A.E. Gardner, «Daniel 7,2-14: Another Look at its Mythic Pattern», Vol. 82 (2001) 244-252
This paper focuses upon a re-examination of the mythological background to the apocalyptic vision of Daniel 7. The popularly accepted Canaanite source is rejected as the points of correspondence are shown to be even slighter than recognised hitherto. Gunkel’s thesis of the Enuma Elish as similar to Dan 7 is revived and given further support. It is pointed out that whereas the question of access, for the author of Daniel, to the Baal mythology is problematic, the Enuma Elish was still being recited in the Hellenistic period.
The tale of Dan 7,2-14 is a strange one: in a night vision Daniel sees four terrifying beasts arise from the sea. The beasts are then described. Thrones are set and an Ancient of Days takes his place, the books are opened and the judgement begins. The fourth beast is killed and his body burnt with fire, while the rest are allowed to live for a time although their dominion is taken away. Then ‘One like a Son of Man’ comes ‘with the clouds of heaven’ and is given everlasting dominion and all peoples are to serve him. This paper aims to explore the antecedents of the mythic pattern of the vision.
Scholars have long recognised that Dan 7,2-14 has a mythological background1. Gunkel, in 1895, posited that this was the Babylonian Enuma Elish2. More recent scholarship, following the lead of Bentzen3, prefers a Canaanite background4, although an Akkadian source has also been suggested5, amongst others6.
1. Cannaanite texts
Canaanite mythological texts, hitherto discovered, while they do allude to Baal’s overcoming of Yam (sea), Nahar (river) and Mot (death or sterility) do not parallel the outline of Dan 7,2-14. In the Ugaritic myth of Baal and Yam7 the sequence of events has a different order, as Ferch8 pointed out a number of years ago. J.J. Collins who continues to support the Baal and Yam myth as the background to Dan 7,2-14 warned against an argument advanced by Ferch that the overall theme of the myth must be similar for a dependence to be