Daniel with an Introduction to Apocalyptic Literature

Written by John J. Collins Reviewed By David W. Baker

This series seeks to provide a form-critical study rather than a philological, historical or theological commentary. This volume fulfils its aim well, although one might question whether the fruit of form-criticism justifies a complete series. Since the method tries to determine literary genre, setting and intention on the basis of a work’s structure by differentiating the typical from the unique, this volume could be justified as a separate entity since it deals with the main OT example of the apocalyptic genre. One wonders how separate volumes on 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings will be justified if the typical rather than the specific is of primary interest.

The first portion of the book introduces apocalyptic as a genre and compares and contrasts subgenres such as ‘other-worldly journeys’ (e.g. 2 Enoch and the Testament of Abraham) and histories (e.g. Daniel and Jubilees). Each of these has its own subgenres and forms of revelation. One found relevant here is ex eventuprophecy, ‘the prediction of events which have already taken place’ (p. 11), in other words a pseudo-prophecy. This form is found in Ancient Near Eastern literature, but the arguments for its existence in the Bible must be carefully weighed, not least in the light of one’s position regarding inspiration. Is this the only acceptable type of prophecy because there cannot be any predictive prophecy in a strictly secular-scientific world, or does one have a view of God such that predictive prophecy is possible, but still consider that this particular genre was chosen from among several possible prophetic genres? Collins appears to adopt the latter approach.

The body of the book looks firstly at Daniel as a whole. It is dated in the Maccabean period and arises from the union of originally independent tales and visions. Individual units are then studied. Each smaller section has an outline and a discussion of its genre, setting and intention, with an occasional bibliography. The book closes with a useful sixteen-page glossary defining form-critical terms and giving a brief discussion of the various genres referred to in the course of the book, this often being a verbatim repetition of statements made in the book’s body.

The bibliographies located in various places in the book include works as recent as 1984 and are quite comprehensive. Critical works are the rule, though conservative material is not completely lacking. Readers of this journal will miss reference to the articles in Themelios 2.2 (1977) and 3.2 (1978) and those in D. J. Wiseman (ed.), Notes on Some Problems in the Book of Daniel (Tyndale, 1965). The use of the bibliographies is a bit difficult. Reference is usually made to works listed at the start of major sections or the end of a sub-section, but this is not consistent.

Collins’ book will be of interest to Themelios readers as presenting the current state of study in this particular area. It accepts without discussion such things as pseudonymity and ex eventu prophecy, ideas which need much more careful study by evangelicals (see J. Baldwin in Themelios 4.1, 1979), as does the ultimate goal and use of the form-critical endeavour itself. Does classification suffice, or does one still need a fully-fledged exegetical and theological discussion in order to see the riches of a book?

David W. Baker

Ashland Theological Seminary