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'Declare the interpretation': Redacting Daniel in Early Bibles for English Children

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image of Biblical Interpretation

It is a commonplace that adults who had access to the Bible as youngsters remember being told the tale of Daniel in the lions' den. It is easy to see why, and why this story has become a staple of Christian teaching: it is action-packed, distinctive, and reaches a conclusion that favours the apparent righteousness of its protagonist. However, Daniel's theological and historical consequences clearly extend far beyond the lions' den, so this article investigates the history of its limited pedagogical deployment by examining redactions of it in five popular eighteenth-century Bibles for English children. The theological issues in Daniel that captured the imaginations of its early adapters are ascertained, and evidence is found that the book's prophetic, visionary, and apocalyptic content has long-since been regarded as difficult for young people (especially in comparison to its apparently more straightforward court stories). Equally, in these problematic areas where the source's density raises opportunities for interpretative latitude, this essay contends that ecclesiological rather than theological responses to the text tended to surface, as Daniel's retellers—often obliquely—attempted to manage the book's indubitable complexity by domesticating it to their own subjective priorities.

Affiliations: 1: Westcott House, Cambridge


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