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The book of Daniel, as found in the Tanach consists of 12 chapters: 1 and 8-12 in Hebrew and 2-7 in Aramaic. This contains the familiar Daniel story and his four visions.

Catholic and Orthodox (but not most Protestant) Christianity also include three additions to the book found only in Greek in the text of the Septuagint. These contain the The Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Holy Children, the Story of Susanna and the Elders, and the story of Bel and the Dragon.

My question is: How are these 'extra' parts understood by Rabbis and Jewish tradition? Are they scripture?, later additions?, of value?, not of value?

I do not know if their presence in the Septuagint indicates that those verses would have been used by Judaism at some point. Does Judaism dismiss such texts or are they accorded a different amount of respect?

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    I re-worked your question pretty extensively to add specifics of what you are asking. I hope I maintained your intent. If you disagree you can edit further or roll-back my changes.
    – Mike
    Commented Oct 4, 2015 at 5:10
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    Rabbi Leiman has a great mp3 on yutorah on the Apocrypha. Apparently [Saint Jerome] asked the Jews why the story of Susana wasn't in their canon; the Jews replied that it involves Jewish capital punishment without Jewish self-rule, which didn't happen.
    – Shalom
    Commented Oct 4, 2015 at 13:37
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    @Jacob after Mike's edit we've reopened this question. Commented Oct 4, 2015 at 17:18
  • Thanks @Mike you have been able to add the more specific pieces of information that I was not aware of. (I know LXX/Greek translation had extra passages, I did not know the exact names of them.)
    – Jay
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 10:27
  • The bottom line is that most Jews have never even heard of these stories. The Susannah story does not follow any principles of Jewish court process as laid out in the Talmud. It seems to be some sort of legend that Christians added because it makes the Jews as a whole (except for Daniel) look bad.
    – N.T.
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 21:56

2 Answers 2

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Some of the Church Fathers bore witness in their writings to the Jewish view of Susanna. These Church Fathers lived in the early to mid Amoraic period and personally knew some of the sages and often came to them with questions about scripture and Judaism in general.

Origen wrote in his Letter to Africanus:

"...And I make it my endeavour not to be ignorant of their [the Jews'] various readings, lest in my controversies with the Jews I should quote to them what is not found in their copies, and that I may make some use of what is found there, even although it should not be in our Scriptures. For if we are so prepared for them in our discussions, they will not, as is their manner, scornfully laugh at Gentile believers for their ignorance of the true reading as they have them. So far as to the History of Susanna not being found in the Hebrew [the Jewish scriptures]...Moreover, I remember hearing from a learned Hebrew, said among themselves to be the son of a wise man, and to have been specially trained to succeed his father, with whom I had intercourse on many subjects, the names of these elders, just as if he did not reject the History of Susanna, as they occur in Jeremias as follows: The Lord make you like Zedekias and Achiab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire, for the iniquity they did in Israel...And I knew another Hebrew, who told about these elders such traditions as the following: that they pretended to the Jews in captivity..."

We find that Jews in the time of Origen were familiar with the story of Susanna, and some even had a tradition that the two judges in the story were actually Tzidkiyahu ben Ma'asiyahu and Achav ben Koliyah (Yirmiyahu 29:21). Ever-zealous to the Christian faith, Origen then proceeds to invent a reason as to why that story isn't included in Daniel. According to him, the Jewish sages removed it in order to not smear the names of the Jewish elders.

However, another Church Father, Jerome, in his commentary on Yirmiyahu, gave the real reason as he heard it from the sages of his time (emphasis mine):

"The Hebrews say that these men who "committed foolishness in Israel" and "committed adultery with the wives of their fellow citizens" are the elders to whom Daniel spoke...But what is said in the present passage, "whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire," appears to contradict the historia of Daniel, which asserts that the elders were stoned to death by the people as a result of Daniel's judgement, whereas here it is written that the king of Babylon roasted them in the fire. For this reason, this story is rejected as a mere fable by many of us and by almost all of the Hebrews; nor do they read it in their synagogues. "For how could it be," it is argued, "that captives had the authority to stone their own leaders and prophets?"

Interestingly, though, the story wasn't entirely rejected in later generations:

Rabbi Avraham Zacuto wrote in Sefer Yochasin:

"...דניאל בשנת תר"ס התחיל כשנחרב בית המקדש. ואז בגלות בבל היתה המעשה שושנה בת חלקיה אשת יויקים והיתה יפה מאוד...ואז דניאל בחכמתו ובנבואה הצילה...ואז הרגו לזקנים. ואולי היה זה לאחאב בן קוליה וצדקיה בן מעשיה שקלם מלך בבל באש..."

Translation: "...Daniel in the year 660 started out when the Temple was destroyed. And then in the Babylonian Exile happened the Tale of Shoshanna, daughter of Chilkiyah wife of Yoyakim, and she was very beautiful...and then Daniel in his wisdom and prophecy saved her...and they killed the two elders...and perhaps this was Achav ben Koliyah and Tzidkiyah ben Ma'asiyah who were burned in fire by the king of Babylon..."

Rabbi Gedalyah Ibn Yechiyah similarly wrote in Shalshelet Hakabbalah:

"...וראיתי בספר יוחסין...אחר זה היה מעשה שושנה בת חלקיה אשת יהויקים שרצו שתי זקנים שופטים לאונסה וגזמו אותה שאם לא תשמע אליהם שיעידו נגדה ששכב' עם בחור אחד. והיא לא רצתה ודניאל בחכמתו הצילה. וי"א שאלו הזקנים היו אחאב בן קוליה וצדקיה בן מעשיה נביאי השקר..."

Translation: "...and I saw in Sefer Yochasin...after this was the Tale of Shoshanna daughter of Chilkiyah wife of Yehoyakim that two elder judges wanted to rape her and threatened her that if she wouldn't listen to them, they would bear witness against her and claim that she lay with a young man. And she didn't want to and Daniel in his wisdom saved her. And some say that these elders were the false prophets Achav ben Koliyah and Tzidkiyah ben Ma'asiyah..."

And Nachmanides was familiar with a "Scroll of Shushan", which is commonly understood today to referring to a scroll containing Susannah along with other apocryphal works (Devarim 21:14):

"...It is also commonly used in the Aramaic language, as is written in the Scroll of Susanna: “And the king of Assyria sent to all amira (servants) of Nineveh and to all d’amrin (who serve) on the sea coast, and to the servant of Carmel and Gilead [to come with him to the war], but all the servants of the land disregarded the commandment of Nebuchadnezzar and they were not afraid of him.”"

In short, it seems that this story was thought by some to be pure fiction, while others thought it had certain merit to it, but more as an extra-biblical midrash-like tradition, not on par in terms of holiness with scripture.

A note on the other additions:

It's pointed out by Daat that there's a midrash similar to the prayer of Azaryah and his friends:

"Ḥizkiya clarifies his previous statement: Their descent is mentioned in this hallel, as it is written: “Not to us, God, not to us,” a verse that Hananiah recited. Mishael recited: “But to Your name give glory.” Azariah recited: “For Your mercy and for Your truth’s sake.” They all recited together: “Why should the nations say: Where now is their God?” This hallel also alludes to the ascent of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah from the fiery furnace, as it is written: “Praise the Lord, all you nations, laud Him all you peoples. For His mercy is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endures forever, halleluya” (Psalms 117). Hananiah recited: “Praise the Lord, all you nations,” for the overt miracle performed for them before the nations. Mishael recited: “Laud Him all you peoples.” Azariah recited: “For His mercy is great toward us.” They all recited together: “And the truth of the Lord endures forever, halleluya.”" (Pesachim 118a, Shemot Rabbah 9:1 and Tanchuma Noach 10)

Similarly, a parallel midrash for Bel and the Dragon is brought in Beresheet Rabbah 68:13 (my translation):

"And I will deal with Bel in Babylon, And make him disgorge what he has swallowed" - for Nevuchadnetzar had a dragon and would swallow anything that was thrown before it. Said Nevuchadnetzar to Daniel: "How great is its strength that it is able to swallow anything thrown at it?" Answered Daniel: "Give me permission and I shall weaken it." He permitted it. What did Daniel do? He took hay and mixed in it nails which pierced its intestines, as it is said: "And [I will] make him disgorge what he has swallowed."

For this, it seems to me that these stories were known by the Jews - but they also knew that they weren't actually written prophetically by the Men of the Great Assembly, those who authored Daniel. Therefore, these later additions seem to have been embellishments of these earlier traditions.

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    +1 (Similar is the case with Esther, where such episodes sneak back in targumim and midrashim.) Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 13:57
  • @Kazibácsi Arguably the same for many extra-Tanachic traditions about Tanachic characters.
    – Harel13
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 18:23
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The answer is that when Jews stopped speaking Greek, and therefore stopped relying on the Septuagint, these books/chapters fell away and were retroactively deemed heretical/not a part of Judaism. A similar situation occurred with other books such as Sefer Hanoch (The Book of Enoch) and the book of Jubilees. Studied in antiquity, they fell out of common usage and were deemed heretical, though certain teachings/stories from them continued to crop up in Judaism throughout time (like Rashbam saying that days start with sunrise and not sunset, which is the opinion of Sefer Enoch).

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    Where does Rashbam say that? Can you source any of your claims here?
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 18:50
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    Note that this was the Rashbam's interpretation of the simple meaning of the verse about whether the days of Creation began with the morning or the evening, not his halachic opinion regarding when days begin and end.
    – Fred
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 19:11
  • Regarding Jubilees: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/11475
    – Fred
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 19:19
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 2:22
  • When did the Jews ever rely on the Septuagint? @Harel13's answer shows the actual historical truth attested to by contemporary Christians. This feels like the sort of Just-So Stories academics make up without sourcing.
    – N.T.
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 7:43

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