Saturday, December 17, 2016

Which chapters do scriptural commentaries focus on? Ethiopic Commentary on Daniel

Sometimes us ancient and religious studies folks get to play with charts and graphs too. Here is a graph I put together for an upcoming Kolloquium presentation on my dissertation project (which I explained in an earlier post). I'm working on an edition and translation of the Ethiopic commentary materials on the Book of Daniel. One of the important questions we can ask when studying scriptural commentaries is: which parts of the scriptural text receive the most attention and commentary? Ancient and medieval commentaries can be fairly uneven in their treatment of the text, offering long discourses on a handful of key verses while glossing over larger blocks of text.
I've done some Ethiopic word counts of my transcription of the Daniel Commentary, and this chart shows both the number of words for each chapter in its version of Daniel and the number of words in the commentary on that chapter. The disparities are significant. Chapters eleven, seven, twelve, and three are the ones that attract the most commentary. This is not too surprising. Daniel 7 and 12 have been significant texts for Christian eschatology and Christology. For commentaries with an interest in historical questions, Daniel 11, with its extensive descriptions of events from the Hellenistic era, gives opportunity for lots of explication. Daniel 3 has an important place in Christian lectionaries.