When Structures Enlighten Prophecy: Chapter 4

The linguistic structure  (p.97-121)


There are several overlapping structures in Daniel, but the most obvious (to any person reading the book in the original language) is the linguistic structure.

4.1 A book written in two languages

One can find books written in two or more languages but none like Daniel.

Two languages may be used when an author or editor wants to communicate to two language groups in their mother tongue in order to be sure to be understood. In multilingual countries, a text is often available in several “national” languages in the same brochure. In the Persian Empire, Haman made sure everybody understood his deadly decree:

“Then on the thirteenth day of the first month the royal secretaries were summoned. They wrote out in the script of each province and in the language of each people all Haman’s orders to the king’s satraps, the governors of the various provinces and the nobles of the various people. These were written in the name of King Xerxes himself and sealed with his own ring” (Est 3:12).


Commercial texts often present a similar characteristic. Instruction manuals for products sold internationally can be written in a dozen languages in the same leaflet, the instructions being repeated as often as seems necessary. Religious text can also be found in several languages when a wide audience is targeted. In Switzerland, the Gideon New Testament placed in Swiss hotel rooms is available in a version containing the text in English, German, and French.

Sometimes a small section of a text can be found in another language. This is the case in some scholarly books (more so in ancient ones) when quotations are given in the original language with no translation offered to the common reader. This is quite frustrating when one doesn’t read that language.

Finally, more rarely, some bilingual magazines publish some articles in one language (German) and others in the other (French).

In all the above-mentioned cases, we never have one story written partially in one language and partially in another. Daniel is quite unique, with the book of Ezra being similar. However in Ezra, the change of language seems to be more related to the quotation of the king’s decree.

Why does the author of Daniel start with Hebrew (1:1-2:3), then move on with Aramaic (2:4-7:28), and subsequently come back to Hebrew (8:1-12:13)?

For pages 97-121, see   PFD document: The Linguistic Structure  .