Why is Daniel not among the Prophets in The Books of the Bible?

Q. I have two questions. Our group has read all The Books of the Bible series that are available to date and we are just finishing The Prophets. Why is Daniel not in the Prophets book and instead is slated for the Writings?

Second, Ezekiel is constantly referred to as “Son of Man.” Since this is a reference often used for Jesus, why is it that Ezekiel seems to singled out for same designation?

We have found The Books of the Bible to be an incredible read and one that I feel everyone should experience. Your blog is also a great source for thoughtful answers.

I’ll get to your questions in just a moment.  But first, let me thank you very much for your appreciative words! I’m glad your group is having such a great experience engaging the Scriptures in The Books of the Bible format. We’ve heard the same thing from countless others–when the Bible is presented in a way that allows readers to recognize and engage its fascinating variety of literary forms, it indeed becomes “an incredible read.”

You’ve probably noticed that in my posts I often refer to the Understanding the Books of the Bible study guides.  These were actually designed to accompany the new format and provide a “next step” for people who “read big” through large portions of Scripture using The Books of the Bible.  After you “read big,” the next thing is to “go deep” by returning to one or more of the books in that part of the Bible to study in more detail.

For example, after you’ve “read big” through The Books of the Bible New Testament, you can “go deep” by using the study guides to John or to Paul’s Journey Letters.  After reading through the Covenant History (Genesis-Kings), you can look at some of its material in more detail with the help of the Genesis or Joshua-Judges-Ruth study guides. Once you’ve read The Prophets, you can study Isaiah or the Minor Prophets Before the Exile.  Ideally a rhythm of reading and studying, of “reading big” and “going deep,” will help a group become deeply steeped in the Scriptures over the years and steadily transformed by the power of God’s word.  So if you’re enjoying the discussions here on this blog, I hope you might find the study guides just as helpful in understanding the Bible, but in an even more systematic way, and using the new edition you’re enjoying so much.

But now let me get to your questions.  I’ll answer the one about Daniel and The Prophets in this post, and the one about Ezekiel in my next post.

As I describe here, I was a member of the team that created The Books of the Bible. We put the biblical books in a non-traditional order because we realized that the customary order can actually hinder readers’ understanding in many cases.  As we explain in the Preface to The Books of the Bible (found in Biblica editions but unfortunately not in Zondervan ones), Paul’s letters “are badly out of historical order, and this makes it difficult to read them with an appreciation for where they fit in the span of his life or for how they express the development of his thought. . . . James has strong affinities with other biblical books in the wisdom tradition. But it has been placed within a group of letters, suggesting that it too should be read as a letter.”

Placing Daniel among the prophets is another way in which the traditional order leads us to have the wrong expectations about a book.  Daniel is actually unlike the prophetic books, which consist largely of poetic oracles.  Instead it’s made up of six stories of Judeans in exile, similar to the book of Esther, followed by a series of visions that have many characteristics of apocalyptic literature, like the book of Revelation.

In the Hebrew Bible, Daniel is not placed among the Prophets, but among the Writings.  It was moved to the prophets in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament), whose book order our English Bibles largely follow.  We felt that the the distinctive kind of literature represented in the book of Daniel could be best recognized if that book were once again placed among the Writings, which we grouped according to literary type in The Books of the Bible.  (For a broader discussion of the distorting effects of the traditional book order in the Bible, see pp. 67-75 in my book After Chapters and Verses.)

I hope this explanation is helpful, and thanks again for your encouragement!

The Books of the Bible: The Prophets from Zondervan

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is an an ordained minister, a writer, and a biblical scholar. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the New International Version (NIV) that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He was also a consultant to Tyndale House for the Immerse Bible, an edition of the New Living Translation (NLT) that similarly presents the Scriptures in their natural literary forms, without chapters and verses or section headings. He has a B.A. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

2 thoughts on “Why is Daniel not among the Prophets in The Books of the Bible?”

  1. In the Jewish Bible, what we call the Old Testament, Daniel is listed in the writings rather than with the prophets. I have researched why this was done. From what I gather it came about because early Jewish Christians used it as one of the books that foretold Jesus. The orthodox Jewish religion moved it to combat the spread of Christianity within the Jewish community. I am not sure if that idea is an accurate interpretation of why it was moved in the early part of the common era. When I read things like that, I am usually looking for some type of source. I very seldom find those any longer on the internet for most things that I read now. I was wondering if you know of any source for that idea?

    1. The claims you have read are not accurate. In the Hebrew Bible, Daniel has always been part of the Writings. It was never part of the Prophets. Its placement was established many centuries before Christianity. So it was not moved out of the Prophets to keep it from being used by Christians as evidence for Jesus being the Messiah. These are the simple facts, established through the many historical accounts we have of the contents and groupings of the books in the Hebrew Bible. As for sources, any good published introduction to the Old Testament will confirm this, for example, Walter Brueggemann, An Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 5. A more specialized study is Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church and Its Background in Early Judaism. You do well to ask about this, as the Internet can provide as much misinformation as reliable information.

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