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.
unreasonable to suppose, therefore, that Dan 7 also originated in Babylonia or was written in Israel by a Babylonian Jew. Dan 1,4 posits that youths like Daniel were taught the learning and tongue of the Chaldeans, although admittedly it refers to a period earlier than the likely time of writing of the vision of Dan 7. Learning would have included acquiring knowledge of the great Babylonian traditions, of which the Enuma Elish was one. It is known that the New Year’s Festival, where the Enuma Elish was recited, continued until the third century or later i.e. into the Hellenistic period40. Many scholars have objected that Daniel was a pious Jew and it is therefore unthinkable that he would have drawn material from a foreign cult. I am in agreement with this insight which appears to contradict my claim that the mythic pattern of Daniel’s vision is similar to that of the Enuma Elish. How can both be right? I would like to suggest the following hypothesis: an educated Jew who lived in Babylon for any length of time would undoubtedly have become familiar with the outline of the Enuma Elish. Aware of allusions in Biblical passages to YHWH killing chaos monsters (but passages which are too brief to have been the prototype for Daniel’s vision), it might have been supposed that a full version of the Biblical chaos tradition would have been similar in outline to the Enuma Elish, albeit without its polytheistic elements. In this way the author of Daniel could have constructed his vision, utilising imagery from the Bible41, some of which ultimately derived from Canaan, within the framework of a mythic pattern from Babylon: a mythic pattern, describing the overcoming of the forces of chaos and the ensuing kingship of the champion of the gods, transformed to accord with the religious beliefs and political history of Israel from the time of the Exile onwards.