I’m facilitating an online Koine Greek reading group and we’re working through the short and apocryphal book of Bel and the Dragon. The text we’re using is the Old Greek (OG) version from Henry Barclay Swete’s 1909 edition of The Old Testament in Greek: According to the Septuagint. I will be posting the text here each week with accompanying vocabulary glosses for words that appear fewer than fifty times in the Greek New Testament. I will also try to throw in some brief commentary and illustrations.
Bel and the Dragon 1–2
1 Ἐκ προφητείας Ἁμβακοὺμ υἱοῦ Ἰησοῦ, ἐκ τῆς φυλῆς Λευί.
2 Ἄνθρωπός τις ἦν ἱερεύς, ᾧ ὄνομα Δανιήλ, υἱὸς Ἁβάλ, συμβιωτὴς τοῦ βασιλέως Βαβυλῶνος.
Translation and Commentary
1 From the prophecy of Habakkuk, a son of Joshua, from the tribe of Levi.
2 There was a man, a priest, whose name was Daniel son of Abal, a companion of the king of Babylon.
So begins what Bruce Metzger calls “one of the oldest detective stories in the world” (Metzger, 115). This narrative describes a series of fictitious adventures and misadventures of the the Daniel of the Bible. The book was probably written in the second or first century B.C. (Kreuzer, 607).
On the question of whether or not “prophecy” is definite, this is an instance of Apollonius’ Corollary. According to this rule, “When both nouns [in a genitive construction] are anarthrous, both will usually have the same force” (Wallace, 250–251). Habakkuk is definite, therefore prophecy is also most likely definite.
The Habakkuk mentioned here is most likely intended to refer to the same prophet Habakkuk of the Bible. The Bible does not provide the name of Habakkuk’s father nor does it mention his tribe. Scripture does not indicate Daniel was a priest, nor does it record the name of Daniel’s father. The only additional detail regarding Daniel’s name is that the chief of the eunuch’s gave him the name Belteshazzar (Dan 1:7). The Old Greek (OG) version does not identify the king of Babylon by name. The version of Theodotion (TH) names the king as Cyrus the Persian (Bel 1:1). Cyrus the Great reigned as king of Persia circa 559–529 B.C. (LBD, “Cyrus II”). The period of time covered in the book of Daniel runs from 605–530 BC (Merrill, 405). Habakkuk was most likely written in the late seventh to early sixth century B.C. (Longman and Dillard, 465). Therefore, Daniel and Habakkuk could have existed as contemporaries.