priority and is earliest. Even heavyweights like Tov thinks the LXX often preserves the original reading (see Tov, Emanuel. "The Status of the Masoretic text in Modern text editions of the Hebrew Bible: the relevance of canon." Pages 234-51 in The Canon Debate. Edited by Lee Martin McDonald, and James A. Sanders. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2002.)

    Let me just delve a little into my theory (though I have not worked it out fully on paper). I think sometimes we have a bias against readings that sound too "Christian". Because Jesus is the SoM in the gospels, we are disincline to see the OG equating the SoM with the Ancient One. I think what is more likely is that the OG is using an anthropomorphism to describe God. 7:13 is very similar to 7:9, and I think in the OG it is repetition. You will also notice if you read on at 7:18 that it is alot harder to equate the sons of the most high with the SoM (as is the common interp of the SoM). The SoM in OG 7:14 attributes authority- not dominion and kingship, so the parallels are lessened between v.14 and v.18.
    Here is the clincher for me- we seem to want to protect the MT reading of this text when in the scope of things the OG is alot more "orthdox" and primitive in my mind. If we look at the throne visions (esp Ezek's) anthropomorphism is much more common. MT having a separate entity in the SoM is the innovation- one that continues through in the Similitudes. Whether you want to accept the OG as a separate vorlage or a translation (corrupted) from the semitic text now represented by the MT, the OG represents a more 'orthodox' throne vision.

    I'd love to hear any opinions on this. As I said, it is a work in progress (and only in my mind at this point).

  10. RE: my previous comment

    Some of you might object that a syntactical difficulty is introduced by reading KAI WS as a translation of wdy; how can Dan 7:13b be construed as a final clause? But is this really an insurmountable problem?

    I will leave that to the Semitic language gurus.

  11. Danny,
    You said 'the simple answer just doesn't make sense'. If by this you mean it doesn't make sense of the Greek that's fine by me. I don't always think the Greek makes sense any more than I think that the English renditions of the Greek proses I give my students in exams always make sense. They try to make the most sense they can, while still keeping some correspondence with the way they understand the Greek words. Why should the translator of the OG of Daniel not be doing the same? We may sympathise since the Vorlage could be linguistically challenging.

    Jeremiah hardly presents 'ample' evidence of variant Hebrew texts, since most of the evidence is reconstructed from translations. 1 Samuel would be a clearer case. However, the existence of variant forms of the text for some books does not establish the likelihood of such for all books. For instance, there is relatively little evidence for variant forms of the Minor Prophets. I'd want to see more evidence of variation in the Semitic texts of Daniel.

    Now I tend to think of the variant Vorlage hypothesis as being, in this case, a bit like saying the world is standing on the back of a turtle that stands on the back of another turtle, etc.

    You push the problem of the difference between OG and MT one stage further back, but still do not explain the variant forms of the text.

    For instance you say:

    'Using the MT/LXX parallel database, meta is by far the stereotypical translation of 'im - making epi an unlikely (but not impossible!) choice for the translator.'

    But although you don't want to admit that x can become y across languages you are happy for x to become y within a language. You postulate an additional entity and still have the same sort of change to explain.

    If I were you I'd ignore all the consistently literal and kaige type material in the 'LXX' and focus your searches on material that is not necessarily from the later strands of the 'LXX'. You should also note that regular correspondence can derive from structural parallel, with no deliberate attempt to establish regular correspondence or from the attempt to establish regular correspondence. 'im often occurs in contexts where the phrase as a whole is going to motivate the translator to us μετα. However, what should we conclude in cases where the context provides no such motivation to the translator?

    I also think that it is unnecessary to suppose that any translator decided to translate 'im by επι. Rather, the translator simply never fully segmented the whole phrase about the figure coming and the clouds.

    The translator did not necessarily stop to think what the preposition 'im meant on its own, though it obviously would not have corresponded simply with Greek μετα, but rather translated the picture of the whole phrase, which clearly did not envisage anyone hanging under the clouds or level 'with' them and swamped by them. Obviously the vision was that the figure was 'on' the clouds just as the rkb 'rpt ('rider of the clouds?') was in Ugaritic days. Looked at this way, επι is the most natural preposition to use when rendering the whole phrase. μετα would take special care or pedantry to suggest itself.

    That's why I still think of OG as a rendition of MT.

  12. If it was so obvious that the rider was on the clouds, then why doesn't the Aramaic just use al?

    Looking at the stereotypical translation of 'im in just OG-Dan, meta is still the regular choice.

    I am enjoying this conversation, I think it will help me not get slapped around as much at the SBL meeting when I present :) I am going to email you my paper and perhaps we can continue the dialogue there.

  13. Dear Danny,
    Thanks for yours. It's always difficult to answer the type of question that begins 'Why did the author not use X ...?' One might conjecture that 'im makes sure that the image one projects is not of clouds preceding the figure on the clouds. I'm still not sure that there is any plausible position for the figure other than 'on' them (feet might be allowed to sink into the clouds somewhat!).

    Of course 'al is generally rendered by επι, but this cannot be taken to mean that επι must be derived from 'al, e.g. Daniel 1:1; 7:5.

    Moreover, the Aramaic preposition 'im is found in many ways in which we would not use 'with', e.g. 'with the night' (7:2). Part of the problem arises when we first learn Aramaic or Hebrew and we learn that 'im means 'with'. We have also learned that Greek μετα with genitive means 'with'. We therefore wrongly conclude that the Aramaic preposition and the Greek one were equated in antiquity. This is a problem I've written about with reference to modern attitudes to words we think of as meaning 'answer' in Greek and Aramaic. The only way, however, you can establish that words were thought of as equivalents in antiquity is by a translation technique study over a wide corpus (preferably wider than Biblical Aramaic).