2014.3.5 | Jordan M. Scheetz. The Concept of Canonical Intertextuality and the Book of Daniel. Eugene, Oreg.: Pickwick, 2011. ix + 174 pp. ISBN: 9781608995165.
Review by Amanda Davis Bledsoe, University of Munich.
Many thanks to Wipf and Stock for providing a review copy.
In this book, Scheetz constructs “the concept of canonical intertextuality,” using the book of Daniel as a case study. He identifies this methodology as using a particular collection of texts that have been intentionally placed together (i.e., canon) and ordered so that, when read intertextually, the “texts exegete one another through their order and overall placement together, giving a big picture that would not have been possible if textual units had been left by themselves” (p. 34). More specifically, the goal of this concept of canonical intertextuality is “to understand the actual composition of the text of scripture that is at the same time a text and many texts” (p. 31).
In the opening chapter of his book, Scheetz explores the theories of intertextuality, canon criticism, intratextuality, and kanonisch-intertextuelle Lektüre, specifically focusing on the contributions of Julia Kristeva, Michael Fishbane, James Sanders, Brevard Childs, George Lindbeck, and Georg Steins. He envisions his own concept of canonical intertextuality as building upon these previous theories to construct a more nuanced way of reading biblical texts that specifically takes into account their individual textual developments and resulting placement within the canon.
The following chapters of Scheetz’s book use the Masoretic book of Daniel as a test case to inductively demonstrate his concept of canonical intertextuality. The first of these chapters (ch. 2), discusses the interpretation of the book of Daniel. Scheetz places previous scholarly proposals into three categories, divided primarily by the accepted date of the book. The first group locates the composition of the book in the Babylonian and Persian periods and views it as describing historical events and persons from these periods. In contrast, the second group locates the composition of the book in the Maccabean period and understands it as a largely fictional work. The third group, then, takes the middle ground, viewing the book as spanning both periods; it contains historical texts but not reference to historical events. Whereas the first two approaches are particularly diachronic, only the third perspective is synchronic.
Chapters 3 and 4 comprise by far the largest portion of the book and here Scheetz investigates the concept of canonical intertextuality in each of the two halves of the book of Daniel: the court narratives of chs. 1–6 (ch. 3) and the visions of chs. 7–12 (ch. 4). He begins by identifying a series of diachronic indicators (the regnal years of the kings—1:1; 2:1; 6:1; 7:1; 8:1; 9:1; 10:1), which literarily divide the book into smaller scenes. Although Dan 3–5 lacks these markers, they are also treated as separate units. In looking at the individual scenes in the first half of the book, Scheetz observes that each of these chapters employs the same phrases, descriptions, and narrative patterns. These, however, appear in different contexts with each successive use adding an additional layer to the interpretation and understanding of these phrases. Scheetz, then, takes this to indicate that the arrangement of these units is not merely chronological, but is also thematically driven. He further notes that each of these units present the same overall message: to illustrate that Daniel and his companions distinguished themselves in the courts of the gentile kings by their devotion to God and by “Daniel’s superior abilities in relation to interpreting dreams and visions” (83).
These scenes are then combined with Dan 7–12 to form “a larger eschatological matrix” (128), in which Daniel’s abilities are expanded through the introduction of a series of visions. Just as the chapters of the first half built on one another, Scheetz proposes that the successive visions each provide further layers of interpretation, creating one large eschatological picture “that would not have been possible with any single scene by itself” (127). This picture was already introduced in the first half of the book through the four-kingdom schema of Dan 2, where Nebuchadnezzar was identified as the beginning historical referent of this structure. Dan 7, then, reintroduces this four-kingdom structure, greatly expanding the description of the fourth kingdom. Dan 8, while only including two competing forces, serves in the larger schema to elaborate the transition between the third and fourth kingdoms and identify the remaining kingdoms as Media, Persia, and Greece. Dan 9 extends the period of time from the third to the fourth kingdoms (70 years becomes 70 weeks of years), and, finally, the book concludes by offering additional details on the fourth kingdom and its end (Dan 10–12).
From reading each chapter consecutively, Scheetz claims that a greater understanding of the book of Daniel emerges. The textual inconsistencies (particularly in reference to dates) should no longer be viewed as so significant. Rather it seems that the editor of the book has intentionally left the earlier scenes intact, satisfied to reframe them through additional material instead of replacing or altering them to create what modern scholars would consider a seamless text.
In the fifth chapter, Scheetz explores the relation of Daniel to the other parts of the Hebrew Bible. He does this primarily through the Danielic references to “the Law of his God” (6:6) and “the Law of Moses” (9:11, 13), and “your/his servants the prophets” (9:6, 10) and “Jeremiah the prophet” (9:2), which he relates to the tripartite canon and especially to the book of Deuteronomy. He then turns to a discussion of the different placements of Daniel within the canon, either as belonging to the prophets (Mt 24:15; 4Q174; probably also Josephus) or the writings (Baba Batra 14b). He concludes that the interaction of Daniel with other books in the canon creates plural (but not infinite) interpretations. This plurality is particularly evident from the two possible locations of Daniel and is a result of an interpretive tension present already within the book itself (the division of chs. 1–6 and 7–12).
In the final chapter, Scheetz discusses several quotations of the book of Daniel in the New Testament. Nearly all of these are found among the gospels and the most popular is the son of man passage from Dan 7. Scheetz notes that although the same verses are being quoted, each text presents these verses with slight variations (e.g., does the son of man come with, on, or in the clouds?). He views this as evidence that the New Testament, then, exhibits a continuing trend in interpretation, where the visions of Daniel are given additional layers of meaning by being placed into a new context.
Overall, I find this book to present a refreshing take on the book of Daniel. Too often the two halves of the book are treated separately, and there is little discussion on how they came together or an attempt to read the work as a whole.
There are, however, a couple of concerns. First, Scheetz offers no reason as to why he chose the Masoretic text of Daniel for his case study. What is it about Masoretic Daniel that made it particularly suited to exploring the concept of canonical intertextuality? Further, by accepting the Masoretic text of Daniel, Scheetz is therefore excluding the various Greek versions of Daniel. This becomes especially significant since the Greek versions of Daniel (particularly the Old Greek) markedly differ from the Masoretic text in both content and arrangement. Therefore, according to Scheetz’s methodology, these alternate editions would likely have yielded a different concluding picture. I find this to be particularly problematic when dealing with the relation of Daniel to the New Testament, since in some instances the NT authors may have been working with one of these alternate editions and could therefore have had a different understanding of the book of Daniel.
Second, does this endeavor of canonical intertextuality reflect a modern “reader-oriented” perspective or an ancient one? In using the Masoretic text of Daniel, Scheetz also accepts the modern chapter divisions, which were not necessarily the same as those in antiquity. I think especially of Dan 3:31–33, which now forms the end of ch. 3 but could perhaps more logically have first formed the beginning of ch. 4 (continuation of first person speech by Nebuchadnezzar). Does the decision on the placement of these verses affect the understanding of these two chapters in relation to the larger book?
Finally, I think this book would have greatly benefited from a concluding chapter that returned to questions of methodology, particularly in light of the completed study on Daniel. Although the opening chapter was helpful in providing the background for his work, Scheetz’s presentation of the previous theories greatly eclipses his own conclusions—he spends less than three pages discussing his idea of canonical intertextuality, primarily in terms of what it is not. Thus, a more detailed final discussion where the concept of canonical intertextuality is more clearly defined would be advantageous, particularly for others who would like to explore this methodology in their own studies.
Amanda M. Davis Bledsoe
Amanda.Bledsoe [ at ] evtheol.uni-muenchen.de